Subiaco and the monasteries of S. Scolastica and S. Benedetto

An easy and spectacular itinerary which reveals the art gems scattered in the lost residence of the Roman emperor Nero and in the many medieval buildings of the area. The path winds through rough and untouched forests, still imbued by the Benedictine spirituality.

Subiaco, the ancient Roman Sublaqueum, takes its name form three small artificial created by the barring of the Aniene river at the foot of the Simbruini mountains. The lakes were an integrating part of the majestic summer residence built by the Roman emperor Nero, while the town apparently was founded by the slaves engaged in the construction work. The wild appearance, the richness of the waters and of the impenetrable forests fascinated the emperor and later, in the 5th century, inspired S. Benedetto to retire in the nearby caves in a hermitage. Fought over during the Middle Ages, Subiaco was subsequently granted to the Colonna and Barberini families. The entrance to the town is marked by the church of S. Francesco, built in the 14th century, with interesting paintings by Antoniazzo Romano and by Sodoma; further ahead, on via Battisti, is the majestic cathedral of S. Andrea by Pietro Camporese the Old in 1789, with paintings by Sebastiano Conca and Cristoforo Unterberger. The picturesque medieval town quarter is dominated by the majestic Rocca Abbaziale. The Rocca – with its elegant Papal apartment created in 1778 for Pope Pio VI – was destroyed, rebuilt, and redecorated several times over the centuries, and its vast halls are painted by the Zuccaris. After a visit to the town, from piazza Roma (square) take via dei Monasteri, following the directions for Jenne. Along the road which, although rather narrow and with no pavement is not very busy and a pleasure to walk along – are the ruins of Nero’s villa, which are visible but cannot be visited. One can detect the walls of a residential complex and the ruins of the dam-bridge which linked the two lake shores, the collapse of which caused one of the lakes to disappear. To the right of the ruins is a path that leads to the monasteries, with some steps leading across a hairpin bend; having reached the main road again, proceed until you reach the monastery of S. Scolastica – the guided visit to the monastery lasts for approximately 30 minutes. At the end, take the road next to the nearby square again and turn right towards other steps which cut across three hairpin bends and lead to the entrance of the sacred Speco. The path can avoid the road completely and cross through a thick oak and beech forest which make the underwood rather dark even in full daylight: this is the area’s natural flora, which has remained unchanged for many centuries. Having entered the park of the S. Benedetto monastery, cross a majestic wood of Holm oaks in order to reach a panoramic terrace which offers an extraordinary view of the rugged gorge and of the valley of the Aniene river.

Time 2 hours
Marked itinerary Not marked
Difficulty Easy

For further information :
Starting point: Subiaco
S. Ardito, A piedi nel Lazio, vol. 1, Roma 2005

Area
Via Tiburtina