Behind the quiet facade of Pontelandolfo and its beautiful countryside lies a tumultous history of natural disasters, feudal rivalry, savage brigandry and military misjudgement.
According to historians, the name Pontelandolfo was derived from Pontis Landulphi, a bridge that was built in 1138 by the Longobard prince Landolf. The village which sprouted nearby suffered many vicissitudes. It was raided and seiged by feuding kings; first by the Norman king Ruggero, subsequently by the Bursello and Sanframondo families and later by the Svevi (Swabian), Gambatesa and d’Angiò families.
Natural disaster also struck in 1138 when a violent earthquake destroyed the town. It was to be revisited again by devastating earthquakes in 1349 and 1456.
In the 14th century an impressive defense tower was built by the Gambatesa family which is now the focal point of Pontelandolfo. It rises 21 meters high, 14 meters in diamater and has walls that are 4.5 meters thick.
Pontelandolfo suffered a further siege in 1461 and was set afire by king Ferdinando I of Aragona who, at the time was warring against Giovanni d’Angiò and his vassals and from whom he managed to pry it away.
In the following years King Ferdinando II of Aragona sold the the city and its territories to Andrea of Capua, but it changed hands again in 1466 to become a possession of the Carafa family who held on to it until the abolition of feudalism in 1806.
With the rise of the Bourbon State in the mid 18th century, things finally started to look up for the Pontelandolfians. The arrival of the Bourbon aristocracy brought to Naples a love of Art and Culture which encouraged economic trade with the outlying territories based on stock-rearing, textile-making, embroidery, stone masonry, copperwork, woodwork and ironwork.
But there was more pain in store for the people of Pontelandolfo. The Unification of Italy and the transfer of power to the north spelled disaster for the southern part of the country which was exploited for food and taxes. With the center of power so far removed and with the southern aristocrats leaving the land, the people suffered famine and poverty. Brigandry developed as both a form of rebellion and subsitence.
On August 7th, 1861 a gang of brigands, headed by Cosimo Giordano, raided Pontelandolfo where three people, including a tax collector, were killed. Four days later, a platoon of 45 soldiers and 4 carabinieri were dispatched to quell the tumult, but instead of capturing the outlaws they too were attacked, and after a desperate attempt to reach the nearby city Casalduni, they were all killed. In retaliation, a battalion of 500 bersaglieri, commanded by Lieutenant Gaetano Negri reached the town three days later. The population was unaware of what had happened at Casalduni and were trapped inside the walls. Two hundred people were killed, women raped and the town pillaged and razed to the ground.
Today this sleepy, peaceful town is better known for more pleasant events such as the Ruzzola del Formaggio, or Cheese Tumbling.