Home | Valente and DiRenzo Family History - From Our Correspondent in Geneva - Vipera Ridge and the Venditti Farm

« Toppo della Vipera » and the « Masseria Venditti »

The photograph below shows the land that lies between the village of Gambatesa and the Piana delle Noci ("Plain of Walnuts"). This is the view swung 90° to the west of the view from the end of Via Serrone; both these photographs show the toppi ("ridges") of Salandra and Vipera. For the photograph below look on the old military map of the territory of Gambatesa at 9 o'clock for the point marked K.262 just south of Mass.ª Venditti; below is a composite of two photographs taken from that point, looking first to the northwest and then to the northeast.

Toppo della Vipera, Toppo della Salandra and Casino Venditti, Gambatesa, 43 KB

The photograph on the left is of Toppo della Vipera ("Vipera Ridge"). At the center of the photograph on the right is the big casino ("farmhouse" in dialect) of the Masseria Venditti ("Venditti Farm") with Toppo della Salandra ("Salandra Ridge") just behind it. The casino is so large that it even has its own chapel.

The Casino Venditti ("Venditti Farmhouse")

Photograph of the Venditti Farmhouse, Gambatesa, 14 KB
« Casino Venditti »
"Venditti Farmhouse"

The Casino Venditti appears not to have been a simple farmhouse. Angelo thinks that rather than a farmhouse it was more like a maison forte ("fortified house" as in "fortress") housing a garrison. The casino would have been especially important because of its proximity to the Via Appulo-Sannitica which for centuries was the only road in the area and the only road between the provincial capital cities of Foggia to the south and Campobasso to the north.

The most direct route north from the Province of Puglia into Molise is the route of the former tratturo, the ancient sheep migration (transhumance) track between Puglia and Abruzzo, which lies along the Tappino fondo valle. But in the winter-spring the tratturo became a malarial swamp or marsh because of snow and rain (Angelo's mother got malaria there when she was young, and when in the 12th Century the Saracens tried to invade from the south, as the story is told, they were confounded by the mosquitos and had to turn back) which forced travelers -- and invaders -- to follow a route to the south of the Vipera and Salandra Ridges, which is the route of Via Appulo-Sannitica.

The narrow valleys -- at some points the pass is very narrow, less than 10 meters wide -- on either side of Toppo della Salandra would have made it easy to prepare an ambush there if an army tried to follow the route along the Torrente Fezzano ("Fezzano River") that led past the Chapel of Our Lady of Victory in the valley to the right (i.e. east) of the casino.

The Torrente Fezzano followed northward through the valley turns right to join the Torrente Tappino just in front of the Masseria Valente. The Tappino leads to the Fortore River, on the other side of which lies Puglia.

The Mediterranean Climate

In winter, during the rainy season (In the Mediterranean Climate there is a lot of rain in winter, while June to August is very dry), the Torrente Tappino becomes a fiumana (corrente di fiume in piena: "raging flood (of a river)".) During the Mediterranean dry season the Tappino becomes a stony riverbed (like the Torrente Succida in this August 2004 photograph).

The tratturo could take the path of the Tappino fondo valle only because the sheep, goats and cattle only passed along it in the fall and spring (They wintered in shelters in the Puglian plain). But during the winter rains when the flooding occurs, the Tappino becomes an impassible swamp or marsh; this is why the ancient Via Appulo-Sannitica did not lie along the fondo valle -- which would have been the most direct route to the provincial capital City of Campobasso -- because of the great engineering difficulty of constructing a road in the Tappino's flood plain.

Lines of Invasion and Defense

During the rainy season, invaders coming from Puglia either had to turn south at the Fezzano or Succida Rivers and pass through the narrow valleys. And as the saying has it: "Who controls the heights [highland] controls the valley" (Qui tiens le haut tiens le bas). And that was the position of the village of Gambatesa (as was the position of the village of Tufara) and of the Masseria Venditti.

But even when travel along the Tappino fondo valle was possible, there was no reason for invaders to follow that route; -- because there were no villages to plunder between Gambatesa and the City of Campobasso: but the large town of Riccia e.g. lay to the southwest.

Photographs by Angelo Abiuso (Geneva), August 2004.

The URL of this Web page: https://www.roangelo.net/valente/composto.html
Last revised: 15 January 2006 : 2006-01-15 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo.

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