Poggio Sannita, Molise, is one of those off-the-beaten-track small towns in Italy, one of those that you might not have heard of but would, certainly, enjoy visiting it. Poggio Sannita is perched on a hill, 705 metres above sea level, and there are two viewing points from which you can admire stunning views over valley Verrino. We lingered at the Belvedere “Ara Giagnagnera” taking in the incredible panorama around us. It is here that locals gather every evening to discuss the goings-on in town. It is here that the older folks tell the stories of the days gone by, when Poggio Sannita was called… Caccavone.
Even for non-Italian speakers the name sounds somewhat amusing. For the locals it was a nuisance for a long time (“cacca” means… umm, “shit” in Italian). Although, the roots of the name Caccavone came from the “caccove”, large copper pots that were made here for centuries, it just didn’t sound right. In 1921 the municipality finally asked the Ministry of Internal Affairs to change Caccavone for Poggio Sannita. This territory was populated by Italic Samnites (“sanniti” in Italian) during pre-Roman times, so the new name reflected the town’s history.
This story made me think about many other places in Italy that have funny names. Not far from Poggio Sannita there is a town called Capracotta (“cooked goat” in Italian). In Apulia, there is a lovely town of Troia (“hooker” in Italian), Bastardo and Ramazzano le Pulci (“sweeping fleas”) in Umbria; Orgia, Belsedere (loosely translated as “cute ass”) and Femminamorta (“dead woman”) in Toscana; Pisciotta (uhm, “pussy” in local vulgar dialect) in Campania. They might sound silly to the modern ear but if we start digging deeper, those funny names have centuries of history and traditions behind them. And, without a doubt, those small towns and villages are always worth a visit. You might not find picture-perfect squares and fountains in all of them, but you will certainly learn a lot about the real Italy and its people.
Photos: Poggio Sannita by Green Holiday Italy©