Monster Park. Vitorchiano and Ghost Village (one hour drive from Rome)
BOMARZO Monster Park
The Lazio region is filled with many gems, from noble villas with stately gardens to lakeside towns and ancient Etruscan relics. But one of the most unique destinations is certainly the Bomarzo Monster Park, which looks more like something out of Pan’s Labyrinth than a traditional 16th century garden. This ghoulish park lies just north from Rome in the Tuscia region and features over a dozen larger-than-life sculptures fully immersed in the wooded valley. The park is rife with symbolism and inspired surrealist artists such as Salvador Dalí and Jacques Cousteau.
Prince Pier Francesco Orsini commissioned architect Pirro Ligorio to design the ghoulish park in 1552 as a way of coping with the death of his wife Giulia Farnese. The Sacro Bosco is intended to surprise and agitate its visitors, rather than delight them – arguably bringing them closer to the human sensations of grief and anguish associated with loss.As you wander through the Bomarzo Monster Park you’ll see over-sized mythological figures, moss-covered historic characters, monstrous animals and monuments. Hannibal’s elephant, Aphrodite, bears, sirens and a dragon all make an appearance here, along with a tilted house and memorial memorial to Giulia Farnese. The most famous statue is the mouth of Orcus, god of the underworld, with the words “Ogni Pensiero Vola” (Every Thought Flies) written above it, a nod to the fact that anything uttered inside the cave reverberates and can be heard by those outside it.
Nearby places of interest include VITORCHIANO:
suspended over the verdant Vezza Valley, nestled on banks of peperino rock, rises Vitorchiano. This medieval village, included among the most beautiful villages in Italy, is located at the foot of the Cimini Mountains immersed in a hilly landscape rich in oak and ash woods and crossed by streams of clear water. In this natural context, which surrounds the village, wildlife lives including foxes, martens and weasels and above the hilltops you can see hawks and nocturnal owls flying. A village surrounded by crenellated towers, defending a historic center where stairs, arches and alleys have in common the characteristic gray colour, that of peperino, the local stone at the base of many activities.
Today we take you to discover this village better, whose history makes it a faithful ally of Rome. A historical reality of which the village preserves memory in many corners of its centre. A characteristic village where director Mario Monicelli chose to shoot some scenes of the well-known film “The Brancaleone Army”, a 1966 film starring the great Vittorio Gassman.
The Vitorchiano cliff was the site of a settlement already in the Bronze Age. The origins of this village seem to date back to the time of the Etruscans. Subsequently the area was inhabited in Roman times, and was a fortified urban center in the southernmost part of Tuscia Longobardorum. The village was invaded by the Lombards in the 8th century, led by King Desiderio who fortified the walls, creating the Castle. Vitorchiano boasts a centuries-old history influenced for a long time by the expansionist policy of the nearby and powerful Viterbo. In 1199 he declared himself freed from all ties with Viterbo, the village was besieged by the Viterbo militias and Rome’s help was invoked. In 1201, Vitorchiano was freed from the siege and became a fief of Rome. The Roman Senate named Vitorchiano “Terra Fedelissima all’Urbe”, recognized it as having extensive tax exemptions, and allowed it to add the acronym S.P.Q.R. to its coat of arms. and to boast of the Capitoline Wolf.
The coat of arms of Vitorchiano depicting a crenellated tower surmounted by a crown, an oak branch and a laurel branch and the letters S.P.Q. R., in deference to his devotion to Rome. A curiosity about the origins of the name: it derives from its birth as a settlement of shepherds and farmers in the Etruscan era; for others from the union of Vicus and Orchianus or from an Etruscan temple dedicated to the goddess Orchia.
The village inside the castle walls preserves the typical medieval architecture with the characteristic houses, the towers, the narrow streets, the small squares, the external stairs such as the characteristic Profferli, the single-flight stone stairs that run along the facade of the building. Or the monument houses, such as the House of the Rabbi or the House of Santa Rosa, where the patron saint of Viterbo lived. And finally the thirteenth-century palace, built with the characteristic peperino rock, full of valuable architectural elements to discover. The most recent construction is the Moai, built in 1990 by eleven Maori from the Atan family, originally from Rapa Nui, who came to Italy to promote the restoration of their statues. The statue, which reproduces the monoliths of Easter Island, is the only work outside the island that exists. Made thanks to the presence of a typical local material, peperino.
Worth visiting is the Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo, a hermit refuge dedicated to the protector of the town. The site of Corviano, also defined as “Corviano Natural Monument”, brings its visitors to live an experience in close contact between nature, history and archaeology, blending together harmoniously. Not far from the village of Vitorchiano, the Selva di Malano, on the extreme slopes of the Cimini where you can admire settlements from the Etruscan period
After lunch in nice restaurant we go to CELLENO the Ghost Village:
Not everything is in ruins! Indeed, our Driver will take you to discover suggestive corners and will project you into a reality that you really don’t expect. The guided tour of Celleno Old town usually starts just outside the ancient town: from the Franciscan convent of S. Giovanni, with its beautiful frescoed cloister, a monumental well and a park of centuries-old holm oaks, you move on to visit S. Rocco, the the only one to be used for worship, embellished with Renaissance frescoes and a crucifix attributed to the school of Donatello.
From Piazza del Mercato through Via del Ponte you reach the entrance gate of Celleno, flanked by the imposing Orsini Castle and its moat, until a few years ago owned by the famous painter Enrico Castellani. In the small square, in addition to the ruined and scenic church of S. Donato, there is also the church of S. Carlo, inside which you will find a collection of ancient gramophones that you can operate directly!
And then we will visit the houses still standing inside which the environments as they were at the beginning of the twentieth century have been recreated thanks to important donations. We will enter the ancient oven, the cobbler’s shop, inside a kitchen and we will go down into the cavities, or rather, into the “cells” of the cliff where the wine was worked and stored.
But the richness of Celleno is also demonstrated by an exceptional discovery: an ancient dump that yielded very precious objects of medieval and Renaissance ceramics today exhibited in the small museum that we will visit. I will also let you discover a real Etruscan warehouse dug into the tuff where containers, vases for cooking food and even a… glirarium have come to light. What is a glirarium? I will reveal it to you, along with many other curiosities, during the guided tour of Celleno the ghost village!
Duration: 10 hours