Sermoneta is one of the most fascinating villages in the Lazio region, surrounded by its mighty walls and completely perched around its splendid castle named to the noble family of the Caetani. It looks like a tiny maze of streets, with scenographic flight of steps and buildings graciously adorned with colorful flowers that give to Sermoneta a postcard appearance.
It is reached in about 45 minutes by car from the Valmontone motorway exit (A1 motorway), not far from Rome. Even though its origins can be traced, according to the tradition, to the ancient city of Sulmo, quoted by Virgil in Eneide, Sermoneta, which now has almost 10,000 inhabitants, is dates back to the Middle Ages. Subsequently, from the thirteenth century, Sermoneta became the feudalty of the Caetani family, a historic Lazio family whose town has been linked ever since.
The visit of the village, which can take a whole day, can only be from the Castello Caetani. Its construction dates back to the eleventh century and is due to the Annibaldi family. With the passage of time he then assumed more and more defensive goals, with an architectural style focused on essentially military schemes. This is mainly due to the period when the castle became the property of the Borgia family, known to be a great fighter and little helpless to welcome.
After passing the entrance (photo 1), you walk through the ramps leading to Place-of-arms (photo 2) through a drawbridge. From the square, rather wide and having a quadrangular shape, you have a rather complete view of the entire Castle. In particular, the view is dominated by the two towers, the “Keep” and the “Little Keep”.
In front of the fortified towers, you can access in the “Cardinal’s House” (photo 3), erected by the Borgia family around the ‘400. Inside it is a painting by the local painter Girolamo Siciolante but also a perfectly functional piano in the early 1900s.
Next to it, the stables (photo 4), very large, that housed horses, the fundamental means of transport in that time.
The most interesting part is perhaps the “House of the Painted Rooms”, consisting of guest rooms. The peculiarity, as the name itself implies, is the presence of beautiful frescos depicting mythological figures and theological virtues (photo 5). It is part of the complex also a fully furnished room with period furniture and flooring (photo 6) and the “servitude” room, presumably the one that hosted the staff who, from time to time, accompanied the guests of the castle.
It’s very interesting the long covered pass leading to the rounds walk (photo 7) from which you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Sermoneta countryside.
The visit of Sermoneta
After the visit of the Castle, Sermoneta awaits the visitor in all of its streets. It is easy, but it is also nice to get lost in the various courts, maybe by visiting a shop that sells typical local produce such as honey, tarts, and jams. Interesting is the “Orange Garden” (photo 8), the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta with its beautiful Romanesque bell tower (photo 9), the loggia of the merchants with its beautiful arcades (photo 10).
The Abbey of Valvisciolo
Not far from Sermoneta, just a few minutes drive away, deserves a visit to the Abbey of Valvisciolo (photo 11).
It is a monastic complex emerged in the 11th century, but as a fortified center of the Knights Templar. The interior has a beautiful cloister (photo 12), beautifully adorned with flowers and climbing plants.
The abbey contains innumerable traces of its past with a clear Cistercian mark (photo 13), such as the famous “Sator”, preserved as a graffiti in the cloister of the Abbey, a magical square inside which is preserved a cryptic phrase palindrome.
Where to eat
Going to Sermoneta means spending a good day breathing in medieval air but also having a nice meal, perhaps with typical food in the area. The village is full of restaurants but still it may be difficult to find a place, especially if it is a fine sunny day on the weekend.
Prices are on average quite high. I tried the “Trattoria Marcello”, one step from the Loggia of the Merchants. The strong point is the second of the meat, really excellent, which in part compensates for the quality of the service that is not excellent. For my TripAdvisor review, click here.
Before leaving, take a look at the web site Castello Caetani, to check opening times and prices. In general, the Castle is always open, except Thursday, the weekly closing day. The visit is only guided and departs every hour. The guides, among other things, are very good and available.
The Abbey of Valvisciolo does not have its own website. It is open in the morning from 9 am to 12 p.m. (12.30 p.m. in summer) and from 3.30 pm to 5.30 pm (6.30 pm in summer). The entrance is free, but you can shop in the shop.