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 one in the province of Rome) of the Lepini Mountains, just behind Sgurgola.
In the Capitanata area of Apulia, in the province of Foggia, in Dragonara diocese, currently in the territory of Casalnuovo Monterotaro, the San Matteo di Sculgola monastery rises up, which was one of the properties of Santa Maria del Gualdo abbey in Mazzocca. In the province of Foggia as well, in Casalvecchio di Puglia municipality, in the Northern Daunian Mountains, the "Casone della Sgurgola" can be seen, a square plan fortified tower, which rises up along the provincial road linking Casalnuovo to Torremaggiore.
Actually Sgurgola's area was inhabited since the oldest ages, as testified by the rock-out chamber tomb attributed to the Rinaldone culture, in 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 remains are now exposed at the Pigorini museum in Rome, along with their grave goods, including flintstone arrowheads with tang, some of which painted with cinnabar, a stone axe-hammer, ogival heeled copper dagger and a small earthenware (impasto) flask-shaped pot. Also the cheek and upper jaw bones of the skull were tinted with cinnabar. This is an evidence of rituals following the burial and the decomposition of the corpse.
In the historical age the area in which today Sgurgola lies was occupied by the Volsci, an Italic population who was subdued by the Romans in the fourth century B.C., while in the Roman age in the valley of river Sacco (then named Trerus or Tolerus) between Sgurgola and Anagni, lied the so-called Compitum Anagninum, the crossroads between via Latina and via Labicana, quoted also by Titus Livy, who probably was in the area of the present hamlet of Osteria della Fontana, in Anagni municipality. In the same area there was also a lake, named Bassano or Clarano, which was there also in historical age (S. Gatti).
From Osteria della Fontana a road began, whose route is partly followed by present via Morolense, that crossed Sacco valley where, due to the fertility and flat configuration of the land and availability of water, many production and dwelling settlements developped, at least from the middle republican age. At Casalini, near the railway station, about 1908, during the execution of farm works on the Posta counts' estates a clay roof tile was found, bearing the kilnman's stamp (Princeps, Pomponius Corvus' servant). The fact that in the area it was easy to find fragments of clay objects, make us think that the kiln they came from was just around there (G. Gatti).
not far from the railway station, the ruins of a Roman imperial
villa of the late imperial age can be seen, which lodged Emperor
Antoninus Pius and his adopted son Marcus
Aurelius, Emperor-to-be, who told in a letter about his stay
in the villa.
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). 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).
Sgurgola was later the target of a real campaign of purchases by the Caetanis, and in particular by Pope Boniface VIII, born Benedetto Caetani, native of Anagni, due to its strategic position, overlooking the Sacco valley and facing Anagni. The importance of these purchases is proven by the four papal bulls issued on 1st July, 1300, regarding the castle, and its purchase by Pietro Caetani, Count of Caserta and pope's nephew, who took it over from archbishop Adinolfo of Supino, heir of Simone of Sgurgola, and from the nuns of the monastery of Santa Maria in Viano (Giammaria). Many of the properties, in Sgurgola or elsewhere, acquired by the pope's relatives, were sold at a low price or donated, with the hope of arousing the pope's benevolence. According to the Colonnas, and their associates, the castle and other properties were acquired by the Caetanis as a result of threats and violence of the papal courts, with actions aimed to sow dissension between the two co-owner brothers (Paravicini Bagliani, pag. 138). This would be in agreement with the accusations hurled by Jacopone da Todi against Boniface: "Quando nella contrata, taiace alcun castello / n estante mitti screzio enfra frate fratello; / allun getti el braccio en collo, allaltro mustri el coltello / se no nassente al tuo appello, menaccili de firire" ("When in the neighbourhood, you ever like a castle / t once you sow discord between brother and brother; / one of them you hug, to the other show a knife / if he doesn't agree to your call, you threat him you will wound"). The brothers Giordano, Gualgano and Pietro, heirs of the lords of Sgurgola, continued to occupy the castle, until they were expelled by the judgment of 21st April, 1300, issued by Giacomo of Ransano, Vicar-General of Campagna and Marittima. The pope sealed the conquest of Sgurgola with a visit and with the promulgation of two bulls, on 23rd and 25th August, dated exactly from the village (Giammaria).
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. On the same day of the outrage, the brothers
Peter and Galgano of Sgurgola, who were among the conspirators,
would have regained Sgurgola castle, which had been taken from
them three years before (Giammaria).
The Bonifacio palace at Anagni, where the outrage would happen,
probably belonged to Corrado of Sgurgola (Fedele, 1921a).
Sgurgola is represented in one of the maps ("Latium et Sabina") in the Gallery of Maps of the Vatican Museums made between 1580 and 1585.
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.
The most illustrious among the Sgurgolans was Pietro Sterbini, born in Sgurgola on January 23rd, 1793, physician and revolutionary fellow of Giuseppe Mazzini. In the Roman Republic of 1849 he was a member of the Constituent assembly, then Minister of Public Works. At the downfall of the Republic he had to find shelter in Switzerland, then in France. With the Italian unification Sterbini settled in Naples, where he founded the newspaper Roma", but he passed away in 1863 before he could see Rome becoming Italian and later the capital of Italy.
Also Attilio Taggi (1867-1950), was an eminent native and citizen of Sgurgola. he was born in Sgurgola on September 2nd, 1867, poet in Sgurgola dialect, in Italian and in Latin, who passed away in 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 the original wide rectangular portal of limestone monoliths included in a recently plastered white façade, which replaced the questionable 1966 brick coat. 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
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, for this reason the little church is better known as "la Badia" (the Abbey) and so is marked on the road signs. Few remains of the convent are left, that can be seen entering the cemetery and turning right.
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". Thanks to Lamberto Corsi, the footage can be seen on You Tube, in two parts: 1st part 2nd part.
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 3 km/1.8 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.
On January 1st 2013 Sgurgola had 2,627 inhabitants (see chart) with a municipal area of 19,32 sq km (7.46 sq. ft.) and therefore a density of 136 pop/sq.km. According to data from Caritas, a catholic charity (link) Sgurgola is by far the village of Frosinone province with the highest share of immigrants on total population (12,8%) (see table).
Town center altitude: 386 metres (1,270 ft) above sea level; 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.
CAPOROSSI Franco (2005) La grande figura dello sgurgolano Sterbini nellepopea Mazziniana. Cronache cittadine, anno XVI, n.352, 6 novembre 2005, pag. 3.
DUPRÉ THESEIDER Eugenio (1971) Bonifacio VIII, papa. In: Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 12. Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, Roma. (link)
FEDELE Pietro (1921a) Per la storia dell'attentato d'Anagni. Bullettino dell'Istituto Storico Italiano, 41: 195-232.
FEDELE Pietro (1921b) Rassegna delle pubblicazioni su Bonifazio VIII e sull'età sua degli anni 1914-1921. Archivio della R. Società Rmana di Storia Patria, 44: 311-332.
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.
GATTI Sandra (2011) Compitum Anagninum. In: Lazio e Sabina 7, Atti del Convegno "Settimo Incontro di Studo sul Lazio e la Sabina", Roma, 9-11 marzo 2010. Roma. (link)
GIAMMARIA Gioacchino (1983) Bonifacio VIII in Anagni nell'anno del primo giubileo. Romagnoli Editore, Anagni.
GRAZIANI Gerum (2001) Sgurgola nel medioevo: storia di un castello di origini longobarde. Ferrazza & Bonelli, Colleferro.
JACOPONE DA TODI () Laude. Letteratura Italiana Einaudi. (link)
MORGIA Menotti (1961) Sgurgola e la sua badia.
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)
check: February 14th 2016)
http://www.arthistory.upenn.edu/aamw/fieldwork.html#villamagna (not available on February 14th 2016)