Vasanello

 

Vasanello is a “Comune” within the province of Viterbo, the main city of an area inhabited since ancient times by populations like Falisci, Veii, “Capenati” and others, with slightly more than 4000 inhabitants. A Bit of History Vasanello is so small, that would it not be for the impressive landmark of the Castello Orsini right in its center, one could easily drive through the Piazza della Repubblica without noticing the existence of a center. So what‘s so special about this town and why should you consider visiting it?

To start with, the geographic location. The town is close to the ancient Via Amerina, one of the most ancient roads in Italy, which linked all the major centers of the Faliscan territory. This area of the Belpaese, being so close to Rome, is one of those where the process of “romanization” (that is the inclusion of the italic populations within the roman citizenship) was possibly most felt and whose opposition to roman dominion brought up frequent battles and destructions. Not only that, this area, in later times, came under of the Byzantine rule and marked the junction between the Byzantine empire and the Lombard one.

Despite the constant changes of dominion and rule and the numerous changes and historical events, this land still today retains visible signs of all of these different periods. The following has been captured from a plate on the wall in Vasanello, about its own history. “Not much is known about the town during the Middle Ages, except that it was part of the Patrimonio di San Pietro in Tuscia, created by the Lombard king Liutprando’s donation of a vast area of land Pope Gregory II in 727.” Orso Orsini conquered the territories in 1278, after a military attack against the Roman Church. In the effort to maintain his power, he ordered the construction of another fortification on a previous Falisco-Roman rampart, the first important one of the Baronial Castles, that can still be admired today.

After Pope Martino IV managed to get the estate back into papal possessions, the estate again came under possession of the Orsini family. Around mid 1400’s the town came to know a period of great splendor, thanks to the interest of the Papal States. It is in this period that the presence of artists like Pinturicchio is attested in Vasanello, at least in the realization of frescoes in the Orsini Castle where the powerful families of the Orsini and Della Rovere came together through means of political marriage. Relatives of cardinals and popes themselves were moved like pieces of a chessboard, creating links between families and rights of ownerships and inheritance of possessions on entire regions! It is through one of these marriages that the Vasanello estate came under the rule of another powerful roman family, the Colonna, from mid 1500’s to the end of the XVIII century; the Barberini Sciarra took over then and until the fall of the Papal States.

At the beginning of the 1900’s, all the properties of this estate were bought by the Bank of Italy which then gave them to the Consortium known as Università Agraria. The castle was bought in 1907 by the Prefetto dei Palazzi Apostolici, Luigi Misciattelli, and is since then owned by his family. In 1946 Marquis Paolo Misciattelli tried to industrialize the old tradition of the Vasanello’s ceramics (the name “vasanello” is in fact an indication for “little vase”, evoking a tradition of pottery and hand-made artifacts). The old stables and the warrior’s rooms were then transformed into a modern factory. After a golden period in which the “ceramiche Bassanello” (yes, you read it right “Bassanello”) got famous and exported throughout the world, in 1978 it was closed down because of lack of funds. The current owner of the castle, Lady Elena (Paolo Misciattelli’s daughter is trying to revive the castle and the surrounding properties, including the ceramics factory, to prevent this ancient tradition from disappearing.

The richness and depth of historical events whose memory is retained in this area is quite impressive. A wider amount of information is present on the web site of a local Association called “Poggio del Lago” (hillock of the lake) where more information on Vasanello and its surroundings can be found. The above link will bring you to the Italian version of the page of this amazing “Associazione Culturale“: the dynamism of this group of passionates, experts, historians, archeologists and locals is willing to bring a positive wave to the present (and future) of the territory, by discovering, uncovering, narrating, maintaining and safeguarding the tremendous heritage that the area possesses. Those interested can get in contact with this association, which is genuinely willing to share from their vast knowledge of Vasanello and surroundings, to inform contemporary visitors on how to best discover this wonderful area.