Sgurgola is a graceful
small Italian village laying on the slopes
of Lepini Mountains, dominating the Sacco river valley. The village
lies in Ciociaria (pronounced Chow-Chah-Reea), the historical
area approximately corresponding to the province of Frosinone,
in the region Latium.
Until 1927, before the province of Frosinone was founded, the village belonged to the province of Rome.
Sgurgola is about 24 kilometers (15 miles) away from Frosinone and about 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Rome.
The tradition tells the village was founded by Spartacus, the Thracian gladiator who led a slave uprising in 73-71 BCE (Third Servile War): this would explain the rebellious temperament which was ascribed (at least in the past) to the Sgurgolan people, which during the fascism period had many victims of political persecutions.
More likely the village was founded at the time of barbarian invasions, as a shelter for the peoples of Anagni, Ferentino and other villages of the environs, since its protected position allowed to control the valley below.
The ancient name of the village was actually Sculcula, that could be a diminutive for the Late Latin (6th Century CE) word sculca, meaning "look-out", which gave origin to the Italian word "scolta" or "scolca" in its turn derived from the gothic word skulks, meaning "sentry, guard" (Camilleri-De Mauro).
According to others the name could come from the many springs that gush out (in Italian "sgorgare") from the limestone on which the village is built; in this case the etymology could be the same of Gorga, a village laying on the opposite slope (the Roman one) of the Lepini Mounts, just behind Sgurgola.
Actually Sgurgola's area was inhabited since the oldest ages, as testified by the rock-out chamber tomb attributed to the Chalcolithic age (III Millennium BCE), of a man of about 30 years of age, found in 1880 in a cave near the railway station.
The burial is now exposed at the Pigorini museum in Rome, along with its grave goods, including flintstone arrowheads, a stone axe-hammer, ogival heeled copper dagger and a small earthenware (impasto) flask-shaped pot. The cheek and upper jaw bones of the skull was tinted with cinnabar. This is an evidence of rituals following the burial and the decomposition of the corpse.
In the hamlet of Villamagna, not far from the railway station, the ruins of a Roman villa of the late imperial age can be seen.
The oldest written data about Sgurgola can be found in Papal bull issued by Urban II on August 21st 1088, where the castle named Castrum Sculcule was alloted Pietro, bishop of Anagni, with other castles of the area, including that of "Villam Magnam.
The history of Sgurgola is marked by several rule turns between the different feudal families: counts of Ceccano, Torellis, Caetanis and Colonnas. An evidence of habitual visiting of Sgurgola by the Caetanis is given by the fact of July 13th 1159, when Pietro Caetani went to Sgurgola castle with cardinal Boso and Ruggero the nephew of pope Alexander VI's Chancellor in order to get an oath of allegiance (Paravicini Bagliani, pag. 7). The castle was probably bought by pope Boniface VIII, in the world Benedetto Caetani, by means of threats and violence of the papal tribunals, with actions aimed to sow dissension between the two co-owner brothers (ibid., pag. 138). In April 1300 Sgurgola hosted a meeting between pope Boniface VIII and emissaries of king of England Edward I Plantagenet, to try to mediate in wars against France and Scotland (Dupré Theseider). The clash between these two last families was one of the causes of 1303 events which led to the "Anagni slap"; the tradition says that in 1303 Sgurgola was the scene of some of these events.
The population of Sgurgola increased
very much in the 18th century, when the lowlands along the Sacco
river were tilled, and the built-up area extended from the central
core around the castle (Rocca), towards the area of the present
main street (Corso Repubblica) and towards via del Carpino.
As Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, in 1870, a large number of persons was drawn there from every part of Italy, and many of them came from Sgurgola, due to its closeness and to the new railway. Many of the people from Sgurgola worked just in the State Railways and went and live in the "railwaymen houses" in the Roman quarter of San Lorenzo, near the railway station.
As previously said, Sgurgola was the site of social struggles and antifascist Resistance (see my page on my grandfather Medoro Pallone).
Starting from the fifties of last century, a great development took place in the area, thanks to the establishment of the Cassa del Mezzogiorno (a development fund for Southern Italy).
Later on, in the sixties, the Rome-Naples motorway (Autostrada del Sole) was built. This made many factories rise in the Sacco valley in the sixties, mainly of pharmaceutical and plastic industries, where many workers from Sgurgola are still employed, while many others dwell in the village and work in Rome, thanks to the fast (even if not frequent and efficient) transports. At the beginning of third millennium, the construction of the Rome-Naples fast railroad modified once more the valley.
Beyond the industries in the valley, the Sgurgolan economy is based on vine and olive trees cultivation: the olives produced in the village are processed by a local cooperative olive mill. Moreover domestic size farms breed fowls and rabbits, while in the valley cattle (mainly dairy breeds) and sheep are reared, even if the recent events that caused the pollution of Sacco river and other watercourses seriously damaged the local breeders.
In Sgurgola were born the physician Pietro Sterbini (1793-1863), a patriot, Minister of Public Works of the Roman Republic of 1849 and fellow of Giuseppe Mazzini, and the dialect poet Attilio Taggi (1867-1950). Luciano Rossi was also born in Sgurgola on January 20th 1954. He was the 24 years old chauffeur of Chief Public Prosecutor of Frosinone, Fedele Calvosa. He was murdered in Patrica, near Frosinone (15 km, 9 Mi from Sgurgola), on November 8th 1978 in a terrorist ambush together with police officer Giuseppe Pegliei and the same magistrate. The terrorist group Unità Comuniste Combattenti (Fighting Communist Units) claimed responsibility for the slaughter.
You get in the village by the Casilina National Road and then by the Morolense road (see the itinerary below); a modern bridge, built close to the old one, maybe of Roman origin, crosses the river Sacco, which once created a little waterfall, now replaced by a pumping station.
Beside the bridge an embattled tower of medieval origin can be seen; its name is Mola Colonna, and probably it was once a defense for the bridge, but then it was used as a watermill (mola means "millstone"), exploiting the Sacco water motive power.
The Mola is 17,5 metres (58 ft) high and it has a square section with a 7 metres (23 ft) side; it had three floors (just one left), and of the ancient military purpose it still shows loop-holes topped by square small windows.
The tower was restored several times in the centuries and for a short time it was also a power station that provided lighting for the villages of Sgurgola, Morolo and Supino.
In 2003 the tower was acquired by the municipality and the mayor, who was the Berlusconi band director (Honi soit qui mal y pense) placed there the Musical Bands Museum; the tower is partly still under restoration.
After crossing the river, another bridge crosses the railway (just before it, on the right side there's a crossroad to Villamagna), then the road climbs towards the village, and after some bend (2.5 km, 1.55 Mi about) you get in the village by via della Pietra Rea (Bad Stone road).
In this road actually, in spite of what the Italian Touring Club guide maintains, nobody can show you the famous stone on which the conspirators headed for Anagni for the slap were harangued.
The roads ends with the square known as "dell'Arringo", always referring to the events of 1303 (arringa means "harangue"), but named by the villagers "Muraglione" (the big wall), by the massive retaining wall that limit it outwards.
On the square a war memorial can also be seen; beside it a wall fragment with a fresco (maybe representing Saint Sebastian and other saints) is remnant of the 13th-century small church of the Arringo, now destroyed.
The most remarkable thing in the square is the belvedere with a beautiful view on Sacco valley, on Ernici mountains and, farther, the Roman Castles.
From Muraglione square begins the
main avenue, the Corso (Corso
della Repubblica), where the "struscio", the traditional
Sunday walk up and down the main road, takes place.
The Corso ends in piazza Pietro Sterbini (simply known as "la piazza"), where the mid-18th century parish church of Santa Maria Assunta rises, with its recent (1966) bricks façade including the original wide rectangular portal of limestone monoliths. The three bronze gates of the church are a work of the Anagni sculptor Pietro Gismondi (1906-2003). The ancient bell tower rises apart, on the right hind side of the church (on via 2 giugno), and rests on a rock block.
Also in piazza Sterbini the massive late 19th century clock-tower can be seen; it has three storeys and rests on a wide round arch, after which on the right side the town hall rises.
Just beyond the clock-tower arch, on the left, a stairway climbs to the impressive ruins of the castle (la Rocca), consisting of the mere base, once topped by a pine, whose outline could be seen from far away, even from the motorway.
The alleys around the castle are very picturesque: they are narrow, winding, often with steps, and by their dimensions the quarter is known as "bùcio pellìccio" that is "hole of the sieve".
Coming down from the castle or from piazza Sterbini by via del Carpino (Hornbeam road), on the left a road goes down to the quarter of San Giovanni (Saint John), where the baroque church with the same name rises, with its 1888 frescoed ceiling. In front of the church there is a square with a small garden and a terrace, even if less panoramic than the Muraglione.
Coming down again on via del Carpino, after a plain stretch, the road climbs to the cematary, which is beside the small church of Santa Maria in Viano, in ancient enclosed to a Cistercian convent, of which few remains are left. For this reason the little church is better known as "la Badia" (the Abbey) and so is marked on the road signs.
La Badia has very ancient origins, dating back at least to the eleventh century, and it lodged the daughters of the most important feudal families of the region, in quality of abbesses or simple nuns. The convent among the others lodged noble Mary, sister of Rinaldo da Supino and wife of Francesco Caetani (1260-1317), grandnephew of Boniface VIII, who apponted him cardinal, with the deacon title of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Maria even staying in the nunnery, give birth to two children of Francesco, a boy and a girl (Waley, quoted by Frale). According to other sources Maria had to take a vow of chastity when Francesco was appointed cardinal. Maria was in Badia on February 28th 1300, when rights on Sgurgola castle were sold by the abbey to Pietro II Caetani, grandnephew of pope Boniface VIII (and Maria's brother-in-law). Later on probably Maria married Goffredo da Ceccano, a participant in Anagni slap together with her brother Rinaldo
The church has an asymmetric hut
façade, with a one light window by one side and a mullion
window with two lights on the other; coming in from the large
square you reach a vestibule with a stone
portal, which gives access to the church.
On the lunette that tops the portal lintel, there is a Byzantine style fresco representing a bust of Jesus Christ, with the right hand raised to bless and the left one bearing an open book.
On the slopes of the mountain, few hundreds meters above the village, the ruins of the thirteenth century small church of San Nicola (Saint Nicholas), can be seen. The ruins consist of white limestone walls, in which two floors can be identified; the remains of a cross vault, a lateral door and, on the main portal, a lunette, can also be seen.
Beside the small church begins a narrow drift in the mountain, from which in winter a stream runs down to the village. At present (April 2014) the church can not be reached being closed for work, which have for the moment led to the refurbishment of the roof.
From San Nicola you can leave for excursions on the Lepini mounts, which are full of forests, springs and caves. The small church probably sheltered the Catalan physician and alchemist Arnaldus de Villa Nova (1240-1313) who would have shut himself up there at the end of July 1301 in order to complete his studies that led him to make a golden astrological seal, held in a leather girdle, with which he treated Pope Boniface VIII for kidney stones; it seems his cure was successful, maybe for a mere mechanical effect on kidneys, yielding to Arnaldus a handsome reward by the pope and great envy and grudge by papal court. Arnaldus was also the physician of king James II of Aragon and teacher at Montpellier University and at Schola Medica Salernitana (Frale).
Halfway up on the mountain, southwards to the village, a path reaches San Leonardo hermitage, at an altitude of 693 metres (2279 ft), raised on the ruins of a monastery which belonged to the congregation of Santo Spirito di Maiella, which later was named Celestini congregation, as well as its founder Pietro da Morrone was made Pope in 1284, with the name of Celestine the Fifth.
The same congregation owned also the settlements of SantAntonio Abate in Ferentino and SantAntonio in Supino. The date of foundation of the hermitage is uncertain, but it is probably very ancient.
Saint Leonard of Noblat lived in the 6th century and is the patron saint of Sgurgola since 1200. His statue is usually kept in the hermitage and on November 6th, on the occasion of the festival of the patron, it is taken in procession with torches and fireworks to the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta. After the feast, which includes also a traditional fair, the statue is taken back in procession to the hermitage. Near San Leonardo a perennial spring gushes out, and another source, Fonte dellAcero (Maple spring), is not far away.
Between 1963 and 1964 the film and TV director Ugo Gregoretti filmed in Sgurgola, with the participation of local population and actor Renato Salvatori a short footage (16'36") for Rai (Italian State Television) on first national preview in the village of his film "Omicron". The footage can be seen on You tube, thanks to Lamberto Corsi, in two parts: 1st part 2nd part.
How to get there:
By train: Rome-Naples line via Cassino - stop at Sgurgola (68 km/43 mi from Rome). In the station no tickets can be bought or stamped. The village is 4,2 km/2.6 mi far and can be reached by bus (CO.TRA.L. or Corsi & Pampanelli); the bus ticket can be bought at the newsagent over the railroad bridge (300 metres, 350 yds from the station). If you need to reach the station from the village you can get the tickets at the tobacconist in corso Repubblica.
By car: Rome-Naples Motorway (A2) at 12 km/7.5 mi from the village. Go out at Anagni-Fiuggi station, after the tollgate turn right (direction: Anagni) and after 100 mt. (110 yds) turn right at the slope for Frosinone (National Road SS n.6, Casilina); after about 4 km/3.5 mi, just passed a small village (Osteria della Fontana), turn right for Sgurgola (Via Morolense. Beware: the turn is just after a hump and a bend). Now keep on the main road until next fork: don't turn left to Morolo, but keep ahead to Sgurgola (follow the signs). Go down the slope, under the fast railroad, cross a bridge on a waterfall, beside an ancient tower, and another on the railroad, then, at the next fork, stride on, up the slope; the road climbs for about 3 km/2 mi, and after several bends you get in the village.
Instead of the motorway you can take the via Casilina (National Road SS n.6) from Rome, and as you reach Osteria della Fontana just follow the indications given above for the motorway route.
Population: 2,627 at 01/01/2013 (see chart); Town center altitude: 386 metres (1,270 ft) above sea level; Commune area: 19.32 sq. km. (7.46 sq. ft.); Density: 136 pop/sq.km.; Patron: St. Leonard of Noblat (November 6th); Market day: Sunday; Feast: St. Rocco (August 16th); St. Antonine (September 2nd), St. Leonard of Noblat (November 6th); ZIP code: 03010; Telephone Area Code: +39.0775; Istat Commune Number: 060073; Cadastral code: I716; First aid station: Anagni phone 118.
Sgurgolan August, feast of the Sagne (home-made egg noodles, generally served with a meat and tomato sauce), Grapes feast (first week end of October).
Ristorante Pizzeria "Daniela Vitozzi" via del Carpine Tel. +39.0775.741101.
Pizzeria La Torre - via Colle Madonna Giovanna Tel. +39.0775.779080.
Pizzeria "Del Corso" Corso della Repubblica.
None (or maybe: Casa Parrocchiale di Accoglienza "Oasi S. Leonardo" Via Pietra Rea Tel. +39.0775.71282.
The Sgurgola commune territory borders northwards on that of Anagni, eastwards on Morolo and Ferentino, southwards on Gorga and Morolo, westwards on Anagni and Gorga.
City Hall: Via Roma, 4, 03010 Sgurgola (FR) - tel. +39.0775.74581, fax +39.0775.745827; Mayor: Antonio Corsi (elected May 2011); A.S.L.: FR 1; School District: 50th; Mountain Area Community: no. 13 "Monti Lepini"; Urbanistic Instrument: P.R.G. D.G. no 3144 of 19-04-95; Area Landscape Plan: no. 8 "Subiaco-Fiuggi-Colleferro"; Climatic classification: D zone, 1962 GR/G; Geographic coordinates: Latitude: 41°40'0" N; Longitude: 13°9'0" E..
BECK Henry G.J. (1946) William Hundleby's account of the Anagni outrage. The Catholic Historical Review, 32: 192-199. (link)
CAMILLERI Andrea, DE MAURO Tullio (2013) La lingua batte dove il dente duole. Laterza, Roma-Bari.
DUPRÉ THESEIDER Eugenio (1971) Bonifacio VIII, papa. In: Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 12. Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, Roma. (link)
FRALE Barbara (2013) L'inganno del gran rifiuto. Utet, DeAgostini, Novara.
GATTI Giuseppe (1908) Nuovo sigillo figulino trovato nel territorio di Sgurgola. Bullettino della Commissione archeologica di Roma, 36: 48-52.
GRAZIANI Gerum (2001) Sgurgola nel medioevo: storia di un castello di origini longobarde. Ferrazza & Bonelli, Colleferro.
PARAVICINI BAGLIANI Agostino (2003) Bonifacio VIII. Einaudi,Torino.
TOURING CLUB ITALIANO (1977) Guida d'Italia - Lazio. Touring Club Italiano, Milano.
WALEY Daniel (1973) Caetani, Francesco. In: Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 16. Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, Roma. (link)
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