Calcata, a village revived by artists
Immersed in the woodland of the Treja Valley Natural Park, between Rome and Viterbo, Calcata stands out like a vision on a tufa limestone plateau overlooking the valley below. The settlement has never required the addition of any outer walls because it is as if it were suspended at the top of a rock formation and access is provided by a single arched portal. Abandoned in the 1930s due to a fear that landslides might occur at this point, Calcata was later repopulated in the second half of the 20th century by a colony of artists to whom it owes its current vitality.
Highlights of Calcata
A visit to Calcata will most certainly draw you back in time, and to a period which may be hard to define. It might be the distant, mysterious age of the Faliscans who formed part of a pre-Roman Italic civilisation dating back to the Iron Age (IX-VIII century BC). The Faliscans were the first group that populated this valley. We may also feel we have returned to the Middle Ages, when the houses of the village - partially made of stone and partially excavated in the tufa stone - were created. It might be the period of the Anguillara castle or even the 1960s, when Calcata became a popular venue for a group of Roman bohemian folk who quietly came to inhabit the village. The latter were followed by artisans and artists from all over Europe who, seeking a truly human-scale environment, came here to live and set up shops and ateliers.
It is now a richly diverse village and the home of various cultural initiatives, such as the Grotta dei Germogli, a nouvelle-style restaurant and social club, installed in an elegant cave-like environment embellished also by decorative mosaic surfaces produced with recycled materials.
Just outside the village, in the sub-district of località Colle, you can walk around the Opera Bosco open-air contemporary-art museum and workshop. Created in 1996 by the artists Anne Demijttenaere and Costantino Morosin, this initiative has been supported by contributions made by dozens of other artists.
The works displayed at this site are produced exclusively with natural raw woodland materials that are present and are transformed and dissolved in the woods.
Today the museum forms part of the museum network of the Lazio Region.
It is certainly worth visiting the garden surrounding the house of the architect Paolo Portoghesi. The space was originally conceived as a repository of various memories of an architectural historian who became enchanted by the natural world and its suggestive local setting.
In his “Garden of Wonders” Portoghesi installed a variety of structures, fountains, flower beds, pools and ceramic works, upon which appear particular phrases, poems and quotations. Six olive trees with centuries-old trunks have a sculptured appearance and Portoghesi felt he should assign to them the names of the artists Bernini, Michelangelo, Borromini, Rodin, Brancusi and Moore.
In his book Abitare poeticamente la terra. La casa, lo studio e il giardino di Calcata (2022) Portoghesi and his wife Giovanna recount what attracted them to live at Calcata, a location that initially became a weekend retreat and eventually their permanent place of residence.
The Treia Valley Regional Park
A visit to Calcata should also include a tour of the valley of the river Treia. Over a distance of approximately thirty kilometres this tributary of the Tiber flows through a territory of volcanic origin where it has created deep gorges, and generating an ideal humid environment for amphibians and reptiles in the dense undergrowth. On the slopes exposed to the sun the Mediterranean maquis is the dominant form of vegetation. Nor should you miss a visit to the Monte Gelato district, with its waterfalls, medieval tower, an old water mill and natural basins.
This beautiful, cool area offers an oasis in all seasons, thanks to the verdant natural shades of the spring and summer, and acquiring a magical atmosphere as the colours of autumn gradually appear. Likewise, from the valley below the village of Calcata presents a splendid panorama. The houses, veiled by yellow and reddish lichen, appear to merge with the rock formation upon which they rise and acquire a camouflaged appearance beside the colours of the woodland, presenting an ethereal vision.
For further information www.parchilazio.it/valledeltreja