Bovino, one of the most beautiful villages of Italy
An enchanting village of the Daunia Mountains, officially elected as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy”, is Bovino. Founded by the Dauni population in 323 B.C., it was destroyed during the Samnite wars started in 343 BC and rebuilt by the Romans under the name of Vibinum. Its historical past is rich of battles and conquers: Byzantines, Lombards, Saracens and finally the Normans occupied the town, until the 13th century, when Bovino found a period of peace under the kingdom of Frederick II. During the 19th century, due to its strategic location at the border between Puglia and Campania, Bovino played an important role in the commercial connection between the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was during this period that the population was victim of the “Brigandage”, a political resistant movement that rose as consequence of the extreme poverty and desperation in which Italy was left after being officially proclaimed a kingdom.
Traces of its turbulent past are still visible in the old town. The historical center of Bovino has a particular urban layout with narrow streets paved with cobblestones, arches, ruins of the Roman baths and aqueducts and several ancient buildings made with stone and tiled roofs. The old town also offers a number of about 800 refined stone portals, evidence of the role played by the city over the centuries.
What to See
Among the seven churches located in the village, the most important is the Cathedral Basilica, dedicated to St Mary of the Assumption, whose facade, realized in 1231 by the sculptor Zano from Gaul, gives an example of the primitive Gothic style that inaugurated the season of the Romanesque in Puglia. Its facate is asymmetric and the rose window shows a blown glass painting of Jesus Christ. From the right aisle of the Cathedral, going up to the stairs, there is a direct access to the Chapel of St Marco, called also the “Cappellone”, the big chapel, from XIII sec.
Another historical attraction of Bovino is the Castello Ducale, a refined castle built in 1045 by the earl Drogone “The Norman” from the ruins of an ancient Roman fortification. The castle was enlarged by Frederick II, to become the residence of the Spanish Dukes of Guevara in the 17th century. The Castello Ducale inhabited by the Guevaras’ descendants until 1961, was considered one of the most beautiful patrician houses of that century in the South of Italy. Torquato Tasso, Giovan Battista Marino, Maria Theresa of Austria and Pope Benedict XIII were some of the renowned personalities that found hospitality in the castle. In the chapel of the castle is conserved a silver reliquary containing a thorn from the crown worn by Jesus, probably donated by Pope Gregory XIII and Pope Innocent VIII.
Other historical treasures worth to be mentioned are the Church of Carmine built by the Jesuits in the 17th century, the neoclassical S. Maria delle Grazie, the old Church of St. Peter built in 1099 and example of Romanesque architecture with Byzantine elements, in which is preserved the painting “The Martyrdom of St. Peter” from the school of Caravaggio, the Church of Annunziata with its beautiful bell tower made of Trani’s stone and the Church of the Rosary built in 1205.
Its is definitely worth a visit the Civic Museum, located in the “Pisani Palace” in Piazza Marino Boffa, that offers archeological findings from prehistoric, pre-Roman, Roman and medieval eras. Close to the Museum, but unfortunately currently not accessible to public, we find the so called, Cantine Cerrato (Cerrato Cellars), one of the most important archaeological monuments of the urban fabric of Bovino’s underground. Going about 3 meters deep by the road surface, the Cantine Cerrato unveil an ancient public cistern and arcades, dating from the Roman period, and extend for more than 20 meters: a great example of the important role that Bovino played under the Roman empire. To open this splendid monument to public and recover the archeology and history of this area systematic excavations and scientific research would be required but, at the moment, unfortunately, no funding have been allocated to this purpose.
In the area just outside the old town, passing under the main arch, you can enjoy a walk along the main street Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and enter the public gardens, commonly called “Villa” by the locals. At the end of the promenade you can admire a beautiful fountain representing the urban districts of the town and visit the Church of St. Anthony and the Museum of the Rural Culture.
Another museum of considerable importance is the Diocesan Museum, established in 1999 by the will of Archbishop Giuseppe Casale, to promote the artistic heritage of the Diocese of Bovino, dating back to the X century and active until 1979. Among the relics preserved, a miraculous thorn from Jesus‘ crown. We also recommend a visit to the Diocesan Library, located beside the Basilica Catheral in Piazza Duomo.
The area also offers extensive natural itineraries and trails such as the forest of Salecchia, where it is easy to spot hawks and wild boar, the wood of Fenna and green area that host the holy sanctuary of “Valleverde”, blessed by Pope Juan Paul II in 1987.
A remarkable event not to be missed is the celebration in honor of St Mary of the Assumption (Maria SS. Valleverde), patron saint of the town, on the 29th August. The event is characterized by an Historical Ride, called “Cavalcata Storica“, a parade in the historic centre with a long row of knights, uprights beautiful horses, preceded by the coaches with the city authorities, a large group of soldiers and bridesmaids in traditional costumes. Due to this main celebration, the whole month of August is fulfilled of cultural and gastronomic events, being the best and most vibrant period if you want to visit the town: the so called “Agosto Bovinese“.
Another important event that runs in August, from 21st-23rd, is the Bovino Independent Short Film Festival, which showcases independent short movies from all around the word, a not to be missed appointment for all cine lovers.
Finally, we mention the celebration in honour of St Joseph, on the 19th of March, with its suggestive big bonfires. The feast of St Anthony on the 13th June and the celebration of St Celestino Martire, every second Sunday of October, animated by the trumps of the bersaglieri that march around the town.