Civitacampomarano is a fascinating hamlet in the region of Molise that is using street art to fight depopulation and abandonment.
My recent adventure in Molise took me to Civitacampomarano, a tiny village near Campobasso home to 128 residents, where folk traditions are aplenty and mobile signal is often non-existent. I didn’t originally plan to visit it, but then I heard there was this little village I absolutely had to see, with fantastic murals and a beautiful castle and I decided to give it a go.
It took me about one hour to reach Civitacampomarano from Campobasso and the drive was quite adventurous, with windy roads and a few hairpin turns (maybe I should blame Google maps who often takes me to quite interesting side streets). Also, I was the only one on the road to the village, which honestly made me question my decision to go. Well, you know what? It turned out to be the best decision ever!
Soon after parking the car, I was approached by a local who asked if I was looking for the murals. He suggested I should follow him since he was the “official” tour guide and I accepted reluctantly. That’s how my adventure in Civitacampomarano started.
A village that tries to change its destiny with street art
Vittorio (this is the name of the self-proclaimed guide) was born and bred in Civitacampomarano and knows anything and everything about the place. He explained to me that in recent years the village has been at risk of becoming a ghost town since most of its inhabitants left in search of a better future elsewhere (you know, the usual story, no jobs, no prospects…). Then in 2014 Ylenia Carelli, the president of the local cultural organization ProLoco “Vincenzo Cuoco”, got in touch with Roman street artist Alice Pasquini after watching her interview on TV and invited her over to help revitalize the village through street art. Alice immediately accepted and realized a series of murals inspired by some old photographs.
This artistic project managed to bring new life to the village and soon evolved into a festival, CVTà Street Fest (“CVTà” is the way locals use to call their village in dialect). Now in its fourth edition, this event sees the participation of street artists from all over the world who come to Civitacampomarano to leave their visual mark on the walls that locals eagerly make available.
Vittorio took me through the streets and alleys of Civitacampomarano and showed me every single piece of artwork, 47 in total. The murals are perfectly integrated into the village, making it a fantastic open-air gallery! My favorite pieces are those that depict scenes from the past, like this one:
There are also some brilliant installations made with LEGO bricks.
Other things to see in Civitacampomarano
Street art is not the only attraction in Civitacampomarano. For example, there is a splendid Angevin castle dating back to the XIV century, whose imposing structure dominates the entire village. Unfortunately, though, it’s open only on Sundays and I couldn’t visit the interior.
Among the charming alleys of the old town, it is still possible to spot many little details that trace the history of Civitacamomarano, such as the stone engraved on the front wall of the Merchant’s House, reporting the year 1732 (the building is now partially collapsed).
Another site of great historical value is the Napoleonic Cemetery, about half an hour walk from the village. Again, it’s not easy to visit because it’s often closed, but it’s regarded as one of the few examples of Napoleonic cemeterial architectures in Italy
Still wondering what made this visit so special?
Apart from the incredible works of art I saw, it was once again the hospitality of the locals that amazed me. Vittorio was so keen to share his knowledge of each mural and the history of the village, and the residents we met during the tour always had a welcoming smile and tips to share. One lady, in particular, told Vittorio to bring me to the local bakery because I couldn’t leave Civitacampomarano without trying its famous ciell, the traditional biscuits stuffed with grape must.
In the end, it felt like being with a friend, so we jumped in the car and went to lunch together at La Passeggiata, the nearest restaurant about 3 km from the village. The three guys that joined us halfway through the tour also came with us and we feasted over cavatelli (a traditional pasta shape) and local wine. Unexpected encounters like this are what I love the most about traveling!
- CVTà Street Fest is the most famous local event, but there are also other interesting festivals not to miss, such as San Liberatore, the local patron saint, in May and the Cavatelli Festival in August.
- Vittorio is your go-to person if you want to see all the murals because sometimes they are tiny or painted in the most unusual places and it would be difficult to spot them. Do not expect the standard guide though, he is simply a local who’s happy to share all his knowledge with visitors. Just ask locals where you can find him, although it’s more likely that he will find you first, just like it happened to me. His tours are completely free, but I suggest to tip him for the time and dedication he puts into them.
I promised Vittorio to go back in June next year to help with the festival. Will you join us? 🙂
A super hug from Italy,