Tolfa Short Film Festival

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 Civitavecchia: southern Etruria and Port of Rome. This territory was populated since the iron age, representing the maximum peak of development of the Etruscan culture, intended as Villanova’s evolution in its best artistic and cultural productions. The Etruscan culture has also affected other neighboring towns, inhabited by Latin population: when the Etruscan culture and history mingled with that of the Romans, found its origins making Rome "caput mundi". . Welcome to Civitavecchia , located on the Via Aurelia, 72 km north-west of Rome, it has its origins from the Roman “Centumcellae” . Built around its port by Emperor Trajan in 103-107 a.C., the city of Centumcellae developed rapidly and with the triumph of Christianity, in the early fourth century, a bishopric was established. In the sixth century it was involved in battles between Goths and Byzantines and was occupied by them between 537 and 538. Later it was ruled by the Popes. Following two naval raids of the Saracens, 813 and 828, the inhabitants were forced to take refuge in the surrounding mountains, where in 854 Pope Leo IV took them under his wing in a city consecrated by him which was called Leopoli.

Meanwhile on the Tyrrhenian ruins of the city, around year the 1000, a fortress was built called Civita Vetula or Civita Veccla (“the old city”) where, around it, a settlement was established. After being possessed by various feudal lords, in the first half of the fifteenth century, the new city became part of the Papal domain gradually assuming a greater importance. In 1508 Pope Julius II began the construction of the great fortress, which was designed by Bramante and continued by Antonio da Sangallo and Giuliano Leno, while in 1515 the same Sangallo also built the new walls, enclosing the town and its port. Meanwhile, restoration and expansion of the port, which became the basis of the papal fleet in the Tyrrhenian Sea, continued .

In the seventeenth century with the construction of the crenellated wall overlooking the stretch of water and the Arsenal of Bernini, Civitavecchia became the most beautiful Mediterranean port. In 1798, the French invaded the Papal States, also taking Civitavecchia after an honorable siege, in March 1799. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the city hosted Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, then a ten years old boy, with his family, and from 1831 to 1841, the French consul Henri Beyle known under the pseudonym of Stendhal.

On 16 September 1870 the troops of General Nino Bixio entered Civitavecchia and raised the three-colored flag on the fortress.

At the beginning of the twentieth century Civitavecchia further developed as a bridgehead between the mainland and Sardinia. The 1943 bombing almost destroyed the city completely. Today Civitavecchia plays an important role in the heart of Italy, especially during the Jubilee of 2000 as Sea Port of Rome

What about a warm bath in hot springs? We strongly recommend the Ficoncella, on the hills overlooking the city . This thermal mineral water, microbiologically pure, gushing crystal clear, pours into some natural basins of limestone, in which water varies from 30 to 56 degrees Celsius. Great benefit of healing the body, particularly suitable for allergy treatments, dermatitis, arthritis and rheumatism, and inhalations are useful in treating breathing difficulties and ear infections such as hypertrophy of tonsils and adenoid. These Muds of the Ficoncella also have anti-inflammatory action for eczema and gives the skin an appearance of being thoroughly cleansed.

You will find a series of pools of thermal waters from the doubtful therapeutic value and very relaxed indeed.It is said that another such source of this curing water can only be found in Japan: those who love this thermal, boast of its name coming from a big fig (fico) tree making this strange water unique throughout the world. Located on top of a hill in the middle of amazing views overlooking the sea of Civitavecchia, far away you can see the Argentario Hill and the Island of Giglio.

People have been bathing in these baths for the last three thousand years: it is said that Roman soldiers came here after battling to heal their wounds. What is certain is that Giuseppe Garibaldi used this thermal to cure a wound from a shot that wouldn’t heal, he bathed it in the excellent water of the Ficoncella and healed his injure. To get there just follow the road to “Civitavecchia Nord” exit and turn left before crossing for the motorway.

The complex is located at about 100 meters from the highway north of Civitavecchia, on a hill surrounded by greenery, where you can admire a beautiful landscape. The renovated park offers its visitors a unique experience participating in the life of the ancient Romans, by analyzing their moments of psycho-physical care, the architecture, building techniques as well as their habits and customs. Built near a spring of water with high-quality therapeutic properties, this complex is divided into two major areas: the Republican baths and the Imperial Baths. The Republican baths, which is the oldest area of the complex (I sec B.C.), are characterized by small rooms used as dressing rooms and massaging halls. Particularly refined mosaics are seen in a variety of ornamental patterns which will amaze you for being so well preserved. The Imperial Baths, dating back from the reign of the Emperor Hadrian appear to have been built between 123 and 136 AD

In the February 1995, tears of blood gushed out of a little statue of Saint Mary, that was in the garden of Gregori family. It was Gessica, who was five years old, the one who saw first the blood tears pouring out of the eyes of the white little statue. The inexplicable phenomenon happened again some months later in the hands of the bishop of Civitavecchia, Mons. Girolamo Grillo. Fifty eye witnesses could see the statue of Mary crying blood tears. X rays and blood tests were made: they proved that the statue had nothing strange inside and that it cried male blood. The little statue is now in the Church of Pantano and it’s the destination of uninterrupted pilgrimages

In a house of Civitavecchia a duplicate of the affresco of the Chambers of Eliodoro, painted by Raphael in the Vatican in 1511- 1514, was discovered . There are no copies of the chambers of Raphael, making this discovery an extrordinary event. Raphael's paintings were commissioned by Pope Julius II to enrich his private chambers in the Vatican. So why were such prestige paintings carried out by Raphael or one of his apprentice in a private resident. In those years the commissioner, Julius II ,would often reside in the Rocco of Civitavecchia so that he could supervise Brmante in the construction of the new fortress in the port: what was the best way to also follow the paintings to be performed in the vatican than to have a drawing done in a room at about a 100 metres from where Julius II was staying.

The evening of Good Friday is organized by the Arch-Confraternity of the Banner. It is a solemn procession that that winds through the city streets and represents the passion of Christ. The main characters :The Roman soldiers, the women and Pilate are impersonated in this procession. Men and women, dressed in long hooded robes, walk barefooted through the streets of the city, their ankles dragging heavy chains or carrying large wooden crosses on their shoulders, offering penitence to Christ asking Him forgiveness for their sins or thanking Him. The people wearing white hoods represent those who were sentenced to death and forgiven by the Pope. Then they left the prison, their identity protected by hoods and escorted by the members of the Arch-Confraternity of the Banner to their church. Once they entered the house of the Lord they were stripped of their robes and hoods, given clothes and money in order to start a new life.

St. Fermina, the city's patron saint and protector of sailors, is remembered on April 28. In her honour a civil and religious festival takes place. The statue of the saint is carried in procession on the shoulders of the fishermen, sailors and port officials followed by military and civil authorities and worshipers. When the statue of St. Fermina arrives at the port, it is placed on a tug boat to the sound of sirens of the ships anchored in the habour and, with the church bells echoing across the city, she sails around the port, giving her blessing to the sea and the city.

There is no other tradition like this: during the night of the 23 to 24 December, in the streets of the city, you can hear music and Christmas carols performed by groups of locals gathered in bands or choirs of about twenty. The songs begin at 9.00 pm from the Cathedral of Civitavecchia, from which the various groups of "shepherds " form their groups and each one takes its own path and starts the caroling. The soft Christmas melodies create an atmosphere of magic in the night, breaking the silence gently of the darken alleys and then gradually moving away into the night. A spell is cast which sweetens the sleep of adults and children, a music of flutes, harmonicas, guitars, mandolins, triangles, cymbals, tambourines, trumpets and saxophones, which has ancient origins in the nineteenth century when, in Civitavecchia, the two "biferari" (from the area of Terni) played pausing in front of all the Mother Marys of the city . The groups ,with their followers ,then finish where they began :at the Cathedral where a mass ends the pilgrimage of the Shepherds.

*Photos by Giuseppe Ibelli