The race in maglia rosa (pink jerseys) continues through the Irpinia region, in the fifth stage of the Giro d'Italia 2023. On Wednesday, 10 May, we arrive at Atripalda, a town in the province of Avellino, with mythical origins, which according to legend was founded by Sabatio, Noah's great-grandson, hence the name Sabathia, given to the first settlements. In fact, it is located on the Sabato River.
It was a Samnite settlement, then a Roman colony. The current name, on the other hand, has Lombard origins and dates back to the time when, in the 5th century AD, the town gained its independence from the Roman colony of Abellinum.
The city was repeatedly a place of hospitality over the centuries. The former legionaries of Emperor Augustus, who wanted to unite this Roman territory with Apulia and Calabria, took refuge there. And was where King Manfred of Swabia was hosted, the legitimate natural son of Emperor Federico II, while he was fleeing from the papal troops that had occupied Campania, in 1254.
On the left bank of the river is the Archaeological Area of Antica Abellinum, on the remains of a patrician residence of the Greek age (2nd century BC). On the outside, you can see the Roman walls and three rows of a Samnite fortification. Inside, there are the thermal baths and a domus in Hellenistic-Pompeian style, in addition to the forum, from which a circular marble altar was extracted, which is thought to have been dedicated to the Emperor Tiberius, now on display at the Museo Irpino in Avellino.
It dominates the main square of Atripalda, the complex of the Church and Convent of San Giovanni Battista, built in the 16th century AD on Roman foundations.
Also noteworthy is the Church of Sant'Ippolito Martire, from the late-paleo-Christian period (12th century AD), but with a nineteenth-century appearance, known for its crypt, the Specus Martyrum, the catacomb of the holy martyrs, which also houses the remains of Christians killed during the persecutions. The territory is rich in churches and religious buildings, to be discovered in the dedicated religious itineraries.
It is a land with deep roots, which can also be found in the food and wine tradition, with ancient and wise flavours: the Caciocavallo Silano DOP, to be tasted accompanied by a glass of Fiano d'Avellino DOCG, among Italy's most precious white wines.
The racers will face a route of 171 kilometres along the route of Sant'Angelo dei Lombardi, Oliveto Citra and Battipaglia, to finally reach the wonderful Salerno, coloured with sun and with the smell of the sea.
The city extends on the coast on a gulf overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and, inside, towards the hills, offering fabulous views and extraordinary emotions, with the gaze and the soul ranging from the sea to the mountains covered with thick vegetation. From the marina, it is possible to get to the different resorts that are located to the north, on the Amalfi Coast, and to the south, on the Cilentana, in addition to the enchanted islands of Ischia and Capri. The coastline is a marvel, with its sandy beaches alternating with stretches of cliffs, to meet and satisfy all desires and with plenty on offer for the most diverse needs and interests, with a crystal-clear sea as the ultimate host.
The origins of Salerno are Osco-Etruscan (about 6th century BC). It became a Roman maritime colony in the early 2nd century BC and expanded under the rule of Diocletian. With the fall of Rome, it passed under the rule of the Byzantines and the Normans, in the most flourishing period of its history, in which it could express its welcoming and multicultural nature, of which the Cathedral remains an admirable witness, the Primatial Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Angels, Saint Matthew and Saint Gregory VII, in the Arab-Norman style, commissioned by Robert Guiscard (11th century AD) and consecrated by Pope Gregory VII, a guest in exile in the city. The bell tower, with twelve arches and eight bells from different periods, is an example of Byzantine-Norman fusion. The basilica was completely rebuilt after a powerful earthquake in 1688, and underwent several changes over time. On the main Baroque façade, all that remains of the ancient façade is the gate, the Porta dei Leoni, recalling Salerno's alliance with Capua. Inside, it is richly decorated with frescoes from Giotto's school, as well as beautiful mosaics and sculptures; here there are also the graves of some prominent figures of history, such as Roger Borsa, son of Robert Guiscard, Norman knight Duke of Apulia and Calabria, and Queen Margaret of Durazzo, queen consort of Naples.
The crypt, which is of great artistic value, is a spectacle for those who look at it, is completely frescoed in the Baroque style, and represents scenes from the Gospel of Matthew and some episodes from Salerno's history. Here is also where the remains of St. Matthew, patron saint of Salerno, are preserved, and they are located in the centre, precisely at the high altar of the Cathedral, and around it, in two separate areas, are the Cappella dei Santi Martiri (Chapel of the Holy Martyrs) and that of the first Santi Vescovi (Holy Bishops).
Salerno maintained its role as a cultural centre and seaport in the South of Italy over the centuries, with the Angevins, and then the Colonna, the Orsini, and the Sanseverino nobles. Earthquakes devastated Salerno in the 17th century, drastically reducing the number of inhabitants to a few thousand. It was a key player in the Risorgimento (the unification of Italy) and flourished with new developments in the Kingdom of Italy.
Among the many unmissable cultural sites in Salerno, the Monumental Complex of Santa Sofia, which includes the Church and Convent, dating back to the 18th century, deserves a special mention. In neoclassical style, it hosts important exhibitions every year, such as Caravaggio, Van Gogh, Picasso and Mirò.
Throughout the city, you can easily recognise the various historical influences, and there are many places to highlight. From the promenade, the attention of visitors is immediately captured by Arechi Castle, a typical, well-preserved medieval building, which dominates the city and the gulf, from a height of 300 metres above sea level. It owes its name to the Lombard duke Arechi II (8th century AD), but its origins are older, as evidenced by archaeological excavations, which date the foundations to the period of the Greek-Gothic war (6th century AD). The castle is located in a breathtaking panoramic point, surrounded by a beautiful park with naturalistic paths that lead into the Mediterranean scrub. Inside, there is a museum.
The local cuisine, which holds secrets handed down through history, is characterised by its dual proximity to the sea and the mountains. The typical recipes are both fish- and meat-based. The prize for the winning flavours goes to the famous scialatielli, a type of fresh pasta that is like a cross between spaghetti and tagliatelle, to be enjoyed with seafood sauce. The Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. For the feast of St Matthew, however, it is traditional to cook meveza, with a strong flavour, like the people who lived in this enchanted place in the Mediterranean, based on spleen, the organ that gives rise to vital energy and passion.