If you came directly to this page you may wish to read an introduction to this section first.
1839 View of Olevano by Edward Lear (courtesy of Rosamie Moore). This image was not used in Lear's "Views in Rome and its Environs"
Ferdinand Gregorovius spent the summer of 1857 at Olevano. The small town had a very picturesque aspect, which had already attracted the attention of many foreign painters, but the German historian was mostly impressed by the misery of its inhabitants as he recorded in Roman Diaries, which were published after his death. He did not describe Olevano in The Roman Campagna (Aus der Campagna von Rom - 1858) - English translation by Dorothea Roberts in Bill Thayer's Web Site (they open in separate windows).
The 1883 Baedeker Guide to Central Italy suggested its readers travel from Olevano to Subiaco by Civitella and Rocca S. Stefano on the back of a donkey and descibed the route as being most picturesque, in particular for the views from Civitella, which is situated on an isolated mountain at 815m/2,674ft.
Olevano was a historical fiefdom of the Colonna, similar to Genazzano and Rocca di Cave, whereas the other two towns belonged to the Benedictine Abbey of Subiaco (until the end of the Papal State in 1870) and Civitella was aka Civitella di Subiaco.
(left) Plates on the houses where foreign painters lived; (centre) copy of "The Harpist Returns Home", a painting by A. L. Richter on a wall at
Bellegra; (right) St. Anthony the Abbot by Jonas Hajnal, a Hungarian painter (1913-2010) at S. Nicola in Bellegra
The artists flock forth at Olevano where they make their summer societies, leading an innocent,
merry life enough, and, while rivals in their art, filled with
simple kindnesses for one another. (..) And this is the famous inn of Olevano, the
Albergo degli Artisti (aka Casa Baldi). It is a perfect artist's paradise. Its
rooms are homely, but are cleanliness itself. (..) The pleasant honest mistress,
Pepina Baldi, with her husband Nino, are really charming
specimens of respectable well-to-do Italians of the lower
orders, full of simple kindnesses and courtesies, and frankness and openness itself. Their handsome boys and girls
have served as voluntary models to half the artists in Rome when they have been staying here.
Augustus J. C. Hare - Days Near Rome - 1875.
Today Casa Baldi is a summer residence for young German artists of Accademia di Villa Massimo. Other foreign painters chose Anticoli and Rocca di Papa for their summer holidays.
Views of Olevano (that below from S. Vito)
The 1883 Baedeker had a long list of Italian and foreign painters who had their studios in Rome. For many of them the guidebook indicated that they specialized in landscapes, a branch of painting which does not attract many contemporary artists, so that today Olevano is no longer a fabled artists' haven.
The image used as background for this page is based on a view of Olevano in 1820 by an anonymous German painter.
(left) Houses at Olevano; (right) a house at Rocca S. Stefano
The stone it is built of is so like the rock that it looks as if it had grown out of it.
Lady Maria Callcott - Three Months Passed in the Mountains East of Rome: During the Year 1819.
The sentence refers to Poli, but it applies to the small towns covered in this page as well. They were all built on the edges of cliffs and ravines.
Gates at Olevano (left), Bellegra (centre) and Rocca S. Stefano (right)
Natural defences were complemented by fortifications which are still rather evident at Olevano, less so at Bellegra and Rocca S. Stefano,
although names of streets make references to towers and castles. At Bellegra and Olevano there is some evidence of ancient walls such
as those at Alatri or Segni.
In 1880 Civitella changed its name to Bellegra on the assumption that it originated from a pre-Roman town by that name. Other sources say it stands on the site of Vitellia, a Roman town.
(left) Bell tower of S. Rocco at Olevano; (centre) arches supporting S. Nicola at Bellegra; (right) S. Maria Assunta at Rocca S. Stefano
The interior of the town (Olevano), with its narrow and dirty streets, presents no attraction. The 1883 Baedeker confirmed Gregorovius' opinion about the extreme poverty of these towns, which is evident in the modesty of their churches.
Views from Bellegra: (above) Olevano; (below-left) Rocca di Cave; (below-right) Capranica
Today Bellegra prides itself on being Cittą dei Panorami and it actually offers great views in all directions.
Other views from Bellegra: (above) S. Vito; (below) Ciciliano
View northwards with Rocca S. Stefano in the foreground and Rocca Canterano
(on the road to Subiaco) in the background
Bellegra seen from S. Vito
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.