Soriano nel Cimino is a small medieval village of 8.174 inhabitants in the province of Viterbo in Lazio region. It is the largest municipality in the Monti Cimini area, as well as being one of the most populous in the province of Viterbo.
The oldest part consists of small houses and slope alleys overlooking large expanses of chestnut trees.
The origin of Soriano nel Cimino seems to have to be connected with that ancient Surrina or Surrina Vetus, erected here by the Etruscans (if not downright by the Phoenicians) and which the Romans demolished.
The town of Soriano nel Cimino was conquered in 310 BC and the name of the Roman leader who conquered it wad Quinto Fabio Rulliano.
The village of Soriano nel Cimino later revived, but no longer gave direct news until the Middle Ages.
The population of Soriano nel Cimino converted to Christianity around the second half of the third century AD, thanks to the evangelizing work of Sant’Eutizio di Ferento (who was buried here after the martyrdom).
Soriano nel Cimino is of Etruscan and is considered one of the most interesting holiday centers of Tuscia.
The village is immersed in a territory whose vegetation is very rich, there are large wooded expanses rich in beech, oak and chestnut trees.
There are finds that testify to the presence of inhabited centers since prehistoric times. In the past it was dominated first by the Etruscans and later by the Romans.
Around 1000 it belonged to the Benedictine monks of S. Silvestro, to then pass to the Guastapane and Pandolfi later, accused of heresy, to the nephew of Pope Niccolò III Orso Orsini who built the entire castle (1277-1279).
Soriano nel Cimino was a possession of the Orsolini, then of the Colonna and after various events it ended, in the XVIII century under the rule of the Albani. In 1848 the territory was ceded to the Papal States.
Let’s start our virtual tour in this enchanting gem of Lazio region!
Faggeta del Cimino
Roman historians have left us several testimonies on the stages of conquest of the Etruscan territory by the Roman legions: the story of Tito Livio about the impenetrability of “Silva Cimina”, the forest that covered the volcanic slopes of the Cimini Mountains and very suggestive who stopped the legions of Quinto Fabio Rulliano for a long time at the end of the fourth century BC.
Much of the centuries-old woods that covered these hills has been preserved today, helping to enrich the forest heritage of Viterbo’s Tuscia.
The appearance of the Faggeta with its large rounded boulders is linked to the volcanic activity of one million three hundred and fifty thousand years ago.
The active period of the Cimini volcanoes left the “peperino typical of Viterbo” in the valleys, used since ancient times for construction, still cultivated today in numerous open-air quarries near Vitorchiano.
The visible volcanic formation visible in the Faggeta are the “domi” clusters of very viscous magma which appear as small conical heights with large rounded boulders on the top.
The Beech forest of Monte Cimino, about 60 hectares covered by a beech forest whose thick mantle often prevents the growth of shrubs, represents a Biotope of great naturalistic value.
The little sunlight that manages to penetrate the thick crown of beech trees allows a considerable number of bushes that in the spring with their splendid flowers cover the undergrowth with colors and life.
From 1053 meters at the top, the beech forest (Fagus sylvatica), descending between 950 and 600 meters, mixes with chestnuts, Turkey oaks, black and white hornbeams, and Monte Palanzana (802 meters) covers a dense mantle, Monte Fogliano (965 meters).
The richness of the flora and the defense of the environment has favored the presence of wild animals.
Among the mammals protected by hunting, the hare, the wild boar, the hedgehog, the dormouse and the shy wild cat lives.
In the beech woods, you hear the hammering of the green and red peaks and you can observe the silent flight of several small diurnal birds of prey, adapted to the fast hunting among the trees such as the sparrow hawk and the goshawk.
In Faggeta del Cimino, the buzzard nests and in the volcanic rock walls the kestrel, with nocturnal birds of prey, the common owl, the scops owl, the barn owl, the owl and the tawny owl.
In Faggeta, there is a large ovoid boulder that has stood in the balance, for centuries, on a narrow support base, called “sasso menicante” (or “naticarello”)
It is sufficient to pry with a stick to make it swing significantly.
Already Pliny the Elder called it a “miracle of nature”, while for Varro it was “totius mundi portentum”.
Orsini Castle is a defensive structure located in the municipality of Soriano nel Cimino in the province of Viterbo. Built starting from the thirteenth century, it has been expanded and modified over the centuries, reaching the present day in good condition.
Located on the top of the hill on which the built-up area of Soriano nel Cimino stands, on the north-eastern side of Mount Cimino, the Orsini Castle, characterized by severe and majestic architecture, dominates the medieval village and historic center of the town.
The first nucleus of the castle was built at the beginning of the thirteenth century, when, on the ruins of a previous construction, the ruin of a small castle erected around the year 1000, a tower-palace was built, about 35 meters high, on the part of the Guastapane-Pandolfo, probably a branch of the Roman Porcari family.
The tower, which still exists, then became the male of the larger castle built around it by Pope Niccolò III Orsini between 1277 and 1278; the pontiff, who loved the city very much, strongly wanted this construction, in which he died two years later.
The formwork, in the shape of a massive parallelepiped, is attached to the oldest tower and connected to it, to the north, by a wall delimited by a cylindrical tower and to the south with a minor arm. The whole complex is entirely surrounded by a patrol path that winds upwards in an anticlockwise direction and ends with a tower, the original access to the castle and is delimited by a wall and surmounted by Guelph battlements.
In 1848, when Soriano was ceded to the Papal States, the castle was abandoned by the nobility and adapted to a prison structure: it was first a prison of the Holy See and then, since 1871, of the Italian State.
It is used as a prison, as a working house, until the end of the eighties: in 1989 it is definitively closed.
After the closure of the prison, the complex underwent several vicissitudes. Today it is open to the public every Saturday and Sunday and is home to permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Restored several times over the centuries, the building complex underwent significant transformations and additions in the Renaissance and, in recent times, various disfigurements and tampering due to its use as a prison. Paradoxically this allowed the perfect external conservation of the structure due to the continuous maintenance works supported by the Ministry of Grace and Justice.
It is currently a splendid architectural structure that dominates the town of Soriano nel Cimino.
Natural Monument of Corviano
In the extreme eastern sector of the Vitorchiano territory, close to the territory of the Municipality of Soriano nel Cimino, and the Municipality of Bomarzo, one of the areas with the greatest amount of archaeological emergencies develops: the Corviano settlement. Located on a wooded plateau of volcanic rock that protrudes like a wedge between the valleys of two small streams (flowing into the Vezza stream), bordered by high rocky and picturesque overhangs.
The area, which extends for about 70 hectares, is extremely peculiar both from a naturalistic point of view and for archaeological emergencies. The site is located on a plateau of peperino typical of the Tuscia landscape, which for its strategic characteristics and for its easy defense, has been occupied since the early Middle Ages. From a naturalistic point of view, it is characterized by a high biodiversity, that is, a very high number of living species concentrated in small surfaces.
The Corviano site, also called “Corviano Natural Monument” brings its visitors to live an experience in close contact with nature, history and archeology, blended together harmoniously.
The place was constantly frequented over time, the archaeological evidence is manifold and stratified, starting from the suggestive houses carved into the rock close to the deep cliff, accessible through stairways carved in stone or in other cases inaccessible, as in the past, if not through runners or ladders that were withdrawn inside to defend themselves and prevent entry to strangers.
Continuing, you come across the ruins of a high medieval church surrounded by man-shaped tombs and sarcophagi, until you get to an almost enchanted scenery, offered by the body of water and the waterfall overlooked by the ruins of an ancient mill medieval.
Corviano, still today, defends and maintains its integrity and its archaic spirit intact, which must continue to be protected together with the dense woods that surround it.
Powered by its own source, La Fonte Papacqua or Regina delle Acque, is a clear example of the Italian mannerism of the sixteenth century. The source is made up of two sculptural groups carved directly from the rock.
The central group represents a gigantic female figure with goat feet and a satyr on his shoulders, surrounded by figures of children and a flock of sheep, with a monumental bust of the God Pan and a young bagpiper on the left.
Along the perimeter of one of the two complexes of the Chigi-Albani palace on which the fountain develops, the Moses is suggestive that makes water flow from a rock that some followers are preparing to drink.
Finally, from the nymphaeum enclosed in the adjacent cave, the water gushes out like a small waterfall placed at the foot of the slope on which the palace stands.
The sculptures of the Papacqua fountain date back to the second half of the sixteenth century: the architect Ottaviano Schiratti and the sculptor Giovanni Bricciano da Fiesole were responsible for the construction of the fountain. The figures have an allegorical meaning linked to the water of good and evil.
Moses is represented as he strikes with a stick the boulder from which the water gushes out to quench a crowd of pleading Jews. There is a gigantic faun with goat’s feet holding three little ones threatened by a satyr.
Then there is a shepherd who grazes the flock playing the flute, and a gigantic Pan who, waving a rod, rips the earth.
Finally, there are four statues representing the seasons. Recently, the sculptural group has been restored and made available to the public again, but there is still much to do.
The Church of San Nicola di Bari
The Church of San Nicola di Bari is the parish church of Soriano nel Cimino.
The Church stands on the main square of Soriano. It was built in neoclassical style at the end of the eighteenth century on a project by Giulio Camporese, replacing the parish church of Sant’Eutizio which, due to the small size, was insufficient to accommodate the number of faithful.
At the time of its construction, two pre-existing religious buildings were demolished, and ground leveling works were carried out.
Built in neoclassical style between 1782 and 1791 on a project by the architect Giulio Camporese, it was built following the insufficient size of the previous parish seat, the church of Sant’Eutizio. Its construction involved the destruction of two pre-existing churches and substantial leveling works of the steep terrain.
The facade with the two lateral bell towers is entirely in exposed brick and is divided into two orders, separated by a cornice: the lower one in the Doric style and the upper one in the Ionic style.
The interior has a Greek cross with three naves and a decorated dome.
There is a statue of Saint Anthony of Padua in the Gothic style and a baptismal font from the Renaissance period.
Noteworthy are the choir, covered in two tiers of walnut, the apse with the basin and the high altar, raised and covered with colored marble. Among the most important works that the Church preserves, we can remember an ancient marble statue depicting Sant’Antonio Abate, a baptismal font of Renaissance forms and a beautiful fifteenth-century triptych with the blessing San Salvatore (currently kept in the rectory).
The Church of Sant’Eutizio
The medieval Church of Sant’Eutizio, built on the remains of a previous Romanesque structure, is located a short distance from the Cathedral of San Nicola di Bari and the Orsini Castle.
The church, located in the homonymous and adjacent hamlet of Soriano nel Cimino, has very ancient origins. In the area there was initially an early Christian sanctuary which collapsed completely during the 1400s.
However, in 1496, the church was rebuilt and around 1740, by the Alban princes, the building was given its current appearance, leaving out the small modernization works carried out in 1959.
From the outside, the church appears very simple and linear without particular architectural elements. The main entrance is characterized by a wooden door surmounted by a mullioned window, marked by two openings, divided by a column on which two arches rest.
The interior of the church has an octagonal shape and is characterized by the presence of an elevated altar above the crypt in which the bones of Saint Eutizio are still contained inside a marble sepulcher.
The main altar is made of marble and is supported by colorful marble columns. Under the altar, it is possible to see a sculpture representing the sacrificial figure of the Lamb of God. In the background, a crucifix and a marble frame with the image of Saint Eutizio inside showing martyrdom.
In the church, the symbol of the Chigi family is repeated several times in support of the substantial interventions made by the princes in the 1700s. Some of the sacred works are recent while in the choir chapel there is an eighteenth-century oval-shaped image depicting the Madonna with the child. In many of the paintings is depicted Saint Paul of the Cross, the one who built the sanctuary and led the Passionist Fathers since 1744.
Adjacent to the church there is a high bell tower with mullioned windows on two levels and mullioned windows on the last level.
The recent plastering still allows us to recognize and see the ancient Romanesque origins.
The Chestnut Festival
The Chestnut Festival is the par excellence event of Soriano: it takes place in the first two weeks of October and for the occasion the town comes alive with events such as the famous Historical Reenactment.
It is not a simple food and wine event dedicated to chestnuts, but a truly evocative historical re-enactment. A party that has a long tradition behind it, established by the Community Council at the end of the fifteenth century in memory of the tragic events that took place in Soriano on November 7, 1489, with the attempt to conquer the Castle of Soriano by the lord of Viganello Pier Paolo Nardini and the bloody battle of the Fosso del Buon Incontro, where the Sorianese defeated the invaders.
Obviously, the chestnut is the undisputed protagonist, the main ingredient of many specialties all to be enjoyed in the typical taverns of the village.
Soriano nel Cimino, for this occasion, will be divided into 4 districts (Papacqua, Rocca, Trinità, San Giorgio) that will compete for prizes and honors by confronting each other in the decorations of the streets, in the preparation of the historical re-enactments and above all in the challenge for the conquest of the coveted Palio which sees the Armigeri engaged in the skillful Trial of the Archers and the Knights in the spectacular Giostra degli Anelli.
Other very popular festivals are those of wild boar (end of June) and strozzapreti (end of July), which celebrates a typical dish served with excellent sauces.
Among the religious events that cannot be missed and must see in Soriano nel Cimino, we find the solemn procession for the Feast of Sant’Eutizio in mid-May: the shots of the “Dark Barrels” are followed by the transport of the statue of the Saint.
The celebrations include musical performances, dog racing, equestrian and much more.