Civita Castellana was settled during the Iron Age by the Falisci, who called it Falerii. It was already important 3,000 years ago, protected from invaders by its high position and surrounding stream and cliffs. The Romans defeated the Falisci in 396 BC and in again in 241 BC after a revolt by the locals who were then required to build a new, less defensible, city about 5 km away. This is known as Falerii Novi (see "Go Next").
The original city was repopulated in the early Middle Ages because it offered greater protection, and the new name of Civita Castellana was first mentioned in 994. In the following centuries the city flourished.
Civita Castellana is located about 60 kilometers north of Rome. By car from Rome’s ring road, the GRA, take the SS2bis (known as the Cassia bis or the Cassia Veientana) until Gabelletta and then the SS311 in the direction of Nepi. Civita Castellana can also be reached by the Italian state railway from Tuburtina/Trastevere stations (not Stazione Termini) to Civita Castellana/Magliano Sabina. Locally this station is known as Borghetto for the frazione of Civita in which it is located. The local bus company, Vitertur, operates a service for commuters to the center of Civita. Tickets can be bought in either of the bars at that station for the sum of one euro. The MetRoma service from Piazzale Flaminio is limited to peak commuter travel hours and takes about 90 minutes to reach CC. The last half hour is stunningly beautiful but the trip overall is longer than it should be if the track were doubled or if the line had not been made to take the scenic route around Monte Soratte100 years ago. The local bus company, COTRAL, connects Saxa Rubra station to CC via the Flaminia and it is also sometimes a painfully slow service. Daily tickets cost €9 return (biglietto giornaliero) and can be used on the state railway, Cotral bus and the Metroma service (as well as all over in Rome if originating from CC).
- The Cathedral of S. Maria Maggiore, (Il Duomo). This is a very attractive building. There is considerable Cosmatesque work (geometrical floor mosaics) both inside and out. Uniquely, this duomo has a Cosmatesque facade (signed and dated in gold mosaic tiles, dated 1210) as well as Cosmatesque floor mosaic work. These patterns were created in the Middle Ages from thin slices cut from colored marble and columns left in the ancient ruins. The name derives from a Roman family, the Cosmati, who did this sort of work. Similar Cosmati floors can be found in Rome, Anagni and Spoleto. The high altar is fashioned from a sarcophagus of the 3rd or 4th century. The ancient crypt is fascinating and well worth visiting. Sadly the interior was redone in the 1740s but retains many of its antique marble columns. The organ is the same one on which the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played. Outside, the effect of the beautiful portico, dating back to 1210, is somewhat spoiled by the modern fence that protects it. To see what the original interior would have looked like, visit the Basilica at nearby Castel Sant'Elia.
- The fortress (Forte Sangallo). This fortress was built by Pope Alexander VI and completed by Julius II with the erection of the octagonal keep. It's an excellent example of military architecture and is still very well preserved. In the early 19th Century it served as the main prison for northern Lazio and became known as the Papal Bastille as it confined many Italian patriots. It now houses the local Etruscan Museum (though most of the Faliscan and Etruscan finds from the area enrich the collection of the Villa Giulia in Rome. Open daily, except Monday, it can be toured free of charge after signing the visitors book. Doors open every hour on the hour, last entrance at 6PM
Great local ceramics at the shop of Vincenzo Dobbolino (aka Mastro Cencio). His store is an Alladin's cave of skilled reproductions of classical wares - Etruscan, Greek, Faliscan, medieval, as well as his modern, original pieces. The shop is impossible to miss if coming from the main free parking lots as the result of a newly executed facade that looks like a giant version of a red-figure vase. Vincenzo is also knowledgeable about local topography, history, flora, fauna and hiking trails. He will lead you on a tour for a modest fee (to cover his expenses and time) and has a sunny and pleasant disposition. A true artisan and a gentleman.
Fausto Mancini: a talented local ceramicist and painter with a shop at the corner of the main piazza (Matteotti) and Via Garibaldi. Classical shapes and historically accurate glazes and colors.
- Mignolo', Via Vincenzo Ferretti, 101 (just off the main road leading from main piazza towards the hospital/Via Flaminia), ☏ . Wonderful bustling osteria - always noisy, no written menu, great meat, giant portions of pasta, helps to know the owner to get the bill which he still figures in LIRE! Parking lot, though a small one, right outside, closed Thursday and Sunday evening. Eat the maiale in guanciale spiedini and HALF a portion of rigatoni alla Mignolo'. They can have a heavy hand with the salt, and some people find their food heavy.
- Pane e Pomodoro, Via Porta Lanciana, 28 (next to the abandoned orphanage in the centro storico), ☏ . lunch dinner every day. Modernized place, good pasta, pizzas, salads, grilled meat. Nice slightly bubbly house white wine. Friendly service, especially when not too crowded and Flaminio and Angelo will refuse to let you order the wrong shape of pasta for your sauce. Good tagliata!
- La Giaretta, Via Vincenzo Ferretti, 108 (across from the defunct cinema Flaminio), ☏ . Good and reliable place to eat. Excellent fried veggies, good pastas, excellent ROLLS with fennel seeds. When empty it can seem echoey and a little sad, but when busy it's bright, high-ceilinged and all made in-house using fresh local ingredients. medium.
- I Butteri, Piazza San Gregorio, 22 (in a small piazza just 20 meters from the main square). Tables outside on summer evenings. Reliable family-run place, moderate prices. medium.
- Pasta all'uovo Concetta Quattrini, Via San Gregorio 7 (across from the entrance to this almost-never open church, centro storico), ☏ . mornings till 1PM, Open Sunday morning, Closed Mon.. Wonderful hand-made ravioli, strozzapreti, cannelloni etc. Their best dishes are the timballi with various fillings: traditional red sauce and cheese, funghi porcini, asparagus, and the superb artichoke lasagna. They will fill your own oven-proof containers with creamy divine helpings that can then simply be reheated for 20 minutes. Also try their crepes layered with red sauce. You will be tempted to lie and say you made it all yourself, or just say "I bought it with my own 2 hands" like I do. Keep a couple in the freezer for unexpected guests.2012: summer closure 9-26th July very reasonable.
- Beccofino, Via delle Palme 18 (on a side street off the main Corso), ☏ . lunch and dinner, best to book. Lovely small restaurant, excellent fish, good service, sparky young chef. Friday and Saturday evening fish specials were running this spring. moderate to pricey.
- Le Ghiottonerie di Via Roma, Via Cristoforo Colombo 2 (just off the Via Roma leaving CC towards Nepi, very near the only bar), ☏ , . lunch/dinner/closed Monday. Handy little take-away place just 5 minutes walk up the Via Roma. They make pizza at night, and also have a selection of fried foods, pastas, entrees, vegetables to eat there or take home, as well as doing catering jobs locally. They will make food to order: lasagnas, eggplant alla parmigiana etc. Good pizza that is best to eat there to avoid sogginess. "Tutto casareccio". Summer closure 2012: 15 August-1st September reasonable.
STAPPO! - A new wine bar with a good selection of moderately-priced wines is located in an alleyway, closed to traffic, just off Piazza Matteotti in the centro storico. They also have light lunches and dinners. Owner: Roberto.
Vine Idee - Piazza della Liberazione (new part of town): wine, lunch, dinner, pizza.
The Club: new black and white themed bar in Piazza Matteotti with comfy tables outside, umbrellas, helpful service.
Civita suffers from a dearth of central, affordable accommodation.
The Relais Falisco is a very nice example of this French chain's service, located in Via Don Minzoni, just 50 meters from the Duomo. It is situated in the renovated Palazzo Feroldi delle Rose and is air-conditioned and staffed by helpful receptionists who all speak English. Rooms (approximately 80 of them, both singles and doubles) include a breakfast buffet and the hotel has wifi throughout, as well as private parking.
The other "local" accommodation is well outside of town.
Civita Castellana has a rich history, and was for centuries one day's ride north from Rome along the Via Flaminia - a place to stop and change horses. Civita is a superb base from which to explore Northern Lazio (by car).It was also one of the first locations that drew outdoor painters in the 18th century, and many of the views they painted are still unspoiled today. The local building material is mainly tufa, and the region is full of tufa cliffs and gorges, Etruscan burials and wonderful small towns.
Most amenities are within easy waking distance here in the old center of this ancient town, historically the center of the Faliscan empire. The Faliscans were contemporaries of the Etruscans and Civita finally fell to the Romans in 241 BC. It is built on a naturally defensible bluff. Civita also has a wonderful Antonio da Sangallo fortress built around 1500, which was a Papal palace and then a prison, and now a museum displaying Faliscan and Roman relics, where there is a free music festival every July. There are wonderful things to see all over the region: Viterbo has one of the best preserved medieval centers in Europe and the Terme dei Papi bath complex, Sutri, Calcata, Nepi, the Via Amerina (an ancient road lined with burial chambers carved into the rock), Monster Park at Bomarzo, Villa Farnese at Caprarola, Villa Lante at Bagnaia, nearby Castel Sant'Elia with its 12th century Basilica and Sanctuary, the beech forest - La Faggeta - near Soriano, where the Romans came to capture wild animals for the sport in the Colisseum, also Amelia, Calvi, Otricoli, Lago di Bracciano, Lago di Vico, Faleri Novi, Oriolo Romano, Vignanello, Vasanello, San Martino al Cimino, Bolsena, Montefiascone, Tuscania, Civita di Bagnoregio. So many wonderful and uncrowded places to visit. It's a wonderful area to be based to see the wonderful Renaissance gardens of Lazio as well (check out: www.secretgardensitaly.com for itineraries), and is near enough to the main A1 highway to allow day-trips to such places as Perugia, Orvieto, Todi, among others. Good coffee, food and wine and many festivals celebrating local food and traditions all summer long. Tuesdays and Fridays there is a smaller fresh fruit/vegetable market in the old part of town, and on Saturday mornings there is the big fresh market in the new part of town.
The best way to explore the area surrounding the town is on foot. There are superb trails down to and along the many rivers that have always defined this area. Descending into the surrounding woods is truly like stepping into the countryside as it was 3000 years ago. Local group Argilla (http://www.turismocivitacastellana.it [dead link]) organizes excursions along these trails regularly, in cooperation with the Federtrek, for individuals and groups. The locals are friendly!
- Falerii Novi is 6 km west of Civita Castellana. It is situated on a slight volcanic plateau. There are extensive walls, considered to be excellent examples of Etruscan/Roman city walls. Built out of tufo rock, they are about 2 km long. S. Maria of Falerii was built around the 12th Century. The church has been restored and can be visited weekends. The adventurous can reach Faleri Novi by following the Via Amerina from just outside Civita (leaving a car at the parking lot of the Quercia restaurant) and proceeding through the countryside. Large stretches of the original wall are preserved but not well cared for.
- Calcata is a small town resting on top of a crumbling rock. Taken over by "hippies" in the '60s when the locals moved out, it is now a laid-back artists' colony with an interesting and diverse population. Be aware that Calcata is mainly closed during the week - shops and restaurants are generally only open on Saturdays and Sundays. Be prepared to park in the big lot in Calcata Nuova and walk into the tiny town below - parking is difficult weekends. Just beyond Calacata are the falls of Monte Gelato near Mazzano and a hiking trail up to the ancient settlement at Narce. Calcata is connected to Civita Castellana by a trail through the Parco del Treja - a hike of approximately 12 kilometers, challenging in places, but beautiful, that follows the river bed, emerging along the Via Flaminia a few km outside of Civita.
|Routes through Civita Castellana|
|END ← Orte ←||N S||→ Sabine Hills → Nomentano, Rome|