You may wish to see an introductory page to this section first.
View of Monte Rosa at the south-western end of the Cicolano historical district from Borgocollefegato (the little town was renamed Borgorose in 1960)
From the Turano, we ascended to the little town of Pace, the view from which over the Cicolano, is one of the most enchanting I ever beheld. Such glorious valleys of foliage, with rocky villagebearing knolls, such a panorama of forest scenery: such beautiful lines of wooded mountains on every side, with Borgocollefegato, Pescorocchiano, and many other towns of the Cicolano, nestled in their shady dells below: so great a contrast to the severe barren scenery of the valleys of Aquila, or the tiresome cultivation of the district near the Adriatic.
Edward Lear - Illustrated Excursions in Italy - 1846
Detail from a map published in the 1900 Baedeker's Guide to Southern Italy showing the valley of the River Salto aka Cicolano with Borgocollefegato, Torano, Petrella del Salto and other locations referred to in this page; the red lines indicate railways
This tract is known by the name of Cicoli, or more commonly Cicolano: it extends for a considerable way along the banks, or within a short distance, of the Salto River in a north-western direction,- and consists of several villages situated very near each other, and generally containing little more than three or four hundred inhabitants, forming in the whole a population of about thirteen thousand souls. The natives of these, like those of most mountainous regions in these latitudes, are solely occupied with the labours relating to the management of cattle and their pasture.
The peculiar formation of the country, divided into long, narrow, but very steep ridges, offering in their openings parallel ravines, furnishes scarcely any portion of level surface adapted to the purpose of agriculture; while an universal clothing of thick forests oppose still greater impediments to any kind of cultivation: these consist chiefly of chestnut-trees, and to their produce the inhabitants look for the principal means of subsistence with a feeling of reliance and security which frequent failures in the crop prove to be ill-founded.
Keppel Richard Craven - Excursions in the Abruzzi and northern provinces of Naples - 1838
Museo Nazionale Romano: relief found at Civitella di Nesce (Pescorocchiano - west of Borgocollefegato) in the early XXth century; it portrays Mithra slaying the Bull, the Sun, the Moon, two torchbearers and six minor scenes on the lateral bands, three for each part (172 AD)
The next day we resumed our researches with the little village of Nesce, supposed to represent the andent Nersae mentioned, only by Virgil. (..) The remains which it retains undoubtedly attest the existence of a town of some importance. (..) They are situated in a woody glen near the Salto, under another village called Civitella di Nesce, and consist of several ranges of walls. (..) Some fragments of opus reticulatum are also visible, which, with the imperial coins found on the spot, afford indubitable evidence that the town, however remote its first foundation, had received considerable additions from the hands of the Romans at a much later period. Craven
The relief was dedicated by a public slave named Apronianus, treasurer of the municipality of Nersae.
Torano (part of the Municipality of Borgorose and supposed to be ancient "Tora") seen from the Roma-L'Aquila highway with Montagne della Duchessa in the background
Dionysius says that Tora was celebrated for an oracle of Mars, not very dissimilar to that of Dodona, which was delivered by a dove from an ancient oak; whereas this proceeded from a woodpecker seated on a wooden column. (..) About four miles distant, a larger village, called Borgo Colle Fegato, claims the distinction of capo luogo of this division of Cicolano; another, named Mercato, bearing the same rank in the second or northern part of the district: one is the residence of the inspector of police, the other that of the judge. Craven
The frontier line which now divides the kingdom of Naples from the Papal States is irregular, however, as it is, it is said to be the same as it was at the foundation of the monarchy by the Normans, and to have been unaltered by any of the revolutions which have occurred during the eight centuries which have elapsed since the conquest of Robert Guiscard. (..) It reaches the plain of the Velino between Citta Ducale and Rieti. It then proceeds south along the valley of the Salto, crossing that river four times before it reaches the centre of the Cicolano district, whence it crosses the mountains to the valley of the Turano, between Coll'Alto and Carsoli.
John Murray - A handbook for travellers in southern Italy - 1853
The Duchessa mountains owe their name to Margarita of Austria, or to be more precise to the Bolognese engineer and cartographer Francesco De Marchi, that for about half a century followed the duchess of Parma and Piacenza around, including this area, where the Farnese possessions were conspicuous. In the XVIth century De Marchi, mapping this area, dedicated these mountains to her. Four are the peaks that reach and rise over 2.000 m.: Mt. Cava (2.000 m), Mt. Morrone (2.141 m), Mt. Murolungo (2.184 m), Mt. Costone (2.238 m).
Roberto Lorenzetti - Historic settlements and rural architecture in the province of Rieti - 2020
Among the numerous villages that are now comprised in the regions of Cicolano, I cannot omit the mention of Petrella, situated to the north-west, and nearly at the extremity of the district, as the scene of the murder of Count Francesco Cenci, at the instigation of his wife and his daughter Beatrice, whose beauty, crimes, and misfortunes were in themselves sufficient to transmit her name to posterity, had not the pencil of Guido left a still more impressive record of her person. Craven
Petrella is one of the largest of the mountain villages in this district, and seems populous and thriving: it stands below a bold rock, on whose brow are the meagre ruins of the fatal castle where the parricide was committed. Had I been aware that the spot was associated with such remarkable incidents, I should have made some drawings of it; but, very fortunately, its beauty induced me to secure a little sketch of its situation. Lear
Corvaro (part of the Municipality of Borgorose): (left) towers of the fortress; (right) the old town
The villages are mostly placed on the summit of the hills, from which the surrounding prospects are agreeable though unvaried: the number of habitations that show themselves in all directions, embosomed in masses of trees shading slopes of the finest herbage, give to the whole district a pastoral aspect of considerable beauty. But, notwithstanding the proximity of these villages to each other, the communication between them is usually a tedious and even fatiguing operation, in consequence of the steepness of the gullies that intervene, and which it is always requisite to cross; so that, after the first favourable impression produced by fine turf and umbrageous groves, the effect of a long ride through this interminable labyrinth of dell and forest is wearisome, and even oppressive to the mind and spirits. Craven
Further along the lake Salto, on the road that conducts to the edge of the Rieti province, is the vast plateau of Cammarone, where Corvaro rises; its historical centre has remained the same since the 1915 earthquake. Lorenzetti
Old houses at Borgorose
The traveller who has explored thus far, and is desirous of investigating more fully the early antiquities of Italy, will have an opportunity, while in the neighbourhood of the lake of extending his excursions to the Cicolano District lying between Avezzano and Rieti, on the right bank of the Salto. There are few parts of Italy so little known, and yet none perhaps possess such peculiar interest. The country presents an almost unvarying succession of deep ravines lying between steep hills of moderate elevation which are profusely wooded. (..) The district is now inhabited by shepherds, whose villages are scattered over the valley of the Salto. The proprietors reside on their estates, and it is to them that the traveller must look for hospitality; it will, therefore, be desirable that he should provide himself with recommendations to some of them, particularly to those who may happen to reside in the large towns in the vicinity. Murray
In the province of the Abruzzi, the soaring peaks of the Apennine give the country situated at a considerable height above the sea level the aspect of a truly mountainous land. And its two narrow valleys, cramped in amongst the convolutions of the different chains, are real mountain valleys, and have a stern character which only Italian sunshine can mitigate. (..) The valley of the Imele and the Salto is sterile and stony for the most part. (..) A painter treads these mountain paths with ever-new delight. But, as soon as one leaves the broad high roads they are extremely fatiguing, and offer to the traveller spoilt by luxurious hotel living scarcely anything which can please him, or even satisfy his wants. (..) Any one beginning his journey from Rome must make up his mind to endure many hardships from the very beginning.
Edward Paulus - Italy from the Alps to Mount Etna - 1877
Borgorose: S. Anastasia: (left) fašade; (right) interior
The first XIXth century travel accounts of Cicolano describe an isolated and thickly wooded region with small villages inhabited by shepherds. Yet the Cicolano knew a period of development in the Xth-XIIIth centuries when its remoteness and morphology favoured the construction of castles and isolated monasteries. In 1745 S. Anastasia, the parish town of Borgorose was embellished with fragments of the portal of S. Giovanni in Leopardis, the XIIth century church of an important Benedictine monastery which stood on the hill of Collis Ficatum (Collefegato) as recorded in a 1153 papal bull. In 1231 the monastery reported to a larger one at Ferentillo and eventually it was abandoned whereas in 1398 the church was mentioned among those of the Diocese of Rieti. Later on it became a property of the Canons of S. Giovanni in Laterano. The decline of the settlement of Collefegato in favour of that of Borgo led to the abandonment of San Giovanni in Leopardis. Borgo was located on the countryside road linking the Cicolano with CittÓ Ducale, the administrative centre of the eastern part of Abruzzo Ulteriore Secondo.
Borgorose: S. Anastasia: details of the portal from S. Giovanni in Leopardis (ca XIIIth century): (left) a bishop, perhaps St. Peter (the image used as background for this page shows a detail of his garment); (right) perhaps St. John the Evangelist and a medieval Corinthian capital with an eagle
S. Giovanni in Leopardis was a large church with five aisles and a crypt of which only a few walls remain in a clearing of the woods. The decorated portal which was relocated at S. Anastasia strikes the viewer for its elaborate sculptures which in some details are rather unique, especially in the depiction of the garments of the saints portrayed in two small statues (see for a comparison the ruder lintel of S. Maria in Cellis at Carsoli).
Borgorose: S. Anastasia: details of the pilasters from S. Giovanni in Leopardis; they are very similar to those at S. Maria delle Grazie at Luco
The slender pilasters of the portal from S. Giovanni in Leopardis are highly unusual because of their design and of the minute reliefs of leaves which actually resemble fantastic animals. The medieval past of Cicolano is also testified to by the crumbling walls of some castles, the largest one being that at Corvaro. It was initially built at the initiative of the Abbot of Farfa. Several local noble families fought for its control until in 1480 it was assigned to the Colonna by Ferrante, King of Naples. In 1861 with the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy the Cicolano became part of the Province of L'Aquila. In 1927 it was assigned to the newly-created province of Rieti and thus it became part of the Lazio region.
Pietrasecca (between Borgocollefegato and Carsoli) in an illustration by Lear and today
October 11 to 16, 1843. All these days I passed very pleasantly, but rather idly, at the Baron Coletti's. (..) I went with Don Raffaelle Coletti to Pietra Secca, a small town two miles off, placed on a most gigantic rock, whose perpendicular height is as picturesque as fearful. Hundreds of falcons inhabit this stronghold, from the top of which you may see the cheerful plain of Cavaliere, for it is on the borders of the Roman states. The arciprete of Pietra Secca was a fine old gentleman, ninety-one years of age, and as active and merry as if he were fifty. Lear
1884 Sundial at Borgorose (Travellers, be patient! Without sunshine I cannot count the hours!)
October 17, 1843. The weather had become cold and gloomy at best, and although I should have liked to have made drawings throughout the Cicolano, and in the neighbourhood of Carsoli; yet the season was becoming too far advanced; so I took leave of my kind friends the Coletti, with much regret, and set out towards Rome. Lear
Introductory page to this section
Atri - the Town
Atri - the Cathedral
Chieti - Roman memories
L'Aquila - the Vale
L'Aquila - Historical outline
L'Aquila - S. Maria di Collemaggio
L'Aquila - S. Bernardino
L'Aquila - Other churches
L'Aquila - Other monuments
Leonessa - The Town
Leonessa - The Churches
Luco and Trasacco
S. Benedetto dei Marsi and Pescina
XVIIIth century Sulmona
Sulmona: Easter Day Ceremony (La Madonna che scappa - The Fleeing Madonna)