The last time I was in the Museo Diocesano di Orsara di Puglia was about 1980. It looks as if hardly anyone else has been there either! The Museo is right around the corner from my casa, and it is not usually open. To visit, you need to ask for the person who has the key. Last week I was walking by and noticed it was open as there was a photo exhibit in one of the rooms. As I walked up the stone staircase it was like stepping through time.
The Museo occupies part of the upper floor of the Palazzo Varo, a 16th Century building that was part of the Abbazia dell’Angelo. The famiglia Varo sold the palazzo and it became a convent for the ‘Monache Bianche’ or white nuns. When the sisters moved in the 1960’s it became the Scuola Media until a new school was built. In the 1970’s, some of the rooms became a depository for archeological relics and museum items. The bottom floor was recently remodelled into a very nice meeting/conference area. The upper floor has a separate entrance and is in an elegant state of decay, to match the artifacts it is housing.
The collection is actually really impressive and reflects the history of the area. Most of the artifacts, except the sacred items formerly used in the parish, have been donated, collected and collated by volunteers. The Museo encompasses a time span from Neolithic to mid 20th Century. That’s a really long time! The bronze and selce (flint) tools and utensils, earthenware vessels, lamps, tomb decorations and even fragments of a 10th Century pavimento (mosaic pavement) were dug up by contadini (farmers/peasants) while plowing their fields.
There are also farm implements, tools, utensils and household items used by local contadini in daily life. The lack of formal organization and cataloguing of the items makes the place so much more interesting. The crumbling, aging plaster walls of the formerly grand Palazzo provide a beautiful, yet ironic backdrop for the crumbling rusted work and field implements used by contadini Orsarese.
The Museo is definitely worth a visit-you need to ask at the Parish or Comune (Town Hall) for someone to let you in. Let me know if you need more info on this, and read Benvenuti ad Orsara di Puglia!