The Grand Hotel Vigna Nocelli lies on the Appia Traiana, the most important Daunia’s arterial road since the Roman Age. It was the first military road realised by the Ancient Romans in the year 312 before Christ, but it was only in 109 b.C. that this road was settled and declared public by the Emperor Trajan, from whom it took its name; it became the most important arterial road through which Rome assured itself the dominion on the Campania region and, furthermore, it determined a larger commercial transit to all the towns situated on its way.
Even if during the Medieval Age little attention was paid to the routes maintenance, they were highly used by lots of people travelling mainly for religious reasons in the age of the Great Pilgrimages. The most used road was the Francigena or Francesca, inevitable route for all the pilgrims who wanted to go to Rome.
The Grand Hotel Vigna Nocelli is situated on the Traiana Diverticulum that from Aecae led to the ancient Sipontum. During the 12th century this part of the Via Francigena took the name of Strada Peregrinorum because it was an essential passage for all the pilgrims going to or coming back the Holy Land.
Vigna Nocelli was built between the 13th and 14th centuries, the age during which started in Italy the diffusion of the Gothic forms developed in the French region Ile de France. The most important event for the affirmation of the new gothic tendencies in the south of Italy has been the great artistic and cultural movement that grew during the Swabian age and that spread also in northern Italy, mainly in Tuscany, where the gothic style was revised.
The Grand Hotel Vigna Nocelli external façade consists of three parts : the central one is developed vertically and reminds the Orvieto Cathedral’s tricuspidate façade (1310); the lateral parts are both comprised between two pilasters surmounted by spires. The continuity of the tall and strong external wall is broken by five great portals and by the string-course that divide horizontally the building; in the middle of the façade’s highest part there is a circular decoration. Further garnishments are the vegetable and floral decorations harmoniously placed in the pointed arches that give a more slander aspect to the building and that remind us the pointed arches used to adorn the Italian works of the 13th-14th centuries.
The building is structurally built with a strong bearing masonry that is not dry-stone but seems made up of bricks and stones, while the vaults are made of bricks; the walls are 95 centimetres thick.
According to the map Reintegra dei Tratturi di Capacelatro number 52 of 1648, Vigna Nocelli was 1.5 Km far from the crossroads of the cattle-tracks Celano-Foggia, that joined Castel di Sangro to the Daunia’s main town.
This building has certainly been used in time for different purposes and it is not excluded the possibility that in the past it has also been a little farm.
The studies carried out on Vigna Nocelli led to the formulation of several hypothesis : the building can’t be considered neither a manor farm nor a place of worship because it lacks of all the essential elements such as naves, apses or presbyteries. The historical-typological analysis conducted on the Apulian manor farms, with the comparison of all the relative examples, led to the conclusion that Vigna Nocelli can’t be a typical Tavoliere delle Puglie farm. It’s improbable that the building was built in the first years of the XXth century, otherwise the materials and technologies employed for the construction would be different.
In 1820 a Mr D. Gaetano Nocelli bought the “Posta dei Porcili”, in “Località Castiglione”, documented as an area used as pasture land since 1686.
In an archival document dated January 16, 1821 has also been found the map of the arable area assigned to D. Gaetano Nocelli for the “Posta dei Porcili in località Castiglione” .
Considering that Vigna Nocelli is situated on the Appia Traiana, the first great road connecting Rome with the south of Italy, we could suppose that the building was in the past :
– A place built in order to control strategically the roads and the valleys during the communal age ;
– A place built in order to give hospitality to all the pilgrims that, during the Medieval Age, used to pass through Apulia for several reasons : to visit the San Michele sanctuary (Gargano) or San Nicola in Bari, to embark towards the Holy Land from the Apulian seaports and so on ;
– One of the several welfare centres built along the road for the Crusaders oriented in Apulia in order to be carried to the eastern seaports ;
– A receptive structure used during the 13th century by the merchants that exported all over Europe the goods that arrived to the Apulian seaports from Orient ;
– A place used as a customs house (in fact during the first years of the 13th century the Angevins founded the first “Dogana delle pecore”, restored by Alfonso I d’Aragona in 1443 who nominated the Catalan Francesco Montember as chief of the customs, with head office first in Lucera and then in Foggia) ;
– A manor farm, in fact it has frequently been identified as a “typical manor farm of the Tavoliere”.
Historical reconstruction edited by Angela Antonella Russo and Giuseppe Domenico Iannelli (Archeoclub d’Italia, Pietramontecorvino section, Foggia).