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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in February 2011.


- Paliano
(detail of a fresco at S. Onofrio)

German historian Ferdinand Gregorovius spent the summer of 1856 at Genazzano; on September 23, accompanied by a local peasant, he rode to Paliano and Anagni; he returned to Paliano in 1857 and 1859 on his way to Ferentino and Veroli.

Monte Scalambra and the small town of Serrone seen from Paliano

In Aus der Campagna von Rom, the account of his journey to Paliano (you can read the English translation by Dorothea Roberts in Bill Thayer's Web Site), Gregorovius described Monte Scalambra, the long mountain which stands to the east of Paliano; he met a large flock of sheep which after having spent the summer on the mountain was heading towards the plain.

(above) View of Paliano from the south; (below) Paliano seen from Anagni

Paliano stands at the top of a hill in a central position between Monte Scalambra and the Lepini Mountains (which Gregorovius called Volsci Mountains after the Volsci, an ancient Italic people who lived there); the town is dominated by a fortress and its name is strictly associated with a branch of the Colonna family, the Dukes of Paliano, who owned (and still own) Palazzo Colonna a SS. Apostoli.

(above) View towards the Castelli Romani (left) and the Ernici Mountains behind Palestrina (right); (below) view towards the Lepini Mountains behind Segni

Gregorovius was impressed by the views he enjoyed from Paliano (and Anagni); he rated them among the finest ones of Saturnia tellus, a poetic name for Latium (and later on Italy).

Salve, magna parens frugum, Saturnia tellus,
magna virum: tibi res antiquae laudis et artem
ingredior sanctos ausus recludere fontis
Ascraeumque(*) cano Romana per oppida carmen.
(Virgil, Georgics, Book II, vv. 173-176)
(*) a reference to the birthplace of Hesiod, whose works Virgil used as a model.
Hail! land of Saturn, mighty mother thou
Of fruits and heroes; 'tis for thee I dare
Unseal the sacred fountains, and essay
Themes of old art and glory, as I sing
The song of Ascra through the towns of Rome.
Translation by J. B. Greenough. Boston. Ginn & Co. 1900.

(left) Porta Napoletana; (centre) coat of arms of the Colonna at Porta Romana; (right) heraldic symbols of the Colonna (a crowned column and a mermaid) at Palazzo Colonna

Paliano had two gates, but only one road (from Genazzano) leading to the town which was accessed through Porta Romana; Porta Napoletana, the other gate, was used only by local peasants. References to the Colonna were pervasive and their heraldic symbols even replaced the traditional design of capitals: all economic activities were subject to the payment of rights to the Colonna.

(left) Palazzo Colonna and S. Andrea; (right) courtyard of Palazzo Colonna

The Colonna did not hesitate to fight against the popes to retain their possessions; in particular in 1556 they fought for Paliano against Pope Paul IV; it was a veritable war called Guerra di Campagna because it concerned the control of Campagna di Roma, the region surrounding the city; Pope Paul IV assigned Paliano to his nephew Don Giovanni Carafa whose beautiful wife, Dona Violante di Cardona, was the Duchesse de Paliano celebrated in a short novel by Stendhal. The Colonna, who had many fiefdoms in the Kingdom of Naples, at the time a Spanish possession, appealed for help to King Philip II who sent an army led by the Duke of Alba which almost conquered Rome; some of the Colonna possessions were restored to them and eventually also Paliano.

Palazzo Colonna - portals

Marcantonio II Colonna, the head of the family in 1557-84, gained fame as admiral of the papal fleet at the battle of Lepanto during which the Ottomans were defeated by an alliance of Catholic nations; on his return to Rome Marcantonio Colonna was celebrated as an ancient Roman commander and the event is remembered every year at Marino, another fiefdom of the Colonna. This explains why the family palace at Paliano was decorated with naval symbols; it was designed in the XVIIth century by Antonio Del Grande; when Gregorovius visited it he was impressed by the desolation he found inside, as the dukes no longer resided there; as a matter of fact the expenses incurred by Marcantonio to finance his participation in the war were so high, that his heirs had to sell many of their fiefdoms, including Palestrina, to repay the debts he incurred.

S. Andrea, the church adjoining Palazzo Colonna: (left) coat of arms of Cardinal Girolamo Colonna on the main portal; (right) ceiling of Cappella di S. Andrea

Lucrezia Tomacelli belonged to a noble family from Naples (Pietro Tomacelli was Pope Boniface IX from 1389-1404); she married Duke Filippo Colonna in 1597 at the age of 17; she bore him ten children before dying in 1622; she was so loved by her husband and her children that they added her family's coat of arms (a diagonal chequered band) to the Colonna one.

S. Andrea: (left) Colonna monuments in the apse; (right) Monument to Filippo Lorenzo Colonna by Bernardino Ludovisi

The Colonna could directly access S. Andrea from their palace and several members of the family were buried in the church including Marcantonio II Colonna, but Lucrezia Tomacelli Colonna was buried in
S. Giovanni in Laterano, where the Colonna had a chapel; eventually the dukes preferred to live in their Roman palace and were buried in SS. Apostoli.

The fortress of Paliano: (left) main gate; (right) view from the town

After having regained possession of Paliano, the Colonna strengthened its fortifications by building a new fortress at the top of the hill; they eventually gave it to the Papal State in 1864; it was turned into a prison with the addition of new buildings; it is still a prison, although it houses some interesting paintings celebrating the triumph of Marcantonio II Colonna which are attributed to Federico Zuccari.

(left) Palazzo Picchia (XVIth century); (centre) portal in the southern part of the town; (right) Palazzo d'Ottavi (XVIIIth century)

The life of Paliano revolved around the Colonna and their palace; in general the grey houses surrounding the fortress are of little interest; some finer buildings can be found in the southern part of the town, far from Palazzo Colonna.

Introductory page on Ferdinand Gregorovius
About the Roman Campagna
Next page: Anagni
Previous pages: Colonna and Zagarolo, Palestrina, Cave, Genazzano and Olevano
Other walks:
The Ernici Mountains: Ferentino and Alatri
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



Latium was enlarged in the 1920s with territories from the neighbouring regions: the map on the left shows the current borders of Latium; the map on the right has links to pages covering towns of historical Latium: in order to see them you must hover and click on the dots.