Pagani is situated on the side of Montealbino overlooking the Sarno plain,
along the roads which, today as in ancient times, link Nocera with Pompei
and Napoli, the Amalfi coast and the Sorrentine peninsula. Various Roman
remains have been found on its territory, which was part of the Roman ager
nucerinus, including villas, roads and funerary monuments, but the town
itself dates from the Middle Ages. In that period the numerous hamlets
scattered through the large area between Cava and Angri came to form a
conurbation which was known as the “university of Nocera de’ Pagani”
right down to the 19th century, with Pagani as the hamlet with
the largest population.
The urban layout falls into two areas: The quarter on the hillside,
Cortimpiano, grew up in medieval times at the start of the road (Via
Amalfitana) which winds its way up to the Chiunzi pass and connects the
Sarno plain with Amalfi.
It was fortified with two strongholds: a tower which still exists (the
origin of the toponym), linked to another construction, now in ruins, on
the crest of the hill of S. Pantaleone, with the settlement at its foot.
The second nucleus is the grid-shaped town that has grown up in modern
times on the land between the two main roads, incorporating the hamlet of
Barbazzano which in medieval times was an autonomous entity.
The visit begins from the western end of the town. In a large square on
the road leading to Angri stands the imposing 18th century Pontifical
Basilica of S. Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori, the mother house of
the Redentorist order, containing the mortal remains of the Saint, the
Museo Alfonsiano and a well-endowed library. From the basilica you walk
down corso Padovano (the town’s high street), lined with 18th
century residences featuring richly decorated doorways; at the
first crossroads stands the complex of the
Church of S. Maria della Purità with
adjacent convent (now serving as a reception centre), near which are the
public gardens, Villa Comunale, with a venerable pine in its midst.
The high street ends at the main square linking the two nuclei of the
town, presided over by the parish church of Corpo di Cristo (containing
the bodies of two martyr saints, Felice and Costanza, and a rich array of
16th and 17th century paintings). Opposite the
church a plaque and a large aedicule mark the former site of the town
hall.From the square you can make your way to the quarter of Cortimpiano
up via Malet (in a courtyard stands the round tower that gives the zone
its name), with 17th and 18th century residences
(including the birthplace of the venerable Tommaso Maria Fusco). This road
leads into via Perone (which rises towards S. Egidio del Montealbino),
where there is the fine 18th century Palazzo Tortora degli
Scipioni, a well conserved specimen of 18th century
architecture, and via Marrazzo, climbing towards the hill of S. Pantaleone
and then descending to via Striano (in both roads you can see a sequence
of courtyards and residences). At the end of via Striano you find yourself
back on the high street near the Sanctuary of
the Madonna delle Galline, with its famous picture of the Madonna,
celebrated in an important annual festivity.
In piazza D’Arezzo stands the palazzo municipale (town hall), formerly
the Piarist monastery of S.
Carlo dating from the 17th
century, and just beyond it on the corner of via Matteotti, a readapted
statue, the ‘Dea Lamia’, with a Roman column set into the wall.From
via Matteotti (on which stands the 17th century complex of the Church
of Carminiello ad Arco with adjacent Conservatorio) you can go on
to the part of the town which grew in modern times, on a grid plan, with
17th and 18th century residences, featuring doorways
surmounted by crests of arms, broad ornate façades with enclosures with
decorative elements and gardens and labyrinthine courtyards bearing the
signs of poor, rural dwellings.
From via Matteotti you go into via S. Francesco (which culminates in the
fine church of S. Francesco di Paola with its monastery); from via
Amendola to Piazza Martiri d’Ungheria (from where a road leads to
Barbazzano, an ancient hamlet in the plain conserving traces of the
medieval and Renaissance settlement); from the square to via Astarita,
lined with 18th century residences, some quite large and with
some significant architectonic features.
Returning up via Astarita brings you back to the high street at the church
of la Purità, and you can continue the visit from the town hall. Along
via Diaz you see 18th and 19th century residences
and courtyards stretching up towards the hill of S. Pantaleone. At the end
you come to via Tortora with similar constructions, and you can continue
along the main road towards Nocera, to via Carmine. At the end of this
road stands the complex of the Church of il
Carmine (its monastery now a school), with an ornate façade
featuring statues in stucco.