Valle della Caffarella: Roman myths and legends
One of the magic places in Rome, far from the city, is the Valle della Caffarella, hosting legends and myths: not far from the Aurelian walls, surrounded by Via Latina and Via Appia, there is a pure park where you can discover Roman history.
Visiting the Valle della Caffarella - part of the fascinating Parco Regionale dell'Appia Antica - you will make a tour in the peculiar atmosphere of the ancient world, decorated by any kind of trees and flowers along the Almone river, that Roman people considered holy: there's a legend telling about the Italic hero Almone, fighting against Aeneas Trojan troops.
You will discover ancient temples, tombs and Roman houses, property of important families of the time.
The Casale and its delicacies
If you don't understand why you see medieval towers, houses and mills surrounded by the Roman ruins, we suggest you to reflect about the division the Roman Empire caused to the Valley: the Caffarelli's recovered all the area in 1500. They also built the Casale della Vaccareccia: you will see these 16th century building in the middle of the park, together with its 13th century tower made of marble and tuff, coming out the roof you can see from far away.
Don't hesitate to enter because there are some farmers living ther,e and producing cheese by the milk the sheeps living there offer: it is a great way to take refreshment before exploring the park, isn't it?
From the Casale della Vaccareccia, through Via della Caffarella towards Appia Antica, you will see the Sepulchre of Annia Regilla surrounded by tall Poplars: it was built in the 2nd century AD, made of yellow bricks and red decorations. You will be astonished by the lesenes and the little columns decorated by Corinthian capitals mounted in the external walls.
In contrast with the ancient style, not so far away from the support care, there is a 1800s mill and a mediaeval tower where in the past they used to work and wash the fabrics.
The reign of Egeria, the nymph
Go on towards the south in the park, because you will be able to admire some extraordinary remains, from the Ninfeo di Egeria: the legend tells the king Numa Pompilio used to meet his loved nymph Egeria; she became a source of water when he died.
Knowing these romantic stories will help you to appreciate this place even more, built near a green hill: according to the historians, at the beginning, there were three recesses on the sides, but the only one you can clearly see is the big one at the end, once hosting the statue of Almone, the fountain of the acid water that Roman people used as therapeutic water.
You can try to imagine how it was in the past: there were white and green marbles, glass mosaics introducing a barrel vault made of pumice: it gave the aspect of a natural cave and it actually allows the Capelvenere fern to grow up on the walls, creating a bucolic and a dreamlike landscape.
Looking on the top of the hill, you will see the church of S.Urbano: in the past it was a temple dedicated to the wife of emperor Antonino Pio, Faustina, and to the fertility goddess Cerere. You can clearly see the columns and the architrave made of white Pentelic marble and the world made of clay added during the first half of 1600 by Pope Urbano VIII.
Get in the intimate and suggestive atmosphere of this place rich in frisco dedicated to the Gospel and to the life of Saint Urbano and Cecilia. On the vault roof you can admire the stuccoes and the octagonal frescoes. Go down the crypt to admire a fresco of the Virgin Mary and the Jesus Christ surrounded by the Saints Urbano and Giovanni, from the 10th century, in a dark atmosphere.
The pagan temple became a church dedicated to bishop Urbano in the fourth century AD, martyr of Diocleziano persecutions: the remains are situated not far from there, at the 4th mile of Via Appia Antica, you can easily it by feet crossing the park.
From the holy wood to the holy stone
Once you get out the church, you can see three holm oaks: the legend tells it is the Remains of the holy wood where the lovers Egeria and Numa Pompilio used to meet, and where the king used to find inspiration for the Roman holy laws. It seems the real holy seems the real holy wood was is situated out of Porta Capena, but the place will appear beautiful and magic as the whole Parco della Caffarella is.
Going on towards Almone river, you will see the Remains of the ancient Colombario Costantiniano, from the Antonina age: it was a collective sepulcher. Entering the remains, you will see the recesses where the dead people remains were stored.
Don't go away without visiting the church of Santa Maria in Palmis, at the end of Via della Caffarella, where it crosses Via Appia Antica. In this building - dating back to the 9th century - where is the copy of a rock with the holy footprints of Jesus Christ.
A story that can be fascinating for a Christian believer tells that the Apostol Pietro met Jesus Christ while he was escaping from Nero persecution: Pietro asked him "Domine Quo Vadis?", and Jesus answered him "I am going back to Rome to be crucified again"; Pietro understood the reproach and went back to the city to face his sad destiny. This is the reason why this place is also called Church of Domine Quo Vadis.
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