Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hill towns near Rome: Ronciglione

If you are watching  the TV series  “The Borgias”  you are taking a virtual tour of  some of the  hill towns in the area north of Rome.  
Main gateway entering Ronciglione 
  Last night’s episodes  featured  a bull fight in the amphitheatre of Sutri and   a visit to the Odescalchi Castle in Bracciano. See more about this castle on the blog posts of the past couple of weeks

gorge  and medieval quarter, Ronciglione 

laundry  with cupola and bell tower 

Vignola's   fountain of the Unicorns 

exploring the back streets  of Ronciglione  

  The  film director  used some  good camera work  to make the view from the castle gardens  look like  the Bay of Naples.
Ronciglione  once had a  ghetto 
garden on the street 
Those of us who live here  have our personal favorites: usually they are the towns we know best…where our friends live, or where our  favorite restaurants are located.

castle of Julius II 
 Many of  the hill towns  in the Etruria area  coincidentally  begin with the letter “V”: Vignanello, Vallerano, Vitorchiano and  of course Vetralla.  I’d love to hear why from  a specialist in  linguistics.  

medieval  alley way 
 Last weekend’s outing  brought me to  an “R”  town; Ronciglione, known familiarly  by  the natives  as “Ronciò”, which is also the name of a typical farming utensil used  to hoe and cut crops. 

It has also been used  as  a murder weapon  in the dark days  when families such as the Borgia   lived and ruled in this area. 

Entering  the town through an imposing doorway topped with papal coat of arms,  we walked along the main street where colorful Baroque period  facades  made a sharp contrast  with the  dark stone  of the medieval houses. 

 Each February a terrifying  rider-less horse race is held  along this street to celebrate  Carnival time .   

bright Baroque 
The town is dotted with churches,  bell towers, palazzi, convents and castles and the medieval quarter  is intact and  perfect for a stroll , but watch out for falling roof tiles.

a green corner of the medieval quarter 

Ronciò  cat  
cats rule

Being  originally  from the mill town of  Lowell, MA where the rushing waters of the Merrimack river created  the Industrial Revolution  in the 1840s-60s and the famous “Mile  of  Mills”, I felt  quite at home in Ronciglione.
Which is your favorite hill town in Italy? 
The streams  which rush through the gorges were used  as a primitive source of water power which made Ronciglione an early industrial center with production of metal objects and printing. Playing cards produced here were famous around the world. The tradition is continued by the Spada  printing company  which produced  my book Etruria.    


  1. Hi, Mary Jane. My favorite hill town is Palestrina, outside Rome! I painted many beautiful scenes in that town! Thx as always for the posts!

  2. Thanks for the glorious photos - and the cats. I do not know the area, so I do not have a favorite town. I suppose I'd have to answer "What ever town i am in."

  3. My family name is Ronciglione so I think that this may be my ancestral homeland! Very cool, thank you for sharing. I would love to go someday.