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34

and cultural growth, but also to off er to 

the interested tourists an inspiring image 

of the global structure of those ancient 

places of worship, the wooden oil mills, 

the watermills and the wide courtyards 

of the aristocra  c mansions refi ned with 

dovecotes, wood and stone works.

Silence is the master of this village as 

well as the century old guardian of these 

ancient and rural buildings, each one of 

them having its own history. Facing the 

passing of   me, these few li  le  things 

telling us of a specifi c life-style are worth 

the journey.  According to many historical 

sources, we must be aware of the imma-

terial cultural goods that the places and 

the stories of this ancient culture remind 

us, even at an interna  onal level.

We also want to talk about the con-

cept of the village as ancient structure 

meaning both all those social and eco-

nomical situa  ons that did not change 

for centuries and  all 

the necessary resto-

ra  


on projects that 

helped in crea  ng this 

typical and absolutely 

original environment. 

 

Thus, the religious bu-



ildings are of par  cu-

lar concern.  We know 

that the church has 

always been the heart 

of the village. Records 

say that since the 

Longobard  era the local 

communi  es met each other in the chur-

ch square to se  le disputes and draw 

up contracts. Being religious centres im-

proving cultural and economic  develop-

ment, the monasteries turned out to be 

the best places to preserve the memories 

of the past.

Yet the noble  mansions (excep  ng for 

the inhabited ones that are not open to 

the public) off er a lot to see, though  they 

have a common layout.  Moreover, du-

ring our journey we will visit the Museum 

of Social and Religious History of Ancient 

Cilento and the parish church where we 

will fi nd a lot of handicra   ar  cles related 

to the Byzan  ne icon named Eleusa. This 

work  is  dedicated to our people, our stu-

dents and our seasonal guests so that the 

awareness of our iden  ty will help us to 

live be  er in the future.

An  co frantoio - Par  colare

introduction


35

In the municipality of San Mauro Ci-

lento and the surrounding areas there is 

an ever-changing view as we move from 

the coastline to the inland.  This is due 

not only to the remarkably uneven oro-

graphy but also to the actual farming 

(including the organic one).  Farming 

here was introduced by the Benedic  ne  

monks about the year 1000, when the 

hill slopes were cleared and ploughed. 

Now  we can see chestnut woods on the 

north-west slope of Mount Stella, olive 

groves and vineyards in San Mauro and 

pasture lands on the inland stony hills 

of Serramezzana and Montecorice.   The 

usual lack of water near the streams and 

springs caused a reduc  on of vegetable 

growth while there was an abundance 

of  fi gs  by the sea. Fig trees grew along 

with other fruit trees. The esparto grass 

growing on the li  le hills and unfarmed 

lands was used for crea  ng some specifi c 

ropes called libbàni and they were em-

ployed both in farming and fi shing; some 

of them were sold in the markets of Pu-

glia too.

Moving up the winding road we can 

enjoy a landscape do  ed with ruined 

houses and half deserted farmsteads 

Casal Soprano - Montagna

a land to discover



36

once being places of worship. Here we 

can see also some houses that are 

half hidden from the sea view, so 

as to protect themselves from the 

raiding pirates. There are no more 

the lively shining colors of the coa-

stline nor the boundless sea view, 

but several hill tops that are cove-

red with century-old olive groves 

and the traces of the Mediterra-

nean bush. The natural landscape 

is similar to the original one. We 

feel that   me is an illusion since 

life here has a slower pace; along 

with the memory of old habits and 

customs there is no sign of moder-

nity.


The old districts of San Mauro 

Cilento are s  ll the same but now 

they are star  ng a new life le   ng 

tourists know and appreciate those 

old buildings that once used to be home 

to poor,   red and hardworking people. 

Those who look at these villages from 

afar can see that they are well establi-

shed in the environment and look so pea-

ceful and charming if compared with the 

fran  c city life.  Let’s take a closer look 

at them: they stand  either on the side 

or on the ridge of the hill and share com-

mon features. The houses are very close 

to one another; the walls  are built with  

simple calcareous stone –no plaster-  the 

roofs are covered with terraco  a   les. 

Here and there there is a tower surroun-

ding the valley below with the church bell 

tower nearby and the many noble man-

sions standing out from the other hou-

ses. For centuries the planimetry of these 

buildings has been unchanged ; though 

this sta  c nature may be regarded as a 

nega  ve feature in terms of economic 

and social development, it is rather an  

important asset from the aesthe  c point 

of view, because this cultural heritage  is 

a must for the tourists.                                    

 

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Cappella dell’Immacolata - Par  colare

a land to discover



37

The word “Village” does not mean 

only a bunch of houses; above all, it is 

about the culture of its inhabitants. Thus 

it has no par  cular urban planning, but 

it has got more to do with the organiza-

 on and social rela  onship of the people 

living there. Although the present-day 

appearance, we must look back at the 

past experience of the village  living like 

an “ancient structure”, thus mel  ng the 

local and urban communi  es  together. 

The former have formed over the centu-

ries according to specifi c social and eco-

nomical needs, thus changing or comple-

tely disappearing to be replaced by other 

ones that are completely diff erent.  On 

the contrary, the urban communi  es re-

mained unchanged preserving their basic 

features. Due to the very nature of the 

peasant world, they experienced several 

periods of decay: a trend that is sta  c and  

reluctant to innova  ons. As a consequen-

ce, the economic growth is slower than 

in other fi elds. However, this does not 

mean that they did not care for the envi-

ronment, fostering tourism and planning 

urban development; on the contrary, for 

years they have been doing that, and at 

 mes they have done be  er.  Yes, they 

have been slower than the others, but at 

the same   me they have not destroyed 

the memory of the past. Now that the-

re is a growing awareness in protec  ng 

the past, it turns out a be  er situa  on 

from the economic point of view. In this 

environment, the humble and incomple-

te work of the villagers represents a fun-

damental part of his life, since it suff ers 

from the mutual man-nature rela  on-

ship. The village plan had to adapt to the 

natural environment of a hilly and rough 

landscape: at the same   me, though,  the 

peasant had to take the best from what 

nature off ered to him: in order to survi-

ve to the pressing needs, near the water 

sources he built water mills one below 

the other to use the water fl ow for dri-

ving power. Where there was not enough 

water, he created water tanks or also dug 

An  co casolare - Interno

the ancient structure of the village




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