A Complete Guide To Soriano Nel Cimino

You’ll find Soriano nel Cimino in the historic Tuscia region – a charming part of Lazio, well off the usual tourist track. This picturesque part of the country offers an insight into real local life in Italy.

Soriano nel Cimino itself is a small town nestled on the slopes of the Monti Cimini and is an easy day trip from Rome. So, for a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital and experience a slice of old world Lazio, Soriano nel Cimino couldn’t be a better venue.

I happen to visit Soriano nel Cimino regularly – my cousin lives there with his wife and child, so I go at any change I have. It’s a lovely, peaceful small town that has yet to become known to mass tourism (or to tourism at all, I may add!) and therefore incredibly pleasant. Since I am a regular visitor, I thought I’d share all its secrets and give you some tips to plan your visit. Continue reading for everything you need to know!

Make sure to read my posts The Best Hidden Gems In Tuscia and A Curated Guide To Tuscia.

Soriano nel Cimino

The History Of Soriano Nel Cimino

The long history of Soriano nel Cimino can be traced back to the Etruscans, a pre-Roman civilization that gives their name to the Tuscia region. It was first mentioned by the Roman historian Livy, who wrote that in 443 BC, the town was invaded by the Romans and the Etruscans “easily defeated.”

Fast forward 500 or so years, to the 3rd century AD. This is when the population of Soriano nel Cimino was converted to Christianity by Saint Eutizio, who was later buried in a catacomb near the town. Later, between the 6th and 8th centuries AD, during the conquest of the Italian peninsula by the Lombard people, Soriano nel Cimino came under Lombard control. The territory of Soriano was then given by the Lombard king Liutprand (who reigned from 712-44 AD) to the Papacy.

For the next five centuries, the Soriano nel Cimino and the surrounding territories belonged to Benedectine monks and passed through the hands of various monasteries. By the 13th century, Soriano nel Cimino and its vicinity comprised the main town and a handful of small villages, with houses tucked around small, defensive castles.

It wasn’t until the mid-13th century that Soriano nel Cimino began to develop its power and importance in the region. The Guastapane-Pandolfo family, possibly an offshoot of the Roman Porcari family, built a defensive tower at the highest point. This was later to become the base for a later structure: the Orsini Castle, which was built in 1277, by Orso Orsini (the nephew of Pope Nicolas III). Pope Nicolas III lived in this castle over the course of a couple of summers; in fact, he died there in 1280.

Soriano nel Cimino played an important part in the tumultuous Papal history during the Middle Ages. For almost 50 years, from 1379 to 1420, the castle was occupied by invading Breton mercenaries, who arrived at the request of the Pope to put down a regional rebellion against the Papacy. However, the Bretons soon switched sides, in favor of the Popes of Avignon. But thanks to the Orsini family, Pope Eugene IV was elected in 1431 and Soriano returned to the Papacy.

On 7th November 1498, an important event took place at Soriano nel Cimino. Pier Paolo Nardini, the Lord of Vignanello, attempted to conquer the Orsini Castle in a particularly vicious battle known as the Fosso del Buon Incontro (literally “Ditch of the Good Encounter”). The day of the battle is still marked every year with the Festival of the Chestnuts.

The Orsini family continued to have a powerful hold over the castle and the region over the next few centuries. It was restored and reinforced numerous times and was used as a key defensive position for the Papal States.

Soriano nel Cimino

In 1715, Soriano nel Cimino was bought by the family of Pope Clement XI – the Albani family – who carried out a number of architectural projects in the town. They built churches and monuments, archways, and gates which stand to this day. They pretty much sculpted the town as it looks now.

But with no heirs, in 1721 the rule of Soriano nel Cimino passed from the Albani to the Chigi family. The Chigi family then handed the town back to the Papal States in the mid-19th century. The town again played a key role in the defense of the Papal States, this time against the forces of Giuseppe Garibaldi, who would eventually be victorious and unite all of Italy.

In more recent times, the town was occupied by retreating Nazi German troops during World War II. For this reason, it received heavy bombing by the Allied air force, destroying certain parts of the historic town. Today, however, Soriano nel Cimino is peaceful and, though still dominated by the Orsini Castle, feels worlds away from its long history of wars and conquest.

Soriano nel Cimino

The Main Attractions In Soriano Nel Cimino

Castello Orsini

Built in the 13th century, the Orsini Castle is an imposing feature of Soriano nel Cimino. As well as being the summer residence for Pope Nicolas III, this castle has played an important part in the history of the town. During its long history it has even served as a prison facility, first under the Holy See, and then for the Italian state. It was actually used as a prison all the way to 1989!

Today, visitors are able to step inside this symbolic part of Soriano nel Cimino’s history. It’s possible to get a tour of the castle, on which you can learn about the history and layout of the building. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower, too (up four flights of spiral stairs!). Once on the roof, the views of the town and the surrounding countryside are nothing short of mesmerizing – you can see for miles from here.

Back in the castle, it’s also possible to explore the prison cells. These single rooms have no windows and really feel much as they would have done when the castle operated as a prison. The tour continues a visit to the armory with items from the Middle Ages including swords and chain mail, while there is also World War I memorabilia to see.

Note that it’s a bit of a climb to reach the castle; it’s a steep stroll up cobblestone streets all the way, but it’s worth it.

Castello Orsini is open Friday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. Tickets are €5.

Soriano nel Cimino

Soriano’s many gates

Scattered around Soriano you will find many gates – all perfectly kept. Make sure to spot the Porta del Ponte, which back in the 14th century was the main access to the walled town (what today marks the historic center of Soriano). Right behind it you can spot the Clock Tower, which dates back to the 19th century.

Other gates are Porta Vecchia, which is found in the Rione Rocca in Via Pennazzi; Porta Romana, which marks the main connection between Soriano and the roads that connect it to the rest of the region, and dates back to the 18th century. Another remarkable one is the Porta del Torrione, which is found under a tower which is today a private home.

Chiesa della Misericordia

With its name translating to “Church of Mercy”, this is actually the oldest church in Soriano nel Cimino. It may not be as grand as other churches, but look past the Renaissance additions and you can see the old medieval walls, particularly the single-arch windows on the right-hand side of the building as you walk in. The church is fairly compact and is made up of a single nave that leads to the ornate Baroque style altar, complete with an 18th-century wooden crucifix.

Chiesa di San Giorgio

The Chiesa di San Giorgio is an 11th-century chapel, located around a kilometer from the center of Soriano nel Cimino. The rectangular chapel is particularly attractive: built from peperino stone, it features carvings and bas reliefs. Some of these decorations showcase Etruscan heritage, while others simply depict regional flora and fauna (a chestnut tree, for example).

Inside, the interior of the chapel is sparse, and features an altar, but it’s a peaceful place to sit and soak up some history or reflect for a moment.

Soriano nel Cimino

Chiesa di Sant’ Eutizio

This church is dedicated to Saint Eutizio, the Roman martyr who converted the population of Soriano nel Cimino in the 3rd century AD. The church itself dates back to 1718 and was commissioned by the Albani family. Along with the Orsini Castle, this church forms an impressive part of the otherwise modest skyline of the town.

Before entering, make sure to take note of the family’s crest, which can still be seen on the church’s facade. Inside, this is a single nave church, which features a Baroque altar, a marble font for baptisms, and 18th century art by Sebastian Conca. The annual feast of Saint Eutizio is celebrated here.

Soriano nel Cimino

Collegiata di San Nicola di Bari

Another of Soriano nel Cimino’s religious sites is the Collegiata di San Nicola di Bari, which serves as the town’s cathedral. Located in the main piazza, it was constructed in the late 17th century, designed in the neoclassical style by the architect Giovanni Camporese. Within you’ll find a 14th-century triptych, a Renaissance baptism font and an imposing medieval statue of Saint Anthony.

Faggeta

Faggeta del Monte Cimino

For those visiting Soriano nel Cimino on a pleasant day, you should pay a visit to Faggeta del Monte Cimino, just a stone’s throw from the town. This beautiful beech tree woodland makes for excellent hiking, with nothing overly strenuous to throw off casual walkers. The trails here are well marked and you’ll almost always be walking in the shade of the tall beech trees.

The actual name of the woodland is Faggeta Vestuta, which literally means “Ancient Beech Woodland”, and is a UNESCO-recognized stretch of forest and one of the most important beech forests in Italy.

Other than the ancient beech trees, the geology of this area is also fascinating. Here you’ll find conical magma masses and large boulders – the product of volcanic activity that dates back over 1.3 million years. One particularly iconic site is La Rupe Tremante (“the trembling rock”) – a huge boulder balancing on another rock.

This was probably thrown out by a volcano and has been precariously balancing ever since. It was even mentioned by Roman historian Pliny the Elder as a “natural miracle”. Today it’s a symbol of both the Faggeta and the town of Soriano nel Cimino itself.

Inside the Faggeta you’ll find a fabulous local restaurant, La Baita della Faggeta, that has a strong focus on local specialties and seasonal ingredients. It’s a popular place for families at weekends, so if that’s when you are going book your table in advance.

Palazzo Albano Chigi Soriano nel Cimino

Palazzo Albano Chigi and Fontana Papacqua

This Renaissance palace dates back to the 16th century and was built for Cardinal Cristoforo Madruzzo. For much of the year, this old palace isn’t open to the public, but its grand facade can still be seen and the back side is just as grand.

Nearby, however, is an impressive fountain that you can visit, the Mannerist Fontana Papacqua. Designed by Ottaviano Schattini, here you’ll be able to spot Moses and other legendary figures among the jets of the water. The fountain apparently represents the four seasons.

Soriano nel Cimino

Statue of La Vecchia del Carnaiolo

Tucked away in what looks like a private garden, there’s a legend attached to this otherwise unassuming statue of a woman and her cat. According to the story, this old woman noticed the advancing army of Pier Paolo Nardini, who attempted to conquer Soriano nel Cimino in 1489. The woman ran from her house and raised the alarm, and she is credited with being the savior of the town. Her story is re-enacted during the Festival of the Chestnuts.

Etruscan Pyramid

There are many unique archeological sites near Soriano, but if you have time to only visit one, pick this! In the nearby countryside and actually closer to Bomarzo lies this archaeological gem, only discovered in recent years when local residents stumbled across it. Thought to date back to the 6th century BC, this pyramid is the largest of its kind ever discovered in Europe and is considered to be Etruscan in origin.

This would have been a very sacred spot. It is believed that the Etruscans practiced sacrifices for the purposes of divination on the altar atop the pyramid. The altar is made from peperino rock and was previously hidden by thick vegetation of the forest before being rediscovered. Interestingly, the pyramid faces the northwest: the direction of the underworld according to Etruscan belief. It can only be accessed via a hike.

Practical Info About Visiting Soriano Nel Cimino

How to get there

The easiest place to base yourself to explore Soriano nel Cimino is Viterbo, the main city in the Tuscia region. If you are in Rome, you can easily visit on a day trip too. Here’s how.

Read my posts The Best Guide To Viterbo and The Best Day Trips From Rome.

By Car

From Viterbo, there are several ways of getting to Soriano nel Cimino. The easiest one is to take SS151 – it’s straightforward and not windy. It will take you little over 20 minutes.

The route from Rome takes just over an hour to drive and goes along the A1. Note that there will be tolls: these cost approximately €4. It’s probably the best way to reach Soriano nel Cimino and the Tuscia region in general; the transport network here is not as convenient, and journey times can be much longer.

Soriano nel Cimino

By Train

If you want to travel by train to Soriano nel Cimino, it’s a relatively simple matter of catching a train from Rome Termini to Orte Scalo. This costs around €5 and takes around 35 minutes. From there, you can take a bus or get a taxi to Soriano nel Cimino.

By Guided Tour

This is when you’ll know Soriano nel Cimino is truly off the beaten path! There really aren’t many tour options to visit Soriano nel Cimino on guided day trips from Rome. You may want to enquire locally, but chances are you will have to make your way there independently!

Best time to visit

Given the pleasant natural surroundings, it’s best to visit either in autumn, when the beech woodland is arguably at its most beautiful, or in late spring or early summer. Summer itself can make uphill climbs quite strenuous, however. If you plan to visit in the fall, try to time your visit with the chestnut festival – it’s a great local event!

Other useful information

To enter any of the town’s religious buildings, you should make sure to cover up your shoulders, wear something that reaches below your knees, and try not to have your stomach on show. If you’re not dressed like this already, bring along a shawl to cover up.

Remember that Soriano is a pretty hilly town, and the cobbled roads can make it extra difficult to get around for people with reduced mobility.

Further Readings

For more places to visit in Tuscia, head over to these posts:

Pin It For Later!

2 thoughts on “A Complete Guide To Soriano Nel Cimino”

  1. My interest in this town is peaked by the fact that the Etruscans were inhabiting it at one time. What really got my attention too in this article was the existence of a pyramid built by them! I’ve been fascinated by their civilization and this article compounds it.
    I hope to travel here soon! Thank you for your enlightenment…continue your enjoyment too!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.