Cookie Consent by Free Privacy Policy website Turismo Alviano | Art and culture | Legends and Traditions
Art and culture
Legends and Traditions
The Plain of the Ship

Once upon a time... there was a ship. Or rather, a rickety barge on board of which the Etruscans had already clashed with the Umbrians in the conquest of lands on both sides of the Tiber. Later, the threat of Roman conquest had brought the Etruscans and Umbrians together to defend themselves against the common enemy. On the right bank were the Etruscans from Orvieto, Viterbo, Bracciano, and the surrounding hills; on the left were the Umbrians from Interamna (Terni), Amelia, Narni, and so on. The encounter took place where the Alviano Lake now ends, near the dam. Even back then, the river made a leap at that point. The Romans, who had come up the Tiber from Orte, were waiting for the overloaded boat of local fighters. Unfortunately, the boat got stuck in the mud and reeds. The battle was brutal, a true slaughter on both sides. The Roman victory was quickly apparent, and cries and wails of old people, wives, and children who had seen their loved ones die, as well as their independence and homeland, arose from the riverbanks. And so, to this day, that battle and that place are remembered as the "Pianto della Nave" (Crying of the Ship), and the area is indeed called the "Pian della Nave" (Plain of the Ship). Source: Luciano Canonici, "Le leggende del Tevere" (The Legends of the Tiber), 1979.

The Man with the Skull in His Hand

Caio Popilio was a Roman tribune who had risen through the ranks thanks to his populist attitudes, which earned him the sympathy of the people. However, when Brutus assassinated Julius Caesar on the Ides of March, shouting in the Roman Forum, "Long live Cicero, Long live Liberty!" - seeing in him the man who would restore order to the Republic - Mark Antony feared that his own end had come. For this reason, Antony tasked Popilio with tracking down Cicero. Popilio reached him at his villa in Formia and killed him, cutting off his head, which he then hid in a sack. Popilio was conflicted. He couldn't decide whether to give the head to Antony for a reward or keep it as a lucky charm, an amulet for good luck and superstition. In the end, he chose to keep it and fled Rome. He sailed along the Tiber, a safer route than the consular roads, and settled in Umbria after passing the confluence with the Nera River, continuing to the left for several kilometers. On the hill behind him, there was a small village, Albianum. The place was peaceful, perfect for settling down to live among the reeds and cane thickets. He established his outpost there: a villa, fields, and an estate called Popiliano. In the reeds, there was a cave where he secretly hid the sack with Cicero's head. In the last months of his life, Popilio spent a lot of time in the cave, worrying his wife and children. He died suddenly inside while clutching the sack of mystery convulsively. They buried him there, unable to remove the sack from his hands. Centuries passed, and about a thousand years later, monks from Soratte and Cimino arrived. They founded a monastery in honor of St. Sylvester at Popiliano. The monks soon began to hear mysterious voices and see strange signs. No one wanted to walk the corridors at night anymore because a skull-shaped lamp often appeared, held by a skeleton. One day, the prior of the monastery accidentally found a parchment that, through his studies, he believed to be a text by Cicero. As soon as he descended into the crypt of St. Sylvester, the lights went out with a gust of wind, and he heard a howl that froze him with terror. Suddenly, the skeleton appeared on the altar, holding the skull lamp around its neck, as if it wanted to strangle him. The skull opened its mouth and, with a wheeze, said, "Causa causarum, miserere mei!" - the same phrase the prior had read on the parchment, which Cicero had spoken at the moment of his death. The poor prior only had time to raise his hand to make the sign of the cross towards the skull before dying of fear. When excavations were carried out at Popiliano, a great deal of material came to light: shards, stones, old lead pipes from Roman times, a mosaic-paved swimming pool, tombs, even coins from the time of Sulla. But most notably, a rather strange tomb was found. In front of it, the work stopped. Inside, there was a well-preserved full skeleton that held a mummified skull in its hands. The skull had wide-open eyes and an open mouth, from which a seemingly living tongue could be glimpsed. Source: Luciano Canonici, "Le leggende del Tevere" (The Legends of the Tiber), 1979.


Among the various traditions and religious festivals of Alviano, two are particularly memorable, embodying the spirit of the community. The first tradition involved going from house to house "accattanno per i morti" (collecting for the deceased): throughout the month of November, young people would roam the village, knocking on doors and asking for eggs, cheese, and bread in exchange for prayers to be recited in the family. This tradition ended with the Second World War, but in recent years, it has been revived with the traditional "giro della Vecchiarella." Between the 5th and 6th of January, the Vecchiarella procession goes from house to house, singing for the souls in purgatory and asking for alms in return. The other tradition dates back to a few centuries ago, when Alviano was still under the rule of Prince Doria Pamphili: on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th, it was customary to select three unmarried women from the village to whom the prince himself would provide dowries

Donna Olimpia's Handkerchief
Donna Olimpia's Handkerchief

Donna Olimpia Maidalchini was one of the prominent figures in 17th-century Rome, largely due to her close relationship with her brother-in-law, Giovanni Battista Pamphili, whom she supported both financially and with her presence in ascending to the papal throne as Pope Innocent X. Her presence was far from discreet; she became the undisputed ruler of the papal court and all of Rome, amassing immense power and considerable wealth. At the papal court, she did as she pleased: falsifying documents, embezzling funds, excommunicating the wealthiest nobles, and even orchestrating their executions to seize their assets. Anyone wishing to speak with the Pope had to go through her first, and all decisions made by the Pope had to be approved by Donna Olimpia, earning her the nickname "Papessa" (Popeess), hinting at a potential relationship with her brother-in-law. This powerful and controversial woman acquired Alviano Castle in 1654, winning it at auction for an impressive 265,000 scudi. It seems that to pass the time within these walls, she devised a rather cruel game. The best-known example of this game involves the tragic fate of Tommaso di Gramiccia, known as "Ramicciaro," who one afternoon returned from the villa, angry because he had heard that his beloved Luciola had shown too much attention to another man, a certain Master Ridolfo. He decided to pay homage to his Lady, and he seized the opportunity when, passing under the castle window, Donna Olimpia's handkerchief fell (or was dropped?). He decided to return it to her. Donna Olimpia thanked the young man by tending to him, providing rest and a sumptuous meal served with all due honors. She eventually demanded to satisfy her desires in bed. After a considerable time, as Tommaso was getting dressed, Donna Olimpia accused him, shouting that he had unlawfully entered her home. She had him seized by two servants who threw him into the traps of the underground chambers, where a thousand knives pierced him. It is said that many young men, after him, mysteriously disappeared, supposedly falling into the same trap. Is it just a legend? Who knows... bones and knives have indeed been found in the underground chambers. Source: Luciano Canonici, "Le leggende del Tevere" (The Legends of the Tiber), 1979.

Dal 20/05 al 20/08
2022, May 06
immagine video
play video