The Lazio region has been the protagonist of this our itinerary, during the entire path we found ourselves to be surrounded, in an almost constant, places and landscapes radically conflicting: archaeological sites, beaches, mountains and enchanted places. Although different, these places are indisputably linked by ancient traditions.
An itinerary rich of emotions that can be summarized in a handful of kilometers to discover what could be called the true cradle of our roots.
Cerveteri is a delightful medieval village that extends on the side south west of the tuffaceous plateau which once housed the ancient and extensive Etruscan Civita. Starting from the high middle ages, Cerveteri became a small agricultural center of the Roman countryside, often disputed by the noble families. The walls date back to the XII-XIII century and, for a stretch, closely follow the path of the oldest ones.
The central square of the town is Piazza Aldo Moro, climbing the steps located in the middle of the square we reached the suggestive Piazza Santa Maria on which overlook the homonymous church, the Renaissance Palazzo Ruspoli and the thirteenth century Fortress, the seat of the National Etruscan Museum of Archeology.
This very interesting archaeological museum preserves numerous Etruscan artifacts including the famous "urn of spouses". The entire museum has recently been equipped with a new multimedia path: "The teche parlanti".
It is in fact the first place in the world for technology, thanks to the innovative project "touch on glass": Just tap a reliquary and the millenary archaeological finds resume life to tell history, curiosity and secrets on the fascinating world of the Etruscans. Absolutely worth a visit!
Not far from Piazza Santa Maria in the streets Agillina and ramparts we reached the small church of Sant'Antonio Abate and by li, La Rocca ancient, medieval bastion from which you can enjoy a splendid panoramic view that dominates the whole coast, from Civitavecchia to Rome. Breathtaking!
The church of S. Antonio Abate is one of the oldest in the country. Erected around the XI century, original keeps only the architectural structure and the occasional decorations of romanesque origins. In the renaissance period, the Church undergoes the first restoration.
Are realized the frescoes, still visible today, that cover the base of the apse and the walls of the side aisles.
The building, a longitudinal plan rectangular and divided in three naves; during the eighteenth century, was again restored and adapted to the neoclassical taste. The single point of light of the church is the rose window placed in correspondence of the single entry and transformed in 1661 into a rectangular large window lintel.
By visiting the historic center of Cerveteri is still absolutely noticeable as the defensive system of the medieval village follows largely the old one: to sections of the walls built in blocks of tufa, had to alternating steep slopes natural, as still today toward the valley of the baton, that do not require further fortifications.
Around the XIII century, under the dominion of the Venturini, the boundary wall was restored, south included three circular towers (corresponding to the area that today is called "Rocca Antica") interconnected by communication trenches and further fortified in 1487 by Francesco Cybo, son of Pope Innocent VIII.
In the north-east (precisely in the stretch of walls of piazza A. Moro) the central male square had four angular towers, two of which (unfortunately) partly collapsed.
We stop in the piazza of the town in the shadow of his fountain and we are ready to get to a place absolutely mysterious: the Etruscan necropolis!
The etruscan necropolis is situated on the tuffaceous hill a few hundreds of meters from Cerveteri; it is the most imposing of the whole of Etruria as well as one of the most impressive of the entire Mediterranean world.
The necropolis called "della Banditaccia" is the main area of tombs of the ancient Caere, which is concentrated in the most monumental tombs.
This is an immense complex (estimated is the presence of about 20,000 chamber tombs in this sole necropolis) with characters of absolute uniqueness, that are earned in 2004 insertion into the UNESCO list.
Inside the necropolis (which winds for more than two kilometers) are the monumental tombs of three types: within mound, dug and partly built in the tuff.
This is monuments that testify to the desire of the aristocratic families to show their wealth and perpetuate in the afterlife a level of life of the highest quality.
Absolutely suggestive are the interiors, which are were realized by imitating the houses of "live" in multiple environments with doors and windows shaped, columns and pillars, ceilings with beams and lacunar, furniture, funeral beds, sometimes furnishings.
Decidedly peculiar, furthermore, are the tombs so called "nut", that align on tracks sepulchral a regular grid and we return the image of a contemporary urban district.
Inside the necropolis are distinguished more sectors which reflect the various nuclei in which had to be articulated in its long period of life, until the I century B.C.
The area open to the public includes the Old and the new enclosure and extends for almost 10 hectares, covering less than a tenth of the total extension of the necropolis.
Strike here especially the imposing circular tumuli with hemispherical dome of the earth, the tombs "nut" and the great hypogea gentilizi, which are arranged along the Via Main Burial and tracks minors.
The etruscan necropolis extends for about 400 hectares and in it there are many thousands of tombs (part fenced and visitable represents, as we have said, only 10 hectares and has about 400 mounds).
The name "Banditaccia" derives from a particular habit, in fact, from the end of the nineteenth century the zone is "banned", i.e. rented by call, landowners of Cerveteri in favor of the local population.
The burials oldest villanoviane are (from the IX century B.C. in the VIII century B.C.), and are characterized by the shape to the cockpit where were kept the ashes of the dead, or from the pits to the burial.
From the VII century B.C. Etruscan period, you have two types of burials, those tumulus and those "nut".
The latter consist of a long row of graves regularly aligned along tracks burial.
In the part of the visitable Necropolis of Banditaccia there are two of these streets, Via dei Monti Ceriti and via dei Monti della Tolfa, dating back to the VI century B.C.
The tumulus tombs are characterised by a structure of tufaceous circular in plan that encloses within a representation of the house of the deceased, with much of the corridor (dromos) for access to the various rooms.
The detail of the inside of these burials has enabled archaeologists to come to the knowledge of the household uses of the Etruscans.
The "Tomb of the reliefs", dating back to the IV century B.C. and belonged to the family of Matunas, it is maintained in almost perfect.
It is in fact possible to observe also the marvelous frescoes that adorn the walls and columns.
And it is precisely because of the importance of the frescoes that this tomb is the only of Banditaccia that you cannot visit. Its interior is visible through a window.
Moving at only 13 kilometers from Cerveteri, at the southern end of the maremma laziale and at the foot of the Monti della Tolfa, we reached Santa Severa, an appreciable seaside resort. The town takes its name from Santa Severa, here martired on 5 June 298 A.D. together with his brothers, Calendino and Marco, under the empire of Diocletian.
This place there has immediately surprised for the many historical testimonies ancient.
In the current site of the Castle of Santa Severa, in fact, already stood in the Bronze Age a coastal village, witnessed by some ceramic discoveries.
Subsequently in this area has developed an important Etruscan town of name Pyrgi, which was the main port of Caere (today's Cerveteri) and one of the most important seaports of the whole of Etruria. A peculiarity: Santa Severa was mentioned by Virgil in the Aeneid!
Precisely in this place was implanted in 264 B.C. a Roman colony, fortified by imposing walls "cyclopean" still partly preserved.
In the course of the Middle Ages developed on the ruins of the Roman town is a small medieval village flanked by a castle of the XI century overlooking the sea. That there appeared in all his splendor!
The excavations of Pyrgi have brought to light the remains of a great sanctuary, built just a few steps away from the shore, comprising two temples dating back to the VI and V century B.C., the largest of which is devoted to the Etruscan goddess Uni, assimilated to the Phoenician Astarte.
Just entered the perimeter of the Castle of Santa Severa we found ourselves in one of the most suggestive places of the territory of Latium, an authentic patrimony of inestimable value both historical and cultural.
The complex, a rectangular plan with angular towers, was surrounded by a moat and connected by a wooden deck to the imposing fortification cylindrical, the "male", anciently called "Tower of the Castle", which was built in the middle of the IX century by Pope Leo X and that as a result of further reconstructions, came to us in its structure to the sixteenth-seventeenth century.
In more recent times, the castle was used by the Germans as a strategic base in the course of the second world war.
We have travelled the length and breadth of the fabulous Medieval Village inside the perimeter: a village characterized by characteristic streets in stone and flying arches. The wide area is composed of a vast complex of buildings and squares where you can admire, at every corner, traces of life in the castle.
In the Piazzale delle Barrozze, at the center of the houses, you can admire a peculiar circular fountain on two floors, surmounted by three large mole crusher.
A village that still retains the charm of a place suspended in time!
Very impressive is the state visit the "Torre Saracena".
From the second floor of the castle, through the top of the angular tower goes on the wooden bridge that unites the Rocca to the Saracen Tower ancient "male" of the castle.
The Saracen Tower is the element more ancient of the Castle of Santa Severa, dates back to the IX century.
The name of the cylindrical structure is due to its control function of the coastline and sighting ships "Saracens" in particular between the XVI and the XVIII century.
The top of the tower, also called "Norman", was decorated in the Renaissance with three orders of corbels and provided with machicolation.
Only in a second moment was joined to the castle with a drawbridge that can still be visited today at 20 meters height, set Rocca-Torre Saracena constitutes the real fortress, the castle for excellence, the part of the settlement that in ancient times was intended to military functions for the defense of the coast and the village immediately surrounding.
The structure is composed internally with three circular local superimposed and a terrace, the Piazza d'Armi, accessible thanks to a dedicated path in the guided tour that provides a unique opportunity and a special to enjoy one of the most evocative of the visit thanks to the enchanting panorama that in every period of the year and in every moment of the day, offers a suggestive connotations.
Returned in the heart of the medieval village, near Piazza della Rocca, you can admire the Paleochristian church, the oldest of the Castle of the paleochristian era (half of the V century).
In the context of the extraordinary archaeological area and the monumental Castle of Santa Severa fits, yet, the Civic Museum of the sea and the ancient navigation. A place of great historical importance for the coast north of Rome, attended from Prehistory up to our days in an uninterrupted manner.
Seven rooms host over a hundred specimens are distributed along an exhibition and educational trail that introduces the visitor to the theme of the underwater archeology and ancient navigation illustrating several interesting aspects of the "life on the sea and for the sea".
For all our itinerary have stayed at "Natura e Cavallo" is a beautiful farm, situated in the southern part of the Monti della Tolfa, in the valley of the river Rio, one of the areas most evocative of this territory for the typical landscapes that the Maremma Tolfetana offers its visitors.
Absolutely recommendable the entire structure: not only accommodation but also the delicious restaurant that offers the typical cuisine with succulent dishes based on king bolete, local truffle, wild boar, barbecued meat and so on and so forth!
Civita di Bagnoregio
Third stage of our journey was a spectacular medieval village: Civita di Bagnoregio. Located in the province of Viterbo, Civita is a small town perched on a spur of tuff, well 484 meters in height.
Civita di Bagnoregio falls between the most beautiful villages of Italy, owes its fame also to its particular denomination: "the dying town", an expression coined by the writer Bonaventura Tecchi.
The village, in fact, is in constant danger of losing its buildings due to the continuous landslides which endanger its stability and survival.
The cause of this is the progressive erosion of the hill and the surrounding valley, which has given life to the typical shapes of gullies and that still continues today to produce the consequences that are likely to disappear the fraction.
Already in the distance, to discern this place, has aroused in us many emotions for the uniqueness of the landscape.
Find themselves faced with a place almost suspended in the air, slightly rested on top of a hill, has offered us an extraordinary spectacle where time seemed to have stopped.
The village can be reached only through a pedestrian bridge (nothing car!) built in stone and cement: being quite steep recommend comfortable shoes, a bit tiring to go but it certainly applies the penalty!
This wonderful village has ancient origins: was founded more 2500 years ago by the Etruscans, on one of the most ancient streets of Italy, joining the Tevere (then great navigation route of Central Italy) and the lake of Bolsena.
In the past it was possible to gain access to the ancient town of Civita by five doors; today the port called Santa Maria or hollow, it represents the only.
An imposing door that depicts two lions that hold between the legs a human head, a remembrance of the popular revolt of the inhabitants of Civita against Orvieto family of the Monaldeschi. History and traditions definitely exciting from the first minute of our visit!
Another possibility of access is given from the underlying valley of gullies through a suggestive tunnel dug into the rock. We tried this!
The urban structure of the whole town is of Etruscan origin, consisting of thistles and decumani according the use etrusco (and then Roman), while the entire architectural coating is medieval and renaissance style.
There are numerous testimonies of the Etruscan phase of Civita, especially in the area called "San Francesco Vecchio"; in fact in the cliff below the belvedere of this area has been found an etruscan necropolis.
Also the cave of San Bonaventura, in which it says that Saint Francis healed the small Giovanni Fidanza (which later became San Bonaventura), is in reality a chamber tomb Etruscan.
Tradition wants that the Etruscans made Civita a flourishing city, favored by its strategic position for trade, thanks to the proximity with the most important routes of communication of the epoch.
Inside the village we were able to admire the marvelous medieval houses, the Church of San Donato, overlooking the main square and where at its interior is guarded the S.S. wooden crucifix, Palazzo Vescovile, a mill of the XVI century, the birthplace of Saint Bonaventure.
Its evocative medieval system is every year the destination of many tourists and has been several times used as a film set.
We were in fact surprised as this tiny village is able to attract a multiplicity of tourists from every part of the world!
For access to the village is required the payment of a small sum of money (Cost: € 1,50), that will be poured into a municipal fund used for the works of the stability of the foundations that are carried out each year (to keep in mind that the impressive erosion rate of calanques, on which it was built, is of about 7 centimeters per year).
The particularity of this beautiful town and that, today, it has about a dozen residents throughout the year.
It is surely one of the most fascinating places we visited so far.
Interesting was to visit the "Geological Museum and of the Landslides" that illustrates the geology of Civita di Bagnoregio and valley of gullies, processes of instability in act on the slopes, the works of monitoring and stabilization, the historical landslides, the history and the fight of Civita for its survival. This particular museum is located in a Renaissance Palace which dominates a large part of Piazza San Donato.
We also recommend not to miss the Belvedere, which surrounds almost all the village and from which you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of projected on the whole surrounding valley, with the spectacular shales and tuff of the gullies.
Wandering through the old alleys of Civita di Bagnoregio will not be difficult to run in one of his many craft shops or the typical taverns.
We tasted the best of local recipes at the restaurant the "pozzo dei desdideri" an enchanted place where is possible to the enogastronomic typicality of Tuscia sitting at the table directly inside an ancient Etruscan cistern close to a beautiful square in the city center.
You will be spoilt for choice in taste picciarelli, wild boar meat, truffles, porcini mushrooms and much more!
The park of the Monsters of Bomarzo
Last stage of our fourth itinerary was Bomarzo, Borgo del Lazio on the slopes of Monte Cimino, and in particular the work is unique in the world, namely the "Villa of Wonders", also called "Sacro Bosco" and often called "Parco dei Mostri".
The Park was designed by the Prince Vicino Orsini and by the architect Pirro Ligorio in XVI.
The park, although built in the sixteenth century does not comply with the practices of the time. In fact, at the time the refined gardens were made with criteria of geometric rationality and perspective, rich of fountains, terraces and manieriste sculptures.
On the contrary, the Prince of Bomarzo devoted himself to the realization of an eccentric "Boschetto" doing carve into the rocks of peperino, emerging from the ground, enigmatic figures of monsters, dragons, mythological subjects and exotic animals, that alternated to a casetta pending, a funerary temple, fountains, seats and obelisks on which did affect mottos and inscriptions.
From those boulders come alive animals giant, the Homeric heroes or simple sirens or Roman Goddesses.
After the death of Vicino Orsini, nobody cared more than this place that after centuries of neglect was revalued by intellectuals and artists like Claude Lorrain, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Salvador Dali, Mario Praz and Maurizio Calvesi.
In the park there are monuments that depict monstrous animals and mythological scenes.
It was precisely the Orsini who called the park "Sacro Bosco" and dedicated it to his wife Giulia Farnese. It is narrated, in fact, that when she died, Vicino Orsini saddened by its loss spent the next twenty-five years of studying the classics to find inspiration in the creation of its park, of his "Villa of wonders".
Inside the park we admired also architectures impossible, as the house is inclined or some enigmatic statues that represent perhaps the stages of an itinerary of an alchemic matrix. Salvador Dalã spoke of the park of Monsters as an invention unique historic.
In 1585, after the death of the last prince Orsini, the park was abandoned and in the second half of the twentieth century when it was later restored.
The park extends over a surface of about 3 hectares, in a forest of coniferous and deciduous trees.
In its interior there are a large number of sculptures of varying magnitude representing mythological animals, but also buildings that reflect the classical world and/or override the rules of perspective or aesthetic requirements, in order to confuse the visitor.
The sculptures were made in basalt, material available in large quantities in loco; many attractions are marked by inscriptions enigmatic and mysterious, survived unfortunately in small part.
However it is good to note that the current arrangement of the attractions in the Park is not, except in some cases documented, the original one, but it dates to the second half of the twentieth century, when the family Bettini the uncovered and the gave in use.
You do not know the original object with which the park has been built: in the course of time many hypotheses have been put forward which would see the place as a "initiatory path". Certainly Vicino Orsini simply wanted to equip itself with an enchanted place for the pleasure of others or staff.
The visit to the park has led us in a very peculiar swinging path between mythology and mystery. We recommend a visit!
Our preferred restaurants and hotels in Santa Severa and Civita di Bagnoregio: