Text and images by Luca Panichelli of Tesori Nascosti. Visit his blog: tesorinascostiagrofalisco.wordpress.com

There are various paths and roads leading to the site, but are for the most part unmarked. The easiest way to arrive is from Nepi (VT), where you would follow the SP 38 Settevene until you reach km 2,500, at which point you would turn left onto Via la Massa and go straight on the dirt road. After passing through the woods that give their name to the street, you come to a crossroads going three directions. Take the center option and follow the road through fields and pastures for about 1 km, where you will take a right at the fork in the road. Once you have arrived to a sign describing the site, you will have to leave your means of transport- excluding bikes- and continue the journey on foot.

As soon as you begin descending the path, you will be truly amazed by the astonishing scenery that unfolds in front of your eyes. The deep gorges around the plateau where the castle stands suddenly seem as immense as the famous canyons of America, yet strikingly richer in fauna, vegetation, and color. On calm days, you can hear the chirps of various species of birds and the distant flow of water. In the distance is Mount Soratte, a single peak sitting majestically over the surrounding landscape.

The deep ravines, or forre, possess such dense vegetation that they seem to fade into the horizon. These natural features are characteristic of the entire Agro-Faliscan zone, which encompasses the towns of Corchiano, Civita Castellana, Nepi, Castel Sant’Elia, Faleria, Nazzano, and Mazzano Romano. In these places, vegetation, water and history interact with each other, creating truly unique landscapes.

On the valley floor the space narrows, and in this area primitive men found food and water that guaranteed their survival. The ravines were carved from the ancient volcanic rock by a network of streams emerging from Lake Vico and Lake Bracciano, which are supplied with water from the Cimini and Sabatini Mountains. It is still possible to find marine fossils deposited in the canyon ridge, as the volcanic rock was deposited on the seabed millions of years ago during the Pliocene period.

The entire territory between the base of Vico Volcano alternates between plains and deep gorges, reaching all the way to the Tiber valley. At its deepest, the forge reaches a depth of 100 meters (328 feet), while the bed of the creek, visible from almost everywhere, extends only a few meters at the bottom of the valley.

At the end of the path leading through these natural wonders is a fork in the road. By going straight, the path leads directly to the castle. Alternatively, by taking a right, you can traverse a carved out cut in the volcanic rock, originally excavated in Faliscan times. Here, it is still possible to view ancient inscriptions, despite years of contemporary vandalism. By following this descent towards the creek, you are dropped off directly in front of the medieval settlement.

After this journey, the castle itself is slightly disappointing. Over the years, the structure has fallen into disrepair and is overgrown with weeds. After crossing the rampart there is the main entrance door for the castle. At the high part of the entrance’s arch you can still see a perforated rock, which held the door hinge. Inside the medieval center it’s still possible to see the remains of many structures derived from volcanic rock, and reused later during the medieval era as homes, warehouses and cisterns. It’s important to watch your step while you visit the site, because many tank’s openings are now hidden by weeds.

One of these structures, located along the defense wall inside the settlement and most likely used as a warehouse during the medieval period, has an interesting decoration on a post located in the center of the structure. On the other side of the wall, there is a small structure with a false dome coated with square volcanic blocks (picture below), probably used as a cistern during the late Faliscan period. Additionally, there are other wall structures and a quadrangular tower free of original openings.

Conquering this forte would not have been an easy task, considering its strategic position. From above, one can see the structures oblong triangular shape, attached on two sides to the edge of a valley measuring 80 meters deep. Therefore, the site was only reachable at one point, which was well-protected and therefore nearly impenetrable.

Like other historical sites from the Agro-Faliscan zone, there is not much mention of the site. In the 14th century, the site was mentioned in a tax-related document. In 1549, when the site was already in disuse, the structure was mentioned in a document pertaining to the Anguillara.

While the structure itself has fallen into disrepair, I highly recommend readers to visit this extraordinary site, where history and nature come together to create a unique and exciting experience.

FALISCAN-ERA EXCAVATED PATH

 

THE ANTIQUE INSCRIPTION, UNFORTUNATELY TAMPERED WITH

 

ANOTHER FALISCAN EXCAVATION

 

EMBEDDED ROCK IN THE ENTRANCE’S ARCH. THE HOLE HELD THE DOOR HINGE.

 

REMAINS OF THE QUADRANGULAR TOWER.

 

REMAINS OF ANCIENT HOMES

 

REMAINS OF ANCIENT HOMES EXCAVATED FROM THE ROCK

 

REMAINS OF ANCIENT HOMES EXCAVATED FROM THE ROCK.

 

REMAINS OF ANCIENT HOMES EXCAVATED FROM THE ROCK.

 

INSIDE OF A HOME WITH SCULPTED COLUMN.

 

STRUCTURE WITH A FALSE DOME COATED WITH SQUARE VOLCANIC BLOCKS.

 

THE LANDSCAPE.

 

THE RAVINES AROUND THE SITE.

 

THE RAVINES AROUND THE SITE.