Benevento was an important trading station for Ancient Rome (at that time called Beneventum) that developed along the Via Appia trade route between Rome and Brindisi. It later becoming a regional centre for southern Italy, a position it still holds today.
The town is in an attractive location surrounded by the Apennine hills, and although damage during World War 2 had a very detrimental effect on Benevento and the town is not a major tourist destination there are several interesting Ancient Roman monuments and reconstructed later monuments to be seen here (although the majority of buildings in the centre are more recent).
It is chiefly for the Roman monuments that people visit Benevento, and above all for the remains of the Roman theatre and Trajans Arch.
- The roman theatre is still in good condition. It was built by Hadrian, and is ninety metres across, sufficient to seat up to 10000 spectators.
- Trajan's Arch is an impressive marble arch that dates from the second century (it was built during the period from AD 114 - AD 166) and has ornate decorative carvings, largely commemorating the life and times of Emperor Trajan himself and built to celebrate the inauguration of the Via Traiano trade route and to control access to the town. The workmanship and detail in the stonework are of an exceptional quality.
Other ancient relics include the bridge across the river, and a substantial tunnel (called a cryptoporticus).
Other sites in Benevento
Although the centre of the town suffered greatly from damage during the Second World War there are still some interesting sites - albeit often reconstructions rather than originals. Benevento cathedral is an example of this - the original 13th century cathedral has had major reconstruction work, while the original bronze doors for the cathedral are now kept inside the building.
You can also see the 8th century Santa Sofia church and belltower - the church is an unusual round design and has a 12th century facade and attractive cloisters, along with frescoes that, although damaged, can still be seen inside the church.
The Sannio Museum, off the cloisters of Santa Sofia Church in Benevento, also features some interesting artefacts from the Roman period such as parts of a temple to the god Isis, some older items such as terracotta figures from the 5th century BC and many more recent items.
There is an obelisk in Piazza Matteotti that was built at the time that Napoleon invaded Italy in the early 19th century.
At the top of the town you can see 'Benevento castle' (Rocca dei Rettori) which consists of a sturdy stone tower built in the 9th century and an adjoining small palace added in the 14th century. The position of the castle enabled it to keep watch on the routes that entered the town.
Where is Benevento?
Benevento is situated inland in the hills of the Campania region of south-central Italy and about 50 kilometres north-east of Naples.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Campania guide.