The abandoned town of Sanseverino di Centola is quite simply one of the most beautiful early medieval settlements in the whole of the Cilento region.
It rises from overhanging rocks that dominate the spectacular “Devil's Gorge”, a deep cleft dug by the Mingardo river as it forges ahead to the sea.
The area’s geography has made it important since ancient times, as a river route between the ports of the coast and inland settlements. In the early Middle Ages this strategic position made the town itself an unassailable fortification, which was of immense value to the powerful Barons of Cilento. Enclosed on two sides by the rocks on which it stands, it has a ‘wall’ of houses on the third side. These houses were the first line of defence in case of an attack, equivalent to a curtain-wall and therefore called 'The Wall'.
Founded by Longobards (a Germanic people who took over the Italian peninsula after the fall of Rome), around the 7th century, Sanseverino di Centola had its moment of greatest splendour between the 10th and 11th centuries AD: together with nearby Castelluccio, it was one of the most important fortified settlements in the area, protecting the Mingardo river route, a crucial connection between the coast, the hinterland and the valley of the Bussento river.
The town gave its name to the Sanseverino family, who were the first of the Seven Houses of the Kingdom of Naples.
In this place, Guido, “Light of all the Longobards” in the words of Paolo Diacono, met his death, a victim of the new Norman lords of the land.
Later, in the Swabian era, it became known as "Castrum" (a military camp) at the behest of Frederick II, and later still it was the scene of war, when it was the front line during the Wars of the Vespers. During the battle between the Angevins and the Aragonese, it became part of the latter's domains.
In the Spanish era, it suffered the effects of the plague of 1656, then in the eighteenth century the local church was abandoned.
This was part of a process of progressive depopulation, culminating in the twentieth century with the movement of people to the new town downstream after the construction of the railway. The old town was eventually abandoned and fell into ruin.
Today, exploring the atmospheric paths that wind between ancient stone walls is an unforgettable way of spending a day in one of the most romantic places in the whole of the Cilento.
Its undisputed charm and majestic beauty, perfectly set in the spectacular landscape of the river gorges, will remain written in the heart of anyone who looks at it.