The Casale (homestead) of Martignano is located near Baccano (about 20km from Rome), a short distance from the north-east shore of the similarly-named lake (also named Alsietinus after the Etruscan city founded by Halesus), between the historic roads Via Clodia (to the west) and Via Cassis (to the east). It has a most fortunate position, elevated by the internal slope of the volcanic crater, with gentle gradients towards the lake.

L'antico Casale
(Fotografia di Pino Mannarino ©2005)

The locality preserves to this day a fascinating resonance, at once solemn and harmonious, of the various forms of life sustained by the volcanic nature of the environment & the silent presence of humankind in this place since early paleolithic times until the Villanovian epoch (as archeological findings in iron bear testimony). The geographic positioning of the site – on the eastern slopes of Mount Sabatini, within the Baccano Valley that is linked to the valleys of the Aniene and the Tiber – made it of special commercial interest both to the Etruscans and to the Villanovians. Confiming this are numerous Etruscan sites recently been brought to light around the city of Artena.

The Romans dominated the whole area during the republican era, and repopulated it with peoples transferred from the Campania Region: from Capua, it seems, came a people devoted to the god Bacco, who in turn became the most beloved of the Greco-Roman gods in these parts. It is from a temple to Bacco that the place-name Baccano derives. The waters of the lake animated an aqueduct constructed under Caesar Augustus (and known as the Alsetio, derived from the erstwhile name of the lake, Alsietum), and which carried waters for 33km to the capital, Rome.
During the Imperial period the harmony of the place attracted numerous country houses of the Roman nobility: of particular merit is the villa the emperor, Septimus Severius, constructed on two levels and embellished with marbles, stucco, images, mosaics and glass decorations (especially in the baths) – 64 panels of which can today be admired in the National Roman Museum. The villa is also the setting of the martyrdom of the Fourth Century bishop of Baccano, St Alexander.
With the subsequent collapse of the Roman Empire and the invasions of the Barbarians, the countryside was abandoned and not much information is available from the area for several centuries. Only from the Middle Ages again did the area see some growth in population, and it is then listed among the grounds belonging to “massa Caesana” (one of the largest ecclesiastical patrimonies in Tuscia). The Massa possessed grounds in Furcula, Tondiliano and Martignano, and is cited in a Papal Bull of Sergius III in 905, and in two successive bulls of popes John XIX (1026) and Benedict IX (1037): through which possession is assigned to Bishop Hildebrand of Selvacandida. After being split up in the Twelfth Century, the lands of Martignano saw a castle built, and with it probably also a small village which fell into the hands of Norman families and then the Curtubraca. Throughout the Thirteenth Century, the Martignanian lands are listed as pertaining to the Curtubracas.
Authentic records reflect that Carus Curtabraca was in possession of part of the castle in 1258, and that Costanza, the widow of Pandolfo Normanni, on the death of her children, sold to Stefano and Giovanni Normanni the deed identified as Cere, Civitella and Martignano. This last-mentioned was designated “casale Martignan”. The first “salt tax” (1350) levied against Martignano 10 rubbi, but a reference in 1416 has the property listed as “terre ad presens destructe et inhabitate” (land at present in ruin and uninhabited). The epidemics of the plague in 1381 and 1390 indubitably contributed towards its abandon, as did the feudal rivalries between the various Roman homesteads between the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries – not to mention the return of malaria to the area after flooding created marshes near the lakes of Baccano and Stracciacappe. Between 1416 and 1495, however, a homestead featuring in many maps as “Casale Martignano” was constructed, partially on the foundations of the ancient castle.

In 1495 a quarter of the estate was sold by Francesca, the widow of Lorenza de Gallis, to Antonio de Chirico; in 1562, another quarter was transferred by Gregorio Zuccari di Campagnano to Alessandro Crivelli, who in the same year was nominated Cardinal Geruntinus et Cariatensis by Pope Pius IV. Later yet, the whole estate would be acquired by Felice Floridi. In his will, during the pontificate of Gregory XIII, apart from other charitable efforts and works of piety, he left a homestead, a vineyard within which was constructed a noble palace, and other stable goods within the territory of Rome: which he ordered be utilised to maintain a college of poor students in Rome, which would be under the administration of the Archconfraternity of the Most Holy Redeemer “ad Sancta Sanctorum”. By reason of the high costs of maintaining such a college on the part of the Archconfraternity, the remaining parts of the inheritance from the cardinal’s goods were able to maintain no more than three or four students. The Archconfraternity therefore decided to lease to the following persons, according to 9-year leases, the entire estate of Martignano (with two portions of the Lake of Martignano):

to Giuseppe De Ambrosis for 380 scudi a year (6 March 1575)
to Giuseppe De Ambrosis for 560 scudi a year (13 August 1583)
to Giuseppe De Ambrosis for 700 scudi a year (8 October 1593)
to Giuseppe De Ambrosis for 600 scudi a year (28 September 1602)
(ASR – SS. Salv. – Arm. VII, Mazzo X, n.11)
to Ridolfo Mazzapioti for 300 scudi a year (28 August 1695)
(ASR – SS. Salv. – Arm. VII, Mazzo X, n.13)
to Paolo Ciminelli for 400 scudi a year (1 October 1754)
to Paolo Ciminelli for 475 scudi a year (24 November 1760)
to Paolo Ciminelli for 520 scudi a year (15 June 1780)
to Giuseppe and Pietro … for 620 scudi a year (10 October 1780)
ASR – SS. Salv. – Arm. VII, Mazzo X, ff. 18-20)

It is almost certain (though not documented) that during the Nineteenth Century the homestead was leased to the Corp of the Carabinieri (police) as barracks for the mounted police. It was probably during this period that the buildings received several modifications, including the construction of a chimney on the second (noble) floor, which proved disastrous because it exposed to the elements one of the beams of the roof. In the first half of the Twentieth Century the estate was leased by the “Crivelli Scholastic League” to the Venturi family of Campagnano.

The most recent tenant was Angelico Ferrazza, in 1958. The following year the whole concern was sold through the mediation of the Marquess Del Gallo di Roccagiovine (of the Crivelli Scholastic League) to two sons of the previous tenant, and divided into two parts. At present, the portion containing the Casale of Martignano and the agriturismo of the same name is the property of the grandchildren of Angelico Ferrazza.

Panorama dal colle
(Photo: Pino Mannarino ©2005)