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The town of Alatri is spread across the side of a hill towards the east of the Lazio region of central Italy with an ancient history.
Alatri is best known because of the massive walls that surround the town and through which there are five gates to reach the upper town. It is here that you can visit the Civita, a powerful example of the Pelasgian acropolis.
Surrounded by strong walls, the acropolis has two gates: the Porta Maggiore with a monolithic lintel, and the Lower Gate, from which you arrive at Alatri Cathedral. The Old Town of Alatri, contained within these megalithic walls, is rich in valuable churches and ancient architectural structures.
The Gottifredo Palace, a romanesque style building, is interesting and now houses the Civic Archaeological Museum.
Alatri Archaeological Museum
The museum in Alatri contains several very ancient artefacts of great interest found in the town and region.
Of particular interest are the “Dedication to the ‘Penati’”, discovered in Rose Square in 1921 and dating from the end of the first century BC; the ancient 'Inscription of Alatri', which describes the work done by the Censor Lucius Betilienus Varus (about 130-120 BC), discovered in Piazza S. Maria Maggiore and dating from the 2nd-1st century BC; and a polychrome mosaic floor decorated with a geometric style (90-80 BC).
Church of the Scolopi
In the square opposite the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore is the Church of the Scolopi, built between 1734 and 1745 as a project by Benedetto Margariti da Manduria and dedicated to the "Marriage of the Virgin".
The façade, in travertine, is designed to reinterpret the style of Borromini (1599-1667) - it is characterized by a double row of pilasters that frame the portal with a central window above. The facade ends with a vertical sequence of windows (the original project, not completed, was to be terminated with twin bell towers).
The interior of the church has the form of a Greek cross and is dominated by towering Corinthian pilasters on which are set great round arches which support the dome. Note particularly the stucco decoration of the wall surfaces and the contrasting large 18th century paintings.
In the church altar there is the 'Marriage of the Virgin, painted in 1731 by Carmine Spinetti, while on two side altars are a "Crucifixion", by the Venetian painter Benedetto Mora and an unsigned work depicting “Saint Giuseppe Calasanzio ", painted in the late 18th century to honor the founding father of the Order of “Scolopi”.
Other Alatri highlights
One truly impressive site in Alatri is the Pia Fountain, inaugurated in 1870 and dedicated to Pope Pius IX in gratitude for the substantial contribution of money he bestowed on the city in 1863 for the construction of a new aqueduct. The fountain is a work by Giuseppe Olivieri.
The Conti-Gentili Palace is a building dating from the 13th century although only the great arched portal entrance and porch remain of the original structure and the current building dates from 1532. The Library of the Palace here preserves local history books and ancient scrolls, including a copy of the Alatri Statutes of 1582.
The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, which dominates the square, was built in the 5th century on the ruins of a temple dedicated to Venus. The exterior facade features a canopy from the early 14th century while the bell tower was added in 1394. The church interior is divided into three aisles by massive pillars upon which the round arches rest.
Some valuable works of art are kept in the church: worthy of special mention is the 13th century wooden group of the “Madonna of Constantinople; the triptych of the 'Redeemer' by Antonio da Alatri (14th -15th century); the "Virgin and Child with St. Saviour", from the first half of the 15th century; and the 13th century font.
Not far away from here is the Church of San Francesco, built between the second half of the 13th century and the first half of the 14th with a compact design in the Gothic style. The façade has a pointed arch portal and a rose in radial columns.
Alatri and the Templars
The cloister of San Francesco has a fresco depicting "Christ in Glory" at the center of a labyrinth of twelve concentric circles. The fresco is mysterious, but provides evidence of the presence of the Templars in Latium.
Other monuments with symbols of the Templars in Alatri are the church of Saint Lucia and Saint Paul's Cathedral, which rises above a wide staircase in the esplanade of the Acropolis and has origins dating from the tenth century.
Around Alatri, and the local cuisine
You can enjoy Alatri not only by walking through its streets, but also by exploring its surrounding rural landscapes. The “Ciociaria” is also a land where you can enjoy a popular cuisine characterized by a strong link with ancient traditions.
The pasta (mostly based on eggs) is excellent, and the local bread and cakes also very good. Poultry and rabbits are popular meats, although the queen of the table remains various sheep derived recipes. Particularly popular in the area is the 'broccoli of Alatri'.
See also history of Alatri
You can find more local travel ideas in the Rome - Lazio guide.