Calcata - Art on the edge of a cliff

 (Photo by Claudio G. Pisani taken from the Calcata website)

Perched on the top of a volcanic plug an hour north of Rome (just off SS3, via flaminia), Calcata is described by the New York Times as 'the grooviest village in Italy'. It's home to a community of about 100 artists, bohemians, aging hippies and 'New Age types' (not my words). We liked it as it's a bit quirky and has stunning views. It's well worth a visit, especially if you're heading that way anyway (I wouldn't recommend it for a whole day, but it's fun for a few hours).

If you fancy something to read while you're there, Calcata is also the star of David Farley's book "An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town". Why is Calcata Italy's oddest town? Well it was once considered a dangerous place as the town could simply fall off its own cliffs in an Earthquake. It was evacuated ready for demolition in 1938 and by 1969, a newer, safer Calcata Nuova was erected up the hill just next door to the old town, ready for the residents to move in. However, in the intervening years, the townsfolk petitioned to keep the town open. They succeeded, but then moved to the new town as the more artistic community had already moved in (after all, they now had twice the number of houses they needed). So it's kind of got a second life, and is very different to other Italian hilltop towns and villages.

So calcata is an interesting place, and quite full of life. Due to it's unique nature as a town saved from the jaws of destruction, it seems to have a special atmosphere that draws people from all over the world. It also pops up in strange places, such as films and TV series, like in episode one of the recent BBC TV series 'Zen'. One thing to remember if you fancy a visit, try to get there early, as parking can be a problem. Everytime we've gone there we've had to park up the road (the busy main road) and walk down to the town, which has sometimes been more exciting than we would have liked given the hairpin bends.

Calcata is not too far from Rome and is a great day out (especially if you combine it with a local sagra), and often hosts various events such as piano recitals, poetry and art classes. Check the Calcata website for details.

*updated 6th June 2011*

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