Calcata is an Italian town of 921 inhabitants in the province of Viterbo in Lazio.
The origins of Calcata, whose very toponym remains an etymological enigma, are lost in the mists of time. Certainly inhabited in the prehistoric era, the area became an important outpost of the Faliscan civilization in pre-Roman times. A civilization that is culturally similar but not comparable to the Etruscan one and perhaps even older. This spread throughout Tiberian Tuscia from the eighth century BC. As evidence of this dark period, countless remains remain scattered around Calcata. Among these stand out the few ruins of the city of Narce, located on the tuff spur opposite to Calcata and at whose feet stands a Faliscan temple, and the Necropolis of Pizzo Piede, located on a vast plateau from which splendid panoramas open towards Mount Soratte and the Tiber Valley.
After a very long solitude, from the 30s of the twentieth century the town began to become depopulated due to the frequent collapses of the fragile tuff cliff. This, at least, until the years immediately following the war, when the village was saved from demolition. A fortuitous bureaucratic quibble, in fact, gave us the opportunity to admire this splendid village even today.
In the meantime, however, the citizen of Calcata moved about 2 km away, building a small modern center (Calcata Nuova).
A territory, the one marked by the Treja River which, for its exceptional nature for more than twenty years, is partially protected by the Valle del Treja Regional Park, established to protect a unique environment in Italy both for its landscape and for its strictly naturalistic.
But surprises don’t end here. Legends and mysteries have always traced the history of the small village of Calcata Vecchia.
Let’s start our tour in mysterious and amazing Calcata!
The Treja Park and the Opera Bosco Museum
An almost unknown river, a right tributary of the Tiber. A shady and green landscape, where the waters have dug deep and branched ravines in volcanic tuffs. Animal presence widespread but discreet, often denounced only by signs caught by those who know how to interpret them: the porcupines of the porcupine, the imprint of the wild boar, the acute and interrogative call of the buzzard. And then the towns of Calcata and Mazzano Romano, two microcosms to tiptoe on. A singular protected area, in the varied panorama of the parks of Lazio.
The Treja is a modest stream that rises from the Sabatini mountains to flow into the Tiber at the height of Civita Castellana. There are about 30 km of route in which it crosses a largely cultivated countryside, but the waters over time have created a still wild world: it is that of the ravines, dug in the tender tuffs of the ancient Sabatino volcano.
The Treja Valley is a perfectly preserved small natural treasure. Ideal for a picnic in the spring and summer months or for walks in the woods in autumn. The waterfalls of Monte Gelato are very scenic, used over the years as sets for famous films and advertisements. Don’t miss a tour of the Opera Bosco Museum, created by the artists Anne Demijttenaere and Costantino Morosin.
An itinerary of two hectares of forest with forty works made of natural materials and perfectly integrated into nature.
The Church of the S.S. Name of Jesus and the Holy Foreskin of Jesus
Those who do not know its history ignore the importance that this small church has had for the Christian religion. Moreover, even the small and graceful church does not give the impression of being such a fundamental place: built in 1300 and renovated in 1793 it has a single nave with a trussed ceiling, a baptismal font, a stoup from the 16th century and a wall tabernacle.
Nothing else. Behind the altar there is a series of paintings representing stories of Christ. And it is here that the history of Calcata intersects with that of the Christian religion: according to a legend, in 1527 a lansquen was arrested who had participated in the “Sack of Rome” and stolen the Holy Foreskin of Jesus from the Sancta sanctorum of San Giovanni in Laterano .
In 1557, the relic was found in the cell and exhibited in this church: pilgrims who visited this place were given 10 years of indulgence.
The church of Rome has never looked favorably on these practices, deeming them offensive, but popular devotion has always been prevalent. In 1900 the Church forbade anyone to write or speak about the Holy Foreskin, under penalty of excommunication and the stigma of “person to avoid”.
In 1993 the reliquary with the Holy Foreskin and some jewels was stolen and never found: even if the popular rumor says that it was made to disappear by the Church to avoid further embarrassments.
The Baronial Palace
The Baronial Palace of Anguillara with its high crenellated tower overlooks the delightful little Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, in the heart of old Calcata and has always been the reference point for the whole community.
Over time, in fact, after being owned by the Anguillara family, the Palace hosted all the services of the town; in his Representation Hall, for example, almost all the weddings of the families of Calcano were celebrated and celebrated.
After a period of neglect and degradation, the Palace was purchased by the Park Authority and went through an important restoration project entrusted to the famous architect Paolo Portoghesi.
Today the Palace is the seat of the Visitor Center of the “Valle del Treja Park” with exhibition rooms that tell the story of the city, the park and the flora and fauna present in it, but it is also a place open to the public for meetings, courses. and events of different types.
A structure at the service of the community, from which you can enjoy a fabulous view over the entire valley below.
A tearoom in an inhabited house may seem absurd, but in Calcata, a village in the province of Viterbo, this is normal. Everything recalls the love for tea, from the paintings hanging on the walls to the many teapots carefully placed on the shelves; the cats enter free and crouch on the chairs in search of a piece of sun where to doze.
Silence is almost a must, of what relaxes, of what is good. “La Sala” and its friendly owner offer 101 types of tea.
The owner of the tearoom, Gemma, has a story behind her that is as particular as the business she manages.
This nice lady of Belgian origin, owned a business very similar to a bar, a few steps from what is now “La Sala”, a place that offered visitors to Calcata all types of drinks that can be found in a very common bar.
In 1982 “La Sala” was born, the result of a trip to Paris that Gemma made in that year; during this trip the real love at first sight is not the vision of the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe, but of a huge tea room that pushes the young Belgian to radical change in her life and therefore in her business: she spends all the money to make the return trip with a suitcase full of every variety of tea that can be purchased in the famous French capital.
The tearoom is located in Via Tripoli 10, in the historic center of Calcata Vecchia. In addition to 101 types of tea, all very particular and difficult to find, La Sala also offers delicious homemade desserts.
During the summer, there is the possibility of sipping tea on the terrace, enjoying the view over the valley of the Treja river.
Monte Gelato waterfalls
There is no such fascinating place elsewhere and nobody could have dreamed it as it is. The small medieval village of Calcata is resting on deep ravines that give fear, but, in the valley, the green view of the Mediterranean scrub and the noise of the waterfalls allow a breath of serenity.
The inhabitants of the past have given way to artists, writers and scholars who come to Calcata from all over the world with the common purpose of discovering a tranquility now dispersed everywhere. Along the streets, full of craft shops, suggestive views of the valley often open.
Monte Gelato waterfalls are one of the most enchanting places in the Valle del Treja, a river that comes from the Cimini Mountains, crosses Lazio and reaches Monte Gelato. Here, Treja shows all its vigor in the natural waterfalls surrounded by dense vegetation: a panorama so fascinating that it could not be ignored by the cinematographic world; in fact, some scenes of famous Italian movies have been shot.
The Monte Gelato waterfalls are located within the Valle del Treja regional park: a timeless place, far from the chaos of the capital. The park became a protected area in 1982.
Here traces of multiple settlements are preserved: the remains of a Roman villa from the 1st century BC, a water mill built in the 19th century and remained active until the 1960s.
The old mill or grinding wheel, built by the Del Drago family, flanked the medieval estate located near the riverbed, right at the Monte Gelato waterfalls.
Narce, an ancient Faliscan city located in the Valle del Treja park, was one of the main centers of this people. Originating in 1000 BC, it is one of the most important archaeological sites concerning the Falisci. Many finds found on this site are kept in the museum of Villa Giulia in Rome and in the National Museum of Agro Falisco in Civita Castellana.
The area is rich in testimonies of the Faliscan civilization, immersed in the thick vegetation of the valley. Numerous tombs, roads carved out of red tuff, remains of buildings and temples, evoke the arcane atmospheres of the ancient people of Lazio. The Cavone necropolis and the Petrina necropolis
Located along the slope overlooking the left bank of the Treja river, the necropolis was crossed by the ancient city that led to Falerii Veteres (Civita Castellana).
The necropolis was used from the beginning of the eighth century BC until the 3rd century BC and he has given us back a large quantity of finds on the Faliscan funeral culture.
Wells dug into the tuff, stone or wooden sarcophagi and chamber tombs built during the last period of stay in the necropolis have been found.
Sanctuary of Monte li Santi is sanctuary discovered in 1895 during some agricultural works. The excavations have brought to light the remains of a very important monumental complex.
It is not yet clear to whom the sanctuary was dedicated, and which divinity was venerated, but it is possible that it is Demeter.
In fact, some aspects of the cult are indicative. Through the rich votive deposit, which also includes ancient terracotta deities, Demeter and Persephone temple has been recognized.
The temple was dedicated to fertility, births and mother worship. Perhaps a further cult in honor of the waters can be added, given the particular position close to the river. The construction of temples near rivers is a typical method of the Falisci sanctuary scheme.
Fosso del Peccato
Here is another unusual place, about 25 km as the crow flies from the Grande Raccordo Anulare: Fosso del Peccato, located in the Treja park.
All the Romans know Calcata, high on its cliff to dominate the wild ravine of the Treja. Very few, however, know a tributary of the Treja, locally called the ditch of the Sin.
Following the suggestive marked path, which from the right edge of the road to Calcata leads to Pizzo Piede, for a few hundred meters you go along a deep ravine, of which you can barely see the bottom.
At a certain point, you can hear the sound of a waterfall (usually from November to May), a waterfall which however is invisible and impossible to access from above, except having ropes and mountaineering skills.
However, this gorge is passable from below, up to the waterfall that interrupts it. Although with moderate difficulty.
The first difficulty lies in finding the right ditch. It is in fact very easy to mistakenly travel another parallel ditch (the Fosso della Mola di Magliano).
Then for the first part of the route it is necessary to jump from one boulder to another in the middle of the stream, go up steep traces of the path on the right and descend equally steeply and “slippery” into the riverbed.
And as soon as I got back, an absolute naturalistic extravagance appears: a cave that is actually a heap of volcanic boulders that opens into the vegetation, and that makes a lot of fantasy films.
At this point, continue on the right or left bank, depending on the flow of water, in an absolutely unreal environment.
The high tufaceous walls loom, totally covered with ferns and moss, and with the plant cover even higher which barely lets the sun’s rays filter through.
Until you get to the waterfall. A magical place!
Then you have to go back.
By the way, the best time to visit Fosso del Peccato is in the months of April and May around 12 o’clock, or with the sun as far as possible at the zenith. And possibly with moderate water flow, otherwise the waterfall is dry.