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Colletorto

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Geography

 

Colletorto is located in the south-eastern part of the Molise region in the mezzogiorno of Italy. With a population of some 2800 inhabitants, it is a traditional hill village characteristic of the region nestled on the Molise hills at 515m above sea level. It lies about 50 km inland from the seaside resort of Termoli on the Adriatic coast, and 55 km from the regional capital, Campobasso, further inland.

The climate is temperate with mild winters and hot summers. The gentle hills are of a lime-stone rich, dry, stony soil and well exposed to the sun. These provide perfect conditions for olive trees to thrive.

 

   

History

 

The village has its origins in medieval times, and is first recorded in documents dated 1273. It is said that it was founded following a major earthquake which destroyed the ancient settlements, the most important of which was Lauretum on a nearby hillside where today the chapel of Santa Maria stands alone.

For many centuries it was ruled over by a feudal system of counts, marquises, dukes and barons. Powerful families exercised their influence over the lands up until recent times.

The original nucleus of the village is known as Campo di Fiori (field of flowers) clustered around a Church and a Ducal Palace. It was contained within gated walls to protect from wild animals roaming the hillsides at the time, including bears and wolves, and still much in existence today. It is characterised by a labyrinth of narrow streets entered by a series of passages, some of which barely allow room for a person.

A second centre later developed further up the hill around a Convent and its associated Church. From around 1800, the two settlements of la Terra and il Colle were joined by the main road the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, and these elements complete the definition of the urban form of the village that remains until the present.

 

   

Places of interest

 

The main monument is the Torre Angioina adjoining the Ducal Palace, built during the reign of Giovanna I d'Angio (1343-1382) as a defensive complex. It is a cylindrical structure rising some 25m, which offers spectacular views of the village and sorrounding landscape.

There are 3 churches, the main parochial church of San Giovanni Battista constructed in 1730, the convent and church of San Alfonso dei Liguori, and Il Purgatorio. These are decorated with fine frescos by the distinguished regional artist of the time, Paolo Gamba (1712-1782).

 

   

Olive economy

 

The economy of the village centred around olive growing and making olive oil for centuries. This is reflected in the official coat of arms which depicts an oil lamp on a golden ground framed by olive and oak leaves.

The landscape is a silvery patchwork of olive groves covering the hillsides. Each family is actively involved and owns some trees passed through generations. This is continued by the traditional custom of alloting a small olive grove to young newly-weds to provide for their future household supply of oil

The typical local olive variety is the 'black olive' Oliva nero that, although not offering a big yield, produces an oil of very fine quality. Another variety, the Cazzarella is generally used for table olives. The methods of tending the trees and harvesting the olives on an artisan basis guarantees the authenticity of an oil renowned for lowest acidity. This is the major factor in determining the classification of olive oils. It has established Colletorto as a producer of quality both regionally and nationally. Since 1994 it has been incorporated into the association Citta dell'Olio, the national body responsible for standards of quality.

There are 8 Frantoio (olive mills) which press the entire local harvest. The territory of Colletorto contains some 250,000 trees producing a crop of approximately 3,000,000 kg of olives.

 

   

Festivals

 

Colletorto celebrates a number of local feasts, the main one dedicated to the patron saint San Giovanni Battista on 29 August. Other feasts are the Fires of San Antonio on 17 January, San Teodoro on the first sunday in June, San Antonio on 13 June, the Madonna of the Assumption on 15 August, San Matteo on 21 September, and San Michele on 29 September. There is a traditional Easter Monday pilgrimage to the Chapel of Santa Maria followed by a spuntin' (rustic picnic) in the countryside. These mark the passage of the year and add colour to village life.

 

   

Lifestyle

 

The main hubbub of the village is along the Corso which is lined with small bars and shops, and on a Saturday with market stalls.  In true Italian style, the Colletortese like to relax and watch the world go by. During the summer months and the festivals, most of the villagers stroll along this tree lined Corso for their evening passegiata and to catch up on all the gossip!  The Colletortese are very welcoming, especially if you have a hearty appetite and enjoy good wine with good company.

 

   

Earthquake 2002

 

Colletorto was struck by a major earthquake on 31 October 2002 that damaged many of the buildings but not the spirit of the people. This made international news because of the tragic collapse of the primary school in the neighbouring village of San Giuliano di Puglia.

Further information on Colletorto can be found on the official Comune di Colletorto website, where there are some more nice pictures even if you don't undersand Italian!