Rocca Priora is a small village (about 12,000 inhabitants in 2011) in an area of the Lazio region known as the Castelli Romani. Aside from the obvious monuments, it is a pleasure to walk the narrow alleys of the old town, with their cobblestones and stairs veering off in all directions.
Rocca Priora travel guide
Tourist information: The city does not have a tourist office.
Town hall: Piazza Umberto I – Rocca Priora (phone: +39 06 942841).
Railway station: There is no railway station in Rocca Priora. The nearest stations are in Frascati and Ciampino.
Nearest airport: Ciampino (Rome).
Rocca Priora Tourist attractions
The Palazzo Savelli is the town hall of Rocca Priora. It started its existence in the 11th century, with the construction of a fortress by the Annibaldi family. In the 15th century, the Savelli acquired the structure, of which however not much was left. In the 19th century, the building needed to be restord again, which led to the present Palazzo Savelli. Architect of this reconstruction was Francesco Vespignani, who had been told to stick to the 15th century structure of the palace.
The Piazza Zanardelli is the highest point of the historical center. Here you will find the Belvedere, with a beautiful view over the valley and the surrounding hills. The statue adorning the square is a Memorial Monument for Victims of War. It depicts a wounded soldier being held by a winged woman, the latter symbolizing the Fatherland.
Santa Maria Assunto in Cielo Church
The Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo Church is located next to the Palazzo Savelli. Highlights of this church are the frescoes in the apse and the incisions depicting all sorts of animals on the arch in front of the altar.
Santa Maria della Neve Church
The church of Santa Maria della Neve was built on a small 16th-century chapel, which used to be the home of a hermit. It was here that the villagers came to pray to the Madonna and ask her to protect the snow trade, which used to be the town’s major source of income.
The Porta Savelli is a pointed arch, that used to be the main entrance into Rocca Priora. Constructed at the end of the 14th century, it still has the Savelli coat of arms, a shield with three band, two lions supporting a rose, and a dove.
The Monsignor Francesco Giacci Cultural Center hosts a permanent exhibition dedicated to the Roman sculptor Mario Benedetto Robazza (1934-2020). The various paintings and sculptures depict the 34 cantos of Dante’s “Inferno”. A 90 meter long bas-relief consisting of several panels graces the courtyard.
Robazza was also responsible for three fountains in the town center. The “Buero Fountain” graces the town entrance on the Via Tuscolana, the “Triumph of Good Fountain” can be seen at the Via Roma entrance to the city and the Narcissus Fountain graces the central square Largo Pallotti.
Various streets in the old town are also decorated with basreliefs depicting the various stages of the Via Crucis. The sculptor, naturally, was Benedetto Robazza.
The squares and streets of Rocca Priora are also adorned with multiple older fountains. These include we mean by them the Fontana Vecchia, the Fontana Maggiore, the Fontana Nuova and the Fontana Bella. The Fontana Chiusa was meant for to provide drinking water for the poor people of the town. Other fountains are known as the Carpinello, the Sbringolo and the Sbringoncello.
Via Vittorio Emanuele
In the Via Vittorio Emanuele you can still see a medieval tower, one of few monuments remaining from the period.
A brief history of Rocca Priora
Rocca Priora is probably located on the same spot where the ancient Latin settlement of Corbium used to be. In the 3rd century, after the decline of Corbium, a Roman villa was built here.
At the end of the 11th century, a fortress, the Castrum Perjuriae Arcis, stood on the top of the hill. This had been gifted by the then Count of Tusculum, Agapito, to his daughter.
The Tuscolani lost the castle to the Annibaldi family in 1191.
From the 14th to the 16th century it was in the hands of the Savelli family, with a short interval during which it belonged to the papal properties.
In the 16th century Rocca Priora was almost completely destroyed. It was restored by the Savelli family. When this family ran out of funds, they were forced to cede the village to the Camera Apostolica.
In the 19th century, part of Rocca Priora was sold to Luciano Bonaparte, while the other half was acquired by the Rospigliosi family.
In 1870 Rocca Priora became property of the new Italian State.
The name is probably derived from Rocca Periura, which means something like “fortress where cheaters live”.
How to get to Rocca Priora by car
From Rome, it is easiest to follow the SP511 (Via Anagnina).