On a spur of tuff rock, its medieval silhouette extends over a valley filled with olive trees.
It still manifests the austere pride of old Capena and it is located along the Roman Via Flaminia or, more precisely, along the route that connects the Via Flaminia with Via Tiberina, which it is believed was the Via Campana in Faliscan territory. It was first known as Castrum Novum, as shown in the oldest documentation in which it is mentioned, half-owned by the Monks of St. Paul. But then its control by the diocese of Porto, a town near the mouth of the Tiber, gave it the rest of the name by which it is known today. The town retains the original flavor of its smoky-colored houses with their elegant entryways framed with double rows of decorative brick that emanate a sense of mystery: “[...] Perhaps it is this intermediate silence between ancient times and present day that is the source of the sense of mystery that wafts through so much of Lazio, a turgid countryside, half cultivated, half fallow, as well as its heaps of gray stone, as gentle as its fields of flowering calaminta.” (C. Brandi, Terre d’Italia)
An array of dark houses that smell of tuff and whose moss- and lichen-covered tiled roofs crowd around the mansion. We are talking about the castle-mansion, one of the most interesting in Upper Lazio, which watches over the valleys cut through by the Chiarano and Mola gully, under the watchful eye of majestic Mount Soratte. “[...] this area is on the right side of the Via Flaminia; turning off this road at the 18th milepost, you pass in front of a cave carved into the tuff rock, and then just ahead the small church of Santa Maria Mater Virtutum whose small portico is held up by three marble columns. Then down a steep slope to the “Terra”. The outer walls have round towers and its style and construction methods date it to the 15th century, probably under the Colonna family, whose crest is visible on the fountain.” (A.Nibby, Analisi storico antiquaria..., 1849)
The Palazzo Ducale is enormous and bears the crest of the Colonna family. Erected on the town side, it reigns supreme with its flanking towers that are part of the structure and apparently symmetrical. On the inside, the first floor has painted works signed by the Zuccari brothers and the initials SC (perhaps standing for Sciarra Colonna). In the 15th century, the castle was turned into a mansion, replacing the ravelin with a symmetrical tower and re-doing the façade. The town was also enclosed in a mighty walled embrace with three gates that exist to this day: “[...] The defense of the castle walls was created with three gates which each evening were closed by the gatekeeper whose salary was paid by the town.” (ADPR)
The side towards the Tiber River does not have the same harmony of construction and it blends into the play of the roofs and their overlapping cascade of tiles and tuff rock that leaves a sort of human fingerprint on the castled back of the hill, a sign of the power of artifice over nature.