Archivi tag: history

Hamlets and landscapes of Tuscia: from Viterbo to Orvieto

This itinerary moves through in the area known as “Teverina” (wetted by river Tiber – click here for the gallery) and it starts from Viterbo. It is the “capital” of Tuscia, the “City of the Popes”, where the word “Conclave” was born: the town is stunning because of its perfectly preserved medieval squares. 

Viterbo-Piazza S. Pellegrino 6 RCRLB

In few minutes, thanks to a comfortable highway, we can reac the little medieval town of Vitorchiano, The centre preserves all the 1200s architectural elements of Viterbo’s S. Pellegrino and Piano Scarano hamlets and gives wonderful sights of the medieval life.

Vitorchiano-Veduta 2 RCRLB (2)

From Vitorchiano on the way to Grotte Santo Stefano (on the Belvedere square) the tourist can find a Moai, the typical statue from the Easter Island.

Vitorchiano-Moai 1 RCRLB

From here we can follow two different paths: the first leads to Grotte Santo Stefano and the other one (shorter but not less intense) takes us to the highway Viterbo-Orte, direction Orte. 

Teverina-Paesaggio fra Bomarzo e Vitorchiano RCRLB

We leave the highway at the exit to Bomarzo which we reach and cross (whose ancient and medieval hamlet appears – inviting and intriguing – on the left).

Bomarzo-Veduta 6 RCRLB

Bomarzo – really worth a short visit – is well known and famous thanks to its Monsters’ Park (worth itself a trip) and many archaeological remains (the sites of Montecasoli and Santa Cecilia and the appreciable “Etruscan Pyramid”). Bomarzo is surrounded by misterious valleys that the tourists love to discover in spring and in late autumn to admire the wonderful colours of the woods and of the countryside.

Bomarzo-Palazzo Orsini, panorama 1 RCRLB

Following the road down a steep hill we reach the Tiber Valley and we cannot help noticing the lovely and fascinating hamlet of Mugnano in Teverina emerging with its tower on the top of a tufa hill and surrounded by green and peaceful lawns.

Mugnano in Teverina-Piazzetta RCRLB

Once visited this graceful hamlet, we go back to Bomarzo and to the highway which we do notenter: at the crossing, we turn to left and drive for a few kilometres until we meet the post “Chia” on the left. It is a very small and ancient burgh – pertaining to the municipality of Soriano nel Cimino – half of which in remains and under restoration. 

Chia-Veduta RCRLB

Chia is famous for being on the banks of Fosso Castello (Castello Stream) where some of the scenes of “Il Vangelo secondo Matteo” have been shot in 1964. “Il Vangelo” is one of the masterpieces of Pier Paolo Pasolini – one of the most famous and discussed italian cinema directors who decided to spend the rest of his life in this small village: he bought the famous “tower”, now known as Pasolini’s tower. Pasolini was found – dead – on Ostia beach, near Rome and his death is still object of arguments and discussions.

Castello di Chia 1 RCRLB

The road to Chia has no exits: we must go back to the main road where we turn left. We reach Bassano in Teverina, a very small and scarcely inhabited village which has been completely restored during the past decades because heavily damaged by an explosion of a train containing ammunitions during the Second World War.

Bassano in Teverina-Vicolo 1 RCRLB

Once visited Bassano, we can visit Orte, an ancient etruscan town, with Renaissance palaces and medieval towers, rich of interest for the underground itinerary (“Orte sotterranea”).

Orte-Vicolo con bandiere 3 RCRLB

Then we go back to Vitorchiano (via the highway to Viterbo) and continue our trip toward Grotte Santo Stefano. This area – known as “Teverina” because it develops on the banks of the Tiber – is dotted with ancient castles, fortresses and extensions of olive trees and vineyards producing excellent wine and oil. 

Castiglione in Teverina-Strada della Lega, paesaggio 1 RCRLB

From Grotte di Santo Stefano, a modern village, many archaeological and naturalistic hiking trails start (Ferento ruins, Infernaccio falls, The Ring Stone, Piantorena, etc.) in a very beautiful, almost wild, countryside. 

Ferento-Scorcio 2 RCRLB

Then the road leads to Montecalvello – a castle-hamlet completely uninhabited but still in perfect conditions, last dwelling of Balthus – and to Graffignano with its Baglioni-Santacroce castle (XIth century).

Montecalvello-Veduta da Vallebona RCRLB

From Graffignano we drive back to the Teverina main road and turn left – aiming to the North – and after some kilometres we find the ancient hamlet of Roccalvecce – under the municipality of Viterbo – with its magnificent Costaguti Palace-Castle.

Roccalvecce-Scorcio 1 RCRLB

The castle, the perfect place for weddings and social occasions, is also a good and appreciated solutions for holidays immersed in a silent and peaceful nature.

Roccalvecce-Veduta da lontano da Celleno RCRLB

In front of Roccalvecce – on the other side of the valley – there is a wonderful sight of Celleno Vecchio, an abandoned and a “ghost” village now being recovered and re-inhabited.

Celleno-Scorcio del borgo RCRLB

The area of Celleno is famous for the cultivation of cherries and houses one of the most interesting Sagre (Festivals) in April when the colorful branches make the village a real explosion of whites and pinks.

Celleno-Paesaggio ai piedi del borgo RCRLB

Castel Cellesi (a sort of colourful village-farm) is within easy reach and really worth a visit thanks to the nice area and the tall bell-tower (similar to those present in the North of Italy).

Castel Cellesi-Scorcio RCRLB

A little further we meet San Michele in Teverina, surrounded by peaceful sights and with the palace connected to the rest of the hamlet via a nice bridge.

S. Michele in Teverina-Scorcio 1 RCRLB

We are not far from Civitella d’Agliano. This is the area of wine and wheat thanks to the immense fields surrounded by woods of oaks, cypresses and pines trees. The landscape remembers the tuscan countryside.

Civitella d'Agliano-Panorama 1 RCRLB

Civitella d’Agliano is not the “usual” hamlet like all the other small villages we have met so far. It is a real Commune with its Mayor in spite of the fact that the inhabitants are no more than 1000 in total. The village is all gathered around a steep tufa block and grants a bird’s eye view on the Tiber Valley, the Calanchi of Bagnoregio and the mountains of Umbria.

Civitella d'Agliano-Veduta 3 RCRLB

Vaiano is a far and away burgh surrounded by “Calanchi” (starting point for most of the adventurous trekking paths) not far from Bagnoregio and its hamlet Civita, worldwide famous as “the dying town”.

Vaiano-Chiesa della SS Annunziata ARLB

“Heart” of the Calanchi Valley, Civita of Bagnoregio is visited by many thousands of tourists from all over the world…

Civita di Bagnoregio-Veduta 7 RCRLB

Once reached Lubriano (with its magnificent view of the Calanchi Valley) we continue to Sermugnano, near the border of the province of Viterbo and Orvieto.

Lubriano-Scorcio 1 RCRLB

Sermugnano is one of the many small villages with very few inhabitants (less than 100) and still in good conditions, immersed in the silence of nature, far from noise and confusion.

Valle dei Calanchi-Paesaggio ai piedi di Sermugnano

The next destination of this itinerary is Castiglione in Teverina, well known for its wines and offering superb sights of agricultural economy and of the Calanchi Valley.

Castiglione in Teverina-Vigneto verso Sermugnano 1 RCRLB

Now we are near Orvieto, with its wonderful monuments, as like as Saint’s Patrick’s Well and the gothic Cathedral, and also with its good wines: so we can finish the itinerary tasting a glass of Orvieto docg wine…

Orvieto-Veduta 1 RCRLB

Translation by Osvaldo Velo ( in collaboration with Luca Bellincioni and Arianna Federici.

Recommended accommodations

Roccalvecce (VT)“Castello Costaguti”

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 (
Recommended accommodations: 
Tolfa (RM)“Fontana del Papa”
Roccalvecce (VT) “Castello Costaguti”