Calcata Vecchia: the Glorious Town That Made Me Say Yes

This post includes the best travel guide you will find to Calcata Vecchia, one of the loveliest hilltop villages in Lazio.

Living just 2 miles from Calcata Vecchia, I have the privilege of exploring its hidden corners every week. My extended family, a part of the vibrant community of artists, hippies, and cats, resides in this enchanting village.

It was right here that I met my life partner, with whom I started a family…but back to travel tips.

If you love medieval villages off the beaten path, perhaps surrounded by scenic nature so rich that will take your breath away.

If you love out-of-the-ordinary characters such as independent artists and street performers, you must visit these places.

In this post, I’ll share the best things to do in Calcata and the most reliable information for planning your visit.

For example, I will tell you about its history, activities to do once there, where to eat and sleep, and how to get there.

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. That means that if you do a purchase through one of my links I get a small commission at zero extra cost for you. For more info, read my full privacy policy.

Step by step guide to visiting Calcata Vecchia

1.Leave your car outside the historic center

Cars aren’t allowed inside Calcata Vecchia. Leave yours at the open-air car park outside the village that you’ll find on Maps as “Parcheggio Calcata Centro Storico“. Then start walking towards Calcata Vecchia, which is the quaint hamlet hanging on a steep cliff you’ll have noticed on the way.

The car park is about 1 km away from the historic center. If you have heavy suitcases, arrange with the owner of the apartment you will be staying at to meet you at the entrance to the village, so he can watch your things while you go and park your car.

On a weekend, you might find the free parking lots full and you might need to pay in order to park your car inside blue-lined parking lots, as in most towns in Italy.

Pay attention: The historic center is a restricted traffic zone. Watch the signs carefully to avoid a ticket.

2. Walk past the only gate to the village

Walk past the medieval arched gate with the coats of arms carved, a memory of the families that ruled this land: this is the only entrance to the historic center.

As soon as you’ve entered Calcata, you will see that this is just a different dimension. On a normal weekend, small groups of locals from nearby cities come here to hang out and chill. 

3. Visit the town’s main piazza and have coffee

The heart of the village is the Piazza Umberto I with the church and the Baronial Palace.

You’ll spot three throne-like chairs carved in the rock on one side of the piazza, just outside the church.

They are the artwork of Costantino Morosin, a brilliant contemporary sculptor of Venetian origin who moved here in the early 1980s.

Behind the thrones, the small Alkimie Café with a tiny back terrace at the edge of the lush gorge serves very good coffee and snacks (try the hot chocolate if you visit Calcata in winter.)

You’ll also see a few restaurants with outdoor tables. You might want to have lunch in Calcata after exploring the village. I’ll recommend a couple of places to eat in Calcata further down in the article.

4. Visit the artists’ studios and handicraft shops

What sets Calcata apart from the many other hilltop towns near Rome is that it is an artists’ town. You might visit the workshops and galleries or interact with the artists in the main piazza. Artists are the beat of this place, where every activities needs to sparkle creativity and originality on the world.

That’s why more artists move here every year.

Remember to take it slowly, don’t rush your visit. It will take you 2 to 3 hours to see the village.

MIND: Some workshops may be open only at weekends.

Among the craft stores, don't miss these two, which are run by women: 


features original handcrafted creations inspired by the moon. Here you'll find lots of cool moon-themed items: notebooks, pencil cases, shoppers, earrings, bookmarks, table mats, and more. 


is an Argentine artisan who emigrated to Italy many years ago. She creates unique jewelry from recycled cardboard. 
The amazing thing is that in addition to being cheap and lightweight, this jewelry is also very beautiful, and perfect for gifts.

5. Listen to live music at the Bard-House Gipsy Club.

For the past couple of years, Daniele, a Roman music enthusiast, has been renovating a venue that runs through some stone-walled caves on Sinibaldi Street.

The bohemian-style venue is attractive and perfect for having a drink while listening to a jam session or concert of blues, jazz, rock, or alternative music by emerging or established groups.
The venue is small, so try to be on time.

6. Taste cookies from Carmen’s bakery

Carmen is a woman from Sardinia who has lived in the town for many years.
Here she runs the homemade cookie paradise.
She bakes them in a wood-fired oven.
So many flavors and so many shapes for a sweet stop to absolutely make if you visit the town.
My favorites are the ginger ones and the coffee ones, but you really are spoiled for choice.

MIND: Carmen might open her shop only at weekends

7. Explore the open-air museum “Opera Bosco”

If you love contemporary art and as well as a short hike in a lush forest, you should add the open-air museum Opera Bosco to your itinerary in Calcata.

You’ll reach the museum by driving or walking for about 2 km from Calcata Vecchia.

What awaits you is truly beyond imagination.

Speaking of art, Opera Bosco is as the most interesting place to see in Calcata.

Walking across a trail through the rich vegetation of the gorge of the Treja Valley, you’ll find about 50 artworks that are born from, live, and will eventually perish in nature.

Artists from Italy and beyond, over 30 years, have created sculptures out of the tufa rocks that inhabit the forest and installations using only the material found in the wood.

The project started in the early 1990s on the wave of the ecological movement of the 1970s and 1980s. According to the founding artists, Anne Demijttenaere and Costantino Morosin, only that which integrates perfectly with the ecosystem without damaging it can be considered called “art”.

Therefore, in this extraordinary museum, the artists exclusively use biodegradable materials, and even the colors used for painting are natural.

You can tour it in a 1 and a half hour walk. This is a unique experience you can have in the countryside around Rome, so I highly recommend it.

Every Sunday morning from March to December, the founding artists organize a guided tour that is followed by a light aperitivo (€15).

On other days, to visit the museum on your own (€10), you must contact the number +39-3711562775 (WhatsApp available).

8. Stroll in the old town: alleys, terraces, and views

There is so much to see in this hamlet if you love exploring tiny alleys and dreaming about how life could be in a secluded place like Calcata.

Have your camera ready. Every corner and house you pass by is worth a photo: flower pots, outer walls with decoration, and the locals.

You will awe at how the houses blend with the thousand-year-old underlying stone.

There are natural caves that became basements, cellars, or art studios. Look for the “Kiss Alley” and what remains of the “Secret Gate,” ancient secondary access to the village.

Enjoy spectacular views from small, silent, terraces.

You will hear the voice of the river flowing in the valley at the foot of the cliff. You will cheer the cats sunbathing in every corner.

This village has a message for everyone who is ready to listen. It isn’t just about the hippie movement. Calcata, because of its privileged position, had been chosen as a worship location, a huge natural altar, by the people who lived here in the prehistoric age.

No wonder it has attracted artists and outsiders from all continents.

9. See the Murals in Calcata Nuova

The town of Calcata also develops outside the historic center.
Calcata Nuova or New Calcata is a part of Calcata that the government gave to local farmers in the 1960s when it was believed that the cliff would collapse.
As opposed to the color and art of Calcata Vecchia, the new part of the village looked rather dull.
This is where the post office, newspaper store, and pharmacy are located.
And as of late 2022, there are also beautiful murals.
With the support of the Lazio Region, the Ondadurto Teatro association together with the Calcata municipality curated the R/Esistenza project.

3 internationally known street artists, viz.

  • Sten-Lex with his artwork Confini XVI
  • Lucamaleonte with Free as Cats
  • Alessandra Carloni with A Flight over History

They have given new life to some of the village buildings with their murals. Find them at the village theater, the town hall, and in the “multipurpose center.”

10. Eat delicious local food

In Calcata you’ll find some of the best food in the Lazio region.

The dishes are made with genuine local products. Among them, there are porcini mushrooms, chestnuts, pecorino cheese, lots of veggies, marmalades, wines, and any kind of bushmeat if you’re into it.

Everything tastes more authentic and nourishing here than in the city!

Small villages near Rome are especially popular for homemade pasta and original pasta sauces. Try one of these restaurants in Calcata which are among our favourite.

  • Il Guazzabuglio
  • La Piazzetta | Via San Giovanni 47
  • I Tre Monti Da Adolfino | Piazza Roma, 11

I advise you to leave room for dessert!

The “Sala Da Tè Calcata” in Via Tripoli 10 is a must-visit in Calcata Vecchia if you love cakes! You might enjoy your tea on the rooftop with a spectacular view of the lush valley surrounding the village.

If you love Tiramisù instead, then you need to taste that of the Restaurant La Piazzetta.

If you just want to snack instead, try:

Forno La Mattra's pizza by the slice or panini.

If you visit Calcata on the weekend and want to sit at a restaurant, you’d better reserve a table, otherwise, you’ll hardly find a seat.
In case all the restaurants in the old town are full, you can drive to the neighboring village Mazzano Romano where there are two other restaurants serving magnificent food:

Osteria Falisca | Address: Via per Calcata, 21

Where to stay

The best places to stay in Calcata are small apartments or B&B inside the historic center so that you can experience the alternative vibes of the village at any hour of the day.

Imagine how quiet the nights are and how clear the morning air is, not to mention the sunsets over the glorious valley. Connect with some of these local renters:

Casa Sole Luna (with two bedrooms)
Casa Odette

A Brief History of Calcata

Calcata in ancient times

The first records mentioning “Calcata” belong to the 8th Century in the Middle Ages.

Archeological findings show that it has been inhabited since Pre-Roman times, thanks to the proximity of the River Treja.

The rich archeological findings uncovered across the Treja Valley, which is today a nature reserve under the name Parco Regionale Valle del Treja tell us about the Faliscans”.

They were a population that entertained economic and social relations with the Etruscans, and with them had allied to stop the advance of the Romans.

The Faliscans had their main city in Falerii Veteres (Old Falerii), a city destroyed by the Romans and then rebuilt as Falerii Novi (New Falerii). Today, that city is known as Civita Castellana.

At the beginning of the 8th Century BC, the Faliscans settled on the massive tufa hills of Falerii, Narce, Nepi, Calcata, Monte Li Santi (which the government collapsed in 1962 in order to build the provincial road), and Santa Maria.

Besides Calcata and Nepi, of the other ancient Faliscan cities remain today only ruins, in some cases spectacular as for the Necropolis of Cavo degli Zucchi on the Amerina road.

The hills of Santa Maria and Narce can be spotted from the village of Calcata Vecchia, ask a local to show you

Calcata in the Middle Ages

In the 13th Century, the powerful Anguillara family erected a castle (Palazzo Baronale) on the main piazza of Calcata.

The church “Nome di Gesù”, the other ancient building in the tiny central square, dates back to the 14th Century and was renovated in the 17th Century.

A legend set in Calcata Vecchia

An alley with pavement with small stones all different and concrete. The ceiling of the alley has a barrel vault that joins the walls of two stone buildings. There is a dark-haired cat passing through the alley. On the right side there are tables with black plastic chairs, two people are sitting at a table in the attitude of talking to each other. On the right wall are two handcrafted signs, on one says "Taglere Aperitivo" and on the other says "Caffetteria Spritzeria."
Sinibaldi St.

The most popular legend set in Calcata Vecchia is that of the “Prepuce of Jesus“. Yes, that’s what I said!

In the 16th century, during the Sack of Rome by the German Lansquenets, a soldier managed to get hold of a relic kept in a precious casket in the Basilica of San Giovanni. The casket contained a strip of Christ’s foreskin.

The Lansquenet soldier flew with his treasure to Calcata. He was arrested and imprisoned in a cave.

When the locals found the relic they kept it in the church of the town and began to celebrate it in procession on January 1st of each year.

It is said that the pilgrims who came to worship the relic were granted an indulgence of 10 years.

There are at least 32 places in Europe where the foreskin of Christ has been reported over the centuries.

In 1900, the Catholic Church forbade anyone to write or speak about the Holy Foreskin, under penalty of excommunication.

In 1983, the relic mysteriously disappeared from the house of the parish priest of Calcata and since then all traces of it have been lost.

Calcata in the 20th Century

The most interesting part in the history of Calcata, Italy, starts in the 1960s.

Dozens of artists and hippies from Italy and beyond flew to Calcata to seek refuge from the impelling industrialization developing in the world.

At that time, there was still no water in the houses and women went to wash clothes at the village fountain.

If you visit Calcata, you can meet those very same artists who founded the village along with “new” ones that have arrived over the years.

Artists saw this city as the perfect place to freely practice their arts and live as a community.
Thanks to them, Calcata is one of Italy’s most culturally vibrant villages.

Calcata is so worth visiting

The vibe that the village and its people give off is unique, and its pace is slow.

Calcata is one of the hidden gems in Italy that could make your trip to Italy even more inspiring and romantic.

The artists repopulated Calcata as the native inhabitants (mostly farmers and hunters) moved away from the decaying old village and into new homes off the tufa cliff.

It is the artists who restored the very old houses, some even dating back to the 13th century, preventing them from collapsing. 

Calcata might remind you of other villages of central Italy which are built on tufa cliffs as well, like Vitorchiano near Viterbo or even Pitigliano in Southern Tuscany.

In order to understand what makes this village truly different from anywhere else in Italy you have to spend at least a day here wandering around the main piazza and connecting with the locals.

Places worth visiting around Calcata

If you need to add a few adventurous activities to your visit to the artists’ village, consider these options:

Treja Regional Park

Calcata Vecchia is surrounded by the Regional Park of the Treja Valley, an 800-hectare nature reserve through which the Treja river and its tributaries run.

If you love hiking, mind that in these surroundings you can have some of the most impressive hikes near Rome, walking through shrines and ruins 2000 years old. Make a stop at:

  • Sanctuary of Monte-Li Santi Le Rote
  • Acropolis of ancient Narce
  • Church of Santa Maria

The paths to these places start from Calcata Vecchia, just outside the ancient gate from which you access the village.

Monte Gelato Falls

One of the most popular spots in the park is the Cascate di Monte Gelato (which translates to “frozen mountain waterfalls”).

Reaching the falls is fairly easy by following Google Maps directions. You park within walking distance of the falls.

Local families with children go here for a picnic. The falls, which although small are among the most famous waterfalls near Rome, get their name because the water is very cold even in summer.

Along the banks of the small river, you’ll discover nice spots to chill in the shade of the lush Mediterranean scrubs. Make sure to explore both banks of the river. The ancient mill is quite characteristic.

Now I feel a little bit jealous because I’ve shared this information about Calcata, Italy, with the world!

What I’ve just told you about is one of my favorite places on Earth.

Mazzano Romano Town and the MAVNA Museum

Among the testimonies of the Faliscan civilization, there are inscriptions, precious female funerary objects, and votive objects found in temples.

About 300 mysterious masks were found at Le Rote Sanctuary and now are displayed at the MAVNA Museum in the town of Mazzano Romano (UPDATE: the museum is currently under renovation, so it’s temporarily closed.)

TIP: To learn more about the intriguing Faliscan civilization, it is essential to visit these two museums: 

Archaeological Museum of the Agro Falisco in the city of Civita Castellana, 13 km north of Calcata Vecchia. 

The MAVNA Museum in Mazzano Romano, 4 km from Calcata in the direction of Rome.

You can visit to Calcata Vecchia and to one of the two towns hosting these interesting museums on the same day.

The archaeological sites of Narce, Le Rote, and Santa Maria can be reached from the historic center of Calcata Vecchia hiking hike across the Treja Valley.

Further readings:

If you loved all these things to do in Calcata Vecchia, you might want to visit these other nearby places as well:

3 thoughts on “Calcata Vecchia: the Glorious Town That Made Me Say Yes”

  1. Hello!

    I am planning to Visit Calcata Vecchia in February 2024. I land in Rome and was wondering the best way to get there by public transport. I would go there on a Friday and return the next day. Not sure what would be the best and economical way to get there. Any ideas that you would suggest?




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