Italy is a rich country not only from an artistic and historical point of view, but also and above all in terms of landscape: it ranges from the Alps to the Apennines, from the Tuscan hills to thousands of kilometers of coastline and every place hides beauties to be discovered and admired. The best way to appreciate a landscape is trekking, or those excursions through nature practiced at slow rhythms, with a nod to that form of slow tourism that is becoming increasingly popular also in Italy.
Among the most beautiful but at the same time less known places is the territory that surrounds Sassinoro, a small village in the province of Benevento, which is just 35km away: it stands on a rocky promontory at 783mt high, at the foot of Monte Rotondo (part of Matese mountain massif) and in the heart of the lush Tammaro Valley.
If you choose to go to the Sassinoro area, expect an uncontaminated landscape where mountains, hills but also green plains alternate between which that of Vignadonica and La Pianella, also known as Colle di Prato, where there is a picturesque artificial lake.
Religious hiking in Sassinoro
Whatever the hiking route you choose to do, you will encounter numerous historical traces as the territory where Sassinoro stands today has been inhabited since ancient times: in fact, the Samnites and then the Romans followed one another, on whose ancient castrum the current village was born of Sassinoro, then the Lombards and again the Saxons headed by Alboino.
Certainly, in addition to the inevitable and fascinating naturalistic aspect, the territory of Sassinoro has always been affected by a form of religious tourism and the same trekking routes that you will find yourself walking were long ago traveled by the most fervent Christian pilgrims.
In fact, in Sassinoro there are two sites of great mystical appeal, the first of which is the Sanctuary of Santa Lucia, often the starting point of some suggestive paths. It was erected in the 1930s on the remains of an ancient pagan place of worship, as evidenced by the bronze of Demeter dating back to III BC. found here during excavations. The sanctuary was dedicated to the protector of ophthalmologists and sight as it is said that in the cave where the church was later built, two shepherds appeared San Michele Arcangelo and Santa Lucia behind a bush.
For this same reason, the Church of San Michele Arcangelo was built on the highest point of Sassinoro, dominating the entire Tammaro Valley, on the remains of a fifteenth-century chapel: the building can be admired for its beautiful stained glass windows and for the soaring bell tower with its bulbous spire decorated with fine majolica.
From the Sanctuary of S. Lucia in Morcone
Starting from the Sanctuary of Santa Lucia you can reach, in an easy path of just 5km, the nearby village of Morcone: in a continuous up and down, you will find yourself crossing the Sassinoro stream to Macchia, then continuing on the road trodden for centuries. by pilgrims, without ever deviating on the winding side paths. Before arriving in Bocca della Selva and then in Morcone, stop at the Ponte della Vedova, one of the most picturesque points of the entire route. The single span structure crosses the Czech stream and its curious name is linked to the anecdote that wants its construction to be financed by a widow who saw her only and beloved son killed by a flood in the stream.
Once you reach Morcone, a delightful village located in the shadow of the medieval castle, you can visit some of its churches including the Church of San Salvatore and the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Pace where San Pio da Pietralcina lived his intense novitiate.
From the Sanctuary of Santa Lucia to the Chalet Le Fontanelle
From the Sanctuary of S. Lucia di Sassinoro you can take another route to the Chalet Le Fontanelle, certainly much more challenging as it is suitable for slightly more experienced hikers: in fact, you will need suitable equipment, from boots to an anorak up to a good supply of water. For the latter it will be enough to take it from one of the many fountains scattered throughout the village of Sassinoro, once used above all to put into operation those mills now in disuse: know that the water that flows in Sassinoro has been recognized and awarded for its particular purity.
Well equipped, you can take this 5.5Km path, overcoming a difference in height from 741mt to 886mt in height: you will find yourself crossing ancient mule tracks at the foot of the Matese mountain massif, crossing the Sassinora stream and then reaching the Piana di San Pietro and finally the Chalet.
The path of S.Cristina
The Path of S.Cristina, despite being a very beaten stretch of pilgrims in the past, is a relatively recent discovery: thanks to the Agisci Association, the path was restored and made practicable again in 2017 with adequate signage. Until the 1960s, the faithful of the village of Sepino, the final destination of this path, went on foot every 29 June to the Sanctuary of Santa Lucia in Sassinoro, crossing uncontaminated woods and green meadows.
The S.Cristina path is suitable for hikers with a lot of practice: remember to bring a stick with you to tackle the steeper sections that make this path unsuitable for the elderly.
Starting from the Sanctuary of S. Lucia in Sassinoro, you will immediately encounter the limpid and limpid Sorgente Roncone and then start walking on a gravel stretch to another source, that of Grotta Cipolla. From this point on you will cross a dense bush until the Rio Fratto stream opens up before your eyes with its small but scenic waterfall.
After fording the stream bed, you will have to cross a beautiful stone bridge and then enter a shady area with some panoramic views of the Tammaro Valley. Following the green and yellow signs left on the rocks, you will find yourself on a mule track that, in an ups and downs on Colle Marraco, will take you directly in front of the spectacular Ponte di San Rocco: it is a medieval construction with a single pointed arch , crossed by the ancient pilgrims on their way to the small church of San Rocco which stood next to it.
The final destination is the Church of S.Crestina in Sepino: do not miss to visit this ancient building dating back to the eleventh century and in particular its sixteenth-century crypt where there is a wooden statue of the saint carried in procession only every 100 years and to which no faithful ever turn their back on leaving the same crypt.
Trips out of town
There are places not far from Sassinoro, which you can discover on foot in short but exciting excursions in nature. However, do not leave the Benevento village without having tasted its typical cuisine, enjoying traditional dishes such as the Z’a Onta based on pickled peppers and pork, the fresh pasta Taccozze with beans or the Cacchiarella or a rustic pizza made with corn flour. You can always buy this focaccia and take it with you during the excursion to the Decorata Lake, just under 30Km away: the lake basin is located in a typically mountain context at 780mt of height and is the perfect destination even if you were a great lover of sport fishing.
An alternative to the lake is represented by the Forre di Lavello, spectacular gorges carved over the centuries by the Titerno river. You can reach them from the town of Cerreto Sannito, just 27km from Sassinoro. You will find yourself in a spectacular place, wildly shaped by Mother Nature, between waterfalls, natural pools and caves: your attention will undoubtedly be captured by the Hannibal Bridge which, according to the legend and the stories of Polybius, would have been crossed by Hannibal himself while he he went to Monte Cigno to shelter his war spoils.