In 1193, the Emperor Henry VI surrendered the castle of Vairano Patenora to Roffredo dell’Isola, abbot of Montecassino. The Vairanesi, however, refused to honor the transfer of authority, and successfully repelled the abbot’s forces as he besieged the town in an effort to subdue it. In honor of the victory, the motto “Vairanum impugnans in nullo profecit” was added to the stemma of the town. The phrase translates roughly as “Attacking Vairano achieved nothing,” and while it was certainly true for Roffredo, it was not for Marino Marzano, who destroyed the castle in 1461 while leading a rebellion against his brother-in-law, Ferrante of Aragon, the king of Naples.
The castle was rebuilt at the turn of the sixteenth century by Innico II d’Avalos, who also constructed a wall around the town. Built on a quadrangular plan, the castle had towers at each of its four corners, but only three survive. Indeed, the definitive conquest of Vairano has been made by the passage of time, as the castle is now in an advanced state of ruin. A restoration campaign was begun in 2005 but was suspended in 2007 due to lack of funding. Today the castle is completely abandoned, and I imagine that it would not be difficult to gain access to its interior, as I would have attempted had I not had the safety of a small child to consider.
The borgo enclosed by what remains of the walls is only partially inhabited. The houses there are in varying states of conservation. Some, like the one that is partially visible on the right in the picture above, have been restored, while others are closed up, and many more are in ruins. Some of these last conserve only their exterior walls and are now filled with trees and vines, overgrown like untamed enclosed gardens.
Vairano Patenora is located in the Alto Casertano, a mountainous and mostly rural area in the northwest of the province of Caserta. We went there on an especially hot day, and after an hour or so of exploring the tiny borgo under a blistering sun, (and struggling with my camera to get decent photos in such harsh light,) none of us had the energy to do any more. But we intend to go back as soon as cooler weather permits a longer visit, because we have yet to see what drew me to Vairano in the first place: the Badia della Ferrara, an abandoned Cistercian monastery, hidden away in the wilderness outside the town.