The discreet charm of an ancient Roman outpost, the color of medieval stones, the lectern of a picturesque Apennine village are well-intertwined in PIORACO. Nestled in the middle of three mountains overlooking it – the Primo, the Gemo and the Gualdo – the village provides a view of the Valley of Potenza on the West, and precisely thanks to its location it offers its visitors wonderful natural environments. Right there where the waters of the river cross the village, giving life to a series of waterfalls, gorges, and pits created by years and years of erosion, begins the most characteristic of many paths present in this place: “Li Vurgacci”.
Here, surrounded by greenery, walking on bridges and wooden walkways for about 500 meters, you can observe remains of Roman age, and also meet threatening creatures. These are sculptures in the rock, made by the wise hands of artist Antonio Ciccarelli. The sculptures liven up a corner dedicated to them, called “The Pit of Monsters”.
Very well-known for the production of paper, the village wanted to dedicate a precious exhibition space to this distinctive activity: the Museum of Paper and Watermark, located at the Museum Pole, in via Antonino Pio, 1. The museum collects artistic watermarks and watermarked papers, mostly belonging to the period between the 14th and 19th century, which testify the long evolution of the manufacture of this product from its origins to the present day. This ancient art – which is handed down thanks to the master paperworkers who transmit their ability from generation to generation – is then revived in the Gualchiera Prolaquense. Its presence makes it possible to witness the manufacture of paper with typical tools and techniques of the 14th century.
Inside the Museum Pole you can also find the Museum of the Fossils, with over 1200 finds, including pieces of considerable rarity, and the Museum of the Mushrooms, which collects about 200 models of mushrooms made of gypsum, extraordinarily reproducing the shapes and colors of the different existing species.
There are also numerous places of architectural and artistic interest:
the Church of Saint Francesco (currently unusable), built in the first 20 years of the 14th century, annexed to the adjacent Franciscan convent. On the outside, it preserves Romanesque-Gothic lines. It is characterized by a polygonal apse in limestone, an elegant mullioned window above the portal, a painting attributed to the painter Arcangelo di Cola;
the Sanctuary of Madonna della Grotta is partially set in the rock and protects the statue of the Madonna, whose feast takes place every three years;
the Church of Saint Vittorino, a very ancient parish built on the remains of a Roman temple. Despite having lost its original Serbian-Romanesque frescoes and a stone baptistery of 1646, it contains the remains of St. Vittorino, the patron saint of Pioraco. A suggestive cave set on a side of Mount Gualdo is named after him: the cave corresponds to the place where the saint retired in penance;
the Church of the Holy Crucifix, instead, rises outside the town on the left bank of River Potenza, where it is possible to enjoy relaxing walks. The Church is home to a valuable painting attributed to Girolamo di Giovanni depicting the same Crucifix to which it was later dedicated;
the Church of the Madonna delle Lacrime is located in the hamlet of Seppio. It is best know for housing the painting that gives the name to this place, painted by Giovanni Boccati in 1466.
For climbing enthusiasts, you must pay a visit to Pioraco’s crag.
This path, which winds through wooden bridges and footbridges, combines the beauty of nature with its proximity to the old town centre. It begins where the waters of the River Potenza cross Pioraco, in the place where a series of waterfalls, vortexes, pits and gorges created from years and years of erosion come to life, almost by magic. Here there are also some rest areas where you can stop for a nice picnic.
Here you can make a rare experience you won’t be able to make ever again. It consists in observing the hand-made creation of sheets of paper by the gualchiera (fulling machine), which will also allow you to witness the incredible use of tools and techniques typical of the 14th century.
In August, do not miss this event with food stands open for lunch and dinner, which pays tribute to one of the most incredible delicacies of the territory – a crustacean of unique sweetness and flavour.
Are you looking for a souvenir that will let you relive the town’s spirit? Then you have to buy one of the incredible watermark paper artefacts produced in the extraordinary Gualchiera Prolaquense.
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