photo © Italo Caira
History of Alvito
Alvito is an ancient village of Samnite origin located on a slope of Mount Morrone. According to some historians it was built on the remains of the town of Cominium. In antiquity, following the fall of the Roman Empire the area was devastated by the Longobards, and later raided by the Saracens.
An early settlement named Sant’Urbano dated back to 967, near to Colle della Civita. The first settlement of Alvito itself dates from 1096. This was known as Albitum or Albus Vicus which was derived from the name of the mountain Monte Albeto. The town of Alvito was of considerable importance during the Middle Ages. Alvito was governed by the Abbey of Montecassino in the 10th century.
Towards the end of the eleventh century the noble Counts of Aquino, in an agreement made with the Abbey, built an fortified outpost to protect the north access to the Val di Comino. Thus the first citadel was constructed. However in 1349 this fortress was completely destroyed by the huge earthquake that devastated the valley. The reigning lords also perished in the catastrophe. So, the powerful and wealthy Duchy of Cantelmo family seized the fiefdom and extended it to include the nearby towns of Sora, Vicalvi and Atina.
Rostaino Cantelmi set about building a new castle, trapeziod in shape, with several towers, one taller than the others. An additional perimeter wall was also constructed with four tall angular towers at its corners was also built to further protect the castle and its surrounding village which was known as Castello.
In 1496 the Borgias took possession of Alvito and held it until 1503 when it came under the control of the Navarro and then the Cardona families when the town saw a slow and steady decline.
However in 1595 the Duchy of Alvito was bought by Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio, of Cernobbio, for 150.000 ducats. In the time of Pope Gregory XIII he was secretary of the Papal State. The cardinal entrusted Alvito it to his nephew, who was also named Tolomeo, who initiated a period of development and prosperity of the town. A grand palace, the Palazzo Gallio, was constructed in the lower section of the town. This was later completed by his nephew Francesco Gallio in 1633. A new main street was built, named Via Gallia, now Corso Gallio. In the area of Posta Fibreno the Gallio’s also built a grand villa, Villa Gallio.
There were several other elegant palaces and villas built in Alvito by noble families: Rosati, Mazzenga, Panicali, Sipari, Graziani, Lepore, Santoro, Masetti, Ferrante, Castrucci, Elvino and Manaco.
During the 19th century many of Alvito’s peasants would migrate in search of seasonal work in the fields near Rome. However from the early 1900’s many soon began to emigrate overseas to Europe, Canada and the United States.
In 1919 Vincenzo Mazzenga established the first agricultural colony of Terra di Lavoro near Alvito, for the orphans of the peasants who died in the First World War.
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