There is a country in southern Italy, in Campania, which is well known around the world: his name is Sarno and unfortunately it is known to the media only because the devastating landslide that in May 1998 erased a major part of Episcopio hamlet and killed hundreds of people. That village actually, secluded and discreet, nestled in the heart of the Agro Nocerino-Sarnese has much to offer.
Just set back from the most renowned tourist destinations, Sarno is from these few kilometers. In less than half an hour‘s drive are easy to reach Pompeii, Salerno and the Amalfi Coast, Naples and Sorrento. Avellino and very green Benevento are just a few more kilometers.
Sunny and coloed, full of scents and life, with a picturesque medieval village, is well worth a day of your time for a visit.
Set above the headwaters of the Sarno river (hence its name), rich in water and with an extensive campaign surrounding it, Sarno is also dominated by a green and prosperous rocky hill on which you can still see the remains of the medieval Aragonese castle and the ancient village of Terravecchia, that here is amicably called “San Matteo“, named from the church dedicated to the saint that somehow dominates and governs it.
Climb the old stairs of this village is a pleasant walk and the short effort is amply rewarded by the view that you can enjoy once you reach the top: with a single glance you can see some of the most precious treasures of this part of Italy. Turn your gaze to the left and you will be facing the chain of Lattari Mountains that hide and protect the spectacular Amalfi Coast, look straight ahead and you will see the enchantment of the Agro Nocerino-Sarnese, ending directly on the Gulf of Castellammare di Stabia, halfway between Naples and Sorrento, and then turn around to the right to watch the mighty profile of Vesuvius. From here, particularly in the cloudless days, it is not uncommon to be able to see the dome of the Shrine of Pompeii and the sea that merges with the horizon.
Going down to the old town and walking along the old streets, you will sure notice how all these parts exudes simplicity and tradition: the scents of food scattered on the air with bright colors, all combine to create a single unit inspired by this land halfway between sea and mountains.
Visit the church of the “Three Crowns” in which is The Immaculate Conception (the statue of the Virgin Mary that is carried in procession during the feast of the Immaculate on 8 December) or one of countless other churches scattered throughout the center citizen to enjoy a little ‘of the history and traditions of this country.
Stop in front of one of the dozens of “Edicole” (sacred effigies set in a niche on the streets) and admire how much devotion is profuse by citizens to all that is sacred.
Take a tour of “Valle del Sarno National Museum” set in the beautiful Capua palace from eighteenth century to understand how old is the history of these places and how it joints over the centuries.
The pretty little Villa Comunale surely worth a visit to sample the purity and freshness of the river water that unfortunately, a little later, become one of the most polluted in Europe. Here, however, virtually above a source of the Sarno, water is crystal clear and drinkable. Until a few years ago it was even possible to sample the well know “sulphurous water”, a special water filtered through lava rocks containing a high concentration of sulfur which gave it the characteristic flavor and that was considered by the local people as “miraculous water“. Its extraction is now unfortunately suppressed and the thermal plant in this area has been closed.
Walking through the center cross the public gardens called “Villette”, the only area of the city closed to traffic and go to the “Rettifilo”, the main street that bisects the city and takes you directly to the Municipio square. Here you can admire the town hall, a beautiful building in the Pompeian style with the church of San Francesco and its colorful dome. Here also heads the statue dedicated to Mariano Abignente, one of the 13 participants in the infamous “Challenge of Barletta” who was, in fact born in Sarno.
Keep quiet your ride to the historic center and do not stop to look around: ancient courtyards, quaint shops and bizarre characters will frame your stay here.
Head to Piazza Garibaldi, where you can admire the Naples Palace, and behind the statue dedicated to the martyrs of the war, the old “Filande” unfortunately no longer visited. The Filande of Sarno are a part of the establishments in which during the last century were produced yarns and fabrics. For many years Sarno was so famous throughout all Europe because of its high quality production and fabrics manufactured that was processed here, thanks to the abundance of water, and were sought in the most prestigious courts.
Since you’re in the area, if you are hungry, you just have to stop at the historic restaurant “O’ Romano“. Pamper yourself from the home and the kindness of the owners. Here the legendary Gaetano prepare for you some of the most famous dishes of the culinary tradition of the area: from cod to “mescite”, fusilli with the sauce of goat chop, the omelet of river shrimp, eels and sausages … all of great quality and cooked just like your grandmother would have done if she had been born here.
After having tasted the delights of local cuisine, you can move to the nearby village of Foce which, despite its name is on another of the sources of the Sarno river and spend a few hours between visits the beautiful “Sanctuary of the Madonna della Foce “and a walk in the “Parco 5 sensi“(check days and times) or along the river in the river park, enjoying the peace and quiet of this remote village.
Whether you decide to dedicate a day to visit it or choose it as a starting point for a tour to the most famous destinations of Campania, Sarno will shure not disappoint you and will give you colors, and flavors, a mix of simplicity and lightheartedness that only in southern Italy you can yet to find. It’s one of those treasures of which Italy is rich, but unfortunately can not count on an adequate promotion by local governments and tourism organizations. To you the taste to discover and to grasp the little secrets and great beauty.