Italy’s Villages: The Walled Hill Town of Sermoneta

Fri, 03/12/2021 - 03:39
Summer landscape along the road from Norma to Sermoneta

Less than two hours from Rome is one of Lazio’s most beautiful villages, which looks like it’s suspended in time: Sermoneta

It is a walled hill town, with a 13th-century Romanesque cathedral and a well-preserved 13th-century castle, built by the powerful Caetani family, whose story is strictly intertwined with the story of Sermoneta.

You could start your visit right at the Castle, which stands in the town’s historic center, admiring first its massive external walls, proceeding then inside to the rooms, decorated with splendid frescoes by the painter Girolamo Siciolante, later renamed ‘Sermoneta.’

Recently, the prisons have also been opened to visits, and you can see the wall drawings made by inmates during their imprisonment.

Another landmark spot in Sermoneta is the Loggia dei Mercanti, a complex of arches built in the 15th century by a member of the Caetani family. The purpose of the structure was to house the city council of the time; offices, shops, workshops and stables for horses were also added, which made the area the center of Sermoneta’s political, social and business life during the Middle Ages. 

Not to miss is Sermoneta’s Cathedral of Santa Maria, located in the square of the same name. Erected in the 12th century on the remains of an ancient temple, it features a 24-meter-high bell tower, decorated with bricks and precious ceramics. 

The other must-see church in Sermoneta is San Michele Arcangelo, built on top of a rocky spur. Dating back to the 11th century, it was erected over the remains of an old pagan temple, probably of Roman origins. For centuries, this church has represented the heart of Sermoneta’s religious life. The Caetani family acquired it towards the end of the 13th century, establishing various congregations over the following years.

The Cistercian Valvisciolo Abbey is located nearby. Run by a congregation of Cistercian monks, the abbey was occupied and restored in the 13th century by the Knights Templar, who used to gather in the secret rooms of this fortified church. The original complex dates back to the eighth century. 

Sermoneta is best reached by car as it does not have a train station.