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Did you know...? There's an Italian region that doesn't exist

The Local Italy
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Did you know...? There's an Italian region that doesn't exist
A bell foundry in Molise - which according to a popular conspiracy theory, does not exist. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP.

Forget Rome, Florence, or Venice... intrepid travellers can visit a whole Italian region that "doesn't exist".


If you've ever been to the rural, rugged Italian region of Molise, no you haven't: or at least, that's what the many Italians who deny the region's existence would say.

One of Italy's lesser-visited regions, even some Italians have trouble remembering the name of Molise's capital (Campobasso).

That's perhaps partly because it's the second smallest and second least populous Italian region after France-bordering Valle d'Aosta, with under 300,000 inhabitants: that's less than one third of the population of the city of Naples.

It's also Italy's newest region: formerly part of the region of Abruzzi and Molise, which split off into Abruzzo and Molise in 1963, Molise really didn't exist in its own right before then.

It wasn't until the internet age, however, that the conspiracy theory took off, spawning the popular hashtag #ilmolisenonesiste ('Molise doesn't exist') .

It's since become something of a cultural phenomenon; the Facebook page Molis't - I don't believe in the existence of Molise today boasts 63,000 members. 

A view of the in the central Italian village of Agnone in Molise, Italy. Photo by Filippo Monteforte/AFP.

Locals are surprisingly good natured about the denial of their homeland's existence: with a dwindling population and a need to boost tourism to the area, many take the view that any publicity is good publicity.

“‘Molise doesn’t exist’ is, in a way, a perfect brand,” local politician Simone Cretella told the BBC in 2019.

"It creates that curiosity that makes people want to discover our region, and when they do, they are always so surprised at how beautiful and diverse Molise is...We just need to get the message out there."


Today, 'Il Molise Non Esiste' is trademarked by Italy's Ministry of Economic Development to market the region, and you can order local produce from the brand Molisn't.

If do decide to pay a visit to Italy's non-existent region, you can expect to find peaceful beaches and mountains, pre-Roman ruins, and a unique food culture, with lamb-stuffed pasta shells and wines you'll struggle to track down elsewhere.


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