Ancient History of Alvito

The first evidence of the existence of the city of Civitas Sancti Urbani (Sant’Urbano) dates back to 967. The first settlement of “Alvito” was built in 1096, and its name seems to derive from mons Albetum (Mount Albeto).

Sant’Urbano was located on the road that led from the Valle di Comino to Abruzzo through Campoli or Pescasseroli. It was founded by the Cassinese monks or more likely by the Volturnensi. From historical documentation, it is evident that the city was rebuilt after 976 when the abbot of Montecassino, Aligerno, asked some feudal lords of the nearby Vicalvi to build a new fortress near an old abandoned city.

It has been hypothesized that when San Vincenzo al Volturno was annihilated around 881 and Montecassino was destroyed by the Saracens two years later, the Muslims who appeared in the Valle di Comino looted it, causing the initial ruin of Urbano.

Remains of the ancient settlement

The remains of the ancient settlement are still not very evident today: in the toponymy (Colle della Civita, Colle della Setta), in the system of country roads that still follow the Benedictine layout between Sant’Onofrio and Alvito, and in minor works such as the fountain located at the foot of the ancient settlement (in the “le fontanelle” area) and a small Michaelic sanctuary on a rock. However, the new settlement was not definitive. The city was soon abandoned and replaced by more flourishing economic centers such as Santa Maria del Campo or the hill of Monte di Albeto, in the future the current village.

The Middle Ages

In the following centuries, the demographic and economic development of the upper part of the city (the current Castello fraction) led to the birth of other nearby centers that still exist today. From the 13th century, the center was part of the domains of the Aquino counts, and from the end of the 14th century, it was placed under the government of the Cantelmo family, becoming a County in the early 15th century.

Rostaino Cantelmo is responsible for the reconstruction of the castle in 1350, destroyed the previous year by the Apennine earthquake (1349). During the 16th century, after passing to the condottiere Pietro Navarro, the County of Alvito entered the domain of the Folch de Cardona family, in particular, of Raimondo, viceroy of Naples, and his sons Ferrante and Antonio.

Cover photo by Giuseppe Massa

Pictures of Alvito from our Instagram account

The history of the Gallio family and their influence

Since 1595, the village and a large part of the Valle di Comino became the fiefdom of the Gallio family, originally from Cernobbio, who ruled over the duchy until the end of the 18th century.

During the seventeenth century, the aforementioned family, whose most illustrious representative was Cardinal Tolomeo (1527-1607), secretary of the Pontifical State, embellished the town by building the ducal palace (Palazzo Gallio) and opening Via Gallia (now Corso Gallio) in 1666, the main street, enlivening its cultural life. The epic of this dynasty and the history of the fiefdom until the early Baroque period also reflected in literature, with the publication of the Descrittione del Ducato di Alvito, a work from 1633 attributed to the imaginary writer Giovanni Paolo Mattia Castrucci, commissioned by the Gallio family and reprinted with different versions in 1686 and 1863.

In 1739, the town was granted the title of city by the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles VI of Austria, reconfirmed with a royal diploma from Charles III of Spain in 1744. During this period, Lorenzo Ganganelli, who would ascend to the papal throne in 1769 with the name Clement XIV, was the novice master at the convent of San Nicola.

The growth of the bourgeoisie and urban development

During the nineteenth century, the town saw the growth of the bourgeoisie and the modification of its urban fabric. On the one hand, it witnessed the construction of aristocratic buildings along the main street (such as the Graziani and Sipari palaces, erected in 1841 and 1858, respectively), and on the other hand, it acquired the signs of a civil life typical of the bourgeois spirit, with the construction of new roads (especially the Alvito-Castello connection, completed in 1914) and the establishment of primary services (Hospital, Court, Lyceum, Agricultural School).

It also experienced, particularly after national unification, economic growth, mainly centered on agriculture, to which the first phenomena of emigration joined, however.

In particular, migration flows at the end of the nineteenth century, both towards the Balkan Europe, especially Turkey and Bulgaria, and towards the Americas, with Brazil and the United States as the main destinations. During the same period, there were also episodes of minor trafficking towards continental Europe, especially in France, where many Alvitan children were brought to work in glassworks.

In 1919, thanks to Vincenzo Mazzenga, the first agricultural colony for the orphans of the farmers who died in the First World War of the Terra di Lavoro province was established, which remained active until the mid-thirties. During the Second World War, the town was spared from air attacks. However, the Abruzzese partisan Giuseppe Testa, decorated with the gold medal for military valor posthumously, was executed on May 11, 1944, near the Fontanelle locality.

Explore the borghi of the Comino Valley

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