German historian Ferdinand Gregorovius spent his first summer at Genazzano in 1856; he rented a small room under the roof of a house in the centre of the town; notwithstanding the modesty of his accommodation (in his diary he complained about the heat), he definitely enjoyed his holiday and he returned to Genazzano in the following years; he described the town in Aus der Campagna von Rom (About the Roman Campagna) (you can read the English translation by Dorothea Roberts in Bill Thayer's Web Site).
The main gate of Genazzano
Genazzano is located a few miles east of Palestrina, but it is a much smaller town. It was built on a tufo ridge which was easily fortified by building a short wall on its southern side, because deep ravines protected it on the other ones; Genazzano has only one gate which has some resemblance with those of Palestrina.
When Gregorovius first saw Genazzano he had the impression of watching a procession as if the houses were moving towards Palazzo Colonna at the top of the hill. Although the houses of Genazzano have been modernized since Gregorovius visited the town, they still convey the image of a procession.
(left) Bell tower of S. Paolo; (centre) the main street between the house where Ferdinand Gregorovius sojourned and S. Maria del Buon Consiglio;
(right) a picturesque corner
All the churches and other important buildings of Genazzano are aligned along the street which crosses the whole town
from the gate to Palazzo Colonna; a plaque commemorates Gregorovius who in 1857 returned to Genazzano; he was not the only foreigner staying in this house opposite S. Maria del Buon Consiglio as in his diary he mentioned having met Thomas Buchanan Read, an American poet and painter and his pretty wife.
Some verses by Buchanan Read are similar to the account Gregorovius made of his walks in the countryside near Genazzano.
In 1859 Gregorovius stayed at another place in Genazzano with two painters: Karl Lindemann-Frommel (German) and Hugo Oskar Von Mohrenschild (Estonian); he went there again in 1861.
Gothic windows: (left) Casa Apolloni; (right) opposite Casa Apolloni
Genazzano retains several elaborate Gothic windows which are deemed to have been built in the XIVth century; although similar windows can be seen in other towns near Rome, only Genazzano has such a large number of them.
S. Maria del Buon Consiglio was (today slightly less) a famous sanctuary owing to a sacred
image which miraculously moved from Scutari in Albania to Genazzano in 1467 when that country was conquered by the Ottomans.
On September 8, 1856 Gregorovius watched the procession for the feast of the sanctuary and he described
the costumes of the different peasants of the
Roman Campagna. The popes used to make presents to the church: among them a finely
embroidered chasuble, which was most likely started during the pontificate of
Pope Innocent X and completed
during that of Pope Alexander VII.
The fašade of the church was redesigned in the XIXth century, but it retains the original Renaissance portal which was decorated with the coats of arms of the Colonna family (also in the image used as background for this page).
You may wish to visit the website of the sanctuary - only in Italian in 2011 - external link.
(left) Palazzo Colonna; (right-above) coat of arms of Pope Martin V; (right-below) a mermaid, one of the heraldic symbols of the Colonna
Pope Martin V, the only pope of the Colonna family, was born in Genazzano and he used to return there very often. The family palace was built at the beginning of the XVth century by the pope; it was enlarged towards the end of that century and it was partially redesigned in the XVIIth century; on that occasion the balustrade was decorated with the Colonna heraldic symbols.
(left) S. Nicola; (right) older part of Palazzo Colonna
The medieval church of S. Nicola which stands along the main street was shortened in 1616 to facilitate access to the palace;
the fašade was redesigned in the XIXth century.
While the side of the palace towards the town was given a gentle appearance in the XVIIth century, the back shows the defensive purpose of the building which is also referred to as Castello Colonna.
(left) Courtyard of Palazzo Colonna with inscription celebrating Cardinal Girolamo Colonna also as "dux et princeps";
(right) passage from the rear part of the building to the courtyard
Girolamo Colonna was appointed cardinal in 1627 at the age of 23; in 1641 at the death of his elder brother Federico he took responsibility for managing the family fiefdoms; in 1630 the Colonna had sold Palestrina to the Barberini and Cardinal Girolamo decided to improve the palace of Genazzano; the courtyard was redesigned by Antonio del Grande with the addition of a second loggia; he was the family architect and he is best known for having designed the great gallery inside Palazzo Colonna in Rome; he also built the Colonna palace of Paliano.
(left) Modern bridge linking Palazzo Colonna to a garden on a bastion behind the palace; (right) ruins of the aqueduct which supplied the palace
Bridges linked Palazzo Colonna in Rome to the gardens the family possessed on the Quirinale hill; similarly their palace in Genazzano was linked by a bridge to a garden designed in a former defensive bastion; Gregorovius used to walk in this garden which is very narrow but also very long and which ends near S. Pio, a church and convent founded in 1461 by Pope Pius II and dedicated to Pope St. Pius I.
S. Pio - the inscription granting indulgence which was dictated by Pope Pius II
Ninfeo del Bramante
In a small valley near the main gate the Colonna built a nymphaeum which today is called Ninfeo del Bramante, although no firm evidence has been found of the involvement of that architect; most likely it was never actually completed; the remaining walls have the appearance of ancient ruins, but the serliana design of the arches is typical of XVIth century Renaissance.
The Ernici Mountains: Ferentino and Alatri; Fiuggi (Anticoli di Campagna); Piglio and Acuto
The Volsci Mountains: Valmontone, Segni, Norma and Cori
On the Latin shores: Anzio and Nettuno and Torre Astura
Circe's Cape: Terracina and San Felice
The Orsini Castle in Bracciano
Subiaco, the oldest Benedictine monastery
Small towns near Subiaco: Cervara, Rocca Canterano, Trevi and Filettino.