Things To See in Benevento, Italy

The region of Campania lies in Southern Italy, and has beautiful historic sites which showcase the Greco-Roman culture of the area. Campania’s capital, Naples, is situated in the Bay of Naples and meets the Mediterranean Sea. The archaeological and heritage sites in the Bay of Naples are a popular tourist attraction, where you can visit the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum or climb the very volcano that covered these towns. While many tourists explore the Bay of Naples, and maybe stretch further down into the Amalfi Coast, the majority neglect the historic towns which lie further inland, away from the Mediterranean. The city of Benevento has the typical Italian feel while not being crowded with tourists.

Discover the Bay of Naples in this post and follow my guide to a week in Naples!

The History of Benevento

The city of Benevento, which is the capital of the province of Benevento, is approximately an hours drive inland from Naples, and is a perfectly small town that you can explore in a day or weekend. The name Benevento, which can be traced in the earlier Latin name Maleventum, means ‘good wind’. The site I’ve dug at for the past 3 summers (Aeclanum – which I’m writing a post all about now) is situated close by to Benevento, giving us a perfect opportunity to visit on a day trip and understand some of the links and similarities to Aeclanum.

Things to see in Benevento, Campania. Corner of a large building with 4 floors, top three floors are yellow and white. Windows with balconies and wooden shutters

The city is important due to its location on the Via Appia – a Roman road connecting Rome to southern Italy.  While Pliny the Elder says that Benevento belonged to the Hirpini, Livy and Ptolemy attribute it to the Samnites. While many ancient scholars trace its history to ancient times, it first appears in historical sources as a powerful Samnite city, before being sacked in the Third Samnite War. While a Roman colony, Benevento was developed and strengthened, and it became the chief city of the Hirpini.

Things to see in Benevento

Well, some of the Roman architecture is still visible in Benevento, framed with modern developments and houses. The first year that I visited Benevento, a group of us booked into an air b’n’b on the Main Street and stayed a couple of nights – giving us plenty of time to explore the city at a slow pace (baring in mind much of the city closes with the siesta), as well as an opportunity to sample the night life (aka, drinking much too much sangria and dancing in the streets). Last summer, we had the luxury of a car, and were able to make the drive to and from Aeclanum for a day trip.

Must see sights in Benevento

The historic centre of Benevento

Benevento has an interesting mosaic of developments through the ages. The city is fairly compact, and while walking down the Main Street, you’ll find many of the attractions mentioned in this list. There are lots of shops and cafes to stop in by, dotted amongst the historic attractions.

Street in Benevento Campania. Buildings. Either side of the street are yellow and orange buildings and at the end of the road are white and yellow houses with balconies.
Street in Benevento Campania. With yellow buildings either side and arches between buildings.

The Arch of Trajan

The triumphal arch of Trajan stands amongst modern buildings right in the city centre. This arch was constructed in honour of Trajan, in AD114, marking the point which the Via Appia leads into the city. Each panel features reliefs of civil and military deeds of Trajan, including a frieze on the entablature showing Trajan’s triumphal procession after victory in Dacia, and panels showing Victories offering sacrifices. On the internal facade of the archway, Trajan is depicted in Benevento, with the left panel showing the sacrifice for the opening of the Via Traiana, while the right portrays the alimentaria.

The Arch of Trajan on the Via Appia in Benevento.
The Arch of Trajan in Benevento Campania. View from below the arch showing the panels and friezes

The Roman Theatre

The Roman theatre of Benevento was built in the 2nd Century AD by the Emperor Hadrian. The theatre could hold 10-15,000 spectators, but it was later abandoned in the Lombard times. However, the theatre is still used today for some concerts and plays – testament to the incredible acoustics. A lot of the structure has been reconstructed, or rebuilt in some areas, the need to reinforce areas for modern use. However, some of the original construction still survives, including the cavea and parody. Walking around the theatre, you have access to all areas, including the entrances and orchestra. Upon your entrance and exit, the walkway is lined with statues and artefacts.
Entrance to the theatre is €2 per person.

The Roman Theatre in Benevento Campania. View from the stage with the seating
The Roman Theatre at Benevento Campania. View from the seating area looking down onto the stage
Lion statue at the Roman Theatre at Benevento. The lion has no front legs and is crumbling. It rests against a red brick wall.

Chiesa di Santa Sofia

As mentioned before, you’ll be stumbling on historic buildings in the historic centre without much effort. One building to look out for is the church of Santa Sofia, which is part of the Unesco World Heritage Site ‘Longobards in Italy, Places of Power (568-774AD). The church dates to around 760AD. It’s interesting due to the architecture of the church – it has a central hexagon which has column from the Temple of Isis positioned at each point.

Museo del Sannio

Utilising the cloister of the Chiesa di Santa Sofia, the Museo consists of a collection of artefacts dating from the Samnites to the 20th Century. The museum holds over 500 artefacts, ranging from sculptures and sarcophagi.

Pillar in the Museo del Sannio
Marble statue in the Museo del Sannio, The statue is missing its head, arms and calves.

Rocca dei Rettori

The Castle of Manfredi is situated at the highest point of the historic centre of the city. The castle has been reconstructed and had additions to it over the years – it was utilised as a castle by Duke Arechis II of Benevento in 771 Ad, and developed and fortified since, however the site shows use since the Samnite period and was utilised by the Romans for an aqueduct. The Big Tower is the only original feature of the Lombard building.

The Rocca dei Rettori in Benevento Campania

Benevento has been one of my favourite spots to visit in Italy – there’s not the same rush of tourists that you will find at sites in coastal Campania, nor the bigger cities. The city is a good size to explore daily in a weekend, or as I did in 24 hrs. and therefore a perfect trip for those with a car to access from Naples, or a hop on a train.

Emily

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