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Tolfa: the sea seen from above, the Maremma from below

Tolfa, a half-hour drive from the capital, is far from the atmosphere of the Metropolitan City of Rome (formerly the Province of Rome) of which it is a part.

With its approximately 5,000 inhabitants and 500 meters above sea level, it is, in turn, the “capital” of the Tolfa Mountains, which are named after it.

A walk through history, culture and flavors where Lazio almost tastes like Tuscany

As the crow flies, to the west, the sea is a dozen kilometers away; while to the north, the Maremma is even closer. We are in the midst of Etruria. Salty air meets rough countryside, the land of the mythical cowboys who beat his cowboys in skill in the days of Bufalo Bill .

Tolfa has an ancient history that starts from the Stone Age, of which it preserves visible traces, as for the Bronze Age. The area was succeeded by the Etruscans, the Romans until it was owned by the Holy See.

From the Middle Ages, history becomes architecture

Around the mines of alum, a precious mineral for various uses that gave its name to nearby Allumiere, power struggles developed. Between the late 15th century and Napoleon’s invasion, the Frangipane castle, a typical medieval fortress, was the last bastion of defense for the people of Tolfa.

The Rocca church nearby is the jewel box of Tolfa. It was built because of the town’s need to have a small church at the top of “the mountain,” which would protect the town from above. But going around the area, one also encounters many other churches that testify to the past belonging to the Papal State.

The Palazzaccio, the former seat of the municipality, and the present Town Hall complete the series of historic buildings. However, the fascination of history remains above all in the surrounding necropolis with its splendid Etruscan tombs.

Strolling through the historic center

After an overview of the main things to see, we delve deeper into the historic center.

Walking unhurriedly through narrow alleys and small squares with breathtaking views, we should know that the history of this town is still shrouded in mystery. On the one hand, urban development allows us to clearly follow the historical and economic phases that have followed one another. On the other, however, there is little information about who ordered the construction of the most beautiful buildings and also when.

These are the most important medieval buildings, namely the Castle, the Baronial Palace and the Church of Sant’Egidio. The poet Annibal Caro left us a description of Tolfa in the Renaissance period that is not at all flattering. Having lived, as it seems, in the Baronial Palace. And we also mention Agostino Chigi, banker and entrepreneur, known as “The Magnificent,” had the church of the Sughera built.

Of this Chigi we know that he was the contractor of the alum quarries from 1501 to 1520. However, we do not know where he lived during his stays in Tolfa.

But the history of Tolfa is also made up of local traditions, customs and traditions

If you close your eyes, you could pinpoint which part of Italy you are in just by hearing the dialect spoken, which is heavily inspired by surrounding ones. From central Italy it takes all plurals of masculine nouns ending in “-e” (le carabbignere con le baffe).

Verbs are pronounced Roman style, with the -are and -ire endings truncated with the last letter accented (guardà, finì…). Instead, opening the mouth, one can enjoy an excellent “acquacotta” soup of Maremma vegetables and a superb codfish “in sour and sweet.

Handicraft production has in the “catana” bag its highest expression. Born in 1575, by such “Mastro Stefano,” in the 1970s it even landed in the USA. In the 1980s the “Tolfa bag” is widespread among Italian students.

Since 2005, the first weekend in August with “TolfArte” is the festival of street art and handicrafts with participants and audiences from all over Italy.

With the Blog of Rome and Latium Region, Around Rome guides you to discover the territories for the pleasure of satisfying curiosity and putting culture at the service of people and businesses.

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Edited by il NETWORK | text Andrea Franchiniphoto Ezio Bocci

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