If you came to this page directly, you might wish to read a page on Monte Soratte first.
Some small towns in Italy had the same name; in the XIXth century when the country was
unified an adjective was added to their names to distinguish them, so Rignano became Rignano Flaminio,
after Via Flaminia, the ancient Roman road linking Rome with Rimini on the Adriatic Sea.
The Papal State was composed of four regions (Latium, Umbria, Marches and Romagna): Via Flaminia crossed them all so it had a special relevance.
Rignano was the location where travellers stopped to make their excursions to Monte Soratte: it had a post station where they hired horses and donkeys to reach the top of the mountain.
(left) Renaissance fountain; (centre) a Roman relief; (right) heraldic symbols of
the Borghese family
While Sant'Oreste, which is a few miles off Via Flaminia, has retained its old atmosphere, Rignano
which is located on the road has a very modern, albeit anonymous, appearance and memories of
its past are scattered here and there in a rather out of context manner. The Borghese, to whom
the town belonged in the XVIIth century used an ancient Roman sarcophagus as the basin for a
fountain which bore their heraldic symbols (an eagle and a dragon) and they placed
some ancient Roman columns next to it. The mythological
animal which appears on the decoration of the sarcophagus is similar to a relief at S. Saba in Rome.
The fine Roman column which appears in the background of this page is placed before the main church of Rignano.
Rignano claims the doubtful honour of being the birthplace of Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia. Their father, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI) resided for several years in the fortress of Civita Castellana and he arranged for his mistress Vannozza Cattanei to discreetly live in Rignano, just a few miles away. A XVIth century Spanish cannon in the main square of the old town is traditionally associated with the Borgia, but it is now thought to have been abandoned by the Spanish troops in 1527 when Emperor Charles V was at war with Pope Clement VII.
Ruined towers protecting Rignano
The protection of Rignano was assured by two towers: the one near Via Flaminia still shows some Renaissance features while the older one, at the other end of the small town, shows that rich vegetation which was typical of the ruins of Rome and made them very picturesque.
View of Faleria
While Monte Soratte is made of limestone, the region to the west of the mountain is a low plateau of tufa rock easily eroded by many small streams. In medieval times, for security reasons, small sections of the plateau situated between two ravines were chosen to found a new settlement. Caves were often cut into the tufa rock and the first inhabitants lived there, until in the XIIIth century they started to build their homes above these caves. Stabia, a small town now called Faleria, after the Falisci, an ancient tribe living in the area, was built on the very edge of two ravines, but those same ravines which assured its security caused over time the collapse of most of the ground where the medieval town was located. This has happened elsewhere and in a very dramatic way at Bagnoregio.
The Anguillara fortress and gate of the old town
The old town was protected by a relatively large fortress built by the Anguillara, a very powerful family whose coat of arms showed some eels, as anguilla in Italian means eel. In the XVIth century the medieval town was already almost entirely abandoned and the inhabitants moved into new houses protected by walls and towers: the fortress, which once protected the entrance to Stabia, became the final section of the new town.
Detail of the fortress portal; towers which were
part of the town walls
In 1942 an earthquake seriously damaged Faleria and in the 1950s its inhabitants moved to new modern houses further away from the old town. In the late 1990s the municipality has implemented a plan to recover at least the square behind the fortress where an imposing parish church (S. Giuliano) built in 1298 is located.
S. Giuliano and ruins of the old town
Move back to Sant'Oreste.