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Where we are
La Belle Evoque
Via Palombara, 23 – 02040, Poggio Catino (Rieti)
Tel.: +39 329 490 5917
Villages like clusters, perched up on the Sabine Mountains with their maze of roads similar to sinewy fingers. Landscapes that are ablaze with the red and gold of autumn, gorges that sink against medieval hermitages and abbeys where the soul invites the body to silence.
Welcome to Sabina, a poetry of olive trees and hills, a land overlooking the Tiber River, the Nera, the Aniene and the Apennines, with a glance at Lake Turano.
Land sung by Ovid and Virgil, Sabina is famous throughout the world for its DOP (Protected designation of oil). Claudio Galen talks about it, calling it “the best in the known world”. This is confirmed by archeology with the flask of Poggio Sommavilla (7th century BC), now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which bears traces of olive oil. Even the largest olive tree in Europe has its roots here.
Solitary churches, Lombard traces, legends climb up through itineraries made of fog and wind, unforgettable sunsets. The hustle and bustle of Rome is an hr from here and the green region of Umbria is just outside.
A mystical silence surrounds the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria di Farfa, clenched between the cozy village and Mount Acuziano. This simple place, which exudes an intense spirituality, is about twenty minutes by car from La Belle Evoque. The Abbey has uncertain origins, although archaeological excavations have proof of the existence of a Roman era compound under the actual Badia. Only by visiting, you will be able to understand why in a few centuries, it became one of the most prestigious centers of medieval Europe where even Charlemagne made an appearance. Since 1921, it has belonged to the Benedictine community of Saint Paolo fuori le mura. Farfa Abbey is the perfect place to spend a day also by taking advantage of the hospitality and dining facilities. Especially in autumn, when the leaves settle in the small park, a walk becomes a romantic experience. Inside the basilica, three canvases by Orazio Gentileschi win over art lovers. But Farfa’s main attraction is the library with over 45,000 volumes and manuscripts. Towards the end of the 11th century it was one of the richest in Europe and had its own scripture, the Romanesca Farfense, which found its praise in the works of Gregorio da Catino. While leaving the Abbey, take a walk in the village of Farfa with its cute shops run by artisans and herbalists where you can buy natural remedies, balsamic ointments, herbal teas, but also beers, liqueurs, sweets from monasteries, convents and abbeys of Italy and Europe.
About 20 km from La Belle Evoque, in the Nazzano, Tevere-Farfa Nature Reserve, between the municipalities of Nazzano, Torrita Tiberina and Montopoli di Sabina, nature becomes untouched. The Reserve, an area of about 700 hectares, is the first regional protected area in Lazio, established in 1979. Today this site is one of the most interesting in central Italy for birdwatching. Coots, pochards, teals, the Italian knight, the black kite, the peregrine falcon, the gray heron are the most common species. Nature enthusiasts can follow interesting paths, stop in the observation cabins along the Tiber river banks or simply spend a day outdoors in the specialized equipped areas. Not to be missed: the River Museum and the River Path, 1 hr boat ride onboard the Reserve ecological boats. You will appreciate the landscape of the Tiber valley and the manors that rise from the surrounding cliffs. Among other natural itineraries, “La Fornace” exclusively pedestrian and the Meana path.
“On a sharp hill, Aspra appears to us as an agglutinated swarm of gray houses and ocher roofs … the squares, the arches, the patrol paths, almost everything has remained as it was a thousand years ago”. This is what the painter Giovanni Fattori of ancient Aspra wrote.
And still today, with its ancient charm, Casperia dominates the Tiber valley, overlooking towards the Soratte and the Sabine Mountains. Towers, walkways, loopholes, casemates remind us of its medieval history and origins. Mentioned by Virgil in the Aeneid, this village is enchanting with its medieval architecture, the “onion bulb” historic center, the narrow pedestrian streets, which climb in concentric circles to the square dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Along Via Garibaldi, the Arco di Mezzo takes visitors back to the 11th century, when the first walls were built. From here on, it leads you to an enchanting path that directs you to a viewpoint, perfect for a snapshot. The Romanesque tower and the monumental nativity scene by Giannicola Mariani are worth a visit.
A few minutes from Casperia, Roccantica welcomes its visitors. It’s perched on a Sabine mountain cliff, along with its medieval castle and artisan shops. The defense tower, which stands on a triple circle of walls preceding the year 1000, the Gothic churches of San Valentino and Santa Caterina, the Monastery of the Poor Clares, are some of the must-see stops. Sport climbing enthusiasts will find Roccantica one of Lazio’s equipped cliffs, particularly appreciated for its position. It is 500 m high and nestled in the woods and for its quick approach.
In about 10 km you can reach Cantalupo, the charming town that gives its name to a variety of melons brought over by the East Asian Catholic missionaries to the papal castle of Cantalupo. A must see, is the Renaissance Palazzo Camuccini Cesi which hosts the room in which Giuseppe Garibaldi spent the night before the battle of Aspromonte.
Our journey through this picturesque carousel of villages takes us to Montasola, the City of Lauri. It is said that the Roman emperors really wanted the laurel from its forests to celebrate their victories. The city center is a handful of cobbled streets, narrow alleys and views that open between one house to another. Just outside the historic center walls, a park offers a regenerating walk along rosemary bushes.
Not far away, Contigliano rises from its medieval defensive walls with a statuary and austere appearance. About 1 km from the town, the Ciclovia (cycle path) della Conca Reatina crosses the lower part of the Piana Reatina to form a 21 km loop, starting and ending in the capital of Rieti.
Heading north, on the slopes of Mount Rosato, we reach Poggio Bustone, known for hosting the sanctuary founded by Saint Francis. The traditional Porchetta Festival is held and also for having given birth to the Italian singer Lucio Battisti. In the park called “Giardini di Marzo”, a bronze statue commemorates the singer. Immediately outside the town, the Franciscan sanctuary is the destination of the many pilgrims who walk Saint Francis’ path. It’s not far from the hermitage where, in 1208, the saint of Assisi stopped.
Very close to the Belle Evoque, the village of Catino is in sight, thanks to its castle’s high tower. Alleys and arches chase each other up to the picturesque Lombard castle ruins where the horizon opens up onto the Sabina Tiberina, embracing a large part of Upper Lazio.
Not far from Sant’Oreste, 30 min by car from La Belle Evoque, it’s possible to relive the crucial moments of World War II and the Cold War, through a history immersion. The widespread museum of the “Percorso della Memoria” (Memorial path), with the remaining bombing wounds of the allied aviation in 1944, takes visitors into the heart of Soratte. Historical re-enactments, films and museum exhibits are created inside and outside the bunker. Built in 1937 by Mussolini on Mount Soratte, the maze of tunnels inside the mountain looked like a weapons factory. Actually it was supposed to serve as an air raid shelter for the high officers in the Italian Army. Even today, this hypogeum maze, with its 4 km in length, is one of the greatest works of military engineering in Europe. Today the tunnels can be visited, by reservation only, thanks to the commitment of the Libera Santorestese Cultural Association “Bunker Soratte”.
“All of Sabina’s soil is extraordinarily rich in olive trees” wrote the historian Strabo. The millennial Olivone of Canneto Sabino is the living testimony of the millennial vocation of this area. Legend has it that this olive tree, fifteen meters high, with a trunk circumference of 7.2 m and a crown diameter of about 30 m, was planted by King Sabino Numa Pompilius. In reality, this majestic example of Olivastrone would have been around 1000 years. Since 1876 it has been owned by the Bertini family.
Inaugurated in 2001 in the medieval village of Castelnuovo di Farfa, the Sabina Oil Museum celebrates, through architecture and contemporary art, the ancient olive culture of the homeland of the D.O.P. Sabina. The strength of this museum lies in the ability to tell local history with universal languages, reviving the civilization of oil in the historical testimonies of the area. Although based in the sixteenth-century Palazzo Perelli, it also extends to the historic center and the landscape, revealing the most representative places of the history and traditions of the medieval village of Castelnuovo, from the perfectly preserved eighteenth-century animal-driven oil mill to the medieval archaeological site of the church of San Donato.
A path marked by lush vegetation, crystal clear water, coves and canyons, offers an unforgettable experience of pristine nature to trekking enthusiasts. The Farfa Gorges natural landmark is a protected area of 35 hectares between the towns of Castelenuovo di Farfa and Mompeo, in the province of Rieti, which is part of the Nazzano Tevere – Farfa Regional Nature Reserve. A medium difficulty trekking route, with very little height difference, extends from the Oil Museum of Castelnuovo di Farfa to its river and to the ancient medieval bridge that once connected the towns of Mompeo and of Castelnuovo di Farfa. Crossing the bridge, just reach the confluence with the Montenero stream to find the water mill ruins of the Mola Naro Patrizi. River Walking, an activity open to children and teenagers, starts here. Once all the equipment is worn, the walk along the riverbed begins. The most fascinating part consists of a long path carved into the rock smoothed and shaped by the flow of water. Wear a helmet and wetsuit for an exciting experience!
To immerse yourself in the autumn colors or refresh yourself with a regenerating outdoor activity, just reach the Umbrian village of Marmore, which is about a 1 hour drive from Le Belle Evoque. Upon reservation, it will be possible to make an evening of guided tours of different duration and difficulty, accompanied by an expert guide. Just go to the site and choose the itinerary. From the walk that reveals the legends of the waterfall, to the one that tells the story of the waterfall, the lake and Piediluco, up to the night experience at the waterfalls, you will have plenty to choose from.
From the Roccantica village, after an hour’s walk in the holm oak, beech and juniper wood, considered sacred by the ancient Sabines, you reach the hermitages of San Leonardo and San Michele Arcangelo. It is a medium-difficulty trekking route with little height difference, which, from Roccantica, crosses the forest until it reaches the hermitage of San Leonardo (8th century AD), embedded in the rock overlooking the valley. Next to the hermit’s house are two tiny rooms and an oven, both found in the cave. The fifteenth-century frescoes by the painter Jacopo da Roccantica, which portray San Leonardo and Santa Caterina d’Alessandria, are still visible. The hermitage of San Michele Arcangelo is also set in a cave. The small and evocative sanctuary, hermitage of the first Christian monks, was once a temple dedicated to the goddess Sabina.
As you walk the stairway inside the rock that leads to the small rock sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo, you will feel like you are slowly leaving the world to enter a magical cave. This cave framed by the Tancia and Pizzuto Mountains, not too far from Poggio Catino, preserves its solitary and silent nature intact. A legend tells of a demon who infiltrated the cave in the form of a dragon, sowing havoc among the local population. Called to the aid of Pope Sylvester, Saint Michael the Archangel would come to Mount Tancia to challenge the evil one in a fight that lasted three days and three nights. The dragon’s claws thrown on the rock would still be visible in the deep holes on the cliff next to the cave. For a long time, this cave kept a rough statuette, then stolen, which represented a seated female figure, perhaps a mother goddess, identified with the Goddess Vacuna, much venerated in Sabina.
La Belle Evoque
Via Palombara, 23 – 02040, Poggio Catino (Rieti)
Tel.: +39 329 490 5917
In the picturesque Sabina countryside, less than an hour away from Rome and a quick drive from Umbria, here is La Belle Evoque, a special vacation spot. Your home away from home
Via Palombara, 23 – 02040
Poggio Catino (Rieti)
Tel.: +39 329 490 5917