Travel to Vitorchiano

Vitorchiano, the charming village of Tuscia

July 23, 2021 | By

Vitorchiano is an Italian town of 7.126 inhabitants in the province of Viterbo in Lazio.  Vitorchiano is located at the foot of the Cimini mountains, stretching out towards the verdant Vezza valley. The ancient village, known for the activities related to the extraction and processing of peperino, lies on a bench, fractured into enormous boulders, of this stone, with steep slopes overhanging two ditches that converge to form the Rio Acqua Fredda , a tributary of the Vezza.


Vitorchiano is one of the many but pretty villages of Tuscia. The beautiful old town is characterized by the gray color of the peperino and by very suggestive alleys, arches, profferli and squares. Equally suggestive and, at times unexpected, are the viewpoints towards the Fosso Acqua Fredda gorge, a tributary of the Vezza River.

The territory surrounding Vitorchiano is characterized by a hilly landscape, rich in oak forests (especially Turkey oak), ash trees, beech trees (limited to the slopes of the Cimini mountains), elms and chestnut trees, and crossed by streams that are still partly clear. This makes it a favorable habitat for numerous species of wild animals such as foxes, stone martens, weasels, hawks, owls, hares and wild boars. Equally varied is the flora, rich in splendid flowers and wild fruits, as is the luxuriant undergrowth with junipers, ferns, brooms, hollies, butcher’s broom and numerous species of edible mushrooms including the boletus.

The Italian Village of Vitorchiano

The name Vitorchiano comes from Vicus Orclanus, which would reveal an alleged dependence on the center of Norchia (or Orcla) near Vetralla, a sacred place to the Etruscan goddess Norzia.

The cliff of Vitorchiano, as has been ascertained by findings from the end of the last century, was the seat of an inhabited area already in the Bronze Age; the strong position of the settlement here again proposes the story common to most of the countries of southern Etruria, in which a thriving village of the final period of the Bronze Age (11th century BC) preceded its historical development.

Perhaps occupied in Etruscan times, a Roman castrum and then a fortified urban center in the southernmost part of Tuscia Longobardorum, Vitorchiano boasts a centuries-old history influenced for a long time by the expansionist policy of the nearby and powerful Viterbo.

When in 1199 Vitorchiano declared itself free from any link with Viterbo, the village was besieged by the Viterbo militias against which the help of Rome was invoked. In 1201, Vitorchiano was freed from the siege and became a fief of Rome. But the contrasts between Rome and Viterbo continued throughout the mid-thirteenth century.

In 1232, the Viterbesi took possession of the town and devastated it. The Annibaldi fortified the village with new walls that made Vitorchiano practically impregnable, the Vitorchianesi, however, could not bear his rule. After having unsuccessfully begged Rome to free them from the yoke, in 1267 they provided at their own expense to reimburse Giovanni Annibaldi for the costs incurred. When it became clear to the Roman Senate that Vitorchiano was lost due to short-sighted politics, an extraordinary event occurred: the Vitorchianesi made a solemn and formal act of submission to Rome. The Roman Senate at this news named Vitorchiano “Terra Fedelissima all’Urbe”, recognized her extensive tax exemptions, allowed her to add the initials SPQR to her coat of arms, to boast the Capitoline Wolf and to use the motto Sum Vitorclanum castrum membrumque romanum, that is Vitorchiano, castle and part of Rome. The most important privilege was the honor of providing men for the Capitoline guard. They were called “Fedeli di Vitorchiano”. This privilege has been constantly exercised by Vitorchiano from 1267 to the present day. Even today it is possible to admire the Guardia del Campidoglio in the costumes which, according to tradition, were designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti, in the official events of the municipality of Rome.

The city of Rome confers an annual prerogative to Vitorchiano drawn from the municipal taxes which serves to pay the Guard, among whose tasks there is also that of playing the particular Roman trumpets, called clarine, on the occasion of the main official public events, which precisely for this reason are traditionally called “the clarines of Vitorchiano” and in Rome the phrase “playing the clarines” has become proverbial and means to gather the people to fight.

Let’s begin our virtual tour in this lovely medieval village!

The Moai

From Vitorchiano, after crossing the Ponte Nuovo and following Via Teverina for a short distance, you reach the Moai. It is a giant statue, six meters high, in peperino stone, which reproduces the anthropomorphic monoliths of Easter Island “I Moai”. The term “moai” indicated the white race caste that inhabited the Easter Island who made all the Moai present on the island, and it is said that this race held the secret of the stone to make them.

The work was created in Vitorchiano in 1990 by eleven Maori of the Atan family, originally from Rapa Nui, who came to Italy to promote the restoration of their statues. Given the characteristics of the local stone “il peperino” corresponding to the volcanic stone with which the original moai are made, the Chilean team found it easy and direct to reproduce the monument using the same construction techniques with axes and stones.

This statue represents the only Moai sculpture in the world present outside Easter Island. A peculiarity is that the statue was created on the occasion of the television program “In search of the ark”. The original location of the statue was in the center of Piazzale Umberto I, but in 2007 it was moved temporarily to be exhibited for nine months in Villanovaforru in Sardinia on the occasion of the pre-Columbian art exhibition in the “Sa Corona Arrubia” Territory Museum.

An exhibition that reconstructed paths and testimonies on the uses and customs of the people who once inhabited the Andean areas of Chile, Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and Easter Island. In 2008, when she returned to Vitorchiano, she was given the new destination which coincides with the current location on Via Teverina.

From a stylistic point of view, the moai is in effect a faithful reproduction of the originals present on Easter Island. Through deep grooves, the Atan have created a monument with hard, simple and linear features, while the bust of the monolith is barely sculpted.

On the head the moai wears the Pukapo, a sculpted headdress, made up of two blocks of peperino. The large elongated face of the statue is enriched in detail by the well-defined ‘Long Ears’. The navel, markedly underlined, indicates a symbolic ‘center’ in being; the hands with very long and tapered fingers, are compostly adherent to the belly, rather prominent. The thumbs, also long and tapered, are turned slightly upwards.

Monastery of the Trappist nuns

The Trappist nuns are the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance. In 1875 a small group of French nuns arrived in San Vito (Turin) to establish the first female Trappa in Italy. Marked by a history of poverty, dedication and sacrifice, the community went through trials and difficulties. She was transferred in 1898 to Grottaferrata (Rome), to move again in 1957 to Vitorchiano, in a moment of particular vocational turnout.

The growing community was able to respond to the invitation of some Bishops to found new Cistercian communities, both in Italy – in Valserena in 1968 – and then in Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Currently the community of the Vitorchiano Trappist Monastery is made up of 80 nuns from different parts of Italy and the world.

Transferred in 1898 near Rome, in Grottaferrata, it migrated again in 1957 towards the beautiful expanses of Upper Lazio, in Vitorchiano (VT), when the influx of young women and the conditions of the old monastery no longer met the needs of life Cistercian.

The Trappist nuns of Vitorchiano are now known for their jams and marmalades.

Characterized by a great appreciation of the Liturgy, of community life, of self-sacrifice in the available service of work and in asceticism, the community is made up of nuns of all ages, coming from various regions of Italy and also from various countries of the world. The work of which the community lives is mainly agricultural – vineyard, vegetable garden, olive trees, orchards – accompanied by a small artisan development with the production of jams and the dissemination of prints of images and greeting cards.

With fruit they make jams that are also on sale in other Italian trappas and in shops selling typical products. Trappist jams are made with top quality fruit, without preservatives, pectin or dyes but only with fruit and sugar, recalling ancient local recipes: 25 different flavors of jams, including black cherries, cherries, currants, peaches, chestnuts, apricots , citrus fruits, plums, oranges, blueberries, strawberries, berries, quinces and green tomatoes!

Selva di Malano

The so-called Selva di Malano and the contiguous localities Sterpeta and Poggiarello constitute the easternmost part of the Vitorchiano territory, located at the extreme offshoots of the Cimini. Here are preserved many remains of villages and necropolis of the Roman Etruscan period.

Located between the plateaus of Montecasoli and Corviano, the Selva di Malano seems to have been a real sacred center since ancient times. The non-inhabited nature of the numerous archaeological evidences suggests in fact a use of the site in a religious mystical key.

At the center of the forest, the so-called “Sasso del Pedicatore” emerges which has a tiered structure carved into the stone, and a few steps away stands, almost in contrast, the square mass of the “Sasso Quadro”, a cubic structure, probably a sepulcher of ‘Roman times.

Continuing, we find other structures carved into the rock up to the remains of the Monastery of San Nicolao. Above, in a dominated position, we find other built structures, among which we can see numerous tanks whose use remains enigmatic.

The Selva di Malano, located at the extreme offshoots of the Cimini Mountains, is placed between the municipalities of Vitorchiano, Bomarzo and Soriano, preserves rock sites of settlements from the Etruscan-Roman period and the early medieval period and suggestive landscapes immersed in unspoiled nature, rich in history and wild scents.

The Selva di Malano is located in a historical naturalistic context of rare beauty. The dense woods that descend from the Cimini mountains to the Tiber Valley hide precious archaeological and naturalistic treasures.

In the last stretch, it is possible to explore the rocky outcrops on the right to discover some tanks dug in succession into the rock, perhaps used as pestarole for pressing the grapes and collecting the must, or as canapine, i.e. tanks for maceration and hemp processing.

Monti Casoli Nature Reserve

The Monte Casoli di Bomarzo Nature Reserve currently covers 285 hectares (it is planned to expand to over 700 hectares), entirely included in the municipality of Bomarzo.

The Managing Body is the Province of Viterbo which, in collaboration with the Municipality of Bomarzo, manages the purposes of guaranteeing and promoting the conservation and enhancement of the territory and the natural and cultural resources of the area, protecting and recovering natural habitats, conserving animal and plant species, promoting the economic and social development of the local communities concerned and enhancing the natural resources for educational and recreational purposes.

Bomarzo, one of the most evocative centers of Tuscia, is located between the extreme north-eastern slopes of the Cimini Mountains and the wide Tiber valley, in an area where even today the environment and nature are on a human scale.

The landscape of the protected area, strongly influenced by the geological characteristics of the area, presents itself as an alternation of wooded areas, plateaus once kept for grazing, areas intended for cultivation and more or less deep valleys.

But in addition to the naturalistic aspect, the whole area has a considerable value from the historical-archaeological point of view.

The area, in fact, is rich in testimonies of the past, remains of settlements from the Etruscan, Roman and medieval periods, which are still today the object of study and research campaigns by important Italian and foreign universities.

Cinque Sensi Park

Cinque Sensi Park in Vitorchiano is one of the most suggestive trips in the Viterbo area for children.

Here, there are all the ingredients to spend a unique family experience, to spend quality time with children and to rediscover the primordial soul that is hidden, more or less deeply, in each of us.

The Cinque Sensi Park, currently present in Lazio, is one of the most innovative natural amusement parks in Italy, since all the attractions are inspired by mother nature. The Artisans of the Senses, the barefoot park staff, care about the happiness of young and old guests and for this they have dusted off many games, creative activities and very simple but incredibly engaging sports and educational manuals to do all together.

All the materials used in the Cinque Sensi Park are totally natural and every single area of activity is an intense reminder of the earth, to raise awareness of a forgotten lifestyle, but very current and intensely beneficial and stimulating.

The Cinque Sensi Park barefoot with its dry and wet ground pools, the sensory path full of surprises all to be smelled, touched and walked on, the fun and incomparable bread with a stick to be cooked on the brazier on the ground are the gifts we want to leave to our little big guests to enhance the pleasure of being together and give emotions and sensations to take away with them and make them a treasure trove of experiences not to be forgotten.

From earth to pinecones, from dry to wet tubs, a riot of materials to touch, smell and step on. Touch awakens in the company of smell. Perfumes and smells to be distinguished, making the sight rest for a moment, the sense that we certainly stimulate more to the detriment of others.

The Cinque Sensi Park is located about an hour from Rome, and just over 10 minutes from Viterbo.

The sensory path, about 700 meters long, is suitable for all ages and lasts about an hour.

Statue of Marzio

Located in Piazza Umberto I, just outside the walls that mark the entrance to the city center of Vitorchiano, the statue dedicated to Marzio welcomes visitors.

The statue symbolically evokes one of the most important elements in the history of Vitorchiano. Legend has it that Marzio, a young local shepherd, was sent by the Vitorchianesi to Rome to warn the Roman Senate of the threatening arrival of an Etruscan army on the city.

During his run he got a thorn in his foot, but despite this misfortune he managed to inform the senators.

Marzio died shortly after his arrival in Rome, while the Romans managed to prepare for the defense and repelled the Etruscans, saving Rome. To honor the virtue of the little shepherd, the Romans celebrated him with a bronze statue, the Spinario.

Again according to legend, this episode was the premise that led to the “Fidelato” pact that still links Vitorchiano with the capital.In honor of this fact, a bronze statue was built, called Spinario, which today can be seen inside the Palazzo dei Conservatori in the Campidoglio.

It seems that it was precisely this event that led to the indissoluble pact of fidelity that unites Vitorchiano and Rome.

Luigi Fondi, author of the statue, by telling the story of the sculpture identifies himself with the character of the work for the perseverance and tenacity he lavished on the creation, a race that lasted 38 years to finally see his work in the place where he wanted and where it deserves.

Marzio is also the metaphor of strength and sacrifice that a young person must face in order to emerge in the working life of today’s world.

Porta Romana

Porta Romana is the main door that leads into the castle and is so called because it faces south, towards Rome.

The construction of the tower that overlooks the gate and the entire walls date back to the 13th century. It is quadrilateral, all in peperino stones with an arch with large worked ashlars of remarkable beauty.

The tower has been restored several times because over time it has had to suffer the impact of the attacks and various and deep lacerations; the last restoration dates back to 1625 as shown, in Roman figures, at the base of the arch.

It is equipped with bertesche and cataracts and forked, swallowtail (Ghibelline) merlons complete with barbicans form a crown.

Above the arch there is a coat of arms identical to that of Rome with the letters S.P.Q.R.

In ancient times, the entrance to the village had to take place via a drawbridge, as suggested by the moat that separates the walls from the surrounding land, now filled in the section facing the entrance.

Entering you are in the small Piazza della Trinità which connects to Piazza Roma via the long Via Arringa.

The door is dug inside a quadrilateral tower, which is part of the town’s ancient city walls. The medieval fortification extends for about 250 meters on the southern side of Vitorchiano.

It is made up of quadrilateral towers in peperino, bounded to the east and west by circular towers. The walls, made up of Ghibelline (“dovetail”) battlements with barbicans and slits, have been restored several times over the centuries.

Through the Porta Romana, whose arch is surmounted by a coat of arms with the inscription S.P.Q.R., you enter Piazza della Trinità, where the church of the same name is located.

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