Fardella: an untold story

Antonio Appella

That the town of Fardella was born at the end of the 17th century can be deduced from the fact that it is not mentioned in the report of the survey on the castle of the Missanello family in Teana drawn up by a certain Urso in 1683, where we read that “Teana borders with the territories of Carbone and Chiaromonte, from which it is divided by the Cannalia valley.” The latter, which today belongs to the municipality of Fardella, was a possession of the Count of Chiaromonte at the time. The same situation is found also for other territories, as confirmed as early as 1406 for the area of Carrosa, which is now part of Fardella. At the time: “Defensam unam, sitam in dicto territory Clarimontis quae dicitur Carrosa confinatam cum territoriis Episcopiae, Tiganae, Carboni, Clarimontis.” It should also be recalled that the Chiaromonte coat of arms includes five peaks, one of which represents Carrosa. As we have seen, the survey makes no mention whatsoever of the existence of Fardella while recording the various places and religious edifices located around Teana. Nor does a town of that name appear on any of the official maps of the period.

Fardella mappa 1683It seems possible to dismiss Cappelli’s suggestion that the name Fardella derives from the Longobard word fara and refers to enlarged family groups of that people and their lands of conquest. The toponym is not in fact to be found in any medieval document regarding the territories of Chiaromonte. At the same time, there is no evidence to support the claim that Fardella takes its name from the vanished castle of Faracli, located according to the sources between Chiaromonte, Teana and Carbone.

While Fardella can therefore be regarded as a comparatively new town, born just 300 years ago, its territory reveals human presence since the earliest times. Anthropization of the area is attested by the recent discovery in the Cozzocanino area of part of a necropolis dating from the 6th century BC and similar in terms of burial type and grave goods to well-known Oenotrian necropolises of nearby Chiaromonte, i.e. the supine form of burial of the Oenotrian hinterland and coarse earthenware vessels. Associated with those of Chiaromonte, this necropolis displays an organization of such burial spaces in scattered groups with respect to “spaces of the living” spread out over the hills in a strategic position of control between the valleys of the Sinni and the Serrapotamo.

Another area of historical and archaeological interest is Castrovetere. As the evident derivation of the toponym from the Latin castrum suggests, this was probably a strategic fort and lookout post near the confluence of the Cotura and the Sinni, an area where coins and weapons have been found in the past. This hypothesis is supported by an old legend of a town once situated on the hill in question being abandoned due to an invasion of ants, which can perhaps be interpreted as a natural calamity leading to abandonment of the area. Nor is it any coincidence that a town called Castronuovo Sant’Andrea is situated today at a distance of about 20 km in the same northern direction. While the legend is certainly not a pure invention, as shown by the real relationship between the two toponyms (Castrovetere and Castronuovo: old and new), the question must remain open pending archaeological investigation.

Fardella mappa aree archeologiche

Among the types of habitat described by Guillou, Castrovetere may correspond to the one characterized by a high position. While rivers remained the constant point of reference, high strategic locations tended to be sought for settlements. Like many others, this one could have undergone further development during the Gothic War of 535–53 to become a kastron or fortified village. Among other things, the site possessed the requisites laid down by the anonymous author of De Re Strategica, including a high location to ensure natural defence and ability to withstand siege, a source of water (the Cotura below) and the availability both of building material like wood and of food for people and animals.


Guillou pointed out that “any now isolated chapel may be the last vestige of a vanished hilltop village”, and the presence of a now ruined shrine dedicated to the hermit St Onophrius is evidence of human presence in ancient times. This cult of Eastern origin could be connected with the Italo-Greek monks who arrived in this desolate, deserted area as from the 9th century to found new communities and hermitages. Derivations from the Byzantine Greek culture can indeed be detected in the place names of the Fardella area and the local dialect.

It was on the banks of the Sinni, in the area of Fardella known today as Celle (the term cella was used in medieval times to indicate the agricultural land of a monastery) near a rocky crag, that Blessed John of Caramola lived in the 14th century. Born in Toulouse and still remembered in local tradition as Beato Giovanni, he withdrew into the solitary life of a hermit before entering the Cistercian order at the nearby abbey of Santa Maria del Sagittario.

The founding of Fardella is dated between 1690 and 1693 by some historians on the basis of a document now in the possession of the Lecce family in Teana, the following passage from which is given by Vitale: ut non solum redegeritis Cives in durissimam servitutem quamplurimus interis angariis et perangariis: verum etiam eos coegerit paternos lares, derelingueri e, altrove migrare, suasque habitationes, in tamtam copiam transferre ut ex civibus a dicta Terra Theanae aufugientibus enatam et compositum fueris Oppidum contiguum nuncupatum Fardella, jurisdictioni ac utile dominio Illustris Principis Bisiniani subjectum (the citizens were not only enslaved but also perished through hardship and obligatory services. They thus took their possessions and left their homes to move elsewhere all together. Those who fled from the land of Teana built a town nearby called Fardella under the jurisdiction and rule of the illustrious Prince of Bisignano.)

The account of Fardella being founded by people fleeing from Teana is borne out by oral tradition, which suggests that it is named either after the fardelli or bundles the fugitives carried or after a certain Fardella, a bride of Teana who refused to abide by the jus primae noctis and spend her wedding night with the feudal lord.

Evidence of a real state of distress for the subjects of the Marchese Missanello, which may have preceded the flight of 1693, is provided by an event that took place in Teana at an unspecified date recorded in a deed by notary Flaminio Parise of Chiaromonte as “sedition and rioting of citizens in order to leave their land”. The situation had become dramatic as early as 1682–83, when a terrible famine led to widespread poverty and death in Teana. As the above-mentioned Urso wrote: “Due to the poor harvest of last year they have no grain and are reduced to such a state of poverty that most of them eat plants in the countryside and over forty have starved to death. The situation is dramatic. The population consists of labourers who seldom own any land. They are all poor and they till the fields with oxen and grow vines and perform other agricultural services.”

The fugitives from Teana placed themselves under the protection of Count Carlo Maria Sanseverino, who granted them permission to build a settlement on land he owned near Chiaromonte on the east bank of the Carrosa.

It is very probable, however, that the creation of Fardella also involved tenant farmers from Chiaromonte forced to travel every day from their homes to work in the fields. This is attested in the public deed pro Casalibus Sanseverini et Fardelle drawn up by Domenico Leo on 20 August 1730, where it is stated that in order to live and maintain their families, the farmers and labourers were forced to work all over the vast territory of Chiaromonte, far from the town, cultivating land with farms and vegetable patches, and that the distance from the town impaired their health both in winter, with snow in the rivers and valleys, and in summer due to the “fatigue of daily labour”. Driven by necessity, they wanted to erect a few houses and barns in order to stay at their place of work. The founding of Fardella can therefore be seen as part of the policy of agricultural colonization pursued by the Sanseverino family, and it is no coincidence that the earliest sources refer to it as a casale or rural hamlet created for agricultural purposes.

Out of gratitude to the Count, the new village was named Fardella after Anna Cecilia Catherina Serafina Maria Fardella, a lady from Trapani that Sanseverino married in Naples on 7 February 1665.

Anna Cecilia Catherina Serafina Maria Fardella

The earliest authenticated document on the new village is dated 1704 and refers to the good relations established with the inhabitants by Giovan Francesco Sanseverino, son of the late Carlo. On 30 April 1704, “in front of the church of St Anthony of Padua” in Fardella, a message from the Prince of Bisignano was read out to 31 citizens calling upon all the good vassals of the village “forgive and condone whatever trespasses, injustice, extortion, usurpation and anything else they may have suffered at the hands of the late prince, his father, or from his ministers and through neglect or the counsel of ungodly persons or bad advice” in accordance with the wishes of the deceased, who expressly instructed his son, before going to meet his Maker, to ensure the satisfaction of his vassals in every case. The new prince therefore declared himself most ready to recompense and reinstate “in honour, goods or other things” any person who felt himself injured provided that he was willing to forgive and forgo any claim on his father’s soul. The inhabitants of Fardella, “with one voice and none contrary”, answered that they had never been injured by Prince Carlo Sanseverino and that they had received grace and favours from the same, who had constantly found new ways to benefit all his new vassals. This is a splendid demonstration of loyalty and peaceful relations, something by no means negligible in a period of severe and widespread oppression.

It was probably early in the 18th century that eight persons from Fardella and three from Chiaromonte were tried for damaging fruit trees in the fief of Sant’Onofrio or Finocchio belonging to the monastery of Santa Maria del Sagittario. The monastery, which owned most of the land at Fardella together with the Carthusian monastery of San Nicola, was in turn accused of encroaching on the demesne of Chiaromonte. Disputes were, however, often wisely settled by impartial experts through arbitration as the contending parties had little faith in the outcome of legal proceedings. The history of Fardella in the 18th century, as reflected in the few documents available, is one of gentry on one side and peasantry on the other. The former belonged to the local nobility of rich landowning families, who had for over a generation sent a son to study theology or law. Alongside these “nobles”, whose numbers included doctors in civil law and canon law, there were the families of gentlemen, including physicians, notaries, priests with no degree in theology, and landowners who did not farm their land themselves. After them came the families of master craftsmen, shop owners and merchants, known as “civili”. Distinctions were also made for the classes of small and medium landowners, rich farmers, artisans without their own shop, men-at-arms, and finally those who worked the land, including tenant farmers, peasants and farmhands. This is clearly documented as from the beginning of the 19th century in the municipal civil registers and parish records, where the lowest classes were given just one name, the civili two or three, and the upper classes sometimes more.

The great vitality of the economic life of the small town in the Age of the Enlightenment can be deduced from the Statistica del Regno di Napoli, one of the most important sources for the economic and social history of southern Italy, commenced by order of Gioacchino Murat in 1811 but not completed until after the second Bourbon restoration. We read there that the primary producers of fir timber had once included Fardella, “from which firs are no longer sent to Taranto as in the past, when they had the water-powered saws and floated logs along the Sinno”.

Linen production was another important sector, and it is stated in the Statistica that Fardella was one of the few places in the region of Basilicata where “the mechanism of the flying shuttle is known and used” and that “the renowned Fardella cloth is sold in fairs and nearby towns”, which suggests a high level of quality.

Though present in only a few towns of the Lagonegrese area, the silk industry played a key role in the Fardellese economy. The Statistica speaks of the use of a mangle of four palmi in diameter to spin silk: “It is generally of medium quality and sells for 14–15 carlini a pound. Up to six hundred women are employed in this industry in the period of the development of the silkworms.” This explains the huge number of red and white mulberry trees and the very high percentage of families with both husband and wife involved in carding and spinning for generations.

1929 Foto di gruppo

These and other agricultural resources led to immigration. As the records show, entire families from the surrounding area chose to live in Fardella because of the greater opportunities offered there. The town’s original agricultural vocation continued to develop and numerous farms with farmhouses were scattered over its territory. The most important of these appears to be the one in the locality of Sant’Onofrio owned first by the Giura family of Chiaromonte and then the Costanza family.

Atto di nascita di un espostoOne social phenomenon that developed in the small town, above all at the end of the 19th century, was the abandoning of babies, generally outside the homes of the poor. Having registered the sex and state of abandonment, a charitable committee gathered information, entrusted the foundling baby to a wet nurse until it was weaned, and chose its name. Some names referred to the place of finding (e.g. Maria Rosa Santonofrio and Maria Racia after the localities of Sant’Onofrio and Racia), some were religious and expressed hopes for the future (e.g. Serafina Colomba Esposta, Maria Giuseppe Sionne, Luigi Fortunato and Rosa Santamaria) and some were explicitly political, reflecting the period of national unification (e.g. Vittoria Emmanuela Savoja, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Camillo Cavur, Clorinda Saffi, Eduarda Settembrini, Maria Rosa Amedeo, Pasquale Imperatrice and Maria Stella Orientale).

The history of Fardella is also one of religious tradition and devotion as clearly expressed, albeit more in the past than today, in the feasts of its twin patrons, St Anthony of Padua on 13 June and Our Lady of the Rosary on the first Sunday in October. The latter was preceded on the Saturday by a great fair (“two crowded days with ten thousand and more people”), which is now reduced to a market. A chapel dedicated to the Madonna outside the town in the last century has recently been rebuilt. In addition to the devotional altars dedicated to other saints in the town church, attention should be drawn to the private chapel of the De Salvo family dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, a feast still celebrated today with a solemn procession on 15 August, the chapel of the Costanza and then Cirone family, the chapel of St Vitus outside the town (a cult now recalled unfortunately only by the place name San Vito), and the above-mentioned chapel dedicated to St Onophrius, whose image is traditionally believed to have been found in the trunk of a tree. The strength of earlier religious feeling is still attested by an array of wooden and metal crosses constituting an authentic protective belt at peripheral points around the town as far as the Calvario district, when the men of the town used to sing the Miserere every Easter Saturday at dawn.

Processione Fardella

The major political events affecting life in the Italian peninsula were also reflected in the small town of Fardella.

In 1799 some of the inhabitants instituted a republican municipal constitution, which was then abandoned in the wake of French repression. The physician Biase Gaetano Corradino, the notary Onofrio Mazziotta and the chemist Andrea Breglia were among those who organized the planting of a tree of liberty and “forced the people to raise their hands as an oath of loyalty to the republican government, uttering offensive words against the sacred person of the King and forcing people to sing songs”. They were all sentenced to exile far away from the town.

In 1810, after the abolition of feudalism and the rights claimed by the Prince of Bisignano, Fardella became a comune or municipality and was assigned joint responsibility with Chiaromonte for various localities such as Pietrapica.

The political struggle continued with an anti-French uprising in 1806, which ended in savage repression and the execution of numerous Fardellesi like Giuseppe Barbetta and Domenico Ciminelli by firing squad in the town. The ideals of liberty and equality were then revived in 1848 with an anti-Bourbon uprising that involved various citizens, including Antonio Caldararo, Biagio and Vincenzo Cirone and Francesco Cosenza, who paid for their participation with imprisonment.

An outstanding figure in the struggle was Giovanni Costanza, who led the town’s rebels in August 1860. They joined up with the 6th column of the region’s insurrectionary forces, commanded by Aquilante Persiani from Senise, and subsequently enlisted in the Basilicata Brigade to fight with Garibaldi in the Battle of the Volturno.

Italy’s unification did not solve the problems of this area, as failure to settle the age-old question of land for the peasants dashed expectations, turned the rural masses against the newly created state and created authentic opposition that ended up in guerrilla warfare (the decrees on state property of 1862–63 triggered a peasant uprising in Fardella too) and brigandage. The numerous bands of brigands that infested the area included those of Alessandro Marino of Castronuovo di Sant’Andrea and Scaliero of Latronico, who disarmed the Fardellese forester Paolo Cirone in the wood of Magnano near Fardella on 12 December 1861.

Giuseppe Mazziotta was among those accused of pro-Bourbon activities against the new Kingdom of Italy and charged with complicity in brigandage in 1861.

The 19th century saw development of the town and an increase in population, which reached a peak of 1,428 in 1845 before dropping to 1,304 in 1881, 1,060 in 1901 and 1,020 in 1911, above all through emigration to the Americas and the systematic departure of entire families. The town has only 728 inhabitants today and emigration continues, primarily to major cities in northern Italy and Europe.

The houses were still without drinkable water and electricity at the beginning of the 20th century and a malaria clinic was not created until 1911. The conditions of hygiene were far from ideal, as pointed out by the municipal doctor Antonio Vitale in a speech on the Lagonegrese area delivered in Naples in 1912, where he spoke of finding a man lying ill in “a hovel” in Fardella in conditions that “we shall not describe out of respect for human decency”. Il Risveglio, a workers’ mutual aid society founded in 1882, supplied sulphur, copper and the essentials for growing grapes and other crops.

A school was created at the end of the 19th century but suitable premises were lacking and the first three classes were taught in Via del Salvatore. In the scholastic year 1899–1900, according to the teacher Francesco De Salvo, only about 29 of the 50 children of school age were actually enrolled, which is hardly surprising as they were involved in the family’s agricultural work from an early age.

1923 Maestra Teresa De Donato

The town’s development was ultimately the result of the major highway from Sapri to the Ionian Sea, planned under the Bourbon regime with a decree of 15 October 1852. As Lacava writes, “[It] runs from Sapri past the lower part of Rivello, Latronico, Episcopia, Fardella, Chiaromonte, Senise, below Valsinni…” The inspector of roads and bridges Bausan was responsible for most of the studies and the project was confirmed at the national level with a decree of 17 November 1865. The first car drove along it on 5 September 1907.

Le contradeThis road stimulated new development of the town towards the Collina or “Hill” district. The urban streets were not named in the 19th century and the houses had no numbers, the town being simply divided into contrade or districts, e.g. contrada della Piazza and contrada della Fontana, named after landmarks like the main square and the fountain.

The names of the many Fardellesi who fell on the battlefield in the two world wars (1915–18 and 1939–45) can be read on the commemorative plaque on the façade of the bell tower.


The town regained its autonomy in 1947, having been incorporated into Chiaromonte in 1928 together with Teana as an economy measure by the Fascist regime. While Fardella was not directly involved in the fighting, the war increased the already severe economic difficulties and led to a period of hardship, as reflected in a number of anti-Mussolini slogans that the older inhabitants still remember. Fascism had its supporters too, however, as reflected by this entry in the register of a primary school teacher: “I told my pupils about the March on Rome that gave to all of Italy the prosperity achieved by our beloved Leader, bringing the smith back to the forge and the farmer back to the land and filling us all with love for our hearth and home.” Branches of the national Fascist organizations were created in Fardella too.

The post-war period saw reconstruction and emigration as well as terrible events like the earthquake of 1980, which radically altered the town’s original appearance. This history lives on for a population that has succeeded for over three centuries, generation after generation, in preserving its love for these splendid places and its pride in what some emigrants described in 1912 as their “beloved hometown, one of the most beautiful in the Lagonegrese area.”