The Appian Way masterpiece
Located on the path of the Queen of Roads, Ancient Calatia was a city of considerable strategic importance, especially during the second war between the Romans and the Samnites, fought between 326 BC and 304 BC. Having fallen into Samnite hands after the Roman defeat at the Forche Caudine, the city was only reconquered towards the end of the war by the dictator Fabio. After the disaster of Canne (216 BC), Calatia and Capua came under the control of Hannibal, who stationed a garrison there until the fall of Capua in 211.
Now housing the Archaeological Museum of Calatia, the Casino di Starza Penta (the Starza Penta Lodge) is one of the finest and most significant historical and architectural testimonies of the town of Maddaloni. Home to the Carafa della Stadera, a powerful aristocratic family that had Maddaloni as its feudal lord from 1465 onwards, the palace was first mentioned as "Starza della Masseria delle Torri" in 1552, when Diomede II bequeathed it, in a special deed, to his wife Roberta di Stigliano. When the seventh Duca Marzio III (Duke Martius III) took power (1660-1703), the fortified farmhouse was converted into a hunting lodge and villa for leisure, without abandoning its extensive production activities.
The building enjoyed its heyday during the reign of Carlo III of Bourbon, who used to visit it during his customary hunting trips. Passed on to the Carafa branch of the Colubrano family in the early 19th century, the palace was seized in 1850 to house a contingent of soldiers from the 13th “Cacciatori Svizzero” (Swiss Hunters). Given back to the Carafa family in 1855, it was bought the following year by notary Raffaele Palladino, who restored the façade. In 1939, the building was expropriated and assigned first to the Military State Property and then, from 1993 onwards, to the Historical and Artistic State Property, currently used by the Polo Museale della Campania.
The museum exhibits archaeological findings dating from the 8th to the 3rd century AD, from excavations carried out in the area of ancient Calatia and in the Calatine necropolis located to the south-west and north-east of the town.
On the ground floor, you pass through the entrance arch with vault decorated with the Carafa family coat of arms (1710). You then enter the first room on the left, which is dedicated to some finds from the area, including the Apollo from Santa Maria a Vico and the funerary stele from Via Nino Bixio. The second room is dedicated to the display of coins and objects pertaining to building and personal adornment.
In the third room, one can admire the reconstruction of different types of tombs, made with original finds from them. Finally, the fourth and fifth rooms illustrate the historical and artistic background of the necropolis, from the most recent burials of the Roman period to the finds from the tombs from the easternisation period. On the first floor, thanks to the use of audiovisual and multimedia supports, there are several sections dedicated to the ancient road system, the Calatine aristocracy between the 6th and 5th centuries BC and the condition of men and women during the 8th and 7th centuries BC.
By prior appointment, it is also possible to visit the Chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Carmine, completed in 1701 as part of the renovation of the palace.