Caprarola is a small town in the lazio region of central Italy, north-west of Rome.
Begin your visit to Caprarola at the Palazzo Farnese, built in just 27 years in a project which involved demolishing various buildings to build bridges and the “Via Diritta” ["Straight Street"], which would cross the town to reach the palace. The palace was originally designed as a fortress by Paul III (1468-1549), and completed by Cardinal Alexander (1520-1589) grandson of Paul III.
The palace entrance is via the Guard Room or the underground part via the famous staircase called 'Scala Regia'.
Various series of rooms are divided into two apartments, one for summer use and one for the winter, in which you can see a valuable series of paintings by the Zuccari brothers and Jacopo Zanguidi, called “Bertoja”, dating from the second half of the 16th century.
Also worthy of visit are the stables of Farnese, probably built as a project by Vignola, but certainly with others involved, such as Giovanni Antonio Garzoni or Jacopo del Duca. The stables building was started around 1570 and completed in 1585 and could contain nearly 120 horses.
The first and second floor, divided into four apartments, were intended for use by coachmen and servants. A portion of the first floor was also used as a warehouse for hay, coaching and all that was necessary for the teams themselves. The complex also includes a large garden.
Another impressive site in Caprarola is the Riario Palace, opposite the Church of Saint Michael. The original structure dates from 1370 and is due to the Anguillara, feudal lords of Caprarola at that time. During the 15th century the palace underwent several renovations.
In the apartments there are some artistic ceilings and painted walls: one part of a fresco, depicting "The Nativity", detached from the wall, is kept in the chapel of St. Giles in the Church of Saint Michael. The building has two towers and a square-shaped rim.
It consists of seven floors, three of them below the level of 'Straight Street' which were used for services, cellars, stables, warehouses. The upper floors included the houses of noblemen and servants. The Riario Palace has the classic structure of a mighty fortress and dominates the surrounding Tiber valley.
Churches of Caprarola
There are many churches in and around Caprarola, several of them particularly notable for the artworks they contain.
Church Saint Lady of Consolation
The Church of Saint Lady of Consolation was built by the Farnese family in the 16th century; it has a carved wooden door and preserves some important works including a portrait of the Madonna dating from the 11th century. The altar, made of carved wood and decorated with gold, was designed by Vignola, and the ceiling, decorated in gold, was added later. The chapels in the church are noteworthy:
- The first chapel is dedicated to Our Lady of Providence. In it is a painting of the Madonna beside S. Sylvester Pope and S. Bonaventura.
- Below is a chapel dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Mary, represented in a fresco surrounded by angels.
- The third chapel, with a painting by Mattia Predi (1613-1699), depicts “The Deposition” and is dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy.
- The last chapel is dedicated to St. Francis, who was depicted in a fresco receiving the stigmata. In 1662 it was enriched by a wooden cross of exquisite workmanship, the work by Vincenzo da Bassiano.
Church of San Marco
The Church of San Marco is located at the foot of the town - dating from the 16th century it was later restored by Vignola.
On the altar is a painting (16th century) depicting the SS.Trinity, the Madonna and Child, the four evangelists and St. John the Baptist. On the sides there are frescoes depicting St. Agata and S. Margaret.
On the right wall there are two niches with paintings depicting the beheading of S. John the Baptist (1618) and the martyrdom of St. Sebastian (1610). The first niche of the right wall hass a painting depicting the Holy Family (XVII-XVIII), the second a fresco depicting the Nativity (1599), flanked by St. John the Evangelist and St. Stephen.
Church of Saint Mary
The Church of Saint Mary dates originally from the 12th century. The present renaissance style building, which has a single nave and a semicircular apse, is the result of many renovations from the 16th century to the present day, and has a coffered ceiling of painted wood.
The church contains a 16th century painting that depicts a group of Saints and a fresco depicting the Madonna and Child. Near the wall of the choir, in a wooden temple, a small painting depicting St. Assumption is kept and to whom the church is dedicated.
Cathedral of Saint Michael
After the construction of the Palazzo Farnese, Vignola was given the task of restructuring Caprarola and its historic old town. Part of his project included the present main street of the town and the old church of St. Angel, now the Cathedral of St. Michael. Then after 1817 the church was completely rebuilt, to a design by Giuseppe Valadier (1762-1839), because of a serious fire which cause irreparable damage.
Only two works of art survived the fire, a central panel of a triptych of the Holy Saviour and a painting dedicated to the “Madonna del Soccorso”. The two paintings can be seen on two altars (XV century). In the church today there are also various 17th century paintings that represent some saints at prayer. In the painting behind the altar you can see the Archangel St. Michael, to whom the Church and parish is dedicated.
Of course no tour of Italy is complete without sampling the local cuisine and Caprarola is no different.
The traditional first courses here are the 'pici', i.e. homemade macaroni with eggs and flour and the “Tacconi”, a kind of noodles without eggs. Also don't miss the lamb, cooked in various ways, the pork sausage and the local cheese. In the appropriate season you can enjoy wild strawberries and a variety of mushrooms.
The proximity of a lake leads to naturally good fish, usually grilled or fried. At Caprarola also not to miss are the traditional peasant dishes such as the “acquacotta”, “polenta” and beans with pork rinds, which were once the food for the poor but are now much sought after dishes.
For your dessert, we suggest the “tozzetti” and macaroons, the "strufoli" and "giuanna", a cake made with ricotta cheese and liqueurs. Obviously you should accompany these dishes with some local wines!
See also history of Caprarola
Selected places to visit near Caprarola, Italy
See the Rome - Lazio guide for more travel ideas...