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  • Matt Balogh

Around Mazzano Romano

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Spend a week in the wonderful apartments of Il Patio and Il Terrazzo

The area around Mazzano Romano has been inhabited continuously since stone age times. Surrounded by the Treja national park, one can easily find hand-dug caves dating back 3,500 years. Like almost all medieval towns in Italy, there is an old hilltop Borgo, comprising the walled and gated medieval village, plus a more recent modern town outside the walls. It is likely that the foundations of the Borgo itself comprise pre-Roman Faliscan stone work. However the first historical mention of the town appears to be in 945 AD, as part of the Estate of Pope Adrian. The central part of the old town likely dates from around 1100 AD, with the outer parts variously constructed in the early 1500s.

A small museum in Mazzano (Piazza Giovanno XXIII), usually open Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings (entry €3) comprises two rooms that take you through the history of the Treja area and the Faliscan people from stone age until the Roman Empire. The museum features a model of the Faliscan temple and a large collection of terracotta masks in pristine condition recently found in the corners of the Temple. There purpose remains a mystery to this day. The museum also displays artifacts such as sophisticated door locks that are 2,500 years old.


The only commercial establishment in the Borgo is a cooking school www.fabiolouscookingday.com, comprising the regional campus of a set of cooking schools in Rome. Classes are in Italian or English.




The new church of St Nicholas of Bari, was constructed in Piazza Giovanni XXIII featuring the historically interesting depiction of Mazzano's resistance during WWII.

The original Church of San Nicola in the Antisa was struck by lightning in 1933, and was demolished in 1940 due to safety concerns. The altar area remains, overlooking the small carpark of the Borgo.

There is also the medieval chapel of San Sebastiano, consecrated in 1465, recognised for its detailed frescoes, which were restored in 1997.


There are a number of festivals in Mazzano during the course of the year, most particularly the Giostra della Contrade, a historical re-enactment of a dispute between families to control the town in the year 1526.

These games are scheduled for the 15th-17th September 2023.

Starting with an extensive parade, the festival features a weekend of competitions such as archery, tug of war, and walking with vases on ones head. The festival ends with street party in the car park, with live performers, food and drink. If you are staying at Il Patio or Il Terrazzo, you are one of the few true members of the Li Santi team - defined by being in the houses on the right-hand side of Via del Salvatore.

Other festivals are St Nicholas, the local patron saint, and Christmas markets. At various times, cantinas (cellars) turn into shops and bars.

Surrounded by national park, there are many villages and castles that can be accessed using well developed bush paths or by car, all of a similar medieval vintage.

Cascare


Walking

From Piazza Umberto 1, every road out of the square (other than the one going back up and out), takes you to a variety of stunning bush hikes, ranging from 20 minutes to many hours. There are maps available at various points, and you can download a map app Veio Park.

On these paths you will find picnic areas, water falls, and encounter other friendly walkers. Not far away you will find the remains of a Faliscan temple dating from around 200 BC, as well as dozens of Faliscan caves. The paths of the Treja valley can be explored for days. Many of the paths are also used for horse riding and mountain biking.


More information can be found at: www.parks.it/parco.valle.treja/Eindex.php


Strong grippy walking boots are essential, and walking sticks recommended.


Cascate di Monte Gelato (meaning frozen mountain) is a pleasant 1 hour walk away, or about 5 minutes by car. the series of waterfalls have featured in many movies, and there is also a fully restored medieval water mill.

There is a restaurant, La Vecchia Mola, that is open some weekends. There are a wide range of self-guided or led bush walks. Just one example of the guided walks is the Opera di Bosco, featuring artworks created out of the natural rocks and flora of the Treja valley. You will also see bronze age caves dating from around 3,500 BC, and plenty of Etruscan tombs dating from the 2nd century BC.

See https://www.operabosco.eu/ for information about guided or self-guided walks in English or Italian.

Walk the spectacular route from Mazzano to the abandoned monastry of S.Maria, where you will also find picnic tables and views of Calcata.




Sagras and festivals

Every village in Italy has a festival once or several times a year. It is well worth researching all the festivals in the areas of your travels. The main ones in Mazzano are:


  • Giostre del Contrade, three days of games, food and wine - sometime between June and September each year.

  • St Antonio - around 17th January each year there is bonfire, food and blessing of the animals - the party can last all week.

  • St Nichola di Bari, a parade each September

  • There is also a medieval festival in nearby Civita Castellana in September.

  • Chocofest in nearby Capraola each October.

  • Christmas markets in the Borgo the weekend before Christmas


More festivals are listed at:


Calcata (walking: 1 hr, Car or bus 5 mins Parking is about 1 km up the hill)

World famous for its stunning appearance and hippy community, the Treja park is enjoyed by people doing the one hour walk to or from Calcata. Calcata has many small restaurants and bars, a few art shops and a number of shops selling home-made jewellery.

The church of Santissimo Nome di Gesù, dating from the 14th century, once claimed to house the foreskin of Jesus, before the Vatican said ‘we’ll have none of that nonsense’. There are regular art and theatrical performances in Calcata on weekends, as well as an annual chess competition. There is no mobile phone coverage in Calcata.


Faleria (Walking 1hr 15 mins, Car 7 mins)

The Commune of Faleria is adjacent to Calcata, and can be reached by car in just 2 minutes from Calcata. There is a castle in Faleria that is currently being renovated and expected to re-open in a year or two. Worth checking out.


Civita Castellana (Walking: 1.5 hr, Car or bus 15 mins)

The old part of Civita Castellana has a charming main square with bars and a restaurant (I think), a small museum, and the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Maggiore with a large and interesting crypt. A feature of Santa Maria Maggiore and the town is the re-use of Roman remains in mosaics and in walls. There is also a well reputed museum.

Civita also has a medieval festival every year, featuring a parade and a variety of games, including a version of jousting. The new part of Civita Castellana features a large Co-op supermarket and a very large convenience store.


Lago di Bracciano, Bracciano & castle, Anguilara Sabazia & Trevignano

(Car, 18 mins)

Lake Bracciano is a large and particularly clean lake, with no motor boats allowed on it, as it is a key water supply for Rome (although there is a ferry across the lake). There are many private beaches operating in the summer, meaning that you pay by the day (around €10, or you can get a season pass). Private beaches means that there are deck chairs or table and chairs, and there is usually a small bar. Anguilara is a water-side town with free beach and a great Gelato bar, as well a other bars and restaurants. Anguillara also hosts a number of festivals through the year, as well as Christmas markets. The closest of the three lakeside towns to Mazzano is Trevignano with an evening vibe for a passeggiata on weekends, and great water-side restaurants. Bracciano features a very large amazing castle (entry €10) which has very few visitors, suits of armour and furnished rooms. Once the castle of the Orsini noble family, more recently it hosted the wedding of Tom Cruise & Katie. An audio guide can help, as the labels are sparse. Check the opening hours, which can be variable. Allow a half-day for a circumnavigation of the lake with stops at the three towns.


Matteo Truffles experience (Car: 55 mins)

One of the highlights of the area, just East of Bracciano, book into this well-organised truffle hunt small group event, followed by a 7 course truffle degustation. Conducted in English and Italian, allow most of a day and lots of appetite. see www.matteo-truffles.com.




Lago di Vico (Car: 39 mins)

Slightly further afield, Lago di Vico has only a holiday resort with a bar and activities, but is a spectacular sight, particularly at sunset.


Nepi (Walking: 1.5 hr, Car:18 mins)

This walled town features the now mostly collapsed castle of the Borgias, which can be visited on weekends (around €5), as well as a museum, the beautiful duomo of Santa Maria Assunta and its spooky 11th century crypt. Park in the lower car park and walk up the stairs through the enormous walls to reach the centro storico. There is also a great pizzetta and suppli store, with interesting vegetable dishes. For some reason, Nepi has great mobile phone coverage.


Castel Sant'Elia (Walking 3 hrs, Car: 25 mins)

Another hilltop town, which overlooks the Basilica of Sant Elia, dating back to the 8th century. There are frescoes dating to the 11th & 12 centuries. There is a small entrance fee for foreigners.


Caprarola and the Palazzo Farnese (Car: 34 mins)

A cute town, Caprarola hosts a chocofest each September. It also features the octagonal Farnese palace and huge gardens – allow an hour or two to explore.







Sant'Oreste & Bunkers of Monte Soratte (Car: 36 mins)

Monte Soratte is a very big hill that can be seen for tens of kilometres around – such as from the roundabout in Mazzano. The town of Sant.Oreste is definitely worth exploring, with beautiful lane ways and stunning views.


Just outside Sant Oreste are the extraordinary Bunkers of Monte Soratte comprising many kilometres of world war 2 bomb shelter, and a 1960s nuclear shelter. Only open on Sunday, you must book into a tour online (€10) selected from www.bunkersoratte.it.The tours are terrific and take over 2 hours. Bookings are made by email to prenotazini@bunkersoratte.it Most tours are in Italian, but there are sometimes English tours, or you can request an English tour, if you pay for a minimum of 10 people ((€100) – but worth doing for 2 or more people, as the tour is so fascinating. Ensure arrival 30 minutes before the tour to find parking and walk the last part of the way.


Vallelunga motor sports (Car, 10 mins)

Occasionally from Mazzano, you can hear cars practicing at the Vallelunga racing track, about 4 kms away. Check the program at www.track-days.it/shop/autodromo-vallelunga.


Viterbo (Car, 40 mins)

Viterbo is a mini-Rome, a walled city with vibrant shops, restaurants and bars. While Viterbo is slightly further away than Rome, there is plenty of parking. While this city of around 70,000 people dates back to Etruscan times, in the early medieval period (1100-1300) it was one of the most important cities in Europe with up to 50 castles under its control. The Museo Nazional Etrusco (Etruscan museum) in Piazza della Rocca features the only remains of an Etruscan chariot, dating back to around 300 BC.


Sutri (Car 30 mins)

Sutri overlooks the main road of the Cassia, which goes from Rome to Viterbo. There is a Roman amphitheatre, Etruscan necropolis and many Etruscan tombs clearly visible as one drives through. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta features an interesting crypt and 13th century frescoes.

Sutri also has a set of intereresting antique stores, Il Mercante in Fiera.


Bolsena (Car: 1.5 hrs)

Bolsena is a tad beyond Viterbo from Mazzano, but worth the visit for spectacular views of the valley and lake.


Terme dei Papi (Car: 45 mins)

For total luxury pampering, the thermal baths Terme del Papi offer a range of indulgences that can be enjoyed for a few hours or even days, including several swimming pools, salt caves and a luxury hotel and restaurant. See https://termedeipapi.it/en/home-en/ for packages.

The International-style facilities mean that reception staff speak English. Bring swimmers, bathrobe and slippers.


Civita di Bagno Reggio (car 1.5 hrs)

In the region of Viterbo, no one should miss the disappearing town of Bagno Reggio, famous for its decaying clay surrounds, is soars above the surrounding countryside, and is only reached by means of a long footbridge.


Rome (Car, train, 56 mins; bus train 1 hr 10 mins, walking 7 hours on the Via Francigena)

You can do a day trip to Rome,

One can travel between Mazzano and Rome by car, combination of car and train, or bus and train. There are buses that leave from near the Mazzano roundabout and go to Saxa Rubra interchange (about 40 mins), where a small train goes to Flaminia station near Piazza del Popolo (about 10 mins). Alternatively one can drive to Saxa Rubra. An alternative way to travel to Rome is to drive to Cesano (15 - 20 min drive), and from there catch a very modern country train that goes to various stations including Trastevere and Valle Aurelia. At Valle Aurelia you can change to the metropolitana. Alternatively, an overnight or two night trip to Rome works very well, taking just small baggage makes it much easier to get about. Rome is hot and full of tourists from June to mid September, so other times of year are recommended.


Tivoli Gardens (Car 1 hr 5 mins)

Villa d'Este gardens, featuring 500 fountains, were built in the 16th century near the town of Tivoli. The xx fountains are now a UNESCO world heritage site. To the south of Rome, but easily reached from Mazzano Romano by virtue of the Grande Raccordo Annulare (GRA), the ring-road around Rome. It may be necessary to book tickets in advance.


Castel Gandolfo (Car: 1 hr 10 mins)

Also south of Rome, Castal Gandolfo is a pretty town with stunning views over lake Albano, which can be appreciated from the many restaurants that over look the view. There is also the summer papal palace, where one can view the Pope's private apartment and have a bus tour of the enormous gardens. If going to Castel Gandolfo, one must stop at Ariccia for the famous Porchetta.


San Gimignano (Car, 3 hrs)

On the way to Florence, and not far from Siena, its origins date back to Etruscan times, but now mostly features 13th to 15th century architecture, in particular 72 towers and tower houses.


Siena (car: 2.5 hours)

Siena was one of the most important cities in medieval Europe, and its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The University of Siena, originally called Studium Senese, was founded in 1240, making it one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world. Sienna is particularly known for its annual horse race, referred to the Contrade di Siena, it is in fact part of a medieval re-enactment.


Florence (Car: 3hrs )

Easily reached by car for a 2 or 3 day visit from Mazzano.

and so much, so much more!


It would takes years to explore Tuscany and Lazio, and a lifetime to even scratch the surface of the marvels of Italy.




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2 Comments


edney2
Jan 15, 2023

Matt paints a glorious picture of Mazzano and its surrounding, but to experience it for yourself is a gift of a lifetime. Matt has done the hard work for you, now you can follow in his footsteps!

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ilona.tar
Jan 15, 2023

I feel completely immersed in the region through these photos and comprehensive descriptions and travel guide.

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