Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Rieti: An Enchanted Place Protected by Imposing Walls
This ancient city, whose origins are steeped in legend, was first owned by the Sabine and later by the Romans. It lived its greatest moment of splendour during the Middle Ages when it was home to many Popes and their followers. The mighty walls surround a fascinating historical centre. The main square in Rieti is the social centre of the city and the charming Flavio Vespasiano Theatre is an acoustic treasure. The three churches dedicated to Saint Francis, Saint Dominic and Saint Augustine mark the urban layout with their grandeur. The Cathedral boasts masterpieces by great masters from Andrea Sacchi to Bernini. The Renaissance “palazzi” and the clear waters of the Velino River complete the scene.
Surrounded by the rocky crests of Mount Terminillo it is located in the middle of the valley shaped by the Velino River. It was first the capital of the Sabinians, later a Roman establishment.
Rieti has been nicknamed Umbilicus Italiae, the navel of Italy, since very ancient times. According to sources, the first reference oto the Rieti valley as being located centrally on the peninsula dates back to Varrone (116-27 BC). The imposing city walls built between the 13th and 15th centuries are well preserved and stretch for about one kilometre around the northeast corner of the town. The city hall on the main square Piazza Vittorio Emanue II was built in the 13th century and later rebuilt in the 17th century. Very close to the building is the Cathedral with a small, beautiful colonnade (1348) approaching a Romanic bell tower. On the right-hand side of the chruch there is the distinctive government building with a stunning recessed balcony designed by Vignola that overlooks the lower part of the town. In the opposite direction to the main square there is the Flavio Vespasiano Theatre, the town's cultural emblem and a small masterpiece of acoustics engineering. Worth mentioning is the dome fresco painting (1901) by G. Rolland representing the triumph of Vespasianus and Titus after the sack of Jerusalem. Walking from the main square all the way down Via Roma to the river you can admire the remainings of the old Roman bridge sticking out over the water. The Velino river has played a key role in the town's history and urban development. Its clear waters and rare ecosystem play a natural performance against an urban background: the river winds its way through old buildings with a strong current drifting trouts, mallards and water rails. This town lies 405 m. above sea level on the southern edge of a large hollow, once an ancient lake, at the foot of the Sabini and Reatini mountains and to the right of the Velino River. An ancient Sabine centre, Rieti was a Roman Municipium in Imperial times. It was continually sacked during the Barbarian invasions and became part of the Duchy of Spoleto (6th century); it was destroyed in 1149 by Ruggero the Norman. It then became a free municipality, and an ally of the Pope. Rieti subsequently came under the Alfani Signoria and in 1397 became part of the Papal States, sharing their vicissitudes.After being annexed to the Kingdom of Italy (1860) it was first part of Umbria and later of Latium.

Monuments: Duomo (of medieval origin, with 17th century alterations), Palazzo Vescovile (13th century) housing the Volte del Vescovado, Arco del Vescovo (13th century), Palazzo Comunale (18th century), Palazzo del Governo (16th century), Church of S. Agostino (of 14th century origin), Church of S. Francesco (13th century, 17th century alterations).
The local economy is traditionally based on agriculture on the fertile surrounding plain (wheat, vegetables, fruit, beetroot, fodder).

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