Monday, October 29, 2007

For the city, see Molise (commune).
Molise is a region of Central Italy, the second smallest of the regions. It was formerly (until 1963) part of the region of Abruzzi e Molise (with Abruzzo) and now a separate entity. The region covers 4,438 km² and has a population of about 300,000.

Molise Geography
Molise was populated for thousands of years. It has a proud heritage. For example the arena in Larino predates Rome's Colosseum and the ruins at Sepinum are remarkably well preserved and provide an insight into the sophistication of the Samnite tribes who, along with the Frentani, dominated this region. The Samnites were a hardy race of highlanders who bested the Romans in battle for a long time. After the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD Molise was invaded by the Goths (535 AD) and then by the Lombards in 572, and annexed to the Duchy of Benevento. A very troubled period began with the invasions of the Saracens, that in 860 AD destroyed Isernia, Telese, Alife, Sepino, Boiano and Venafro. By the 10th century there were 9 countdoms: Venafro, Larino, Trivento, Bojano, Isernia, Campomarino, Termoli, Sangro, Pietrabbondante.
In 1095 the most powerful of them, Bojano, came under the rule of the Norman Hugo I of Molhouse, who most probably gave his name to the region; his successor Ugo II was Count of Molise in 1144.
The province enjoyed a resurgence towards the end of the thirteenth century. The cathedral in Larino was built in 1314. The Franciscan monastery, in the same town, was dedicated, along with its rectangular bell tower, in 1312.
In the 16th century Molise was included to the Province of Capitanata (Apulia) and in 1806 became an autonomous Province, included in the Abruzzi region.
In the 19th century there was a general worsening of the economic conditions of the population, and this gave rise, under the newly established Kingdom of Italy (1861), to brigandage and a massive emigration not only abroad but also to more industrial Italian areas.
The French novelist Alexander Dumas was in Molise at the time of Garibaldi. It was in Molise that he conceived his idea for The Blood Reign, based on a true episode that took place in the town of Larino.
Massive destruction occurred during World War II, until finally the Allied Forces were able to land at Termoli, in September 1943. Huge Allied land forces were based in Campobasso which was called "Maple Leaf City" by the Canadian troops.
Molise is the youngest Italian region, since it was established in 1963, when the region "Abruzzi e Molise" was split into two regions, which, however, retain a common identity both geographically and in their historical and traditional heritage.

Molise Politics
On the whole, Molise is the least populated Italian region after the Val d'Aosta, with also a very low average density of population. Apart from the historical difficulties of settling in a territory which is mainly mountainous, this is due to a flow of emigrants abroad and to other Italian regions, a phenomenon which reached a peak at the beginning of the century and in the post-war period, and started to decline to a certain extent only from the 1970s onwards. The population density is highest in the areas surrounding Campobasso, the regional capital, and along the Adriatic coast, while the mountainous areas (for example in the Province of Isernia) are almost uninhabited. In the region there are two ethnic minorities: the Molisan Croatians (2,500 people who speak an old dialect of the Croatian-Dalmatian language) and the Molisan Albanians (Arbëreshë who speak an old dialect of the Albanian language which is now very different from the Albanian spoken on the other side of the Adriatic Sea). Molisan Albanians are generally of the Orthodox religion.

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