The lost castles of Tuscia

The way starts from Rome and it leads to Tolfa, following a solitary road crossing a breath-taking landscape through the savage Tolfa Mountains filled with medieval and Etruscan remains concealed and submerged by bushes and trees, forgotten by everybody. Here, time seems suspended  and the landscape is crossed by strong horses and long bowed horns cows, browsing the meadows disseminated by numberless stones thus giving movement to and almost immobile scene. While visiting Tolfa, don’t forget to reach the Rocca Frangipane, probably of Longobardian origins, from where you have a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape.

Tolfa-Rocca Frangipane 1 RCRLB

Tolfa-Scorcio sui tetti 1 RCRLB

From Tolfa, two are the possible deviations, both leading to Tuscania, which we’ll meet on the way. The first road takes the tourists to the sea driving along a wonderful landscape through Allumiere, the rural hamlet of Farnesiana and the remains of Cencelle, fortress-town abandoned in the middle of a wide plain and identified by ruined towers, easily visible from far.

Cencelle-Rovine 10 RCRLB

The road enters the Via Aurelia which leads to Tarquinia, rich in medieval monuments and with a Unesco patronage Etruscan necropolis. After a careful visit to this interesting area – a real must  – the tour continues along the Via Tarquiniense, direction Tuscania, crossing green meadows and wheat spaces and reaches the ancient farm of Montebello (on the right), the castles of Ancarano and Pian Fasciano (one in front of the other) dominating river Marta flowing through a savage and sometimes concealed valley. As an alternative, from Tuscania it is possible to reach the Roccaccia di Respampani driving along Via Cassia. The Roccaccia di Respampani is worth a short stop for its interesting structure and landscape (flyfishing addicts may have a try in the attactive –and not so easy – water of Biedano River, flowing deep in the valley, in the “middle of nowhere”…). The alternative trip from Tolfa leads to Canale Monterano and to the deviation to Manziana, on Via Claudia-Braccianese. Very suggestive is the Ghost town of Monterano Vecchia, with the ruins of Ruspoli Palace, that reminds of the pictures of Grand Tour.

Monterano Vecchia-Palazzo Ruspoli, scorcio RCRLB

Monterano Vecchia-Palazzo Ruspoli, panorama 1 RCRLB

Once crossed Oriolo Romano (“ideal hamlet” of XVII century) with its beautiful Altieri Palace the tourist enters the province of Viterbo and reaches Blera after some chilometers. Blera is of Etruscan origins and is rich in remains of Villanova, Etruscan, Roman and Medieval eras. The Regional Marturanum Park is one of the best examples of cohabitation of nature and remains of the ancient times. It belongs to the municipality of Barbarano (another wonderful fortified hamlet really worth a visit). The park offers the nature lovers all the best they desire to spend peaceful days in full contact with the environment. From Blera, the tourist will follow the way to the small village of Civitella Cesi and, short before reaching it, the San Giovenale Castle and its archeological area, delimited by a steep overhanging the Valley of river Vesca.

S. Giovenale-Castello, scorcio 2 RCRLB

From Blera, the Via Cassia takes to Viterbo crossing the interesting area of Castel d’Asso, a medieval hamlet built on an Etruscan previous village with tombs and inscriptions of this ancient people.

Castel d'Asso-Porta e Torre del Rivellino 1 RID

Castel d'Asso-Torre del rivellino 3 RID

From Viterbo, the Via Tuscanese takes to Tuscania but before reaching this town there is small road on the left driving to a red farm. After the farm, there is Castel Cardinale, of private property. This is one of the most interesting stops of this trip. The castle, with many curious local histories, is on the top of a small hill on the bottom of a tufa valley not far from a stream.

Castel Cardinale-Veduta della collina 2 RID

Castel Cardinale-Veduta 2 RID

Tuscania is worth a longer visit with its fortified Rivellino Palace, the wonderful Romanesque churches of Santa Maria Maggiore and San Pietro, the lovely Marta Valley, the Belvedere of Torre di Lavello and much much more.

Tuscania-Panorama dal Belvedere 1 RCRLB

Tuscania-Rivellino, rovine 1 RCRLB

From Tuscania the road takes to Marta and Lake Bolsena. A short distance before Marta, there is Castell’Araldo (built by the Templars) and not far from here, the Castle of Monte Leano, with its broken tower known as Forchetta del Diavolo (Devil’s Fork).

Mti Volsini-Torre di Monte Leano RCRLB

Following the Via Verentana and the road leading to Montalto, it is possible to move toward the sea and visit two other interesting areas, Castellardo – near Canino – and Castelvecchio, not far from Arlena di Castro. It must be noted that these two spots are really very hard to be found and such a trip is only for those who like adventure. Much easier is the way to Lake Volsino (another name by which Lake Bolsena is known). The road runs along the lake and reaches Montefiascone, famous for its wine “Est! Est! Est!”, and dominated by the remains of the Rocca dei Papi, worth a visit not only for its archeological presence but also for the relaxing sight it offers on the whole lake. Once left Montefiascone the trip continues to Bolsena, still running around the lake. Bolsena, famous for the Miracles of Santa Cristina, has a wonderful medieval hamlet – for sure, one of the most beautiful of Latium – and the Rocca dei Monaldeschi (Monaldeschis’ Fortress) now hosting an interesting museum.

Bolsena-Rocca Monaldeschi 2 RCRLB

Bolsena-Scorcio 4 RCRLB

Once visited Bolsena, it is time to go back to Montefiascone (don’t miss the small but very nice Church of San Flaviano) and take the road leading to Celleno and Bagnoregio. At the end of this road, a sign indicates the way to reach Ferento, with its open air theatre (worth a visit). Civita di Bagnoregio – known as “The Dying Town” due to the erosion which is destroying the hamlet – almost suspended on a unique valley – known as “Valle dei Calanchi” which no equal in the world. After the visit to Civita di Bagnoregio – it takes a few hours but should not be missed – the tourist goes back to Lake Bolsena and again to Montefiascone, to Viterbo and to Orte via SP Ortana (SP 151). A few chilometers before the deviation (to the right) for Soriano nel Cimino, there is a road sign indicating Castello di Corviano, with a lovely archeological site, worth a visit (leave the car in the nearby and go by foot). Another road sign (Chia) on the left suggests a visit to the Tower of Chia, the manor where Pier Paolo Pasolini spent his last years.

Castello di Chia 1 RCRLB

From Chia, the visitor should go back toward Soriano and take the highway to Orte, another small town worth a visit. From Orte, the next stops will be Gallese and Civita Castellana (from Orte, look for Orte Scalo – that’s Orte Railways Station). The road enter a major road (Via Flaminia) and a few chilometers from Civita Castellana the remains of Rocca di San Leonardo appear on the right. This almost destroyed Rocca rests in the area called “Borghetto”. Following the direction to Rome (turn to right) the road passes on the back of this castle (also known as “Andosilla Castle”) and takes us to Civita Castellana with its interesting Duomo and Forte Sangallo (both worth a visit). Not far from Civita Castellana, the shape of Monte Soratte (Soratte Mountain) carves the sky on the way to Rome. We are in the area known as Agro Falisco, whose landscape gave Goethe and other famous travellers of the past the clue for their masterpieces. Following the road to Rome, on the right we find the sign to Faleria, with its Castello di Paterno (Paterno Castle) unfortunately almost distinguishable from the brambles covering the structure. Once crossed Faleria, a small sign on the right shows the way to Castello di Foiano (Foiano Castle) where you make take a rest and appreciate the area. Calcata is not far and lays on the top of a rock hill, destroyed by an earthquake in the ancient years and now restored and inhabited – since the ‘70s – by families of artists offering their masterpieces to the thousands of tourists coming from all over the world.

Borghetto-Rocca di S. Leonardo RCRLB

From Calcata, a path crossing river Treja leads to the abandoned Castle of Santa Maria (Santa Maria Castle) of which only a short tower reminds the visitors the existence of some sort of civilisation. The whole Agro Falisco is dotted with remains of towers and castles, very often difficult to be located and found due to the thick vegetation . The most interesting spots are near Nepi and Castel Sant’Elia (Torre di Isola Conversina, Porciano Castle, Castel d’Ischia, Castel Filissano…). From Nepi, reaching the Via Cassia near Settevene is a matter of minutes, thus closing this long itinerary.

Translation by Osvaldo Velo (http://flyfishingtuscia.com/)
Recommended accommodations: 
Tolfa (RM)“Fontana del Papa”
Roccalvecce (VT) “Castello Costaguti”
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