Fardella: the stones speak

Manuela Coringrato and Antonio Appella

The lack of cartographic sources makes it hard to establish the urban evolution of the town, which was born at the end of the 17th century. The lie of the land and the agricultural vocation of its inhabitants unquestionably determined its layout from the very outset.

Le scalinate

The presence of a hill in the southern part, a natural terrace followed by a steep slope that would have made construction difficult, led to a development of the initial village from the Stalle area – which looks directly onto the Chiane and offers a broad view of the Serrapotamo valley – to the area of the mother church of Sant’Antonio, the point of reference of the new town.

The religious edifice was built on the highest point of the plateau, thus influencing the development of the entire complex of the town square, which soon become the political and religious centre with the houses of the Guerriero, De Salvo and De Donato families, all of which played a leading part in local government. (The Palazzo Guerriero was converted to serve as the town hall after World War II.) It was here that the chemist and pharmacist Domenico De Salvo built a pharmacy (“one of most elegant of the province”) in 1893 complete with a laboratory and everything required for analyses, including a microscope. The piazza took on its present form in the 1950s with the construction of the parish nursery school and later orphanage by the Ramaglia family, emigrants to America. Another edifice connected with religion is the rectory in Via Umberto I, built in the post-war period to provide decent accommodation for the clergy sent to work in the parish and known as the “priests’ house” to distinguish it from the earlier structure.

While a series of narrow streets and flights of steps spread out from the church as arteries of the initial northeast nucleus, development took place at the same time in the northwest with the Mazziotta and Costanza houses as well as more modest two-storey dwellings with external staircase to meet the needs of agricultural life.

According to an old saying, water is found anywhere you dig in Fardella, and the marshy terrain supplied enough to fill the cisterns located in the gardens and sometimes the houses. Tradition has it that the patriot Francesco Leo of Chiaromonte fell into one of these cisterns while fleeing by night with his brother-in-law Giovanni Costanza but was miraculously unharmed.

It was not until the early 19th century that the town’s layout became more clearly defined with the division of the urban fabric into the districts or streets that appear in the official records as Sotto La Chiesa, Piazza, Fontana, Mesole, Stalle, Piano and Calvario. The area of woodland, fields and pastures southwest and southeast of the church remained intact until the 104 Sapri–Ionio state highway, a crucial artery for the town’s subsequent development, was built in 1857, followed at the end of the century by the construction of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which is still today the major road of development, especially in the present-day Serretta area and beyond. The roads were wide in the early 20th century but still devoid of paving and characterized, like the buildings, by the use of murgigna, the local limestone, from nearby quarries. The second half of the 20th century, and the 1970s in particular, saw development of town along the present-day Via Domenico De Salvo in the district now called Pita (peak), which once belonged to the De Salvo family and where the fair to celebrate Our Lady of the Assumption was held until quite recently.

The central position acquired through the building of the Sapri-Ionio provincial highway was later lost as the result of socio-economic changes and the construction of the Sinnica state highway, which led to the development of towns in the Sinni valley at the expense of those on the hills.

Fardella mappa monumenti

The church of Sant’Antonio di Padova

The earliest references to the mother church date from the early 18th century. It may have started out as a chapel dedicated to St Anthony of Padua before developing into the present edifice, where the organ loft was not installed above the main entrance until 1912. Little evidence remains today of its original state because it collapsed twice due to subsidence caused by the presence of groundwater and has undergone repeated rebuilding, in particular at the beginning of the century by a devout congregation under the guidance of the archpriest Francesco Rossi.

The central and right aisles were built first and the church only had two until the beginning of the century. The main façade was also very different, presenting six pilasters with a floral motif and a rectangular panel in the centre, due to the fact that the right aisle was not set back from the central one. The part of the lateral aisle continued with the entablature and his metopes and triglyphs, which no longer exist. There was also a large oculus over the secondary entrance.

As was customary, the church was also used for burials until 1884, when the cemetery was built to a plans by the engineer Pisani from Lauria. The private tombs of the wealthy families were located in the side aisles, the “common grave” in the central aisle and the graves of consecrated persons beneath the presbytery.

The church has a presbytery with no apse facing northwest and the entrance facing southeast, which looks onto Piazza Municipio, which was previously the centre of the town’s religious, political and commercial life, rather than Piazza Emanuele Gianturco, the main square today.

The Neoclassical façade is divided into two sections crowned by a triangular tympanum. The lower presents six pilasters with base and capital resting on a plinth. The Doric capitals are surmounted by entablature consisting of architrave, frieze and cornice that strongly recalls the architecture of Greek temples due to the motif of metopes and triglyphs running along the frieze. Inside the metopes we find an alternation of daisies and lilies, the latter being strongly associated with St Anthony of Padua in religious iconography. The upper presents four pilasters with Ionic capitals surmounted by a complete entablature with an angel in the centre of the frieze and followed by a central window.

Particular mention should be made of the entrance portal, made of local stone with spiral motifs in the lower part, lilies above and a slightly projecting keystone that bears the inscription “1823, Mayoralty of Pietro Donato”. This was very probably the year of construction.

The outer sides of the church repeat the pattern of pilasters resting on a plinth and entablature found on the main façade but the frieze is more sober, being indeed completely smooth.

The interior of the church, which has been radically altered over the years by repeated rebuilding, is still incomplete today despite the latest restoration works. The altars have in fact never been erected in the side aisles nor has the balustrade between the presbytery and the aisles. The latter was a customary feature in Christian churches to separate the place where sacred rites are performed from the rest of the church.

Built on the plan of a Latin cross, the church has three aisles divided by large pillars topped by pilasters with no capitals, whose place is taken by the entablature. The cornice runs all the way along the central aisle, around the short arms of the transept and on into the presbytery. The entablature presents an odd interruption in the short arms of the transept and at the end of the presbytery that is hardly Neoclassical and makes the connections somewhat clumsy.

The rectangular presbytery has no apse and presents two pilasters on the rear wall resting on a high plinth. Strangely enough, there is no entablature above the Doric capitals.

The central aisle and the presbytery, connected by a large round arch, have a flat roof, which may have replaced the barrel vaulting that some remember during the last episode of rebuilding. The short sides of the transept have barrel vaulting and the side aisles have different types of groin vaulting, plain on the left but with rectangular framing, marked ribbing and a flower at the point of intersection on the right.

An 18th-century font with ovolo mouldings and a putto in the central part, which appears to bear its weight together with two spiral elements, is set into the right wall by the entrance. Two large fragments of a stoup or baptismal font now in the storerooms of the parish nursery school were dated by Sebaste to the Longobard period but may have been connected with the 18th-century church.

While the walls were probably frescoed in the past, frescoes are now found only in the part of the right transept dedicated to St Anthony. The niche where the statue stands is framed by stucco drapery and there is a fresco of the Christ Child appearing to St Anthony on the ceiling surrounded by clypeate putti, floral decorations and faux windows.

The altar, a work of the 1960s, presents polychromatic marble and a canopy supported by four marble columns with a dome of golden mosaic.

The presbytery on the right provides access to the bell tower, erected through donations from emigrants in America before 1925, as shown by the inscription “Anno Santo 1925” beneath the image of St Anthony. The tower is built on a square plan with no pillars and a monument to the fallen on the façade at the bottom. The second storey is again square in plan with rounded corners and pilasters with Doric capitals. These pilasters continue somewhat anomalously above, probably due to the absence of the architrave in the entablature. The façade looking onto the main square presents a ceramic image of the patron saint produced in 1925 and arched openings to the right and left to provide light for the stairs. The third storey is instead hexagonal in plan and its faces are framed panels surmounted by entablature with an interplay of solid and void developed through the alternation of closed faces with clocks and open faces with bells hanging in arches. The short steeple rests on a sort of hexagonal drum.

Palazzo De Salvo

This 19th-century building stands at the foot of the old Piazza Municipio and occupies the entire block between Via Macchiavelli and Via Pellegrino.

Traditionally held to have been still larger than it now is, the Palazzo De Salvo was also a symbol of wealth, as reflected in the legend that “gold and silver flowed from the building” during a fire that broke out in 1868 due to “the carelessness of a member of the family who left a pipe burning in the stalls” and “the flames only stopped before the image of Our Lady of the Assumption” in the small chapel. The event is also recalled in a parish register: “It is noted for future reference that the records prior to this period and the other parish registers were all lost in the accidental fire of November 1868 in the premises of the treasurer Carmine De Salvo.”

The building, which has no courtyard, consists of a ground floor, first floor and basement looking onto Via Pellegrino, where the cellars and stalls were located. According to oral tradition, this extended to and included the Craparizzo or loggias (see below).

Access to the complex is provided by an arched doorway of stone set inside a rectangular frame crowned with a cornice. The keystone of the arch is decorated with plant motifs terminating in a pine-cone. The frame is decorated with two cornucopias, symbols of abundance, in the corners and a frieze with plant motifs. The family coat of arms with two crossed anchors, a nine-pointed star and the motto His suffulta (“Held by them”) appears above the cornice and entirely outside the frame.

The secondary entrance to the right of the main portal again displays skilful handling of detail with an arched cornice resting on two consoles. It provided access to the small family chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, which contains a wall-mounted font of the 18th century and an ancient wooden statue of the Virgin, now borne through the streets of the town in the procession of 15 August and kept inside the chapel with all its gold decorations until a few years ago. The religious element appears to dominate in this edifice, which is hardly surprising in view of the numerous members of the family who entered the church and sometimes held important positions, such as Monsignor Francesco Paolo, bishop of Nusco and honorary prelate of His Holiness (Pius IX), and Don Nicola, archdeacon of Tursi and rector of the seminary in Chiaromonte.

There is also a service entrance on the left.

A street of steps leads down to the broader stretch of Via Fratelli Bandiera and a section of the building with a terrace over the central arch of the entrance. The stalls begin here.

The only visible decorations, apart from those present on the main façade, are the cornices of the first-floor balconies looking onto Via Pellegrino and offering a view that stretches all the way to Chiaromonte. These balconies have a slightly curved cornice and raised elements in the central section whereas those below are plain.

The interior is characterized by rooms opening into one another with no connecting corridors and adorned until quite recently with family portraits and religious paintings featuring St Januarius and the Virgin. The Red Room or Gallery, where the family received guests and celebrated the feast of Our Lady of the Assumption, is reached by a staircase with a wrought iron balustrade on the upper floor above the entrance.

The edifice has probably undergone rebuilding at various periods over the years leading to alteration of the exterior that makes it impossible to give a precise, detailed reading. It was declared a protected monumental building in the early 1990s under the terms of law 1089 of 1939 but is now closed as unsafe due to the major damage suffered during the last earthquake.

Palazzo Donato

The Palazzo Donato was probably built – or rebuilt – by one of the small town’s wealthy families in 1849, as attested by the date on the staircase to the first floor.

Palazzo De Donato

It is built on two storeys with a basement and a courtyard. As in all the mansions of the period, the lower floors served to store grain and other agricultural produce while the actual residence was on the upper floor. Interest attaches to the basement, which still contains an olive press intact in all its original parts and never moved elsewhere, and the storerooms on the ground floor, which receive light through very distinctive circular windows and preserve the original arches that served to increase structural solidity by offloading weight to the ground.

The courtyard is entered through a monumental entrance of Valsinni stone with the family coat of arms on the keystone surmounted by vegetal decoration. The lower part instead presents evident floral motifs that are, however, being eroded by exposure to the elements. Large masks of fantastic animals with an apotropaic function can be seen on the wooden part.

Modest in size but highly attractive, the courtyard has a main façade with round arches at the first-floor level resting on moulded pillars with pilasters supporting the cornice upon which a terrace rests. While the order is not executed in perfect Neoclassical style, it is indicative of an interest in particular architectural devices serving to display the family’s wealth.

The windows looking onto the courtyard are slightly curved at the top and have windowsills with an alternation of fillet and cyma recta mouldings.

The buildings situated right and left of the arches are built on two storeys. A cornice runs at the upper level along the three outer walls and the windowsills are connected by a fascia to distinguish the two storeys. An external staircase provides access to the main entrance beneath the arches.

The interior is typical of 19th-century mansions with rooms that open into one another, even though the alterations made over the years include the creation in the northwest wing of a corridor to make the space more functional and meet the needs of a society whose way of life is no longer that of the past. A small arched niche at the end of the corridor probably housed the statue of a saint venerated by the family, which included various members of the clergy, one of whom received a relic sent from Rome on 5 May 1791.

Located after the corridor and a small study lined with 19th-century bookcases is a larger room with a higher ceiling – hence its name Sala Grande – used for important occasions and celebrations. The sitting room to the left side of the entrance leads into a bedroom. Interest attaches to the highly elaborate balustrades of wrought iron, an example of the Fardella craftsmanship that was known and highly regarded throughout the surrounding area.

This is now a protected monumental building under the terms of law 1089 of 1939 and awaiting restoration.

The Loggias

With its distinctive façade, a unique feature in all of the municipal territory, the building commonly known as the Logge or Craparizzo is the best example of the town’s architecture. Probably built as a mansion, it was converted to house livestock belonging to the De Donato family. Its origin function is betrayed by a particularly elaborate façade that is unquestionably among the most interesting in Fardella.

It stands between Via Pellegrino and Via Cavour, onto which it looks. Made of local stone, the façade has two arched doors on the ground floor providing access to the spaces occupied by animals, whereas the first floor presents four arches resting on octagonal pillars that may have been painted initially and do not extend for the complete height of the building. The fact that the arches are slightly off-centre suggests that they may have continued on the left side. Oral sources refer to the existence of a single building stretching as far as the present-day Via Coriolano and remnants of masonry on the right wall make it possible to infer that the adjoining building was indeed higher than the one visible today.

Characteristic consoles are located immediately beneath the arches and the cornice is of the characteristic local kind known as romanella. The lack of photographic or documentary evidence makes it difficult to develop a precise reconstruction of the building’s history.

Palazzo Costanza

Built in the first half of the 18th century, Palazzo Costanza can be regarded together with Palazzo De Salvo and Palazzo De Donato as among the earliest in Fardella owned by the families that shaped the small town’s history through their influence, wealth and culture.

As the building is currently inhabited and its interior has been altered, the only original elements to be seen are the courtyard, the monumental entrance and the small chapel, initially dedicated to Our Lady and then perhaps – subsequent to the rebuilding works of 1937 and in connection with a popular cult – to Blessed Domenico Lentini, whose renown for holiness was then spreading from Lauria throughout the surrounding area. His brother Nicola, known as Sansone, was also present in Fardella at the time. Situated on the right of the courtyard, the chapel has two separate entrances, one on the courtyard and one on the main road, and a triple lancet window. Located on a straight line with the window, the altar is made of coloured, rough-hewn local stone and presents a niche.

The building, which extends around three sides of the courtyard, consists of a ground floor that was used as storage space or stalls, and a first floor used for everyday life but including, as in the other mansions, a large room known as the gallery for official occasions.

The salient architectural feature of the very modest façade is an entrance made of local stone in the 18th century consisting of pillars with capitals supporting an arch. The family coat of arms can be seen on the keystone and spiral motifs in the lower section. The small bell located high up on the façade, which is still rung today every time the procession passes, indicates the presence of the small chapel to its right.

The entrance provides access to the central courtyard, characterized by a large staircase that starts with a single flight of steps and divides to the right and left. There are two pillars in the courtyard that may have supported a roof, permanent or otherwise, stretching over it from the main façade.

The interior has been renovated to meet present-day needs and offers no features of particular interest.

Casa Donato

An attractive little corner that still conjures up an image of the past can be seen on proceeding from Piazza E. Gianturco along Via Mario Pagan and looking to the left where the road first widens. The arch thus seen provides access through a space with a low vaulted ceiling to a small courtyard that is still in its original state.

Casa Donato interno

By virtue of its state of preservation, the house of the Donato family exemplifies the building technique, skilled brickwork and precise attention to detail of the period. While the exact year of construction cannot be determined, it was unquestionably built in the first half of the 19th century

The round brick arch of the entrance rests on pillars with capitals and provides access through a space with a low vaulted brickwork ceiling of irregular shape to a small courtyard from which the façade of the house can be seen.

The house is built on two levels. The entrance is on the upper storey reached by an external staircase that rests on an arch with the storeroom below. Interest attaches to the balcony and the front door, which are set in a panel of exposed brickwork crowned by a small but very elegant cornice, again of brick.

The building is very large and looks both onto Via Manin, where the plastered façade is characterized by a balcony with a slightly arched cornice, and onto Via Crispi, where the window and cornice are unfortunately not in an excellent state of preservation but give some idea of the construction technique.

The interiors, which cannot be visited, have undergone only limited maintenance work and still have wooden floors and ceilings.

Bottega Borea

Known as Vitino’s shop, the small Bottega Borea was built in the early years of the 20th century by Giovanni Borea on what is now the central square of Fardella. It was not until 1930 that the ground floor was converted by his son Vito into a shop selling various foods and detergents as well as Marsala and vermouth by the glass like a present-day café.

Bottega Borea

A small room with two beds and a washbasin on the upper floor is part of a pension that the owners ran with another two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a sort of restaurant in the adjoining buildings.

The shop consists of a single room on both levels. Beside the front door on the ground floor is another small door behind which there were once stone basins where baccalà (dried, salted cod) was soaked to avoid the smell pervading the shop. There is a small opening in the outer wall to provide ventilation for this small space.

The landing presents a moulded cornice with a succession of cavetto, fillet, ovolo and fillet, which reappear in different proportions in the cornice of the first-floor windows and the pitched, tiled roof.

The façade was painted around 1935–40 by a certain Dionigi Luigi of Chiaromonte with motifs that are still visible and deserve particular attention. This is indeed the only painted façade in the town. The painting simulates masonry that differs between the lower and upper levels. The author’s model appears to have been the 15th-century Florentine technique of large blocks on the lower floors, used for storage and services, and smaller dressed stone above. The painting thus simulates large, rough-hewn blocks at the bottom and smaller slabs above as well as blocks of masonry at the corners, and the artist took care to include shadows for a more lifelike effect. There is also a painted floral cornice.

Villa Costanza

Built in 1914, as attested by an inscription at the entrance, the Villa Costanza is one of the few examples of a close relationship between architecture and the natural setting. A desire for large expanses of green space led to its location in the more peripheral part of the town, as also in the case of Villa Guarino, characterized by the presence of original, exotic plants in accordance with the typical 20th-century taste of the period. These are the elements that make it necessary to visit the apparently very modest villa, which is located in a natural park of about 12,000 square metres.

The villa was built by Carmelo Costanza, a priest who returned from America with an enormous fortune he had inherited. Handed down through the family for generations, it is located near the eastern entrance to the town, hidden by lush vegetation that still ensures absolute peace and privacy. The building has remained substantially unchanged over the years and thus preserves its original appearance and beauty.

Used exclusively as a residence, it consists of a central section with projecting wings connected by means of a corridor resting on a small arch to a subsequently constructed kitchen. These rooms still preserve their floors of terracotta and fireplace. Located on a straight line with the marble entrance is a splendid hexagonal veranda with panes of coloured glass, blue walls and a finely decorated pink cornice. Corridors lead right and left from the entrance to the rooms.

One small room houses the family chapel with a marble altar decorated with a cross-bearing lamb in the centre.

The villa also comprises the caretaker’s house and stalls by the secondary entrance to the east and a dovecot and grotto in the vegetation to the west. The outer walls are covered in plaster and devoid of any particular architectural features.

The Costanza family also owned a small chapel in the municipal cemetery, built in 1925 with evident care for the architectural elements but now unsafe. The façade presents two stylized hexagonal columns in antis that support the entablature and tympanum, and the sides present framed panels. An iron door provides access to a rectangular interior with a play of light through the coloured glass panes of an arched opening.


The family’s agricultural activities took place on the farm of Sant’Onofrio purchased from the noble Giura family of Chiaromonte.

Still hidden today by the monumental cypresses that surround it and are immediately visible from the road between Francavilla in Sinni and Fardella, the farm includes a small chapel located on higher ground, now closed as unsafe, and four buildings: the “Red House” occupied by the owners, with an inscription on a marble plaque by the front door indicating the year of rebuilding as 1923 (Quinquaginta post annos hoc praedium recuperavit ac refecit Carmelus Costanza sacerdos A.D. MCMXXIII), the place where the produce was stored, the accommodation for the farm workers and the stalls.

Particularly interest attaches to the location of these small buildings around the immense area of farmland girded by monumental cypresses, which were still more numerous in the past.

The most important element is the chapel of St Onophrius, now buried in the vegetation, whose statue is traditionally held to have been found in an oak that still survives. The chapel, of modest size, is still used for services attended by all the famers of the surrounding area. Despite its poor state of preservation, we can still admire the delicacy of its forms and the bright colours of the external and inner walls with their alternation of yellow, blue and red. The corners of the yellow façade are emphasized by pilaster strips surmounted by slightly projecting entablature that is present only on the façade. The tympanum is arched and contains a carefully decorated circular element that may have once been a window. The inscription placed above the door, between its cornice and a corniced window, recalls the erection of the church dedicated to the saint by Giovanni Di Giura in 1900 (Sacellum hoc deo Onophrio dicatum aedificare curavit Joannes de Jura A.D. MCM). Built of local stone and devoid of architectural features, the sides are perfectly in keeping with the natural setting.

Cappella Sant-Onofrio

The interior has a single aisle and an altar with a large floral motif in the centre surmounted by a niche, indicated on the outside by rectangular apse, below three angels. A complete blue entablature runs along all the walls to end on the pilasters above the altar.

Particular attention should also be drawn to the small, two-storey bell tower with arched openings.