Ciociaria lies between Rome and Naples, bordered by the sea on one side and the mountains and Abruzzo on the other. It is an area that has remained almost in a time-warp, untouched by mass tourism. I have lived in Rome for over thirty years but until I rented a home in Ferentino I had only visited the spa town, Fiuggi, whose waters were praised by Michelangelo, and the abbey at Monte Cassino. The country side is dramatically lovely and the area is very fertile. It has many prestigious, prize-winning local products: wine, olive oil, cheese, vegetables and fruit, and the local restaurants and trattorias know how to make good use of this bounty. The little, mediaeval hill towns all have interesting things to explore with a history going back long before the Romans.
Before Italy was united the Ciociaria was in the Papal States and it has a rich religious heritage.
Anagni is known as the ‘City of Popes’ because four popes were born here, and it once served as a Papal summer retreat. In the cathedral, the crypt of San Magno has brilliant, colourful 12th and 13th century frescoes. They look so life-like they remind me of Browning’s Fra Lippo Lippi’s church drawings:
“That woman’s like the Prior’s niece who comes
To care about his asthma: it’s the life !”
At Casamari Abbey, near medieaval Veroli, the monks’ Gregorian chants float through the air in the peaceful, austere refectory, but modern life is present in the shop selling liqueurs, potions and cosmetics. The 13th century Certosa di Trisulti is only thirty minutes away.
It is open to visitors and the rich decoration in the18th century pharmacy delights the eye and adds another dimension to religious life.
At Posta Fibreno there is a Nature Reserve and the area teems with wild life. The lake is fed by underwater springs and the crystal-clear waters waters remain a constant throughout the year. There is a small island, known locally as ‘La Rota’, which moves round the lake, propelled by the underwater springs. It is strange to see the slender willows and poplars swaying as they float over the lake.
The trout from the Fibreno river are served in local trattorie and in season Campoli Appennino provides delectable black and white truffles. Amaseno has large buffalo farms and the local mozzarella has won many prizes. The ricotta with walnuts is delicious and I like the Nero di Amaseno, which is covered with vegetable carbon and matured for about 6 months.
Further along the river Isola del Liri amazes us with the great waterfall in the middle of the small town.
The water used to power paper mills and today supplies electricity for the castle.
Another unexpected discovery is Casa Lawrence in Picinisco. D.H:Lawrence stayed here in 1919 while he was finishing writing “The Lost Girl”. Today it is an Agriturismo and the Pacitti family produce grat cheeses.
I am still exploring but in October I will be taking a small group to discover this secret Italy.
October 13 – 20 Price 1750 euros