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Sessa Aurunca

Overview

Sessa Aurunca, a journey back in time on the Southern Way of St Francis

Sessa Aurunca, a town in the province of Caserta very close to the border with Lazio, is a real treasure trove of natural and historic treasures just waiting to be discovered. An obligatory stop for pilgrims travelling along the Southern Way of St Francis in Campania, the town still preserves all its mystical charm.

Sessa Aurunca Cathedral, a jewel of Romanesque archiecture in Campania

The starting point is here, in the heart of this town in Campania: the Cathedral, in the heart of the historic centre of Sessa Aurunca on the southern leg of the Way of St Francis. Dedicated to theHoly Apostles Peter and Paul, the cathedral is a prime example of the Romanesque architecture of Campania, and for centuries has been a pilgrimage destination. Built in 1103 on the site of a sacred building, probably pagan, the cathedral has remained intact despite 18th-century renovations and numerous repairs to protect it from wear and from the damage caused by a series of earthquakes. The building has recently been restored and returned to its original layout.

 

Marvellous mosaics from floor to pulpit

The imposing façade is partially covered by a portico, richly decorated with arches supported by columns and pillars with an alternating sequence of statues and bas-reliefs depicting mysterious mythological figures, and scenes from the life ofSt Peter and theOld and New Testaments. The interior, divided into three naves, deserves special attention due to the incredibly elaborate mosaic flooring with Moorish motifs, which covers the entire central nave. The pulpit is also adorned with fine mosaics that alternate lively depictions of animals with geometric motifs.

 

The Roman theatre and the mysterious cryptoporticus

Visiting Sessa Aurunca is rather like taking a trip in a time capsule. It is a short step from the Romanesque architecture of its cathedral to the spectacular coloured marblework in the great Roman theatre, which was only unearthed in 2003 and is extraordinarily well preserved. Built in the first century AD, making use of the natural slope of the hill, with its capacity of 7,000 spectators, it is thesecond largest Roman theatre in Campania after that of Naples, which, however, lies almost entirely hidden under the houses of the city.

Next to the theatre is a cryptoporticus: a covered corridor, dating back to a slightly later period. It is not yet clear what the cryptoporticus wsa used for. One possibility is that the actors used it to move from one place to another, although the many Greek and Latin inscriptions on the walls, including several verses from Virgil, indicate that it may also have been used as a school or place of instruction.

 

The ducal castle: the cradle of Sessa Aurunca

The ducal castle of Sessa Aurunca, with its extraordinary layers of eras and structures, portrays and summarises the history and ruling powers of the city.

To give you an idea, inside you can visit the library, but above all, the rooms of the Archaeological Civic Museum, which preserves many testimonies of the passage of the dynasties that have succeeded each other over the centuries, from the Lombards to the Normans, from the Angevin to the Aragonese, together with some archaeological finds discovered on the seabed of the Gulf of Gaeta, including the famous statue of Matidia Minor, a prominent and influential local ruler in Roman times.

 

Borgo Valogno, from ghost town to open-air gallery

Don't miss the little village of Valogno, 390 metres high and a few kilometres from Sessa Aurunca: this hamlet of just over 90 souls, which had been gradually declining in population, has averted the fate that threatened to turn it into a ghost town by transforming itself into an open-air art gallery: its streets, walls and courtyards have for some years hosted works of street art and installations by artists, drawn here by the call to action of the Cultural Association, which has promoted a veritable rebirth of the village and made it a popular destination for tourists and enthusiasts.

 

From the (extinct) volcano to the beaches of Baia Domizia

It is worth remembering that Valogno is located right inside the Regional Park of Roccamonfina – Foce Garigliano volcanic area, 11,000 hectares of nature that reach as far as the border with lower Lazio. The park is supervised from above by the mass of the extinct volcano of Roccamonfina, the oldest in the region, directly opposite Vesuvius. This territory between mountains, hills and coastline, between chestnut groves, vines, olive groves and streams that flow to the sea, hosts throughout the year festivals and events aimed at promoting local traditions and products, above all, the famous chestnut, while the paths and trails of the region are traversed by numerous hiking and cycle tourism enthusiasts.

Leaving the slopes of Roccamonfina behind, we advise you to head back towards Baia Domizia: here you can warm up with a barefoot walk along its kilometres of fine and golden beach, or perhaps enjoy a little relaxation in its azure waters.

Sessa Aurunca

81037 Sessa Aurunca CE, Italia

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