Valva is situated at the slopes of Marzano mount, near Serra delle Rose. It dominates the area of Valle del Sele surrounded by Picentini Mountains. The ancient part of the town is really beautiful, it was a high fortress built to defend the inhabitants from the Saracen invasion.
In Valva nature is variegated: there are oaks, chestnut groves, walnut trees, beeches and Turkey oaks. The fauna includes wolves, wild boars, foxes, hawks, stone martens and weasels.
Pilgrimage to Saint Michael Caves is really charming (8th May and 29th September): the legend tells that the Saint appeared and there was an agreement between him and the population (today they are represented by the mayor and the priest). According to this agreement Valva has to celebrate the Archangel to get his protection. D’Ayala house and park are very nice and were created as a holiday resort. The park is made of Italian gardens and a wonderful wood, decorated with statues and fountains. The sculptures portray myths and allegories: Diana, Spring, Summer, Hercules, the Painting, etc, and there is also an open theatre. During the Second World War, the house was used as a camp hospital and headquarters of German general, Kesserling. After the American landing to Salerno, the house became a meeting place for the allied troops.
History of Valva
The town has prehistoric origins. During Roman age the territory was crossed by a road Compsa-Volcej that linked Adriatic and Tyrrhenian areas.
Valva was a small town, but it was strategic because of the equal distance with the two areas. After the fall of the Empire, there was a political and economic crisis. There were many disadvantages for the local population that went to live at the slopes of the mountain: caves were considered a useful place to hide.
During Middle Ages the mountain became a sacred area. During Norman period, Valva is the seat of a priorate of San Benedetto Abbey in Salerno, it was called Saint Bartholomew. When Roberto il Guiscardo gave the feud to Gozzolino, his condottiere, Gozzolino had to fight against the Normans. Years later, the town passed to Valva family that built various fortresses. They became Knight of Malta in 1600 with Ottavio Valva. The last exponent of the family was Giuseppe Maria who decided to build the house and the park. He died in 1831 and he had no heirs. All his goods passed to d’Ayala family that had Spanish origins, linked to Valva family because of bond of matrimony. Francesco Saverio d’Ayala completed the house and the park. When the last exponent of d’Ayala family died, the house and the park were given to the Order of the Knight of Malta.