Perched on a tuff cliff, Farnese is inhabited since the Bronze Age. In the Middle Ages the presence of the lords of “Farneto” is documented, so called from the oak woods that surround the town. Between the end of the 14th and the mid-15th centuries, the Farnese took possession of the territories of the Tuscia of Viterbo, adapting their fortresses to their residences.
The period of greatest prosperity of Farnese occurred between the end of the sixteenth century and the first half of the seventeenth, thanks to the government of Duke Mario, general of the papal armies and excellent ruler, who endowed Farnese with an aqueduct and prestigious artistic and architectural works . Due to a serious financial crisis, Mario Farnese, Mario’s nephew, was forced to sell the fortress and the adjoining lands. Thus it was that on June 7, 1658, Cardinal Flavio Chigi, nephew of Pope Alexander VII, purchased the Duchy of Farnese for the sum of 275,000 scudi and elevated it to a principality by assigning it to his nephew Agostino Chigi. The Principality survived until 1825 when it was acquired by the Reverend Apostolic Chamber.
In 1834 the former Farnese fiefdom was purchased by the French Marshal De Goumont, conqueror of Algiers, and, in 1856, by Alessandro Torlonia who kept it until the beginning of the century, when it passed to the Italian State.
In the mid-sixteenth century, by the will of Bertoldo Farnese and his sons Galeazzo, Fabio and Mario, the city was ennobled by the construction of new palaces, churches, convents, parks and gardens and by the execution of important works of art, commissioned to artists of the caliber of Annibale Carracci, Ettore Smeraldi, Orazio Gentileschi, Antonio Maria Panico and Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola. Work of Orazio Gentileschi (Pisa 1563 – London 1639), father of the famous painter Artemisia (1593-1653), is the San Michele Arcangelo, in oil on canvas, kept at the Parish Church of the SS. Salvatore in Farnese.
Due to its particular morphology, crossed by deep tufaceous ravines crossed by rivers and streams, Upper Lazio was a favorite land of the Etruscans and the center of their confederation. The Etruscan language is attested between the 9th century BC and the 1st century AD, as evidenced by various documents: among these, of particular interest is the epigraph, perhaps from the 7th century. a.C., engraved on the Chiusi fibula, found in Castelluccio di Pienza in the early nineteenth century and since 1863 kept at the Louvre Museum. The inscription, engraved on the body of the brooch in “granulated” gold, is in first person and states: “MI ARATHIA VELAVESNAS ZAMATHI MANURKE MULVENIKE TURSIKINA”, that is to say: “I am a gold brooch of Arunte Velavesnas donated by Manurke Tursikina », Where the adjective zamathi alludes to the preciousness of gold.
Territory inhabited by Tusci
The coronimo Tuscia indicates the vast territory inhabited by the Tusci, or Etruscans, including Tuscany, western Umbria and northern Lazio.
The “Roman Tuscia” corresponded to northern Lazio and the ancient pontifical province of the Patrimony of Saint Peter.
Today the term Tuscia indicates the territories of Upper Lazio and the bordering areas of Tuscany and Umbria
Alta Tuscia Viterbese
Today the access to the center of Farnese is allowed by the passage through the so-called Porta Nuova from which the ancient viaduct starts. The village is characterized by a main street that runs outside around the cliff, while inside develops a network of alleys and suggestive views. Just the small streets of the town allowed Farnese to be chosen, in 1972, Luigi Comencini as a film set for the movie “Pinocchio”. The places used for the scenes are still visible following the itinerary “Pinocchio”.
The area around Farnese is rich in fauna and splendid vegetation; it offers one of the most beautiful natural areas in which the Regional Park of Selva di Lamone develops, with marked trails to admire the numerous animal species.
A Farnese worth a visit, beyond the Church of the SS. Salvatore, the Rocca, ancient residence of the Farnese dukes, built by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger; the Church of San Rocco, which houses a splendid seventeenth-century painting by Lanfranco, depicting Sant’Antonio da Padova.
Just 5 kilometers from Farnese is Ischia di Castro, which was the main center of the Farnese Duchy. Here you can admire, in the Civic Museum, the remains and testimonies of the ancient Etruscan life and of the Farnese duchy.
Evidence of past life can also be found in the ruins of Castro, with the necropolis which houses tombs dating back to the 6th century BC and the ancient Etruscan road carved into the tuff with walls 20 meters high.
Even the Hermitage of Poggio Conte offers a particularly suggestive route, along which are visible the engravings, the paintings and the remains of capitals, bearing witness to the life of the monks in the Middle Ages.
Grotte di Castro, about 20 kilometers from the Podere di Marfisa, is another of the medieval villages of Etruscan origin perched on the tuff. The necropolis, the church of Santa Maria del Suffragio, the civic museum and the municipal building designed by Vignola are certainly worth a visit.
In the municipality of Montalto di Castro, a 30-minute drive from Farnese, lies the archaeological park of Vulci, an ancient Etruscan city abandoned in the 8th century BC The different paths present in the vast archaeological area wind through a protected nature reserve, offering an extremely suggestive spectacle. In the archaeological area there are remains of houses, frescoes, tombs, while all the finds found can be admired in the Archaeological Museum of Montalto.
Just a few minutes from the archaeological park is the thermal park, which has four large summer pools, with different temperatures equipped with sunbeds and umbrellas.
Surrounded by nature
A few minutes from Farnese and the Terre di Marfisa you reach Lake Bolsena. Located between Lazio, Umbria and Tuscany, it constitutes an interesting tourist destination and a starting point for visiting the medieval villages surrounding the lake, playing sports and tasting local dishes based on whitefish, the typical lake fish.
In the medieval village of Bolsena you can visit the Monaldeschi Castle, the Museum with archaeological finds, the Collegiate Church of Santa Cristina, which incorporates four churches of different ages, and the Saint’s sepulcher.
Capodimonte is a promontory surrounded by the lake of Bolsena, with a characteristic village, which was part of the Farnese dukedom and today is a fascinating tourist destination.
Valentano, 10 minutes by car from Farnese and the Terre di Marfisa, is located in a dominant position between Lake Bolsena and the Tuscan sea. Here, during the duchy, the fortress and churches were built. At the end of the duchy the Rocca became a monastery for cloistered nuns until 1930. Today the Rocca is a museum and cultural center for conferences.