Italian art: Along the slopes of the Simbruini mountains

Feb 20, 2015 1345

WTI Magazine #54    2015 February, 20
Author : Enrico De Iulis      Translation by: John Cabot University


One of the beautiful characteristics of Italy is its high concentration of art. Anywhere you find yourself in Italy, interesting historical and artistic sites are close at hand. What is extraordinary about this feature is that many times, above all in central and southern Italy, these places are left completely unattended, hidden in the urban landscape of a city or scattered in the countryside without any road signs to help get you there.

This creates, for those who are interested in discovering small, little-known gems, the possibility to uncover and explore these evocative places, often in complete privacy. Near Rome, in the hinterlands heading towards the Appennines of Abruzzo, the terrain rises in elevation slowly transforming into significant peaks known as the Simbruini Mountains.

The area has been populated since the age of the Roman Republic. In fact, the cities of Collazia, Tibur, Praeneste and Gabi were important trading centers with Rome. Near Tivoli (Tibur in Latin), there is a secluded valley where the Anio Vetus and Marcio Aqueducts intersect and descend quickly towards Rome. Since they were walkable, they helped travelers cross the valley and watch the river that flowed through it.

After passing two sections of the aqueducts, you encounter Ponte Lupo, a gigantic 2000-year-old viaduct that contained thousands of cubic meters of water, supported by two orders of arches and cylindrical buttresses. Ponte Lupo is a colossal structure that recalls Tolkien's description of the Dwarven Cities.

At least twenty minutes from there on the way to Palestrina (Praeneste), you can find Triangolo Barberini, a perfectly triangular hunting lodge. The date of its construction is somewhere between 1642 and 1653, and it is believed to have been commissioned as a wedding gift for Maffeo Barberini and Olimpia Giustiniani. Their family crests are still visible at the entrance of the building. Francesco Contini constructed an unrivaled gem of form and invention, whose uniqueness undoubtedly competes with the greatest Baroque works of the Barberini family, even those commissioned in Rome.

Continuing south towards Genazzano, you can visit the Ninfeo Bramantesco, a peculiar and little-studied treasure of the Renaissance. It was constructed in the first few decades of the sixteenth century, probably by Donato Bramante's Lombard workers evoking his distinctive Renaissance style. The Colonna family commissioned the work with the intention of creating a "locus amenus," a lodge with a garden and fountains inspired by a very famous book of the era: Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. This type of design was very fashionable and sought-after at the time.

These are just small examples of the unlimited possibilities of study, beauty, undiscovered curiosities and unique sites that Italy has to offer.

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