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Because of its location the town of Magliano Vetere (old) in the mountains of the Cilento area south of Salerno was of strategic importance from ancient times up until modern roads started to by-pass much of the area altogether. It is between the Calore Lucano river valley in the interior and the Alento river valley farther out towards the coast. Those two valleys are, in fact, separated by rugged hills, and Magiano Vetere essentially controlled access to the coast as well as access from the coast into the interior. The old town (there is also a new one) is at 550 (c. 1650 feet) meters above sea-level and comprises 2,256 hectares (5574 acres/3½ sq. miles), all of it within the official boundaries of the Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park. The current population is 830 inhabitants, down from a high of over 1500 in 1950.
There were almost certainly settlements at or near the site well before the Romans, especially along the two rivers, the Calore Lucano and Alento. They were likely to have been coastal settlers looking to escape from coastal raids or pestilence. Some historians say that Magliano Vetere acheived some importance after the fall of the Roman Empire under the Goths, who valued its strategic importance. The first real mention of the name Magliano Vetere, however, comes in 848 in the records of a property transaction. Another later document (1008) in the Longobard period also mentions Magliano Vetere as a strategic site to control the approaches to the mountain pass known as the Preta Perciata, one of 14 such important toll-collection points in those days. It is certain that the town reached its maximum splendor under the Lombards (or Longobards) when it became a fortress and a principality. Like most other towns in the south, Magliano Vetere went through a few centuries of feudal adjustments in the 1200s under Frederick II and subsequent Anjevin rule.
Basilian monks came to stay in the area in the 1400s and began to farm the surrounding land extensively. The town became, like its neighbors, the feudal domain of many lords such as the Carafas and the Pascas until its destruction in 1699 when its inhabitants were accused of offering shelter to a bandit. The citizens of Magliano Vetere had to evacuate, and they moved to a new town that they named Magliano Nuovo (New). Later, as with many other small rural communities in the south, there was active "bandit resistance" to the new united Italy in the area after the Italian unification of 1861. There were extremely violent hostilities between the new National Guard units and the "bandits" (both real bandits as well as royalist Bourbon hold-outs. (See this link.)
New roads in the south from the late 1800s and, indeed, even today, have tended to by-pass such small towns in the hills of the Cilento, and the towns have lost whatever "strategic importance" they once may have had. Also, there has been significant emigration, which has had a negative effect on the local economies. Whether the increase in modern tourism (indeed, helped by all those new roads) can revitalize the area is an open question. (I am writing this entry in a relatively new "agriturismo," for example--impossible just a few years ago The bad news is that I just got totally lost trying to find my way off this damned mountainside in the Alburni Mounts to see what the flatlanders down near Paestum were doing!)
Today, the old streets of Magliano Vetere have retained their historical charm and they attract visitors who admire what remains of the towers and feudal palaces and delight at the small rupestrian chuches (that is, built in caves--examples at cave-churches (1) (2) (3) (4)); as well, visitors can enjoy the hiking opportunities along the Calore Lucano river. Since 2009 there has also been a fine Paleontological Museum in Magliano Vetere (image, right, is a detail of a poster for a museum exhibit on fossils).
Antonio Troisi, "Magliano nel Cilento. Storia di una Terra, di uno Stato, di un Comune" - 2013
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