Italian little Italies: Vico del Gargano. Oranges, love and will of life
- WTI Magazine #99 Jan 20, 2018
At first glance Vico seems to be poor in relation to other villages, such as Vieste and Peschici that are beautiful, clean and touristic, in the Gargano. Vico del Gargano looks like something picturesque and decadent, like classical ruins in paintings by eighteenth century landscape artists. While other places are no longer a novelty, Vico shows a great potential, unfortunately, still unrealized, one example is the project for a widespread hotel by Gae Aulenti.
The luck of Vico, if you can call it that, has been its abbandoning, from the mid-nineteenth century on, of the old settlement composed of three medieval districts, Civita, Terra and Casale, which has permitted the preservation of almost all of its architectural language despite its consequential deterioration.
The recovery of this immense and wonderful heritage made of a spontaneous and recurrent architecture is now essential. Since the sixteenth century the building know-how of the inhabitants, who put the barn on the ground floor and the home on the first floor, focuses on the "monacesca" kitchen, meeting point for the family.
The houses are adorned and distinguished one from the other with chimneys, the richest have the family crest impressed on it, and are preceded by the "pieddi", a small staircase from the entrance where you can see all around.
One thing that is evident is that the gates, portals, bars, with coat-of-arms and all this triumph of stone, iron and wood , such as the uneven capitals that seem to bend under the weight of arches and history will need to be restored.
We hope that being included in the guide to "Most Beautiful Villages of Italy" will encourage interest and help this village to flourish. Now, let´s enjoy our walk in the ancient heart of Vico, looking not only for its most significant architectural work but also for its underground spaces: the “trappeti”, these spaces were dug under the houses and were used for pressing olives, they stand silent witness to the efforts made by a disappearing peasant culture; and that of the dead, the necropolis of Monte Tabor (Mount Tabor) and the monumental cemetery of St. Peter, dating back to 1792.
There are many churches: the Matrix Church with its stone portal and the eleven inner altars; is set on a hill around which the Casale and Civita quarters lie; the Church of St. Joseph, in the Terra quarter (or Borgo Vecchio), which contains a wooden statue representing Christ on the cross that is carried at the procession on Good Friday by Confraternities, the true keepers of the village’s soul and rituals; the Church of San Marco, dates back to the thirteenth century and, outside the walls the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli with its Capuchin Monastery, where many works of art are preserved; and finally the Church of San Pietro, with its long history on the Mount Tabor.
With regards to civil construction, the walls are a must, in some parts they are incorporated into the houses (the original circle was made built by Teodisco from Cuneo in 1292) and, finally, the quadrangular castle, where we can still see traces of the various ownerships, from the Normans to the Aragoneses and styles; the Palazzo della Bella, a peculiar neogothic palace built at the beginning of the twentieth century was inspired by the Florentine architecture of Palazzo Vecchio.
Finally we suggest you look at the beauty of the stone doorways and of the old wooden doors. Here you see the dignity of living.
The name derives from the Latin vicus, meaning “group of houses”, “village”.
The famous citrus fruits of Vico Gargano were once the basis of its economy and are once again cultivated and sold after a period of abandonment. Walking through the village it is possible to buy oranges directly from the farmers.