Article Written By David Waters

Arpino Italy | Rediscovering forgotten historic Italian architecture

Arpino Italy rediscovering forgotten historic italian architecture

I’m here today to share the story of my real estate scouting trip to Arpino, Italy (Population ~7,000). No frills, just the facts of what I experienced on October 30. I spent all of 10 hours in the area, so I believe I’ve seen it all by no means. However, I saw a quaint little town set atop the valley with a lot of potential for relaxation

I started my journey on the north west edge of Arpino. Parking in front of a bar(Cafè) with a great view of the majestic Italian countryside. I didn’t know anything about the area. It was a great accidental reward for driving through the night. I shadowed Davide Mengoli in Italy’s heel the day before, otherwise known as the Salento Peninsula. It was a good 6.5-hour trip which allowed me a few hours of sleep in the car at an Autogrill gas station on the way. (Yes, I can sleep in a car) By the time I reached Arpino Italy, I was more rested but not at the top of my game. 

The Northern Valley View of Arpino Italy

The Northern Valley View of Arpino village

Perfectly Preserved

Arpino is a small Italian town that has managed to perfectly preserve its historic architecture in remarkably pristine condition. Once a busy center for trade and industry, Arpino now stands as a charming example of forgotten Italian architecture.

The town’s medieval center is dotted with imposing stone churches and narrow cobblestone streets. The architecture is both ornate and Functional, with many buildings housing merchants and craftsmen.

Today, Arpino is a popular tourist destination of italy (rome), with visitors able to explore the town’s fascinating history and architecture without having to deal with the crowds found in larger cities.

A Quick Rest

I was to meet Kylie Cossa, an Australian ex-pat who currently resides in Arpino Italy with her Italian husband and daughters. It would be a bit before Kylie arrived, so I took an extra car nap from my hilltop perch. Short but sweet.
It was time to get out and see what Arpino had to offer. We were still a few minutes off from meeting Kylie, so I thought I’d head up the switchbacks starting at the church’s steps with ‘Madonna Delle Grazie’ written in cursive cast iron on its entry.

madonna delle grazie arpino italy
madonna delle grazie arpino town

Quiet Streets

This upper section of Arpino, Italy, was extremely quiet, whereas I saw few individuals outside their homes. It was nearly 9 am, and most likely, those venturing outside had already gathered in the main piazza for their morning coffee. The piazza, I would discover later on upon meeting Kylie.
One level after the other on its tight winding switchbacks, I eventually made it to the end of the road, where I found a local picking olive by hand atop his ladder. If I remember right, he was the first local I saw since starting the climb. After I offered help, which he politely turned down, I found a recently remodeled property with its windows and doors missing. Later I’d learn that it was for sale for 80,000 euro. The question I had in mind was, who had a 4X4 powerful and small enough to make it to the top of the hill on those tight streets?

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man picking olives by hand
man picking olives by hand

After enjoying the sunlight as I peered down on the value overtop the adjacent olive groves, I spotted a cow trail that continued up the hill past the garage of the half finished stone villa. I figured I’ve got time and started to ascend.

After enjoying the sunlight as I peered down on the value overtop the adjacent olive grove, I spotted a cow trail that continued up the hill past the garage of the half-finished stone villa. I figured I’ve got time and started to ascend.

After enjoying the sunlight as I peered down on the value overtop the adjacent olive grove, I spotted a cow trail that continued up the hill past the garage of the half finished stone villa. I figured I’ve got time and started to ascend.

On The Path

I knew that, if nothing else, I’d find the best view in the valley to share with everyone on youtube and was hoping to find more. Still, I would never have guessed that I’d find ‘The Sacred Stairs’ of Arpino inside ‘La Chiesa di San Girolamo,’ which was now a ruin with collapsing ceilings and eroded walls. Below is the video I shared on youtube of that experience. 

This Church tour was the perfect bonus after my experience touring houses in Salento because I could imagine the history and significance of these old churches as described by Davide. You can find those videos on my Youtube channel’s playlist ‘Apulia.’

The roof caved in front of the Scala Santa

Scala Santa Chiesa di San Girolamo

The roof caved in front of the Scala Santa

What would it be like to fully restore that hilltop church? The logistics alone would be a challenge, but the final result would be a boon to Arpino’s residents.

A Bit Of Arpino Italy History

San Girolamo Church in Arpino, Italy, was built in the 12th and 13th centuries. It is known for having ‘La Scala Santa,’ a rare feature. The stairs, made of marble, are located in Rome and believed to be the actual steps Jesus walked on when he visited Pontius Pilate. Arpino’s stairs were made official in 1836. Pilgrims would climb the central staircase on their knees and descend on the wooden stairs on each side. Today after extensive rain damage. The roof has caved in and to venture up the stairs is a health hazard.

It’s interesting that not many people know these stairs exist. I only knew because I saw “Scala Santa” written above them. Wikipedia has a list of 18 copies or replicas of the original stairs in Rome. One of them is in Veroli, which is about 30 kilometers away in the same province. However, it doesn’t mention the town of Arpino italy.

See also  So, how did we end up in Italy? A Journey To A Better Life

If you have any information about Arpino’s Holy Stairs, please comment on this post and share any links or research you have. I find it interesting and would love to hear your insight!

Middle Ages

The medieval period in rome were a time of great change and transformation for the country. The country went from being a fragmented collection of small kingdoms to one united nation under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor.

This period is also known as the Italian Renaissance, and saw a flowering of art, literature, and science that has never been matched. One of the most important aspects of this renaissance was architecture, which saw many beautiful and forgotten buildings being built.

One of the most famous examples of Middle Age architecture is Arpino, located in southern Italia. Arpino was once one of the wealthiest italian cities, and its architecture reflects this wealth.

Many of the buildings are designed in a style called Lombard Romanesque, which is characterized by its use of arches and tall spires. Arpino’s buildings are some of the best examples of Lombard Romanesque architecture in Europe, and they are a rare glimpse into Italy’s past.

Castle of Civitavecchia

The Castle of Civitavecchia is an Italian medieval fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site located on a promontory overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. The castle was built by the Normans in the 11th century as a defence against Byzantine attacks, Legends tell us this part of Arpino was founded by God Saturn and has been used as a prison, military garrison, and lighthouse. Today, it is a popular tourist destination, with many visitors exploring its ruins or taking in the views from its towers.

Meeting Kylie

After hiking up the hill, I ran down to meet Kylie Cossa in the main piazza. We would be spending the morning and afternoon looking at a few houses available for sale in various locations of Arpino.

Kylie shared her experience moving from her homeland, explaining that it became harder and harder to leave each time they visited Italy. At a certain point, they planted roots in her husband’s hometown of Arpino and have been here for over a decade.

She initially thought she’d be a great olive farmer but quickly realized she didn’t want to pick olives. This led to her realization that other people like her might love Arpino too! Since then, Kylie has helped foreign clients find their homes. Most recently, helping with the project Reno Italiano, released on HGTV in January 2020.

Arpino Italy, Birthplace Of great Cicero

Arpino had statues all over, showing how important the city has been over the years. Cicero, born in 106 BC, is probably the most noteworthy born in Arpino, Italy. Other remarkable people include Caius Marius, born 156 BC, and Marco Agrippa, 63 BC (Architect of the Pantheon in Rome).

statue of cicero in arpino italy

The statue of Cicero in the middle of the main piazza is hard to miss.

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The statue of Cicero in the middle of the main piazza municipio is hard to miss.

When seated with Kylie, a living Roman Senator, Massimo Struffi came to greet us. It makes one wonder why so many famous people come from Arpino?

3 Bedroom 2 Bath With Garden

There’s more to the interview portion of my experience with Kylie, but for now, I’d like to get to the meat of why I was there in the first place. You see, often, I travel around Italy, sharing typical real estate offers available. I’ve been to Lombardy, The Dolomites, Monferrato, Campania, Sicily, and Puglia, sharing my experiences. Here in Arpino, I fully intended to see a few properties to get an idea of what was noteworthy in Kylie’s eyes.
I told her the majority of my viewers are often looking for a minimum of 2 bedrooms. Preferably 3. It also seemed that a garden was a must. I guess the idea of planting your basil and tomatoes is part of the Italian dream.
Kylie took me to see a few properties with the little time we had. One of which you can view in the video below.

The house wasn’t 100% complete, but it did have the features I had asked for. It had a nice rustic interior with plenty of space between the upper and ground floors. The garden had an L shape but extended far down the hill. One of its best features was the southern-facing windows on the back of the house. Mostly due to overlooking the valley in the distance.

My Thoughts

For me, the surprising thing was the price. I admit the property was large. It’s often hard to discern a property’s value in Italy since it depends on the popularity of the community. Arpino has gained attention globally and may sell for higher prices. However, an unfinished property for 140-150,000 euros still seemed expensive.

The cottage’s roof remodels and earthquake protections could support higher prices for it. These renovations are barely noticeable when touring the inside of a property. So to the untrained eye, a lower asking price seems more likely. Suppose you’re the type who likes comparing apples to apples. Forget what you know about other Italian cities. Get some expert advice from local contractors and engineers. If you’re searching for real estate and you feel like the price is too high, don’t make an offer! Find an opportunity that you’re comfortable with.

If you want to contact Kylie about Arpino real estate, enter your email and get a message soon.

I will be sharing more experiences from my time in Arpino on this blog very soon, and I am glad to be a part of the community!

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