What an Italian Ghost Town Launched to get virtual tourists?
Celleno, a small town located north of Rome rises from the strong coronavirus attack and is the first Italian town to launch guided tours live on Facebook pending the opening of the borders and reveal its hidden beauty and charm to the world.
The small and pretty village of 1300 inhabitants called Celleno, located in the green province of Viterbo an hour’s drive from Rome, is the first Italian community to launch guided online live tours of the historic village, its castle, and its traditions. A series of live broadcasts on Facebook, conducted by local experts and architect Alessandra Rocchi in the English language, who will show the hidden gem that includes the suggestive medieval village, nature, and traditional food in a timeless context.
The first live event will be on Wednesday 3th June 2020 at 5:00 PM (local time) on the official page of the Municipality of Celleno: https://www.facebook.com/ilborgofantasma .
Over the past few years the small town has been increasingly discovered by Italian and international tourists who have been enchanted by the abandoned village.
The small Italian town was violently attacked by the coronavirus due to the infection of a nursing home. For two weeks the village, in addition to national quarantine measures, the local health system closed the village in a “red zone”. The inhabitants of the municipality, including a university professor, local experts and entrepreneurs, started live broadcasts on Facebook to restart tourism and let everyone know about the cultural and landscape beauties of the municipality.
The village opens the beauty of its historic center to the world, pending the opening of the borders of Italy and the European Community which will take place in the coming days.
“There is a rediscovery of the small historic Italian villages which are real treasures throughout Italy: each one has its own great history, beauty and traditions. Our idea is to give viewers all over the world a ‘taste’ of our heritage, welcoming them to our medieval village, for the moment thanks to the web. The best thing will be to welcome visitors personally in the next few days and following months ” comments the mayor of Celleno Marco Bianchi.
Celleno, also known as ‘The ghost village’ is named after its similarity to the nearby Civita di Bagnoregio and because the village, located on a tuff cliff, was abandoned after violent earthquakes in the past. The pretty town, known for its Orsini Castle and the ancient village, with a history that goes from the Etruscans to the Romans and the Middle Ages, it was named by the British newspaper Telegraph among the 25 most beautiful ghost villages in Italy lost in time, it was the film location of the recently released film on Netflix “Black Moon” and it was introduced in the FAI itineraries. More and more international VIPs have been attracted by Celleno, such as Paolo Sorrentino who visited the small village looking for the right location for his next movie.
Impressive orange waterfalls in Celleno: the typical water depends on the quantity of iron in the water.
In the Orsini Castle the master Enrico Castellani, an internationally renowned artist, lived for over 40 years, where he developed his main works exhibited all over the world and valued at several million euros each. The artist died in Celleno a couple of years ago. Every year the cherry festival is organized with the competition of the spit of the cherry kernel and the cherry tart which is getting longer every year, trying to break the record at the cherry festival.
Celleno appeared in the main Italian media in recent months because the mayor had invited Jennifer Lopez to move to the small village: the well-known star in an interview with Vanity Fair USA had expressed the desire to move one day to a small village in Italy to live a more relaxing life.
Although according to scholarly tradition the origin of this town’s name is to be found in Celaeno, i.e. one of the three harpies in Greek mythology, it seems more likely that the etymology is linked to the medieval Latin word cella, which refers to the numerous caves dug along the tufa walls of the crag on which the village stands.
The recent archaeological finds in the Castle area, which date back to the late Etruscan period (6th-3rd century BC), are evidence of the human presence in this site and the territory in the old days. The strategic communication road between Orvieto, Bagnoregio, and Ferento, encouraged people to come and stop here.
The information on the oldest stages of the medieval settlement is still incomplete, however, it can be assumed that Celleno is one of the fortified villages built between the 10th and 11th centuries by the Counts of Bagnoregio, who held the lordship over this piece of land.
At that time, the village must have been made up of a number of dwellings at the end of the tuff crag, protected by cliffs on three sides, surrounded by walls and a small fortress, which now is the Orsini Castle, to protect the only access route.
In 1160 (when mention in the written sources was made for the first time), Count Adenolfo transferred the jurisdiction over Castrum Celleni to the Municipality of Bagnoregio. Following the destruction of Ferento (1170-1172), the Municipality of Viterbo began a rapid expansion in the Tiber valley, aimed at gaining control over the villages that belonged to the County of Bagnoregio. One of these villages was Celleno, which in fact in 1237 was one of the castles in Viterbo governed by a Podestà (high official) appointed by the local authority.
The situation will not change until the end of the 14th century, when, thanks to a concession of the Holy See, the village passed into the hands of the Gatti family, i.e. one of the most powerful families in Viterbo. In this period, the medieval fortress was completely renovated and converted into a fortified stately home that can still be seen today.
The Gatti family ruled Celleno until the last heir, Giovanni Gatti, who was killed by order of Pope Alexander VI (Borgia) for refusing to return the castle.
Outside the walls, both in the late Middle Ages and in the modern age, the village developed above all close to the church of Saint Roch.
At the beginning of 1500, the Gatti family fell from power, and Celleno became a fiefdom of the Orsini family. Interestingly, the castle still bears the name of this family.
It is only towards the end of the 16th century that the Church could include Celleno – a strategic place – into its possessions up to the Unification of Italy.
In the modern age, Celleno was often hit by earthquakes and landslides. The first testimonies of this can be found in the 1457 Statute, which says that it was forbidden to make new excavations along the cliffs, and that the inhabitants’ task was to maintain the underground structures to avoid dangerous infiltration in the subsoil.
Several earthquakes and landslides – such as those in 1593 or 1695 – caused considerable damage such as the collapse of the castle’s fortified tower. In the early 30s, a series of earthquakes hardly hit the north side and this convinced the authorities to give up the recovery of the old Celleno, which continued to lose population. The center was gradually moved to about one mile away, along the road towards the Teverina road. Therefore, for socio-economic reasons and the unstable slopes, the original medieval settlement was finally abandoned in the 50s.
Today Celleno is a small and charming “ghost village”.