ariano irpino Urban development resume 

The city of Ariano Irpino is situated on three hills: Calvario, Castello and San Bartolomeo, which form a saddle-shaped mountain relief. The altitude range within the municipality area reaches 632 meters, degrading from an elevation of 811 m a.s.l. of the Castello hill (the castle keep being 817 meters high), down to 179 meters, in the area named Contessa. Because of this orographic configuration, Ariano is also known as Città del Tricolle (City of the Three Hills).

The city of Ariano Irpino lies along the Apennine watershed, and is bordered by higher peaks both on its eastern and western sides, which make the mountain range lose its unitary character, and separate it from the coastal plains of Campania to the west and of Apulia to the east.

Today the municipality has a population of approx. 23,000 inhabitants, and is the second largest town in the Province, after Avellino, which is about 50 km far away. Owing to its large territorial extension (185,52 sq. km), numerous are the small townships immediately bordering. Ariano, borders with the municipalities of Apice (BN), Casalbore, Montecalvo Irpino, Calstelfranco in Miscano (BN), Greci, Savignano Irpino, Monteleone di Puglia (FG), Villanova del Battista, Zungoli, Flumeri, Grottaminarda, Melito Irpino, Bonito.

1. The Origins: from Aequum Tuticum to Ariano Irpino

The city's origins are very ancient. Archaeological excavations at the hill of La Starza, along the present road S.S. 90 bis connecting the cities of Benevento and Foggia, and investigations conducted between 1957 and 1961, by British archaeologist DH Trump, and continued afterward in the 80s and 90s of the twentieth century, have brought to light a series of settlements documenting a nearly uninterrupted occupation of the sites from the end of the 4th millennium to the 9th century BC.

In the large area between the valleys of Miscano and Cervaro, in the northeast of the Tricolle, the main natural transit routes intersect in transverse and longitudinal direction the Apennine range, according to a path that will be retraced by Samnite and Roman routes, and alternative routes known as “tratturi” or sheep tracks.In the locality of S. Eleuterio, about three kilometres north of the La Starza hill, the Samnites founded their ancient city of Aequum Tuticum.

The settlement conquered by the Roman armies during Samnite Wars (343-290 B.C.) became under the Empire, a prosperous Roman municipality, the importance of which did not reside in its urban magnitude, as in being a primary road junction. Aequum Tuticum was a "cornerstone of the road system in Southern Italy (Mezzogiorno)";the most important roads was via Appia that connected Rome to Brindisi. Precisely from the Via Appia in the plain of Flumeri, the Via Aemilia, a consular road during the republican period, detached to direct to Aequum Tuticum and Luceria. The Via Appia Traiana, was a branch of the Via Appia. Commissioned by the Emperor, it was built between 108 and 110 A.D. with the aim of creating a fast connection between Rome and the chief point of embarkation for the East, avoiding the arduous Apennine path of the Via Appia.  

The Via Traiana, unlike the Appia, abandoned after the fall of Rome, continues to be well run during the middle ages under Goths, Lombards and Normans, until the Strada Regia of Apulia with the Angevins replaces it. The Via Herculia, created by the emperor Maximian Herculius between 286 and 305, veered from the Via Traiana at Aequum Tuticum to continue south to the Lucania region, and partly overlap with the sheep track.  The Via Aurelia Aeclanensis, went through Aequum Tuticum and connected the two Via Appia and Via Traiana.


The Regio Tratturo Pescasseroli-Candela (the Pescasseroli-Candela drovers’ track) is part of the network of grass paths that crossed southern Italy where "the transhumance" occurred, i.e. the seasonal moving of flocks, which from summer pastures in the mountains of Abruzzo, Molise and Campania came to winter grazing lands of the Tavoliere plain of Apulia. This is the second longest Regio Tratturo with its 211 km and  an original width of 111.60 metres. The Regio Tratturo Aquila-Foggia was instead thirty kilometres longer, while the Regio Tratturo Celano-Foggia and the Castel di Sangro-Lucera were shorter.

Aequum Tuticum is also mentioned in the precious Tavola Peutingeriana. Cicero that in his letter to Tito Pomponio Atticus, wrote precisely from Aequum Tuticum mentions the city for the first time, describing it as: “a compulsory stop towards Apulia and a town of high social status as provided with all conveniences."


"The origins of Ariano have to be sought between the 7th and 8th centuries, when the populations living in the most exposed settlements, and harder hit by barbarian invasions, sought shelter on the heights of the area, in more protected and defensible places. Thus, a settlement was originally built at the top of the three hills of the future city. The new site was not far from the Via Traiana”.

2.Ariano Irpino in the Middle Ages: Normans, Angevins and Aragonese

The oldest nucleus of the town is the "Guardia" (“Guard”) district, nestled in the foothills of the castle, having an important defensive role against the military-political-religious penetration of the Byzantines. This place name, clearly deriving from the Lombard name ("warte"), confirms the hypothesis that the original settlement rose in the Lombard period, for military defence. The Lombard authorities under the guidance of various Beneventan dukes were strengthening the city's defences and it is likely that on this occasion the Castrum Ariani (a fort with walls) was also built.

The first reference to the city dates back to 797, in the Chronicon con antiquum sacri Monasteri Cassinensis. Ariano becomes a county in 969, later a bishop's seat and a diocese are created, suffragan of the city of Benevento, with the aim of halting the military-political Byzantine penetration along with the Greek-orthodox cult coming from the Apulia.

With the arrival of the Normans, Ariano assumes a major role. The city becomes one of the most important centres in Southern Italy with a county that included large part of the Sannio area. In its castle, strengthened and expanded in 1140, Roger II of Hauteville, known as "the Norman," holds its first General Parliament of the Kingdom, with the promulgation of the Assizes of Ariano; this formed the basis for the new constitution of the Kingdom of Sicily.

In 1194, the Normans succeeded the Swabians to the throne of the Kingdom of Sicily. This was for Ariano an unhappy period of wars, looting and devastation. In particular, in 1255 Manfred of Swabia, son of Frederick II, besieged the town, which had supported the papal army against him. Notwithstanding the harsh siege, the town resisted strongly, thanks to its walls and the combative nature of the inhabitants. Caught by surprise during the night, it was devastated by the Saracens of Lucera led by Federico Lancia. There is still a road in memory of that tragic event, called La Carnale.

In 1266, the kingdom came to the Angevin family. Charles of Anjou, in 1269, being grateful to the city for their loyalty to the pope, restores both the castle and cathedral.

The importance of Ariano arose from being a remarkable town, from being placed in a median position, and fortified by nature and by the castle, on the main transverse communication route of the kingdom. The road axis between the two seas, since old age and throughout the middle ages, had kept the route that from Apulia led to Naples through Benevento (Via Appia).


The prominent function of Ariano in the strategic and territorial balance of the South, already exerted in the previous centuries, was further developed when this 'classical' and convenient pathway between Naples and Apulia reached a crisis point, due to the passage of Benevento among the papal possessions, (passed to the Pope in 1077 and became definitive with the Angevin victory).

Recognizing the importance that the intersecting route had for his kingdom, the king wanted a new road axis that would not touch the papal city, and ensuring his complete control on it.

The new route, the Strada Regia, built in 1289, in a more uncomfortable path than that practiced by the Romans, which led from Naples and Avellino to Apulia through Ariano, was added to the other ones of the kingdom and was destined to become the most important road axis.

The city had strengthened its key role within the kingdom, becoming a dominant and strategic point; a stronghold placed to bar the way that any invader from the East was forced to travel to reach the capital city from Apulia.

From the capital city, the route entered the town through the southern gate, said porta della Strada (Strada’s gate), (a long stretch of that road still keeps being called 'Strada') and came out by the Guardia’s gate towards Apulia.

1.“Porta de la Strata” (Porta della Strada)

2. ”Hospetale“(Ospedale dei Pellegrini di San Giacomo

3. “S.Iacono” (Chiesa di San Giacomo)

4. “Li cretari”

5. “Hosterie et boteche” (osterie e botteghe)

6. ”S.Angelo” (Chiesa di S.Angelo)

7. ”Matalena” (Fontana dellaMaddalena)

8. ”De Guisi” (Chiesa di S. Nicola de Guisi)

9. ”Benedetto” (Chiesa di S.Benedetto)

10. ”Croce di S.Rocco”

The path between both gates constituted the major urban axis, long about 1100 metres.

The city occupied the ridge (southwest - northeast) and the summit slopes of three hills: Castello, Calvario, S. Bartolomeo (the Castle, the Calvary and St. Bartholomew). The large castle, barely separated from the village, seemed to overlook the territory, which was affected by heavy surface irregularities, thickening where it was easier to build and where the slopes provided shelter and opened more to the sun.

The urban layout was, therefore, uneven, with large non-built-up areas, especially along the most inaccessible ridges, but also in other areas intended for vegetable and flower gardens, according to the common practice of the time. The two most populous nuclei were located in the proximity of the two gates, those crossed by the Strada Regia. Already at the dawn of the Angevin age, numerous buildings of ecclesiastical architecture are emerging and others will be added before the end of the middle ages. Castle and Cathedral are the two poles of the city, referring to secular and religious power respectively.

The Kingdom of Naples, governed by the Angevin dynasty, passes to the Aragonese Crown.

In 1440, the city of Ariano is conquered by Alfonso of Aragon, and then granted to the Grand Siniscalco Inigo de Guevara, who had distinguished himself as one of his best generals. The county of Ariano passed to his son, Count Peter, who will lose it after his participation in the conspiracy of the Barons. The following year the city is part of the State Property and remains there until 1495. 

On the night of December 3, 1456 nearly 2000 of its inhabitants (Arianesi) die because of a violent earthquake (possibly the most serious in its history), leaving all the buildings damaged. According to historical records, in 1489 the whole city is committed to the reconstruction of the Castle, also giving up their farm work in order to devote time to the extraction and transport of stones.


3.From Aragonese Domination to free Municipality up to Accession to the Kingdom of Italy 

Following the confiscation of all feuds at the expense of Pietro da Guevara, who had taken part in the Conspiracy of the Barons against King Ferdinand I of Aragon, King Ferdinand II of Aragon, in 1495, sells the city of Ariano to Alberico Carafa and gives him the title of "Duke of Ariano" in 1498. The Carafa dynasty will maintain it until 1532, when Charles V will grant the city to the Gonzaga, before passing to the Gesualdo in 1577. These are the last years of the feudal regime.

On August 2, 1585, in fact, the inhabitants of Ariano redeem the town from the feudal regime refunding 75,150 ducats that Prince Gesualdo had paid a few months earlier. Thus, Ariano, becomes a Città Regia, and is reintegrated into the State Property directly belonging to the Viceroy of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. This status, in later centuries, will lead them to remain loyal to the crown and to oppose vigorously the Masaniello uprisings between 1647-48, until suffering the siege and looting by the Neapolitan rebels, for blocking the transit of wheat destined to them from Apulia.

The city of Ariano in the early modern period (early sixteenth century), was characterized by some basic elements:

• Walls, gates, axes;

• The castle, just beyond the walls, redesigned after works in the Aragonese period;

• An urban layout presenting, inside the walls, many non-built-up areas;

• A widespread and massive presence of ecclesiastical factories, inside the walls and in suburban and rural areas, with Cathedral and episcope, churches and convents, hospitals and chapels strongly marking its urban layout.

The town, which counted more than 4,500 inhabitants, had an elongated shape, oriented along a major axis that stretched from the southwest to the northeast.

The area enclosed by the walls still presents a bottleneck at the height of the cathedral, where the width of the urban intra muros does not exceed 150 meters, dividing the town into two distinct parts: one, wider, to the north (North-eastern side); the second one to the south (South-western side).

The square currently called Piazza Plebiscito, owing to that bottleneck, seems to be the heart of the town. 

The boundary wall, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, was about 4400 metres long and contained a wide area of about 19 hectares, excluding the Castle and without considering some inhabited areas, real villages or hamlets leaning against the walls.

These include the Borgo dei Tranesi, along the slope between the two gates of Strada and S. Nicola, which was marked by the presence of numerous caves, both natural and artificial, used for both workshops and homes. The production of ceramics was a very typical activity, but there were also taverns and inns due to the presence of the Via Regia of Apulia. The presence of these villages expanded the town area by several hectares. Along the town walls opened many gates.

The XVI century is fundamental to the layout of the town, which in one way is enriched with significant finds, as a result of an economically flourishing century; and also because it opens to an expansion of the urban fabric thanks to a 'variant' of the old Angevin road that the Spaniards build on the town wall outskirts.

Along the Apulian Strada Regia, between 1605 and 1607, a number of historically and architecturally valuable fountains were built, where pilgrims and travellers could stop to drink and get refreshed.

The new layout, determined by the construction of the Via Nuova and other buildings, together with an increased ecclesiastical building heritage complex (not only religious), draw a new fabric and boundaries that will remain substantially unchanged for at least three centuries. The transformations would not have affected the urban area asset, nor the general location of neighbourhoods and internal road network.

Between the end of the seventeenth century and 1732 numerous and disastrous earthquakes hit Ariano (1688, 1694, 1702, 1732), leaving a profound mark in terms of number of victims and extensive damage. 

The urban residence of Tricolle, however, is enriched, first episodically then widely spread, with secular buildings, new patrician palaces built by the most prominent families (at the end of the sixteenth century), also significant from an architectural point of view. These houses, known as 'Case palazziate', mostly appeared in the eighteenth century, and focused on the axis of the ancient Strada Regia, through the town, the surroundings of S. Angelo’s church, the descent from S. Bartolomeo to Piazza Grande, were all witnesses to the aristocratic superiority of 'restricted' elite families, such as Forte, De Piano, Anzani, Vitoli, Bevere.

The housing situation after the earthquake can be accurately derived from the Land Registry pages dating from 1754, from which the following data emerge:

• the most widespread type of dwelling was a typical ‘lower class’ house, consisting of one or two rooms;

• The second most widespread type of dwelling were caves;

• 31 buildings were constituted by the 'case palazziate' destined to the upper classes, some spaces of which were often under a lease;

• Besides, workshops and taverns that were only inhabited by shopkeepers.


The later history of Ariano, after 1860, merges with that of Italy and particularly of southern Italy. On September 4, 1860 in the main square (later called Piazza del Plebiscito) a reactionary movement took place; on October 21 of that year, a plebiscite proclaimed the reunion of Ariano to the rest of Italy.

In 1868, the town officially became part of Apulia, acquiring the name of Ariano di Puglia that lasted until 1930, when it returned to be part of the Campania region, so definitely changing its name into Ariano Irpino. Penalized by the Fascist regime, being site of a civilian internee’s camp and confinement area, it loses its Subprefecture in 1926 and Court in 1923; the latter will be only restored in 1934.