Vico Equense: history of the city dear to King Charles II of Anjou

by Chiara Sarracino

Vico Equense it is a name capable of evoking only positive thoughts: give it citrus groves accompanying the roads overlooking the sea and those that go up the slopes of the Lattari Mountains, coming to the olive groves further inland. And then i breathtaking views which are shown at sunset in the curve that leads to the Amalfi Coast, or in the noble villas and on houses in the mountain hamlets, which have the privilege of giving visions worthy of heaven.

For centuries he has lived a very strong rivalry with Sorrento, which took the lion's share in the peninsula, but in the end has always managed to maintain a strong historical and cultural identity.

It all began, however, in mystery. We have indeed very little news about the origins of this place and even less information about its real name. We have only one certainty: Vico Equense began to become famous when Charles II of Anjou he chose it as a very faithful city to limit the rebel influence, coincidentally, right in Sorrento.

Vico Equense: storia della città cara a Re Carlo II d'Angiò

Vico Equense: from horses to Minerva

Let's start with a certainty: there is an urban legend which links Vico Equense to the Latin "equus", or "city of horses"Due to the presence of phantom equines. No it does not and the horses of Vico Equense have never been particularly famous, despite being mostly part of the Neapolitan breed, excellent and admired throughout Europe. The other legend, much more suggestive, binds the presence of olive groves to the cult of Minerva, who gave the olive tree to the Greeks in exchange for theirs devotion. In fact, we know for sure that Sorrento is of Greek origin and it is not difficult to imagine that the settlers did pushed up to Vico Equense.

Between the many hypotheses, the most accredited link the name of the city to "Aequa" or "Aequana"From Roman times, understood as"plan“, Because actually it is located on a flat point of the cliff: a plateau to be precise. “Vicus“, On the other hand, it is the only certain part: in Latin all the small villages larger than the "pagus", which instead indicated the very small rural settlements.

We have numerous others hypothesis on the origin of the other side of the name: "It's here”Could also be the name of a pre-Roman population which was near the Sorrento coast. We are in fact certain that the territory of Vico Equense it was frequented since the sixth century BC from a population of origin Osca of which we have no news. And we also know, by reading the Latin writer Silio Italico, to which a museum in the city is also dedicated, which in the II Punic War a population called "It's here rose up against the Romans, but we have no idea who they are and where they come from.

Alone among the wolves

The other certainty is that, when the Roman Empire collapsed and Italy found itself fragmented and divided into many common, Vico Equense found himself in growing up among lions who just wanted to tear it to pieces: it was a small town without fortifications and it was continuously prey to Saracen attacks and not only that: she was also attacked by Salerno, Amalfi, Pisa and Sorrento, who then included it in their own duchy. And i Goths they also destroyed it. We have to wait for the Anjou to see our city rise again.

Re Carlo II di Napoli
King Charles II of Naples

Loved by kings, poets and intellectuals

THE adoptive citizens of Vico Equense they are really all top notch. If in fact the first to become attached to the territory was Charles II of Anjou, at the end of the thirteenth century, we find today in the city the graves of dozens of extraordinary men that passed the last day of one's life between citrus scents and the flavor of the saltiness that goes up to the top of the cliff.

King Charles II he was the architect of the rebirth of the city, arrived battered and semi-destroyed from the early Middle Ages: in 1271, when he was heir to the throne, his father Charles of Anjou gave him the administration of the Duchy of Sorrento, including it in the title of prince of Salerno.
Other dark times will come: in 1284 the sorrentini, who never liked the Anjou unlike the Amalfi people, they rebelled against the king of Naples and, as a first retaliation, they attacked the nearby Vico Equense. It will take centuries to bring the Sorrento peninsula back to order. Meanwhile the king, through the feudal lord They shoot from Bari, finanziò la costruzione di a huge wall for the city and a Castle which still exists today, with the name of "Giusso Castle“.

Vico Equense Castello Giusso
Giusso Castle of Vico Equense

The castle of the jurists

Just the Castle, which today is surrounded by an enchanting garden with rare and centuries-old plants. On the other hand, it was born from one of the most important jurists of the Middle Ages, They shoot from Bari, and passed into the hands of the Carafa and, back in the Age of Enlightenment, it became the home of Gaetano Filangieri, one of the the most important Italian jurists, philosophers and economists of the 18th century. He died in Vico Equense and is buried in one of the most beautiful and evocative churches of the coast, the Santissima Annunziata.

We come to the nineteenth century, when the story of another family is linked to the cliff of Vico that the sense of justice it even has it in coat of arms, with a sword that holds two scales. THE Giusso, originally from Genoa, in fact, moved to the capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and, enticed by the possibility of setting up a silk production company, bought an ancient Camaldolese hermitage in the Vico mountains, today it has become an evocative villa for receptions, Astapiana Villa Giusso, And they also bought the Angevin castle.
In Naples, however, they settled in what we still know today as "Palazzo Giusso", the seat of the Eastern University. Girolamo Giusso, a jurist of undisputed fame, was also one of the most loved mayors of Naples and he was also the first to find an agreement between state and church in Naples, after 18 years of cold war with Cardinal Sisto Riario Sforza.

Ingegner Discepolo
The engineer Discepolo, father of the Mineralogical Museum of Campania. Photograph owned by the Museum.

Minerals, landscapes and science

But Vico Equense is even more of what is told in a few lines: among his own centuries-old streets and his 13 villages, become today fractions of the Municipality, has very well preserved theancient identity that characterizes it and also survived the concrete pouring of the 1960s. And not only that: here is the Mineralogical Museum of Campania born in 1992 at the behest of Disciple foundation, heir to the will of theengineer Pasquale Discepolo. Per l’intera sua vita fu legatissimo alla città e he cultivated a boundless passion for the study of minerals. He picked up well 5000 of different shapes, qualities and types: today it has bequeathed to the community one of the most important scientific museums in Italy.

-Chiara Sarracino

Egidio Finamore, Origin of the names of the cities of Campania
Gaetano Parascandalo, Monograph of the municipality of Vico Equense, Prigiobba, Naples, 1858
Stella Pisapia Garzone, Vico Equense and its farmhouses, Di Mauro Editore, Naples, 1995
GIUSSO, Girolamo in "Biographical Dictionary" (

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