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Rieti

  • Description
  • What to See
  • What to Do
  • What to Taste

The ancient capital of Sabina and its territory are set in a beautiful mountainous scenery, with many sites testifying to the fact that St. Francis of Assisi traveled this area.

Rieti Province is located in Lazio, in central Italy, on the slopes of the Sabini and Reatini Mountains. An important center since ancient times, in Rieti evidence of both Roman and Medieval activity - when the city became a Libero Comune (free city-state), and later the residence of the Popes - remain.

Surrounded by the Reatini Mountains and overlooked by Monte Terminillo, Rieti is the ideal starting-point for excursions and visits to a territory rich like few others in protected natural oases, castles, fortresses and Franciscan sanctuaries. Outstanding is the Riserva Naturale dei Laghi Reatini (Reatini Lakes Nature Reserve), boasting the Lakes Lungo and Ripasottile, as well as protected flora and fauna, particularly, among the bird species, herons and little grebes.

The area is rich in watercourses, including the Rivers Velino, Salto and Turano, and numerous lakes dot the territory. These include Del Salto Lake, the largest artificial reservoir of Lazio, 1,755 ft above sea level and considered the most attractive due to its lush vegetation and the lovely towns that surround it. Also in this area one finds Lakes Turano and Scandarello, immersed in the scenery of the Monti della Laga, in the Amatrice Valley.

Rieti was the final province to be annexed to Lazio, in 1927, and boasts a record: given its geographical position, this city is considered the navel of Italy, related by a monument in the town center.

The center is the most ancient part of the city and develops around the central hub of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, with its Fontana dei Delfini (Fountain of the Dolphins). Just opposite is the Palazzo Comunale, with its original 13th-Century structure partly occupied by the Museo Civico, where archaeological finds dating from the 9th Century B.C. to the late Roman period are kept, along with paintings dating from the 14th Century to those of contemporary times.

Facing the nearby Piazza Battisti is the Renaissance Palace of the Prefecture,, from whose garden one can enjoy a beautiful view over the oldest part of town and the surrounding mountains. The Duomo (Cathedral) was built around 1100, but reconstructed in later times. Next to it stands a bell tower, followed by the Palazzo Vescovile (Bishop's Palace), built in the 13th Century. Just before it is a monumental loggia and a courtyard that lead to the spectacular Salone Papale.

To the north of the building rises the Arco del Vescovo (Bishop’s Arch), dating back to the late 13th century and built by Boniface VIII. In Via Roma stands Palazzo Vecchiarelli, by Carlo Maderno and, beside it, the Romanesque Church of St. Peter the Apostle. Noteworthy is Palazzo Vicentini, one of the most intriguing structures here, attributed to Sangallo. Once across the Velino Brdige - under which runs the eponymous River - one encounters the Monumento alla Lira (Monument to the Lira), unveiled in 2003 and constructed with more than 2.2 million 200-lira coins, collected and fused for the occasion. 

Finally, underground Rieti hides away the remains of the ancient Roman viaduct (built in the 3rd Century BC). For lovers of archaeology and things ancient, the area offers itineraries that wind along the valley of the Tiber, to Collevecchio, Cottanello, Torri in Sabina and Vacone. Another tour follows the Turano Valley in Monteleone; Paganico; Rocca Sinibalda, with its castle in the shape of an eagle; and Turania, where a treasure was brought to light dating back to the early decades of the 1st Century AD.

Also of great interest are the valleys of the Velino and Tronto, with Cittaducale and its Angevin Tower; Castel Sant'Angelo and Borgo Velino, with the 18th-Century Parish Church of San Matteo; Antrodoco with its Duomo; and Amatrice with the Roman-Gothic Church of St. Francis and the Church of St. Augustine, with frescoes dating back to the end of the 15th Century.

Very impressive is a visit to the Franciscan sanctuaries that mark the stops along the Walk of Saint Francis in the Rieti Valley, beloved by the Saint. Among these, the Sanctuary of Fonte Colombo with the church, the monastery and the cave, the Sacro Speco, where according to legend St. Francis, after retiring in meditation, wrote the rules of the Franciscan order; the Sanctuary of Greccio, remembered as the place chosen by St. Francis for the first commemoration of the Nativity in Bethlehem and is included, along with the surrounding borough. Finally, the Sanctuary of Poggio Bustone is remembered as the departure point for the Franciscans’ peace mission.

Fortresses and castles comprise more of the Province's attractions, chock-full of traces of history. Among those deserving a mention are Macchiatimone in Pescorocchiano, with the remains of its Medieval castle; the Fortress of the Castle of Corvara in Borgorose, dating from the 10th-11th Century; the Castle of Collalto; and Torre del Castello Postmontem in Fara in Sabina, also home to the Abbey of Farfa, considered one of the most important artistic and historical monuments in Rieti Province. 

A province that offers so much on the artistic and natural side, Rieti is of no less interest for those seeking recreation or relaxation.
Monte Terminillo and at Leonessa are the local go-tos for winter sports, and boast well-appointed facilities for ski lovers. For hiking enthusiasts, plenty of nature trails run among the mountain peaks and grassy valleys, whence one can also enjoy fine views over the valleys of Rieti and Leonessa. The valleys around Rieti are also ideal for sports such as hang gliding, paragliding and parascending.

The lay of the land also makes it suitable for mountain bikers and trekkers, particularly in the Monti della Laga that comprises Amatrice, in Upper Sabina. For those that prefer relaxation and wellness, Rieti and the Sabina area offer several spas, such as those in Cotilia, named after the homonymous pre-Roman city andappreciated by the ancient Romans. At the same time, the Parco delle Terme di Fonte Cottorella is an oasis of peace and serenity, where the natural spring waters are often used to treat a number of conditions, and the Baths of Antrodoco lie within a terrain rich in sulphurous waters.

Finally, feasts and festivals are also among Rieti Province's highlights. The festival dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua is a heartfelt celebration that has taken place for 600 years in the old town of Rieti, with a procession through the streets and the display of the simulacrum. In Antrodoco, the Sagra degli Stracci (Festival of Rags) is an occasion to taste local culinary specialties. The Festa della Madonna della Neve e del Toro Ossequioso (Festival of Our Lady of the Snow and of the Fulsome Bull) is held in Posta, in which a man rides a harnessed bull and brings it before the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, where it will be made to kneel three times.

Evocative is the commemoration of the first Living Nativity scene in Greccio, where Christmastiem sees 100 hundred participants re-enacting an historic event dating back to 1223 and inspired by St. Francis of Assisi. Then, the Festa Dolce Primavera (Sweet Spring Festival) in Castel Sant'Angelo is a competition between the 10 municipalities in preparing the most delicious desserts. And many are carnival festivities, with floats parading the towns of Amatrice and Magliano Sabina during the celebrations. 

The land offers numerous products for a savory cuisine characterized by intense flavors. Local products range from potatoes of Leonessa, beans, spelt, and D.O.P. olive oil that has been produced in Sabina since the 7th-6th Century B.C.

The presence of forests means that local produce includes chestnuts (particularly those of Antrodoco), mushrooms, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, juniper, and white and black truffles.
The age-old tradition of farming produces fresh, salted or seasoned cheese, such as ricotta made with goat's milk; the Fiore Molle from Leonessa, flavored with saffron; and pecorino from Amatrice, less pungent and sour. Not only, but the sausages from Leonessa and Amatrice and the dry sausages from Rieti are divine.

All these products are used to realize the typical local dishes. These include the stracciatelle in brodo (similar to egg-drop soup); spaghetti all'amatricianapollo (chicken) alla diavola; stracci di Antrodoco - thin pancakes filled with meat sauce and cheese; stufatine garofolatespezzatino di pollo (chicken stew), agnello in guazzetto (lamb stew); porchetta di Poggio Bustone.

As for the sweetsterzetti alla reatina are soft cookies made with honey and nuts; the copeta, made with honey and nuts between bay leaves; and finally the pizza di Pasqua (Easter pizza).
As for wines, try the Colli della Sabina D.O.C. in white, red and rosé.