sala del bosco

Discover the history of Torre in Pietra Castle

The way it is constructed as a fortified borgo (small village) with watch towers, a moat and surrounding walls, points to its mediaeval origins. In 1254 it was recorded as being the property of the Normanni Alberteschi family, then to be passed on to the Anguillara, the Massimo, and then the Peretti family. At the start of the 17th century Prince Michele Peretti, Sixtus V’s nephew, had a new, large and grand stately home built.

In the gardens colourful peacocks walked among cedar trees and excavation findings, and the Castle became the place of sumptuous banquets and hunts. But this very high standard of living soon depleted the family assets and so, in 1639, the estate and the Castle were sold to the Falconieri Princes, among the richest families of baroque Rome. They called to Torre in Pietra two geniuses of their time, the architect Ferdinando Fuga, who did the Church and the new staircase that gives access to the Piano Nobile, or main floor, where its noble inhabitants lived, and the painter Pier Leone Ghezzi, who was entrusted with the task of decorating the interior.

M07-Affresco-Panorama

The Castle one sees today is basically the one left by the Falconieri. The frescoes are perfectly preserved, and so this means we can live the splendour of the 1725 Jubilee, when Alessandro Falconieri commissioned Ghezzi to decorate the Piano Nobile with scenes celebrating Pope Benedict XIII’s visit to the Castle. And inside the octagonal Church the frescoes at the side alters are also his work. Lastly, in the late nineteenth century, the Falconieri family became extinct and Torre in Pietra met a period of decadence, until in 1926 it became the property of Senator Luigi Albertini who, together with his son Leonardo and son-in-law Nicolò Carandini, engaged in a massive reclamation of the farms lands, and restoration of the Castle, the Church and the other parts of the complex.

Guido Piovene, Travels in Italy, 1957

«Next to the Maccarese estate, there lies the Torre in Pietra estate, amongst the most perfect in Italy. The good is more often than not excellent where it is surrounded by the mediocre. And Torre in Pietra is a small agricultural kingdom, where we would gladly stop.

The history of Torre in Pietra can be told in brief. Luigi Albertini, obliged to leave the Corriere della Sera [a leading daily] because at loggerheads with the Fascist regime, decided to dedicate himself to something new. He bought there 1,415 hectares of naked soil, to which a further 900 were added later; forming a whole that was later trimmed back to around 1,600 hectares. This land had the sorry aspect typical of Rome’s surroundings in times not so distant. No fine lawns, little wheat, very few permanently established families, in remote and ramshackle houses; flocks, wild cattle, marshes, malaria; no capital investment to with which to transform farms. Albertini invested a huge amount, and began transforming his property; the Albertini and Carandini heirs continued, and do so still today. Torre in Pietra has a complex story, like everything that sees the light in these lands that are steeped in history.

Today the estate is a farm based on the format of those in Lombardy but in the heart of Lazio; but, unlike the farms that surround the cities of Lodi and Pavia, its agricultural products mingle with things prehistoric, Etruscan and late Roman. A tower on the estate is called Pagliaccetto, in memory of a young man by that name who rebelled against the Falconieri, the feudal lords, and led a peasant revolt. An old folktale tells of how he did a deal with the devil, and it is curious how even today he remains popular, to the extent that local farm labourers call their children Pagliaccetto; whoever doesn’t know the story, will doubtless be surprised to hear local mothers shouting out such a curious name.

The fine Falconieri Castle, before a hill covered by an ancient wood, is at the heart of the estate. One of its rooms has frescoes of the surrounding landscape on all four walls without interruption, and gives the illusion of being lost in the countryside. Albertini, who slept there, had a fence painted so as to defend himself from the cows that could come at him from the depths of the painting.

And the transformation continues: I saw fields levelled and planted, new irrigation canals; greenhouses famed for their tomatoes and artichokes, that here reach a monumental size and become almost objects of art; workshops, very recently invented agricultural machines, new villages, fine houses were to establish the growing population, that from a handful of inhabitants has now grown to a permanent 1,400. There are welfare projects, a kindergarten, a new church, named after Saint Bibiana because it is believed that the martyr was born here from a wealthy family of farmers, the gens Bibia. The farm also rears cattle. Choice livestock breeds have replaced the local Lazio stocks; 750 cows and famous bulls, with pedigrees the likes of race horses, fill the stables; and the fence painted on the bedroom walls is explained by this milky atmosphere. Milk and yoghurt are the main products. And cows are at the heart of it, and to them is dedicated everything that happens during the day, including the farm’s newsletter, as if they were humans.»

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