The Val Comino is the shape of a lozenge aligned east-west with two entrances, one to the west and one to the south. It lies some eighty miles to the south east of Rome, forming a near equilateral triangle with Naples. Its sides are the Apennines, snow capped for half the year, and through it flows the Melfa river, which eventually irrigates the plains of Roccasecca. Eleven towns hug the valley sides, circling the town of Gallinaro, which saddles a hill almost in the centre.
Of the twelve towns, Atina has the longest recorded history. One of the five legendary cities of Mercury, it pre-dates Rome by several centuries. It owes its historical power to its position, dominating the southern entrance to the valley which leads to the Cassino plains. As mountain valleys go, Val Comino is large and fertile, supporting some 25,000 inhabitants. This fertility and its defensibility have led to a long list of invaders over the years: Greeks, Samnites, Romans, Saracens, Normans, Lombards, French, Austrian, Spanish and Popes have all stayed and left their mark.
A man could spend much of a lifetime discovering what is worth knowing about its dozen towns. It is big enough to be a world in itself; a simple man could find all he needs within it (of history and architecture, of literature and music; of craft and effort; of musuems and churches; of nature and nature’s bounty in food and wine; and most of all in life – the lives of the people he would meet.)
Historically this was not a rich world: predominantly agricultural, its wealth has always been wine and oil. Unlike Tuscany, the valley contains no large reservoirs of art or culture, it has no beaches, no cathedrals and no tourists. Until recently, large numbers of its inhabitants emigrated to Europe, The Americas and the Antipodes. No one ever came here, they just left…” Paulo Tuglio – North of Naples, South of Rome (Published by Hamish Hamilton, London in association with The Lilliput Press, Dublin 1994).
A month is not enough time to explore Val Comino and to begin to understand what it has to offer. Speak to the Concierge and find out what excursions he can suggest to meet your interests or which Feast Days or Sagre are being celebrated in each of the Comune.