Man’s dimension

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Strolling along the narrow streets of the old town centre, one can almost hear the words of Strabo echoing in the air: “there is a street in the town with houses on both one side and the other”. The town’s layout is indeed set by the typical Roman cardo and decumanus that probably extended towards the sea, before Carlo D’Angio rebuilt Vico in 1271 where the Roman Pagus once stood.

From piazza Umberto 1, across corso Filangieri, lies the ancient heart of the town where signs of Medieval times can still be traced on the facades and courtyards of the house. According to a map dated 1832, in via M. Natale (where the town hall is now) was once the entrance to one of the three doors of the town located along the city walls. At nr. 3 (now a private residence) it is possible to admire a courtyard that still bears the structure of a 15th century Catalan-style porch. The archways are supported by an octagonal tuff pillar with a capital decorated in leaf-work. On the same street is a portal with a gothic arch dating the 14th century, and other similar examples can be found in the adjacent alleys.

Coming from via Natale onto via XI febbraio is the entrance of Castello Giusso, standing with its signature red walls on a tuff cape surrounded by nature.

According to some scholars it was built in 1300 by Carlo II D’Angio to protect the town of Vico from enemy attacks, whilst others suggest it was built by Sparano from Bari, feudal lord of Vico from 1284 to 1289. Not much remains of the original structure other than the walls that run along the stairs of via Castello Marina.

Originally, an open space beyond the walls functioned as storage for food supplies and ammunition. It was later enlarged to include towers, a moat and many rooms. In the 15th century, under the rule of the Carrafa family, the castle had three towers including the central “Torre Masta”. Ferrante Carrafa restored the Angevin part that had been severely damaged, and demolished two towers. The Baron’s palace was always considered an integral part of the fortress, and the central part with the salons and the wing that extends towards the sea were probably erected by Federico Carrafa between 1535-40. Prince Matteo di Capua, upon becoming feudal lord of Vico, decided to enlarge the gardens and enrich the palace with precious furnishings and a refined picture gallery.

The castle subsequently became property of the Ravaschieri, princes of Satriano. It was also home of jurist Gaetano Filangieri, author of “The Science of Legislation” whose tombstone found inside the walls reads he died here on the 21st of July 1788. The castle was bought in 1822 by Don Luigi Giusso, and between 1935 and 1973 it served as headquarters of the "Society of Jesus" order (Compagnia del Gesù). The building is currently a private residence that preserves very little of the original structure, and can be visited only during public events.

At the end of via Natale is Largo dei Tigli, a charming balcony overlooking the sea, standing next to a middle school that in 1300 became the bishop’s residence (previously in Marina d’Equa).


After enjoying the view of the cliffs and the coast, walking up via Vescovado one arrives to see the ancient origins of Vico, kept in the Anqtiquarium museum. The museum holds over 700 artifacts from the pre-Roman era, dating between 7th – 3rd century BC, holding artefacts of the Oscans, the ancient Greeks and the Etruscans: black and red attic vases, buccheros with graphite incisions made with an alphabet of Oscan matrix, anklets, chalices and finely chiselled bronzes.


Back on via Vescovado is a large sun-kissed forecourt that dominates a rocky outcrop over Marina d’Equa. Here rises the cathedral dedicated to SS. Annunziata, the only example of sacred architecture in gothic style on the coast of Sorrento.


The building, restored many times since its original foundation, was probably built between 1320 and 1330 by bishop Giovanni Cimino, though some scholars attribute it to Carlo II D’Angiò.


The existing façade, which no longer bears any gothic features, dates the 18th century and was the work of Bishop Paolino Pace. The bell tower dates 1635; the structure is square with three orders, bears an archway entrance, and culminates in a crenellated lodge. The original structure is visible from the outside through the pointed windows along the sides, and from the entrance on via Natale (which was probably the main one at the time). The interior of the building, currently being restored, has a basilica plant with three naves divided by columns, and once featured a central nave covered in wooden trusses, a majolica pavement replaced in 1880, and a pentagonal apse which, like the other walls, was adorned by frescoes – some of which were recovered during restoration works. Prominent are the engraved wooden choir and a fragment of the pluteus beneath the tomb of Bishop Cimmino depicting a winged horse, which came from the peninsula’s workshops that worked marble between the 9th and 10th centuries.


The vestry at the end of the left nave is in gothic style with 18th century additions, and preserves stucco medallions depicting the 24 bishops of the town.

Not far from the cathedral, on corso Filangieri towards the sea, is the church Chiesa di S. Maria delle Grazie a Punta Mare. Dating back to the 15th century, legend has it that when the church was falling into ruin it still radiated a bright light. The inhabitants, following the light, discovered an image of the Virgin on the wall and thus decided to rebuild the chapel. The facade features two niches of Ionic order with tuff statues of the patrons of Vico: San Ciro and San Giovanni. Walking along viale della Rimembranza, the majolica-covered chapel of Chiesa di S. Ciro e San Giovanni announces the presence of a historic site of the town. This site almost certainly featured the oldest sacred building of Vico (pre-existing the cathedral), dating the 12th century and restored by Alfonso D’Aragona. When Vico became “Universitas”, this church was the seat of  the “Tocco” or “Seggio” i.e. where the townspeople gathered to discuss political and administrative issues.  In 1696, due to the earthquakes, the church was torn down and rebuilt.


The works ended by 1715, as indicated by the inscription at the entrance, but the church was once more damaged by a lightning bolt in 1777.


The structure has elements of grey piperno on the facade, the bell tower has an octagonal belfry dating 1873, the interior is a Latin cross plan with one nave and three chapels on each side.


Around the church is via S. Ciro which leads to the Museo Mineralogico Campano, established by the Fondazione Discepolo. The museum, the only one in the southern Italy, contains over 5000 specimens of 1400 different varieties of minerals gathered from all parts of the world by its founder engineer Discepolo. The museum offers a unique experience into the universe of natural sciences. From opals to meteorites, to fluorescent minerals: crystals of all shapes and sizes with ultraviolet light emanate a gamma of bright colours. The presentation and quantity of materials on show can satisfy any type of curiosity, and allows us to get closer to a fascinating world.


Comune di Vico Equense - Ufficio Turismo e Cultura

sede legale Corso Filangieri, 98
Tel.: +39 081/8019100
sede operativa Viale Rimembranza, 1
Tel.: +39 081/8019500
Cod. Fiscale: 82007510637
Part. IVA: 01548611217
80069 Vico Equense (NA) 

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