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Rivello: combining Latin, Lombard and Byzantine cultures
Rivello is a medieval village with great charm, in a very scenic position overlooking a valley situated in the Basilicata region of southern Italy.
From the artistic point of view, Rivello is a mix of Latin, Lombard and Byzantine culture, a result of the town being occupied at the same time by both the Lombards and the Byzantines. On the one hand there are the churches of St. Nicholas, Santa Barbara and St. Michael “dei Greci”, which were influenced by the Byzantines and on the other hand, there is the Latin church of Santa Maria Maggiore.
Rivello has an old town characterized by stairs, squares, and narrow streets. Despite being only a small mountain village, Rivello is rich in works of art, which are largely preserved in the churches and other religious monuments in Rivello and which will be the focus of a visit. Firstly, from the historical center head along Via Vigliarola to find the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, a small rural temple which comes with the counter-wooden ceiling of the 18th century.
Chapel of Santa Barbara
In Corso Vittorio Emanuele along Via Roma you can find the Chapel of Santa Barbara, with a semicircular apse, decorated with arches and frescoes dating back to the late 16th century, by Antonio Aiello.
To the right of the apse, in a niche, there is a fresco (1566) representing the Annunciation, Madonna and Child with St. Eligio, by Giovanni Todisco (16th century), while the frescoes of St. Gregory the Great and St. Anthony can be attributed to his followers.
Saint Anne's Church
Saint Anne's Church, on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, is a chapel of the 18th century with decorations attributed to Nicola Maria Rossi (1690-1758), who decorated the walls to great effect with painted architecture that reproduced balconies, terraces, fountains and wall hangings.
Also interesting are the counter-coffered ceiling and the stage, which served as a liaison between the church and the nearby palace, the residence of the Alfano family.
Next, from Piazza Umberto I, head along Via San Nicola to reach the church of San Michele, now the seat of the Municipal Theatre.
The Mother Church, dedicated to St. Nicholas, has a free Greek cross form and is located in the upper part of the city, at the top of a steep staircase. The church has a facade decorated in typical Neapolitan Baroque style and finished with three portals dating from 1744.
The interior is full of altars dating from the 18th century with precious decorations in stucco. The church also contains paintings of great importance, such as the "Pentecost", by Francesco Oliva and the "Adoration of the Shepherds" by Salvatore Ferrari.
Other frescoes were first attributed to Giovanni De Gregorio (known as "Pietrafesa") and then to Giovanni Todisco. The portal, flanked by two stone lions, presents a typical Catalan style and has a wooden door from the 16th century.
The church interior has undergone various transformations, including the addition of superstructures in Baroque stucco, and the apse houses a carved choir of the 17th century, with allegorical figures.
This church also contains some oil paintings such as the "Deposition", attributed to F. A. Romano, of the 16th century, the "Coronation of the Virgin Mary" of the 17th century, and the "Immaculate St. Francis of Assisi" by Salvatore Ferrari, a painter native to Rivello. On the right there is a carved wooden pulpit and in the sacristy are paintings depicting "Our Lady of the Rosary and Child", attributed to Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, and the Annunciation by Filippo Vitale.
Church of the Annunciation
Also of great artistic value in Rivello is the Church of the Annunciation Inside in the apse there is a beautiful fresco from 1517, a group of sculptures in stone representing the Annunciation of the 16th century, and the "Christ in Glory" by Antonio Aiello, dated 1517 (but recently attributed to Antonello Palumbo, 15th century and brother of Giovanni, who worked in Maratea.
In the upper apse, supported by two angels, stands an authoritative Christ with long hair wrapped in heavy drapery.
Monastery of St. Anthony
Of particular historical interest in Rivello is the Monastery of St. Anthony, built in 1515 around a square cloister and with round arches resting on columns. At the center is a monumental stone well and porch and in the cloister there are frescoes by Giovanni Todisco and Giovanni De Gregorio (called “Pietrafesa”, 1580-1656).
Giovanni Todisco also created the "History of the life of Christ and his Passion". and there are also some works by his son Jerome, such as the "Deposition", "The Dead Christ", the "Resurrection" and the "Transfiguration" of the early 17th century.
The church has a beautiful porch from 1514, while the interior is in Baroque style, with stuccoes and paintings such as the "Immaculate and St. Francis of Paola," by Salvatore Ferrari (1720-1759), and the Annunciation, by Filippo Vitale (1589-1650), the Holy Family, Our Lady of the Rosary, by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro (1678-1745) and the Birth of the Virgin by Domenico Mondo (1723-1806).
Inside the monastery there is is a museum that collects archaeological material from the Serra la Città relating to the trade relations between the Greeks and the indigenous peoples who inhabited the valley between the Noce and Lao rivers.
Crafts and traditions of Rivello
The historical artistic aspect of our tour of Rivello would not be complete if we did not give a brief mention to local crafts. For example, Rivello was famous for centuries for its goldsmiths shops, which existed since the 11th century.
In addition, the craftsmanship that developed along the River Noce knew moments of great economic growth because of the ironworks which used the waters of the river to provide semi-finished products to shops. This made Rivello famous for its craft production such as the processing of copper, gold and the ancient traditions of textile crafts.
For lovers of traditional products we should remember that Rivello is also renowned for its bread, which is made from local flour and often milled in the Pollino National Park. The flours are mixed with water to produce circular loaves of about three pounds in weight.
Finally, nature lovers will find that Rivello is located in a landscape characterized by high mountains with snow-capped peaks, deep ravines and ancient forests, where sulfur springs gush out cold water used locally as a drink and for bathing.
See also Rivello history and etymology.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Basilicata guide.