The History of Irpinia

 " They formed the Irpini, an absolute and independent nation from the Pentri, from the Caudini and from the Caraceni, and had separate military and civil orders. Their region included more or less in the current further Principality, was circumscribed by a line that route along the Sabato river near Montefusco, it touched the eastern side of the territory of Benevento; from a second one which, heading north, followed the course of the Tamaro river up to one of its sources near Monte Falcone; from a third one, which turned south, passed under Bovino and flowed as far as Conza; from a fourth which curved, it passed through Montemarano towards the south, and went up again towards the west, up to Montefusco".

The toponym Irpinia refers to the territory of the Campanian Apennines occupied in pre-Roman times by the tribe of Hirpini , people of Samnite origin and Oscan language. The ethnonym derives from the Oscan language: in Oscan, in fact, Hirpus means "wolf".

The wolf, according to legend, was the totem animal that the tribe chose after being deduced from the other Samnite clans. Their economy, archaically, was based on sheep farming and breeding.

" The Irpinia were a wild people, accustomed to staying in caves and eating game, as well as fruit that the land produced spontaneously ".

The Irpini were among the most irreducible tribes and strenuously opposed the political and military expansionism of the growing Roman power during the Samnite wars. They were definitively subjected to Rome only in 82 BC at the conclusion of the Roman civil war between Mario and Silla.

Livio puts the Irpinia in the rank of nation and says that in war, they flaunted excessive luxury. The armament of the soldier from Irpinia, in fact, consisted of a shield edged in gold or silver, a boot that fit on the left leg, a helmet with a colorful plume and a long spear. Recent discoveries present them to us in the most important period of history, the sec. V and IV

After the annexation to the Roman power, the city of Irpinia was rebuilt on the site where today it is possible to visit the ancient Abellinum. The remains of the ancient Abellinum occupy the current Civita plateau, north-west of the current Atripalda.

It was the dictator Silla who built the new colony: it stood on the left bank of the Sabato river, adopting the traditional orthogonal layout of Roman town planning. The new city was surrounded by a massive wall system and quickly became a junction on the Via Appia to and from Puglia.

The site brings together prehistoric, Irpinian and Roman finds: it is possible to visit a citadel, an amphitheater, the aqueduct, thermal baths and a Pompeian-style domus. Of particular interest is the Roman aqueduct, one of the greatest architectural works of the Empire.

Built in the Augustan age, it conveyed the waters from the spring of the same name to the port of Puteoli and to the fleet stationed in Miseno. Along its 96 km route it supplied large cities such as Pompeii, Neapolis and Cumae.

The history of Abellinum follows that of the Roman Empire. The city of Irpinia, in fact, went into crisis between the 3rd and 4th centuries due to the military anarchy and administrative chaos of Rome.

The earthquake in Sannio-Matese in 346 and the so-called "eruption of Pollena" sanctioned the definitive end of Abellinum. The second, in particular, was a violent eruption of Vesuvius in 472 AD Although classified as "sub-Plinian", ie less powerful than the explosion that destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum and Oplontis, this eruption also produced extraordinary devastation.

With the migration to the south of the Germanic people of the Lombards Abellinum was definitively depopulated. The local population dispersed on the surrounding hills, giving rise to new, small towns.

The transformations taking place also involved agriculture, food and commerce: olive growing and oil production came to a standstill. Thus it was that we concentrated on the production of grapes and wines.

The first evidence of a mysterious "Greek wine" comes from advertising frescoes found in Pompeii, dating back to the 1st century BC

There are also numerous literary testimonies: Aristotle, Pliny the Elder, Cato, Varrone, Virgil are just some of the authors who have described the qualities of this wine.

Ancient scholars also provide us with some hypotheses on how Greek grapes had spread from Hellas to Campania.

A DOCG white wine characterized by a more or less intense straw yellow color and a pleasant and intense aroma. The characteristic smell introduces our sense of smell to the fresh but dry taste.

Colour, smell and taste are the result of cultivation on land that is unique in the world. Characterized by soils with young profiles, due to the intense volcanic and telluric activity of our region, which often rest on their rock pedogenic substrates.

Cultivated in eight Irpinia municipalities, the grapes of our Greco di Tufo come from Tufo, Altavilla Irpina and Montefusco.

But, on this Irpinia tour of the Selezione oli d'Italia, we want to take you to an unexpected place: the sulfur mines between Tufo and Altavilla Irpina.

Grapes and sulphur, an unexpected relationship

There are two main sulfur mining sites in Irpinia: the SAIM plant in Altavilla Irpina and the site of the mines and Molino Giardino near Tufo. The two sites were discovered between 1863 and 1866 by the Capone and Di Marzo families.

Why are Irpinia grapes and sulfur linked? Because the discovery of sulfur deposits in Irpinia also had strong repercussions on viticulture and on the development of modern Greco di Tufo.

In fact, with the "sulphuring", the winemakers acquired a powerful tool against the pathogens (the sulphites) that could develop during the fermentation.

This technical expedient determined a great development of the consumption, export and related industries of this valuable wine. The construction of the first Irpinia railway, born to serve these mining sites, further contributed to its diffusion in Campania and the rest of Italy.

Today Greco di Tufo continues to be rewarded, appreciated and enjoyed at the table. The sulfur mines, on the other hand, are just a shadow of the past.

The Altavilla Irpina mine is still partially active today: it produces sulfur for agriculture and industry. The structures and machinery of the past survive as a heritage of industrial archeology.

The site of the mines and the Molino di Tufo, on the other hand, fell into disuse during the 1970s. Today, after a restoration, it can be visited freely and is an important example of modern industrial archeology.

The Invention of Greek and Tuff

The toponym of the town Tufo derives from the homonymous volcanic rock.

The tuff is widely present in the subsoil of the whole area, due to the effect of the prehistoric eruption of the "Avellino pumice".

The town's castle, from which the rest of the town developed, stands right on these rocks.

At the entrance to the historic centre, marked by a splendid arch, we find a building with a high cylindrical tower and peculiar windows.

This sort of "second castle" is Palazzo di Marzo, an important noble building dating back to the 19th century.

The origin of the building is probably attributable to Scipione di Marzo, progenitor of the family of the same name, who started its construction in 1648.

And it is to Scipione that, traditionally, the invention of Greco di Tufo as we know it is attributed.

Taking refuge in the fiefdom to escape the plague, Scipio concentrated on viticulture and on pouring in the cellar of the palace. The fertile volcanic soil of Tufa, the trials of Scipio and the "Greek of Vesuvius" grapes would have given rise to the wine as we know it.

Between the end of the 1800s and the first half of the 1900s there was a first modern exploit of the Irpinia wines. The cause was the invasion of the vine phylloxera.

These parasites, originally from the eastern United States, had spread thanks to international trade mainly in Great Britain and France.

The endemic diffusion of these phytophagous insects caused a serious crisis in European viticulture starting from 1863.

Irpinia and the south, more isolated than other Italian regions, were almost spared from the invasion.

Ships loaded with grapes and wine departed from the Taurasi railway station, heading towards the wine-growing districts of Tuscany, Piedmont and Aquitania.

Sources of the time, unfortunately unverifiable, speak of a production exceeding 100 million liters and an extension of the vineyards exceeding 60 thousand hectares.

Thus it was that the Avellino-Rocchetta Sant'Antonio was called the "wine railway". Today, the route has been suspended to ordinary traffic since 2010. Since 2016, it has been gradually reopened for tourism purposes.

In addition to Taurasi, the section up to Montemarano has been reactivated since the 2018 carnival.

Montemarano is the municipality where the Aglianico vineyard is located.

Montemarano was founded by the Irpinian leader Mario Egnazio: this ancient and Irpinian origin could be the explanation of the peculiar urban planning, which makes the historic center take on the shape of a "Y".

The city, which was the scene of one of the last Irpinia resistances in the Samnite wars, is known for its carnival and the peculiar tarantella that accompanies it.

The tarantella is danced during the carnival procession and is played by small and wild orchestras of clarinets, flutes, accordions and frame drums, which repeatedly walk through the historic streets of the town. Each musical group is led by a "caporabballo", the most representative character of the whole event, a Pulcinella in a red and white costume.

The rhythm of the dance during the fashion show becomes more and more sustained, up to delirium, with improvised elaborations. The presence of the clarinet has earned it the nickname of "jazz tarantella".

The origin of the Montemaranese carnival and the relative tarantella continues to engage and involve scholars.

Already in the 17th century, the poet, writer and governor of the town Giambattista Basile was among the first to investigate the genesis of the festival and of music.

The author of Lo cunto de li cunti he helped to develop the theory that considers carnival and tarantella as the result of the social, cultural and religious melting pot born from the succession of foreign migrations (Goths, Visigoths, Longobards, etc.).

The carnival of Montemarano begins with the anniversary of S. Antonio Abate, on 17 January and ends on the Sunday following Ash Wednesday. On the night of the Sunday of "Dead Carnival", in fact, the Carnival farewell takes place and a pignata breaks as a sign of good luck.


 The French revolution suppressed the feudal regime, and with Royal Decree n. 132 of 8 August 1806 " On the division and administration of the provinces of the Kingdom ", Avellino once again became the capital of the Further (or Ultra) Principality. In the following years (between 1806 and 1811), a series of royal decrees completed the path of establishment of the new provinces with the specification of the municipalities that belonged to it and the definition of the territorial limits and the names of districts and districts in which the provinces themselves were subdivided (the Principato Ulteriore was divided into the districts of Avellino , established in 1806; of Ariano also established in 1806 and of s. Angelo de' Lombardi established by law of 11 October 1817, each district was further divided in districts for a total of 34).

When King Ferdinand VII of Spain granted the Constitution, it was hoped that it could also be obtained in the Kingdom of Naples, then Lorenzo de Conciliis became the interpreter of the wishes of the people of Irpinia, who linked up with the Carbonari and the liberals, fomented the revolutionary uprisings of 1820 for ask for the constitution; when the king withdrew his concessions many Irpinia were imprisoned, others managed to go into exile and in 1848 they started a new wave of rebellions. The Bourbon Court, in 1860 fled to Gaeta and Irpinia, on 22 July the 3rd battalion of the "Bavarian Hunters" Regiment stationed in Avellino were driven out; after 7 September, with the entry of Giuseppe Garibaldi in Naples, the province was placed under the orders of the dictator by the insurrectionary militia, on the same day the " Provisional Government of Irpino " was proclaimed in Buonalbergo; on 21 October of the same year the people of Irpinia voted for annexation to the Kingdom of Italy.

With Royal Decree of 17 February 1861, after the aggregation of the ex-kingdom of Naples to the kingdom of Italy, the following territorial changes took place in the province of Avellino. The district of Ariano ceded 11 municipalities to the new province of Benevento (Apice, Buonalbergo, Fragneto Monforte, Fragneto l'Abate, Molinara, Paduli, Pago Veiano, Pescolamazza, Pietralcina, San Giorgio la Molara and San Marco de' Cavoti) and n he had 7 in compensation from the province of Foggia (Accadia, Anzano degli Irpini, Greci, Montaguto, Monteleone, Orsara Dauno Irpina and Savignano) . The district of Avellino lost 22 Municipalities, of which 3 were suppressed (Cacciano Fornillo, Montapertura and Sant'Angelo a Cancello) and 19 passed to the province of Benevento (Apollosa, Arpaise, Bonea, Campoli, Castelpoto, Cautano, Ceppaloni, Foglianise, Montesarchio, Pannarano, Paupisi, San Giorgio la Montagna, San Martino Ave Grazia Plena, San Nazzaro and Calvi, San Nicola Manfredi, Tocco Caudio, Torrecuso, Varoni and Vitulano) ; on the other hand, however, he had from the province of Salerno (Calabritto, Caposele, Montorio Inferiore, Montorio Superiore, Quaglietta and Senerchia) and 14 from that of Caserta (Avella, Bajana, Domicella, Lauro, Marzano, Migliano, Moschiano, Mugnano, Pago, Quadrelle, Fifteen, Sirignano, Sperone and Taurano) .


 When it comes to "Irpinia", the combination, indeed, the identification with the province of Avellino is immediate. However, this identity is "crippling", in the sense that Irpinia, historically understood, is much larger, including territories and peoples who today administratively fall within the provinces of Benevento, Foggia, Potenza and Salerno, as well as Avellino. Furthermore, the territory of the province of Avellino, which already in 1894 did not include all of Irpinia, was extended for 3,027 sq km, with about 415,810 Irpinia and 128 municipalities, divided between the three Districts, of Avellino (66 municipalities, 807 sq km and 183,821 inhabitants), Ariano (26 municipalities, 885 sq km and 92,010 inhabitants) and S. Angelo dei Lombardi (36 municipalities, 1,345 sq km and 121,942 inhabitants).

Unfortunately, administrative reasons determined, on the one hand, the unification of some Municipalities, in order to achieve economies of scale (Bellizzi in Avellino, Quaglietta in Calabritto, Tavernola s. Felice in Aiello del Sabato, Chianchetelle and s. Pietro Indelicato in Chianca , Sant'Agata di Sotto in Solofra), on the other hand, the "move" of other Municipalities from the province of Avellino to the neighboring provinces of Benevento (Sant'Arcangelo Trimonte in 1978) and Foggia (Accadia and Orsara di Puglia [formerly Orsara Dauno Irpina] in 1927, Anzano di Puglia [formerly Anzano degl'Irpini] and Monteleone di Puglia in 1929, finally Rocchetta sant'Antonio in 1939). In 1930 the province was hit by an earthquake. During World War II the province was heavily bombed, on 14 September 1943 Avellino was almost razed to the ground and many victims were counted.

On 23 November 1980, the province was hit by a tremendous earthquake (Xth degree on the Mercalli scale), which destroyed entire villages.

On June 11, 2006, the failed attempt by the Municipality of Savignano Irpino, the first in southern Italy to change the region through a referendum, to go with Puglia.

From 3 December 2013 (LR n. 16 of 11 November 2013 published in the Official Bulletin of the Campania Region n. 63 of 18 November 2013), the Municipality of Montoro was established, through the merger of the Municipalities of Montoro Inferiore and Montoro Superiore, separated by 1829.