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On Scene with Bill Wilson

Whenever Fernando and I travel to Rome we try to include a visit to his hometown of Subiaco where he still has family and friends. Subiaco has ancient roots – it was the location of a favorite villa of Nero as well as the Fortress of Subiaco the possible birthplace of Lucrezia Borgia.

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Subiaco rises up from the Aniene River protected and dominated by the Fortress of Subiaco

The most ancient part of the city is down near the Aniene River. It is thought that the first inhabitants of the area were slaves brought to work on Nero’s nearby villa, the ruins of which can be viewed on the road to the monasteries that are east of town. The river provided power that made it possible for early industry to flourish there.

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A replica of the first printing press in Italy on display in Rome’s Palazzo Ferrajoli  to mark the 550th anniversary of the first Italian printing.

One of the important industries was a paper mill that produced the only white paper in what was then the pontifical state.  2015 is actually the 550th anniversary of the first printing works in Italy. They were set up in 1465 at the Monastery of Saint Scholastica by the German printers, A Pannartz and C. Sweynheym.

The city has recently spent money to improve access from the river to the main street, but if you know the right path you can find yourself walking among alleyways and houses that have existed for centuries. It is not hard to imagine what it would have been like to live in those times.  There are little shops and artisans at work that the city is promoting to attract visitors. On the Saturday we visited we were to early for most of the shops to be open, but as we turned a corner before us was a large fresco of Mary, the baby Jesus and a monk.

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 “Madonna of the Ferrari” attributed to Manenti who painted in the 17th century.

When I first saw it I just stood in awe of it because it looked as if it had been there for so long.  I wondered how many people had passed by it during their daily routine. Then I realized there was a “For Sale” sign on the building just across from the fresco. I didn’t have the nerve to dial the number and ask the price., but I think it would be wonderful to wake up every morning and see this Madonna. 

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A view from north of the Fortress of Subiaco.

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