Discovering the ancient road
The Via Flaminia owes its name to the consul Gaius Flaminius Nepos who built it in just two years, from 220 to 218 B.C., with the aim of connecting Rome to Rimini and the Adriatic coast. The route started from the Fontinalis or Ratumena gate, running from the slopes of the Capitoline Hill along the axis of the Via Lata, the current Via del Corso up to the Flaminia gate in the current Ppeople’s Square. From here, the consular road ran straight up to the Tiber and crossed it on Milvian Bridge, and then headed northeastwards.
In addition to the numerous mausoleums and funerary monuments that lined the path, one of the most important archaeological evidence is the Villa ad Gallinas Albas, known today as Villa of Livia in Prima Porta, attributed to Livia Drusilla, wife of Emperor Augustus and mother of Tiberius. The villa, from which the magnificent frescoes are now located in the National Roman Museum of Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, was shaped in a terraced structure with residential buildings overlooking the central one.
From here, the Via Flaminia continued straight towards Monte Soratte through what are now small and well-preserved medieval villages, which preserve ancient monuments but also centuries-old traditions.
The current town of Sacrofano probably arose in Etruscan times. The original name of the town was Scrofano (still today there is a sow on the coat of arms), while the current one is due to a false etymology (sacro fano = sacred temple) linked to the presence of a circular temple on the summit of Monte Musino. The village preserves the church of Saint John the Baptist, rebuilt in the 16th century (of the medieval origin remains the beautiful Romanesque bell tower), the Renaissance church of Saint Blaise and the 17th century palace. Near Sacrofano are the shrines of the Our Lady of the Cave, with an image of the Virgin Mary painted on a tufa block and, a little further away, a pilgrimage destination, the sanctuary of Our Lady of Sorbo, built in the 15th century, after the miraculous appearance of the Virgin Mary near a rowan tree.
Further North, Castelnuovo di Porto reached a certain importance only in the Middle Ages when it became a feud of the Colonna family. Today it is worth visiting the Rocca Colonna, fortified in the 13th and again in the 16th century, the church of Saint Sylvester in Colonna and the collegiate church of Our Lady of the Assumption.
Capena was a Roman colony and famous for the presence at the centre of the town of a sacred wood (lucus) of a temple dedicated to the goddess Sabina Feronia, the protectress of the animals. In the current archaeological park are visible the remains of the forum, numerous tabernae, the baths and the amphitheater, among the smallest found in Italy.
In the territory of Fiano Romano, on the other hand, there are the remains of an imposing villa, located a short distance from the ancient town centre, belonging to the Volusii Saturnini, as evidenced by the inscription found during the archaeological investigations. The villa was discovered near Fiano Romano in 1960 when the A1 motorway was built.
The itinerary continues to the foothills of Monte Soratte, where Rignano Flaminiorises, with the Rocca Savelli and the collegiate of Saints Vincent and Anastasius.
The summit of the Soratte, which stands alone among the 410 hectares of the Nature Reserve of the homonymous mountain, is a fascinating and mysterious place. Since pre-Roman times, it was a place designated to receive religious cults and this sacred vocation continued in the Middle Ages, so much so that the mountain became the site of a Christian temple and several medieval hermitages, where, according to tradition, the emperor Constantine was baptised, miraculously healed from leprosy.
A historical monumental walk allows the visit of the mountain that the poet Horace called white, because always covered in snow, among the hermitages of Saint Andrew, Saint Lucy, Saint Sebastian and Saint Romana.
The legends surrounding the mountain were also fed by the presence of open-air giant karst chasms in the rock, identified as long as the gates to the kingdom of the Underworld. Of particular charm are the caves, including that of Saint Lucy, the deepest in Lazio, rich in stalactites and stalagmites.
Standing on the Soratte, in the homonymous reserve, is Sant’Oreste. The ancient village, of medieval origin, preserves many renaissance remains, such as the linear Palazzo Canali, designed according to tradition by Vignola and the collegiate church of Saitn Lawrence, inside which it is possible to admire a beautiful baroque organ.
The road then continued on two different tracks, one more mountainous and the other one more direct than, through Narni, Nocera Umbra and Gualdo Tadino reached the Adriatic coast. Originally, the road reached Fano (Fanum), later it was extended to Pesaro and Rimini, whose end was marked by the imposing Arch of Augustus.