Roman Bridge Near Casalvieri in Italy © Emilia Trovini

photo © Emilia Trovini

The History of Casalvieri

The area has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic age and became the territory of the Volsci and then the Samnites before passing eventually passing into the hands of the Romans. Indeed many remains can still be seen today in this area such as the Roman bridge  over the River Melfa, some funeral monuments in the Valloni district, the remains of a road in the Casal delle Mole district and at archaeological site of the thermal baths at Casale Pescarolo.

On 5 May 1017 the Princes of Capua donated the town of Sant’Urbano to the Abbey of Montecassino, which was ruled by their brother Abbot Atenolfo.  This document mentions for the first time the name of Fontana de Casa Selberi, from which the present day name of Casalvieri is derived. Another document of 1064 confirms that there was a fortified settlement with a castle to guard the area. In the document it is referred to as the Castello di Selber. The Benedictine monastery of Sant’Angelo di Pescomascolino  was built in approximately 1085 on the site of a smaller pre-existing sacred building. 

Casalvieri held a strategic position which controlled the narrow route, known locally as the Tracciolino, which ran through the mountains along the steep gorges of the River Melfa. This linked the Val di Comino with the Liri Valley through Roccasecca. Casalvieri came under the possession of a succession of feudal lords, the Duchy of Benevento, followed by the Principality of Salerno. In 1309 it was ruled by the Counts of Aquino. A castle was built which was surrounded with strong fortified walls and guarded by several watch towers. The Porta Maggiore was the main entrance into the town.

Casalvieri went on to be ruled by the Della Rovere family as part of the duchy of Sora and Alvito. In the 1500’s it passed to the Boncompagni family who held possession until 1796. The Dukes of Boncompagni encouraged the economic development of the area and many mills were constructed along the banks of the Melfa. The local economy was traditionally based on agriculture. Also new churches and elegant palaces were built in the area and a bridge over the river Melfa. Some of the rural hamlets were also developed and enlarged.

During the French occupation several inhabitants sided against the French revolutionaries and joined gangs headed by the notorious ex-brigand Fra ‘Diavolo. Following the Risorgiamento, which generally benefited the rich landowners, left the poorer classes struggling with not enough work or food to sustain their families. There followed a period of social unrest. During this time some local people turned to brigandage in the area of the Val di Comino. Also during the nineteenth century there had been a constant increase in population. Therefore, many could see no future for themselves and their families and consequently there began a wave of emigration.

Juana Romani (1867-1924) was an Italian painter, student and model of artists Ferdinand Roybet and Jean-Jacques Henner. She was born in Casalvieri, but moved with her family to France as a child.

In 1915 Casalvieri and the surrounding area was hit by an earthquake that produced mayor damage

The Second World War led to the town being occupied by the Germans and local houses and property were requisitioned. The area was often bombed by the Allied forces because of its strategic position. 

Following the devastation of the Second World War there was another wave of emigration as many left their home town in search of  a new life overseas.

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