FROM POMEZIA TO ARICCIA - GENZANO DI ROMA AND NEMI
An excursion to the Castles three towns full of beauty and tradition. All close to a few kilometers from each other.
Depending on whether you arrive in Ariccia (412 m, pop. about 18,000) from Genzano or from Albano, along the Via Appia you first meet, respectively, the seventeenth-century sanctuary of S. Maria di Galloro, with a façade by Bernini, or the historic Ariccia bridge built by Pius IX (1847-54) and rebuilt after the Second World War: from the viaduct, 312m long and almost 60m high, the view sweeps over the Appia and what remains of the wooded valley already admired by Martial and loved by Stendhal. In both cases, the road enters the city, cutting through its most monumental and prestigious place, Piazza della Repubblica* or Corte. It was the Chigis, who bought the castle from the Savellis in 1661, to entrust the design and architecture of the space to Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The palace and the church face each other, separated – as well as from the Appia – by two fountains also in the style of Bernini. For Palazzo Chigi Bernini intervened on the original Palazzo dei Savelli, built in the second half of the 1500s on the remains of the acropolis of Roman Aricia, reconciling the grandiose, turreted castle forms and Baroque residential elegance. In addition to being its own museum and center of cultural activities, the palace is home to the Roman Baroque museum, which exhibits a rich collection of 17th-18th century paintings and sculptures (with works, among others, by Maratta, Salvator Rosa, Pietro da Cortona, Bernini himself) coming mostly from Palazzo Chigi in Rome. On the back opens the park, organized in the 16th century on the remains of the ancient Nemus Arcinus, the wood sacred to Diana which extended to the left of the Via Appia as far as Nemi. Born as a barco, or hunting reserve, the park was then transformed by Bernini and Carlo Fontana into a picturesque garden much admired by travelers on the Grand Tour; there is an aviary built by the Savellis in 1628. The church of S. Maria dell'Assunzione*, round, crowned by a large dome, was entirely designed and completed by Bernini in 1665; inside, the apse is frescoed with an Assumption by Borgognone (about 1666). On the sides, the elegant contemporary Casino del Governatore and Casino del Ministero are connected by an exedra that surrounds the church. From the square, the main via Garibaldi leads to a belvedere overlooking the countryside
Genciano of Rome
The village of the Infiorata (435 m, pop. 24,000) lies fan-shaped on the external south-western slope of the volcanic cone which encloses Lake Nemi, cut by a double trident of straight avenues. From the central Piazza Frasconi, open to a terrace, whose fountain is decorated with vine shoots and tendrils alluding to ancient wine-growing traditions, via Belardi climbs towards the eighteenth-century church of S. Maria della Cima. Not far away, on the left, stands the beautiful facade of Palazzo Sforza-Cesarini, built for successive expansions in the 16th-18th century on the medieval fortified enclosure erected to guard the crater of Nemi; in front there is a large romantic park overlooking the lake. In viale Mazzini No. 12, the «Carlo Levi» municipal library is the fulcrum of the library system and cultural center of the Castelli Romani. A typical local product is the IGP homemade bread, to which a festival is dedicated in September.
An enchanting view of the small green lake of water and banks below it, wild strawberries in the shop windows of the restaurants along the road, flowers, the wood (in Latin, nemus) which today as in ancient times surrounds it and to which owes its name: the environmental framework that Nemi (521 m, pop. 2000 approx) offers to visitors is delightful and it is not surprising that it has earned it the Orange Flag of the Tci. The cylindrical tower stands out over the village around which it was rebuilt in the form of a Renaissance palace – today Palazzo Ruspoli – the castle built by the counts of Tùscolo in the 9th century, when they expanded their dominion on this side of the Colli Albani. From the lower part of the town, an easy walk in about twenty minutes takes you to the hermitage of S. Michele, a rupestrian cult building documented since 1255, with traces of fifteenth-century frescoes. A longer path (about 2 km) descends steeply and with panoramic views to the shores of Lake Nemi (316 m, 1.7 km2 of surface area), which can otherwise be reached by taking the Via del Tempio di Diana. Along the northern shore is the Museum of Roman Ships, established in 1930. Already in the 15th century, two very ornate ships, the 'ships of Nemi', dating back to the time of Caligula, had been identified on the bottom of the lake and explored by Leon Battista Alberti ( 12-41 AD) and presumably used for the emperor's feasts or the ceremonies of the cult of Diana, to whom the lake was sacred. Recovered in 1928, partially emptying the basin by means of the underground effluent channel built by the Romans (still perfectly preserved), they were destroyed in June 1944 in a fire by the retreating Germans. Today the 1:5 scale models can be seen in the museum, together with numerous pieces of the bronze facings of the beams; also exhibited finds from the classical age from the Castelli area and a stretch of the Roman road, rebuilt with the original paving stones, which led to the nearby temple of Diana and Caligula's palace. Starting from the museum, an easy path (CAI 515) about 6 km long goes around the lake.
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