Castel di Tora is a municipality in the Province of Rieti in the Italian region Lazio, located about 50 kilometres northeast of Rome, and considered one of the most beautiful burgs in Italy.
Travelers following the road along the artificial lake of Turano will notice an impressive peak overlooking the water, nearby the historical village. On top of this hill, which can be reached by a narrow isthmus, lie the remains of an abandoned village known locally as Antuni.
The village of Antuni is one of many historic strongholds in the valley, which was often marked by conflicts and invasions, being located on the border between the Papal States and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The origins of the development of Antuni seem to have foundations in the 11th century, when the Guidoneschi family donated the possessions of Castrum Antoni to the Abbey of Farfa.
As in other fortified places, its ownership was contested by different families over the centuries. It belonged to the Brancaleoni until 1583, then the Cesarini and then the Mattei until 1676. It passed then to the Lante della Rovere until 1729, then to the Gentiles, and in 1800 to the Principles of the Dragon, and obtained, in 1832, the recognition of principality at the behest of Pope Gregory XVI.
In the late 1930s, the region was significantly affected by the construction of two artificial basins, Lago (italian for lake) del Salto and Lago del Turano itself.
Their purpose was to solve the problem of flooding in the Rieti valley as well as generate hydroelectric power. However, as a result, much fertile land was lost and the inhabitants of Antuni and other nearby towns started to abandon the region. Some of the ruins of the houses and buildings that were destroyed by the lake can still be seen from the hilltop village.
But there was more trouble as, in the late 1940s, following a devastating bombing by U.S. airplanes during World War II (who were targeting the lake’s bridges), the village of Antuni was entirely abandoned by its remaining inhabitants. It lay in ruins for the next five decades, until the town of Castel di Tora purchased the village in the 1990s and restored some of the buildings.
It turned the most impressive structure, the Palazzo del Drago, with its frescoes and 365 windows, into an art exhibition center and museum, one of many interesting sights to explore in the area today.
A short walk from the trail climbing up to Antuni also leads to the small hermitage of San Salvatore, where you can visit a cave adorned with 17th-century frescoes.
Author’s notes: Antuni can only be visited on guided tours that must be booked on the “Camminando Con…” website in advance , which organizes interesting guided tours. It’s a steep 15-minute hike up to the ruins.
Images from web – Google Research