What to see
Bellegra, panoramic view city
Bellegra’s origins are lost in the mists of time.
According to the most reliable sources, it seems that the old core – the then Vitellia – already existed in the sixth century BC on Mount Celeste, where today the town’s houses stand. There were settlements of Equi and Ernici followed by Romans.
The latter settled there after fierce battles, making out of the mountain an important strategic location.
Although the history of the town, in several points, seems obscured by some contradictions of those who wanted to rebuild it, the tangible evidences of that past can be found anywhere in the area, beginning with the remains of a temple dedicated to the goddess Bona and characterized by impressive square walls, called “Cyclopean Walls”, that line the town in several parts and give an idea of the defensive systems of the time. Interesting are also the “Opus Cementicus”, cement buildings erected by the Romans.
In the municipality of Bellegra there is an area of great environmental and scenic importance, called “Pantano”, affected by evident karst phenomena. Between the ditch of the Vague and the Fosso La Cona we find the “Arch Caves” almost 1000 mt long and in some places up to 30 mt high, preceded by a large external natural arch, as remnant of the primordial development of the cave.
The natural cave is extremely impressive for the richness of the stalactites, stalagmites, sinkholes and contains remains of the faunas of the Middle and Upper Paleolithic with traces of lithic industry of the Mesolithic, as well as human and animal paintings.
The Ministry of Environmental Cultural Heritage in its note dated June 27, 1981, considered the fact that the cave is of major interest in the study of the Paleolithic and Mesolithic cultures, retained the area covered by the cave trail of special archaeological interest under the law 1 June 1939 no. 1089.
The site is also subject of restoration and enhancement of the archaeological goods and the surrounding area for the re-establishment of micro-habitats especially aquatic for the reproduction of the batracofauna; then the creation of a natural trail between the cave and the headquarters of the camping for the use of educational tourist area.
Not to be missed …
The convent of St. Francis belongs to the year 1200. In there a few monks live, dedicated to the vegetable garden work and prayer.
St. Thomas from Cori, Blessed Oddi from Vallimnfreda and Blessed Mariano from Roccacasale lived here.
Nested in the greenery of chestnut and beech trees, this Franciscan retreat is located on the road to Rocca St. Stefano.
St. Francis himself, during his stay in Subiaco in 1223, experienced its beauty. A few years later, the Franciscan monks living in there turned into a chapel the cell where the saint lived.
In later centuries the complex grew and in the 1683 was erected to Franciscan Retreat; a long line of religious streamed in this place, with the intention to devote themselves to a life of sacrifice: we remember friar Mariano from Roccacasale and friar Diego Oddi.
The monastery now houses an interesting Franciscan museum, documenting not only the life of meditation of the Capuchin but also the folkloristic testimonies of popular religiosity century after century.
About 4 km from the town of Bellegra, there is a major environmental area stretching between the Cupa Valley and the area known by the name Le Cese affected by showy karst phenomena. A characteristic karst depression is the valley of Pantano where, until the beginning of 900, there was a lake, dried up in 1911 for agricultural use.
From this small basin and from one of its underground out-flowing stream has originated a natural karst phenomenon “the Arch Caves”, nearly 1000 mt long. They have been called “the Arch Caves” because about thirty mt downstream from its entrance, there is a natural stone arch.
They are the only ones of the province of Rome. Today they are easily accessible thanks to the new rural road paving. The visit of the caves is extremely impressive for the richness of the stalactites, stalagmites, sinkholes and rooms for the observation of the cave fauna, in particular bats, amphibians and even micro and mesofauna typical of such structures. The development of the cave is in length rather than in depth enabling a relatively easy access.
Among the great chestnut trees of Bellegra, healthy water gushes out of the characteristic Nocchietta Spring. From a botanic point of view it is interesting to note a holm oak settlement on Mount Celeste, right over the houses of the village: this type of oak, in fact, although it is typical of the coastal vegetation, can grow and develop in a high altitude area, by taking advantage of the heat that rocks accumulate during the day.
Other highlights includes the town forest, within which you can follow a natural trail, and a public park “Giardinetti”. The whole territory is rich of springs that give rise to a dense network of streams with a strong erosive action; the same water also feed numerous fountains, scattered around the town, very picturesque. One of these underground streams is particularly important because it covers one of the most beautiful places in Bellegra, which is the Arch Cave, a cave formed by karstic erosion, the only cave in Italy with single, horizontal mouth, about one kilometer long and that allows a rather easy access to the visitors thanks to its height, up to 30 meters. For the fact of being crossed by the stream, the cave once was a water tank for a mill in local dialect called “mola”.