Soriano nel Cimino
Soriano rises from a mountain setting among the abundant chestnut forests of northern Lazio. Sitting lazily in the Cimini mountains, Soriano is just a few miles from the provincial capital and medieval town of Viterbo. While the setting feels secluded, it is just eight miles from the A1 autostrada motorway that travels between Florence and Rome. It's less than an hour north of the capital city and is in the "triangle" where Lazio, Umbria and Tuscany meet.
Soriano's silhouette is distinct with an enormous square and crenellated Orsini castle emerging from the cluster of houses in the historic center. Soriano was inhabited by the Etruscans before being invaded by the Romans. But it came into its own during the medieval era after Pope Nicolas Orsini built the castle around the tower that had already served as a defensive lookout for centuries. The castle was a summer papal residence and the village benefitted from its presence and the patronage of the wealthy Popes and their friends.
Through the centuries Soriano nel Cimino was passed around as a prize among popes and nobles. The narrow, meandering streets of the medieval core are surrounded by more classical, open street plans and palaces of the Renaissance era. Palazzo Chigi-Albani is a ordered Renaissance palace adorned with a decorative, sculpted fountain fed by spring water. It was built in the 1560s. The cathedral dedicated to St. NIcolas was constructed on a Greek cross plan and is topped by a wide dome. The little temple of St. George rests outside town and is a rustic stone chapel emblazoned with angels and Christian symbols. The mountains offer trails and woods and fresh air, peaking at 1053 meters on Mount Cimino. An oddity is the Sasso Naticarello, a large oval strangely-balanced that looks ready to topple from its narrow base of support. Pliny the Elder called it a "miracle of nature".
The foods of Soriano reflect its hillside location - chestnuts and porcini mushrooms predominate many dishes, but porchetta (stuffed and roasted baby pig) and wild boar are popular, too, along with typical Lazio fare like spaghetti all'amatriciana or la carbonara.
Soriano puts on a big-deal festival every year with the innocuously named Sagra delle Castagne. It is so much more than a mere chestnut fair - it's a full-blown medieval re-enactment with the four rione of the town rivaling each other in an historic joust, archery contests and other epoch games. There are lords and ladies and knights all in authentic period costumes, highlighted by concerts and food. It's held the first and second weekends of October.
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Explore nearby towns
The tiny town of Bomarzo seems other-worldly as its stone center reaches upward on the hilltop.
The lovely town of Vitorchiano grips a bluff at the foot of the Cimini mountains, near Viterbo and 90 km from Rome.
Caprarola is located on the south side of the Cimini Mountains to the east of the Lake Vico, perched on a tuffaceous spur near Viterbo.