70 kilometers from Rome, perched on the slopes of the Simbruini Mountains, at an altitude of 1,000 meters, Cervara di Roma is known as the ‘artists’ village,’ as its picturesque beauty has attracted for centuries artists from all over Europe. The painter and inventor Samuel Morse described it this way: “There is something strangely grandiose about a place like this. It is ruled, for the most part, by perfect silence.” The French artist Ernest Hébert lived in Cervara in the 19th century and painted many portraits of the village’s women.
With just 400 residents (most left after World War II), Cervara has the highest historical center in the province of Rome and the second in Lazio. It is the gateway to the Monti Simbruini Regional Natural Park, the largest protected natural area of the region with peaks reaching above 2100 meters.
Named for the large number of deer that once populated the area (‘cervi’ in Italian), Cervara di Roma offers a splendid view of the Aniene valley and is rich with historic churches, including the Church of Maria Santissima della Visitazione, near the ruins of the medieval fortress, entirely built in local stone; and the church of Santa Maria della Portella, overlooking the Aniene valley.
In the past, you could only reach Cervara on a mule; despite the shortage of connections, many artists embarked on a journey there, attracted by the area’s natural beauty. They celebrated the village and decorated it with works of art, such as sculptures, paintings, and poetry. For example, sculptors from the Florence Academy of Arts carved representations of peace and solidarity on the rocky cliffs of Cervara’s fortress. Poems by the exiled Spanish poet Rafael Alberti are on display along its alleys. And Oscar winner Ennio Morricone dedicated two compositions to Cervara; one of them, “Nocturne for Cervara,” is depicted on the village walls.
Within a few kilometers of Cervara, you can visit Subiaco, with its beautiful monasteries of San Benedetto and Santa Scolastica, and Arsoli, with its turreted Castello Massimo.