Calcata is one of the most picturesque small towns near Rome. The locals gave Calcata several nicknames like “artists’ town”, “witches’ town”, and “cats’ town”. I didn’t have the guts to verify about the witches, but the artists are real, and so are the cats gloriously sunbathing all day in the alleys of the “Calcata Vecchia”, the most ancient part of town, perched on a cliff.
Of all the amazing day trips you could take from Rome, pick Calcata if you’re in for visiting what remains of a community of “alternative people” that decided to live and perform their arts in an Italian medieval town in the middle of nature.
Calcata is also the perfect base to explore the area locally known as “Tuscia“, which displays unique geographical, historical, and archeological features, and which was under the influence of the Etruscan civilization.
I’ll tell you some interesting facts about Calcata, Italy, and what are the best things to do and see there.
A bit of history of Calcata, Italy
The first records mentioning “Calcata” belong to the 8th Century in the Middle Ages, however, we know that it has been inhabited since Pre-Roman times, thanks to the presence of the River Treja. The ruins found across the Treja valley are ascribed to the “Faliscans”, which were a population that entertained economic relations with both the Etruscans and the Latins. The name “Faliscans” is for many researchers a variation for “Pelasgians“, that inhabited the Mediterranean Coasts in pre-historic times and built those cities with megalithic walls that you can find scattered across central Italy.
In the 13th Century, the powerful Anguillara family erected a castle on the main piazza of Calcata. The church “Nome di Gesù” is from the 17th Century instead.
Probably the most interesting part of the history of Calcata in Italy starts in the 1960s. Dozens of artists and free spirits from Italy and beyond flew to Calcata to seek refuge from the impelling industrialization developing in the world. If you visit Calcata, you can meet those artists and new ones.
Today, Calcata isn’t an extreme place at all, it has nothing to do with squat culture. People have electricity and cars, but the atmosphere is different, the pace is slower. Calcata is one of the hidden gems in Italy that could make your trip to Italy more surprising and romantic.
Calcata will remind you of other villages of central Italy which are built on tuff cliffs as well, like Sorano and Pitigliano in Southern Tuscany. Let’s find out what I usually do on a day-tour to Calcata, Italy!
HOW TO SPEND A DAY IN CALCATA
Cars aren’t allowed inside Calcata old town. Leave yours at the open-air car park outside the village that you’ll find on Maps as “Parcheggio Calcata Centro Storico”. Then start walking towards the old Calcata, which is the quaint hamlet hanging on a steep cliff you’ll have noticed on the way. The park is 1 km from the center of Calcata.
Familiarize yourself with the village of Calcata Vecchia
As soon as you’ve entered Calcata, you will see that this is just a different dimension. On a normal weekend, small groups of locals from nearby cities come here to hang out and chill. Walk past the big gate with the coats of arms carved, a memory of the families that ruled this land.
The piazza of Calcata
The heart of the village is the Piazza Umberto I with the church and the Anguillara Castle. A legend says that this church holds the foreskin of Christ… In fact, what you can see hanging on the wall behind the main altar is just a photo of the ampoule that might have kept the remains! However, be it a true story or a tale, it puts you in the right mood to explore further Calcata and its surroundings. There are three throne-like chairs carved in the rock on one side of the piazza, just outside the church. Behind the thrones, a small café with a tiny back terrace at the edge of the lush gorge serves very good gelato. You’ll see a couple of restaurants with outdoor tables, a bakery, and a pastry shop. You might want to have lunch in Calcata after exploring the village.
Visit the workshops, studios, and handicraft in Calcata
Calcata is first and foremost an artists’ town. You should visit the simple workshops and galleries and interact with the creators. They’re the beat of this fantastic place! Remember to take it slowly, don’t rush your visit. It will take you 2 to 3 hours to see the village.
Museum in nature “Opera Bosco”
If you love sculpture, you shouldn’t miss the open-air museum Opera Bosco, which literary translates as “opera forest”. You’ll reach there driving from Calcata, past the cemetery, in the “Località Colle”. Immersed in the lush vegetation, sculptures by contemporary artists are born from and live in nature. Artists worked the tuff rocks that are naturally present in the forest and other material from the woods.
The area is pretty big and can be toured on Sundays or by getting in touch with the curators. The usual visit includes a walked tour of the works and a wine tasting with organic wines from the district. You’ll also encounter very ancient caves during the tour. Bring your own sandwiches and hiking shoes. For more info, have a look at the page of Opera Bosco.
Eating in Calcata
Besides the typical food of Rome and Italy, in Calcata you’ll find local dishes made with genuine products from the Tuscia region. I’m talking about mushrooms, chestnuts, pecorino cheese, veggies, marmalades, wines, and any kind of bushmeat if you’re into it. Everything tastes more authentic and nourishing than in the city! Small villages near Rome are especially popular for homemade pasta and original pasta sauces. Try one of these restaurants in Calcata:
Il Tugurio | Via Sinibaldi, 7
La Piazzetta | Via San Giovanni 47
La Latteria del Gatto Nero | at the crossroad between Via San Giovanni and Via Della Pietà
I advise you to leave room for the dessert! The “Sala Da Tè Calcata” in Via Tripoli 10 is a must-visit in Calcata Vecchia! The specialties of the house are tea and cake. You will sip your tea on the rooftop with a spectacular view of the lush valley surrounding the village.
Exploring Calcata Vecchia: alleys and views
There is so much to see in this hamlet if you love exploring tiny alleys and dreaming about how life could be in a secluded place like Calcata. Have your camera ready. Every corner and house you pass by is worth a photo: flower pots, outer walls with decoration, the locals… You will see how the houses blend with the thousand-year-old underlying stone. There are natural caves that became basements, cellars, or art studios. There are breathtaking views from small, silent, terraces. You will hear the voice of the river flowing in the valley at the foot of the cliff. You will befriend the cats living the dolce vita in front of somebody’s door.
This village has a message for everyone who is ready to listen. It isn’t just about the hippie movement. Calcata, because of its privileged position, had been chosen as a worship location, a huge natural altar, by the people who lived here in the prehistoric age. No wonder it has attracted artistic and esoteric personalities from all continents.
If you’re in for a bit of adventure, take a short drive to the scenic area “Valle Del Treja”.
Regional Park Valle Del Treja (perfect for families as well)
Not far from Calcata Vecchia lies the Regional Park Valle Del Treja. Along the banks of the River Treja, you’ll discover spaces to have a picnic and chill in the shade of the lush Mediterranean scrubs. There is a farm with a lot of animals you can visit with your kids, the owner offers meals or what you need to have your own bbq.
Make sure to explore both banks of the river. The abandoned ancient mill is quite characteristic. If you love hiking, mind that in these surroundings you can have some of the most impressive hikes near Rome, walking through shrines and ruins 2000 years old. Make a stop at:
- Sanctuary of Monte-Li Santi Le Rote
- Acropolis of ancient Narce
- Church of Santa Maria
ACCOMMODATION – WHERE TO STAY IN CALCATA
The best accommodation option in Calcata is an apartment or B&B inside the old village so that you can experience the alternative vibes at any hour of the day. Imagine how quiet the nights are and how clear the morning air… Connect with some of these local renters:
- Calcata Diffusa | They prefer a phone call or a Whatsapp: 340-5052-322
- Federica’s apartments | email@example.com | 3289685249
- Red Vibes Farms | Pets allowed | Additional beds | Camping | firstname.lastname@example.org
- The artist room | Accommodation for alternative single travelers, couples, or dreamers | you can get in touch through their Facebook page.
- Association Il Granarone | 3 apartments available with private parking for weekends or short periods | email@example.com
- Casa ai Grotti | Bohemian apartment for rent | visit their page
- Gisa | Fully furnished apartments with kitchen | Phone call or Whatsapp: 3296958947
Now I feel a little bit jealous because I’ve shared this information with the world… What I’ve just told you about is one of my favorite places on Earth, and it’s close to Lake Bracciano, where I live.
If you want to know about more special places to visit near Rome, you need to have a look at my articles:
Let me know about your experience in Calcata Italy in the comments!