Follow in the footsteps of St Francis
Some ten minutes’ drive from Capena, across the River Tiber, lies the start of La Sabina – the Sabine Hills region. The hills themselves can be seen as you drive down the hill towards the Tiberina: snow-capped in winter and looking close enough to touch on a clear day. The area stretches away towards Rieti and the ski resort of Terminillo (just over an hour’s drive from Capena).
Many of the unsung towns and villages in the Sabina are beautifully kept and well worth a visit. The rolling hills and rugged countryside are reminiscent of Yorkshire, but with good weather.
The Sabine Hills produce some of the best olive oil in Italy. This advantage, and the fact that it was a malaria-free zone, made it a prosperous area in pre-Roman times and the Sabina is still full of very fine pre-Roman sites.
The flora and fauna are very abundant and varied, and organic food production is also popular in the area. For more energetic visitors, the Sabine Hills are a good walking area with plenty of interesting places to visit.
Here are just a few examples that are all a short drive away from Capena:
This breathtaking fairy-tale lake, reached over precipitous mountains, is actually a reservoir. It is ringed by enticing little restaurants and offers very good fishing. Allegedly, eels are exported from Lake Turano to Anguillara (famous for its, erm, eels) on Lake Bracciano.
Abbazia di Farfa
This beautiful Benedictine abbey is well worth a visit.
Olive oil presses
The area is stuffed with olive oil presses, but a particular favourite is Capo Farfa olive oil press, Via Quinzia 126, Poggio San Lorenzo (Rieti). This press has been in the same family since the 1600s. The current owner has lovingly restored all the old pieces of machinery and other artefacts that have been in his family for generations and created a museum of olive oil production. Capo Farfa has a restaurant that offers a set meal on Sundays eaten on long trestle tables. You need to book but Casa Capena can call for you if you are interested. The original Salaria Roman road skirting round the base San Lorenzo’s walls offers a good walking opportunity.
This beautifully-kept hilltop village is a traffic-free haven and very popular with British and American visitors.
This is the path taken by St Francis when he walked from Assisi to Rome to petition the Pope. Unlike most of the public footpaths in Italy, it is well-marked and the final section cuts right through the Sabine Hills. Here is a link to a PDF document showing the last leg, from Rieti to Roma.
This interesting and ancient village owes its name to the many stone lions that adorn its buildings.
Chiesa di Santa Vittoria
A beautifully preserved Romanesque church located just outside Monteleone Sabino.
Last but not least …
Vudstok in Sabina
This completely free music festival (pronounced ‘Woodstock’) takes place once a year near the Trebula Mutuesco archaeological site towards the end of July. It is a showcase for emerging bands organised by the OZU arts collective.