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main index   © Jeff Matthews    entry Aug 2014

Preface: I am indebted to Larry Ray (whose many contributions to Naples: Life, Death & Miracles appear here) and our friends of Napoli Underground (Nug) for calling Senerchia to my attention. Further mention of them is in the body of the entry, below.
Senerchia
The Last Stand of Spartacus, the Last Flight of "The Buzzer,” and the Last Day

Senerchia is a small municipality with just over 1000 inhabitants, located 50 miles (80 km) SE of Naples and about 25 miles inland from the coastal city of Salerno. Senerchia is the southernmost town in the province of Avellino and borders directly on the province of Salerno. It is in the rugged Picentine mountains on a spur of Mt. Boschetiello. The town is at 2,000 feet (600 meters) but surrounded by peaks of over 5,000 feet (1600 meters). The town overlooks the High Sele river valley. The location has been the source of much of the site's interesting, as well as tragic, history.

There were pre-Roman settlements at Senerchia. Though other etymologies have been offered, the most popular one seems to be that the name 'Senerchia' stems from "Sena Herclae," Latin for "Bosom of Hercules.” This may be a sign that the settlement was once powerful, perhaps as a Greek settlement or even a Lucanian one. Senerchia is most famous historically as the site of the final defeat of slave/rebel Spartacus who fought to the death against a stronger Roman force in 71 BC. It was an epic battle that took place on the right bank of the Sele river. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Senerchia was then the site of a large Lombard fortress, some ruins of which are still visible (image, left); after that,  there were centuries of belonging to one feudal domain or another. (photo: L. Boffi)


Senerchia was far enough up in the mountains to be out of the direct path of Operation Avalanche, the Allied invasion at the gulf of Salerno and the subsequent drive to Naples in September, 1943. Yet the town has wartime stories of its own to tell; witness the flight of The Buzzer, a B-24 Liberator bomber that went down in the mountains near the town during a routine ferry flight from Grottaglie (near Taranto on the 'heel' of the Italian boot) to Naples. In Senerchia there is a memorial site and plaque inscribed to the flight crew and passengers (photo, right). That story is told by Larry Ray on the website of Napoli Underground: please click here.
photo: Napoli Underground)

The most dramatic event of recent years came on November 23, 1980. Senerchia was one of the small towns destroyed by the massive “Irpinia earthquake” that took almost 3,000 lives. Along with other towns also near the epicenter, Senerchia simply crumbled. It was not rebuilt, but there now is a new Senerchia nearby with the anonymous streets, buildings and squares that appear in the wake of such disasters. Members of Napoli Underground went on a nature hike in the hills and wound up at the old town—what was left of it. Fulvio Salvi tells that haunting tale here on the NUg website in a short essay entitled “The Ghost Town” accompanied by photos and a video. (photo: NUg)


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