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VOYAGE OF discovery

Even in Italia! we have rarely featured Molise, yet this unsung destination deserves your attention, says Valentina Nicastro
Images by Valentina Nicastro
My fi sh sandwich from Termoli
Knives in Rocco Petrunti’s workshop in Frosolone
Mural at Civitacampomarano

You’re going where?” This is what friends kept asking me when I proudly announced my decision to visit Molise. Why? Because this small region overshadowed by neighbouring Puglia, Campania, Lazio and Abruzzo is often neglected by Italians, who will sometimes joke that il Molise non esiste (Molise doesn’t exist). Molise is the youngest region in the country – it was founded in 1963 after its separation from Abruzzo. It is, after Val d’Aosta, also the smallest region in Italy; and it is sparsely populated, with little more than 300,000 inhabitants. However, Italy’s greatest unsung destination has it all: historical treasures, a lovely coastline with picturesque towns, a great outdoors and delightful villages full of personality and living culture.

Determined to find out what hides behind its borders, I set off on a three-day road trip around the region in search of sights, culture and cuisine…

Day 1

SEASCAPES, MURALS AND KNIVES

The starting point of my tour is Termoli 1, Molise’s major beach resort, where I arrive after a pleasant one-hour drive along the coast from Pescara, the nearest airport. Termoli’s old town is a gem wrapped around old defensive walls and guarded by a magnificent 13th-century castle. A maze of picturesque lanes leads past rows of colourful homes and to the tiny piazza, lined with a string of lovely cafés and eateries. I try to do some sightseeing by visiting the cathedral, which is the final resting place of the local patron saint, San Basso, but the call of the sea is just too strong. I head to Sant’Antonio beach at the foot of the castle to sink my toes in the soft sand and take in the beautiful views of the sea and a trabucco, an old wooden fishing machine. The sea here has been awarded a prestigious Blue Flag, but unfortunately I don’t have time to take a dip because lots of other places await me, so I grab a fish sandwich and I’m back on the road.

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About Italia!

Our first stop this month is Milan, where Christmas is celebrated in style with a wealth of events to get you in the holiday frame of mind. The festive mood continues up in Como and down south in Sorrento. We also take a look at nativity tableaux (presepi) in and around Naples, where this celebratory tradition is alive and well. If you’re also looking for features without a side order of yuletide cheer, you’ll love our action-packed story from the ski slopes of Courmayeur, and our fascinating voyage of discovery around the peaceful byways of Molise.