I came to Molise for one reason: My grandma. I left with a million reasons to come back.
My grandma was born in 1935 in a small ‘paese’ called Limosano, in the Region of Molise, central Italy.
I grew up hearing about Limosano and her life there. Italy has been part of me since I was born, in this hard core Italian family in Argentina. I dreamed to come back to my grandparents towns, to see what they saw, to understand what they went through.
And I made it. It was hard to arrive, I lived the lives of my grandparents backwards, I started in Argentina and it took a long and hard road to arrive to Italy. The opposite trip they did back in the 40’s.
I never expected much of this part of Italy since it is not touristic and a rural-countryside- area. I thought there was nothing interesting here.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I spent two more weeks in Rome and headed south east to Campobasso. To arrive there was to see the landscape my grandma saw as a little girl. Or as a frightened teen who was obligated to get married. The place where she later became a young woman that escaped from war, hunger and her husband. I could see her everywhere.
Campobasso is just so beautiful, I felt ashamed for not expecting much of it. It surprised me big time.
Funny enough that weekend was The Big ‘Festa’ in town. The Corpus Christi celebration and all the small towns around come together to celebrate in Campobasso with their local music and traditions.
I was the only outsider that participated in this celebration but I felt integrated to this culture that is so deep in my Dna.
The festa in Campobasso was a trip to the past. A town fair with games and food stands all around.
Next day I took a bus from Campobasso bus station to Limosano. To get to these little towns you must use local transportation. I arrived to the bus station and asked which bus would take me there and at what time. There are only 3 buses a day that do the route and the times are not very convenient leaving you with only 2 hours in between to visit Limosano. I adventured myself not knowing what or who would I find there.
Limosano is a medieval town erected in the year 1000. When my grandma lived here, there were 4 thousand habitants, now there are about 800. The historic old town is abandoned and at some areas inaccessible. After the earthquake in 2002 many houses and constructions collapsed, but most of it still intact. Like a museum of my grandmother’s early life.
I could see her running around, yelling and talking to her neighbors and family. I could feel her passion, her hunger and fear. How hard was the life of the woman that created my family.
At the city comune I found the way to what I was looking for. These people contacted me with the only cousin my grandma have left in Limosano. He arrived short after the call his son received about “a ragazza della Argentina looking for her family”. It was very emotional to find family in this little and lost town in the middle of the Italian hills.
My grandma’s cousin took me to her old house in the historic center. We had to go through some forbidden path to reach it since it was closed for repair.
To see this house was to understand my grandma much more. To love her more than ever. To understand the way she is and the steel heart she possesses.
I also found the daughter of my grandma’s first husband. This lady took me in to her family like I was her real niece. I felt so much love from these people I just met that my heart wanted to explode of love. I found in Limosano, CB an incredible amount of family love.
At the ‘festa’ I met the prince charming of my fairytale. He took me to visit his town: San Giovanni in Galdo. A very small settlement near CB with an amazing medieval center and that movie-set environment. People seating on the sidewalk, kids playing on the streets, flowers in every window. Narrow alleys and Magic.
We also visited the secluded church Santa Maria della Strada and its magical garden in Matrice. This gorgeous local chapel is located in a natural elevation, which enhances the feeling of sacred place. With grass like carpet and incredible views this place became magical to me.
At that point I knew this was more than just a trip.
Molise is one of the best regions in Italy, however still undiscovered by tourism. This is an advantage for people like me who like to enjoy the genuine experience of rural and medieval Italy. But it is not good for the region, this undiscovered gem needs tourism to grow. And I assure whoever visit Molise, won’t forget it.