Ascrea is a tiny village (fewer than 300 inhabitants) in the Valle del Turano in the province of Rieti in Italy. To the west of the village is the artificially created Lake Turano.
Ascrea travel guide
Tourist information office: None.
Town hall: Piazza Mareri, 1 – Ascrea. Phone: +39 0765 723112.
Public transport: The town does not have a railway station. From Rome, take first the bus to Carsoli (from Ponte Mammolo metro station on line B) and then the Co.tral bus to Ascrea. (NB: The only bus goes at 11am and does not run on Sundays). From Rieti, there is a very irregular bus service.
The main attraction of the town itself is the San Nicola di Bari Church, built in 1252. However, most tourists visit for the natural beauty of the valley in which Ascrea is located. From the more than 700-metre-high hill town, there are stunning panoramic views of Lago di Turano.
Events and festivals
The feast of the town’s patron saint, San Nicola di Bari, is celebrated on 6 December.
A brief history of Ascrea
Ascrea was founded around the 11th century. The main family that owned the town during the Middle Ages was the Mareri dynasty. After the creation of the artificial Lake Turano in the 20th century, many of the town’s inhabitants were forced to make a living elsewhere and only about 300 people remain today.
Foundation and early history
Ascrea is more recent than the other towns and villages in the region. The town was founded between the 11th and 14th centuries, with the former settlements, Bulgaretta and Mirandella, being depopulated at the insistence of the Collalto family to move into the fortified new town. Of the original castle, there is not much more than a few ruins left
Previously, between the 9th and 10th centuries, the region had been made unsafe by the Saracens. Some place names remain from that time.
After the Middle Ages
The Collalto family sold their property in 1440, with the approval of Pope Eugenio IV, to Cola Mareri, who already owned most of the area anyway.
By 1570, the town had no more than 160 inhabitants and in the following years, with the Mareri’s tacit approval, it became a highwayman’s den, where travelers going from Rieti to the Kingdom of Naples were often ambushed and robbed.
This eventually led to Muzio Mareri’s death sentence in 1615, with Pope Paul V ordering the confiscation of Ascrea and the family’s other property.
In 1685, the rights of citizens vis-à-vis feudal lords were established.
In the 18th century, through wisely chosen marriages, the town came into the hands of the Vincenti Mareri family. In those days, disputes over grazing rights with the town of Varco, which was under the authority of the San Salvatore Maggiore Abbey, often took place.
Other families that controlled the town were successively the Farnese, who passed it partly to the Sederini and partly to the Gentili. Later, the Del Drago family reunited th etown again.
19th century till now
The end of the 18th century saw Ascrea and its environs as a battleground between Napoleon’s troops and those of the papal state, which of course involved a lot of looting. A resulting problem for the population was that the state of the roads made trade with the Kingdom of Naples impossible. Many inhabitants of the city therefore fled to the mountains.
After the papal state regained control of the area, Ascrea became part of the municipality of Paganico.
After the unification of Italy, Ascrea became a municipality in its own right.
When the artificial Turano Lake was created in 1936, large tracts of land disappeared. A large part of the population lost their source of income and was forced to emigrate to other parts of Italy or even abroad.
Day trips from Ascrea
Ascrea is located almost exactly at the halfway point between Rome and L’Aquila. From Rome it is a more or less 70 kilometer drive to the northeast. The town is around 30 kilometers south of the provincial capital Rieti.
How to get to Ascrea by car
From Rome and L’Aquila, take the A24 as far as Carsoli, and then the SP34. From Rieti, follow the SP31 to the south.