Molise is a land rich in history with very ancient origins linked to different civilizations that have left their mark over the centuries. In the area there are evidence of man since prehistoric times, in fact one of the main sites in the region, and among the most important in Europe, is the Paleolithic Museum of Isernia, dating back to about 700,000 years ago. In Montenero di Bisaccia instead there are Neolithic caves dating back to around 10,000 years ago.
The people with whom Molise is most identified is that of the Samnites, in fact the territory of the current province of Campobasso was inhabited since pre-Roman times by Pentri and Frentani, the former in the inner part of Molise, with the capital Bovianum Vetus, the latter they settled near the coastal strip of the Adriatic Sea, with the capital Frentum, while the Caraceni in other places of the high Molise. To witness their presence important archaeological sites such as those of Pietrabbondante and Monte Vairano.
Among the Roman archaeological finds, the city of Altilia stands out, with its theater, basilica, walls and entrance doors, and the cities of Venafro and Larino characterized by an amphitheater and various necropolises.
In the Middle Ages, Molise was also affected by the raids of the Lombards, a Germanic population who settled in Campobasso towards the end of the 6th century. Some castles date back to this period, such as that of Macchiagodena and Castropignano, and some burials. After the year 1000, the Normans arrived who built castles in Gambatesa, Tufara, Riccia, Civitacampomarano and Venafro with the aim of defending the territory. The Abbey of San Vincenzo in Volturno and the Swabian Castle of Termoli are also medieval. Romanesque and Gothic buildings are found throughout the region, such as many cathedrals and baronial palaces.
From 1400 to 1700 ancient Albanian peoples of Arbereshe culture settled in the south of Italy, also arriving along the Molise coast, in fact still today in countries like Ururi, Portocannone and Campomarino the Arbereshe language is spoken. Interesting evidence strengthens the link with this culture like the murals of Campomarino that speak of the Albanian people.
To enrich the historical and cultural heritage of the region, the spectacular “Giovanni paolo II” Bell Historical Museum in Agnone is the oldest bell foundry in the world which houses ancient tools and casts for processing bells, manuscripts and rare texts in its rooms. The Museum of Costume of Isernia with a rich collection of women’s clothes from those countries of Molise that have maintained over time the use of customary traditional clothing linked to the symbolism that Molise people expressed through the use of popular costume.
Of great value, the Frosolone Museum of Sharp Irons where the centuries-old activity of the Frosolone Knives is documented through an exhibition of sharp-blade tools with the possibility of witnessing live the forging and processing of knives.
Molise is a land of folklore and popular traditions linked to religious celebrations, seasonal cycles and work in the fields, as it confirms the affection of the Region to the country tradition. Many festivals originate in pagan cults and are truly unique, such as the great fire ritual of the ‘Ndocciata di Agnone, the carnival mask of the Devil of Tufara, the deer-man of Rocchetta a Volturno, others offer medieval re-enactments such as parades in period costumes in Sant’Elia a Pianisi, Fragments of Ancient in Bagnoli del Trigno and many religious and exciting like the parade of the Mysteries on the day of Corpus Domini in Campobasso.
Festivals and traditions that involve a lot of effort and work such as the ox-drawn carts in Larino decorated with hundreds of colorful paper flowers for San Pardo, the wheat festival in Jelsi in honor of Sant’Anna with numerous wagons that reproduce famous characters and monuments covered with wheat grains, the Carrese di Ururi, Portocannone and San Martino in Pensilis where the carts pulled by oxen symbolize the re-enactment of the choice of a new home made centuries ago by indomitable oxen guided by the image of the Madonna of Constantinople, brought to the era by the Albanians. The procession in sea of San Basso in Termoli and the fire of the Swabian Castle that evokes the historical event of 1566 when there was an assault on the Ancient Village by the Ottoman troops, was suggestive.
The region is often remembered also for transhumance: the seasonal migration of flocks, herds and shepherds who move from pastures located in mountain areas towards the plains, and vice versa, along the natural paths of the sheep tracks.
Important festivals related to culinary traditions and music, in particular the Bagpipe Festival held in Scapoli in July attracting internationally renowned artists, Jazz in Campo the Campodipietra Festival dedicated to jazz music with concerts, master classes, free exhibitions, photographic exhibitions and conferences, the Grape festival in Riccia where allegorical floats covered with numerous grapes parade through the streets of the town, real stages on which men, women and children dressed in peasant clothes, deliver wine crowd and typical dishes among folk songs and dances.