Proceno is a village of about 600 inhabitants, situated on a hillock at the foot of the Volsini Mountains, at the confluence of the Paglia river and the Stridolone stream.
The origins of this rural village are Etruscan and this is demonstrated by the numerous sepulchres discovered near Proceno: a legend says that it was Porsenna who founded this town in the VIth BC in honour of the goddess Uni who saved him from the ferocious attack of a wild boar. Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Pliny the Elder speak of Porsenna as the King of the Etruscans, probably also the head of the famous Etruscan Dodecapolis.
Following Roman rule, Proceno became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany until the 10th century, before falling into the hands of the church with the death in 115 of the regent Matilda of Canossa.
At the centre of the struggles between Ghibellines and Guelphs, Proceno became a Sienese dominion until the 14th century, when it passed into the hands of noble families such as the Sforza and Cecchini families.
The Fortress of Proceno
Proceno is a very pretty medieval village whose ancient walls are still partly visible, a reminder of a time when it was a much sought-after town, being at the entrance to the Via Cassia.
Proceno's symbolic monument is the medieval Rocca, located right on the Via Francigena and for a long time considered the true bulwark of the Patrimonio di San Pietro della Tuscia, one of the provinces created by Pope Innocent III. The Fortress dates back to the year 1000 and was built on the highest point of Proceno: from the Castle the view is spectacular and sweeps over the valley below, the Stridolone stream and the woods that in autumn are teeming with mushrooms and chestnuts, with Mount Amiata and Mount Civitella in the background.
The Rocca has a pentagonal shape, with three imposing towers, including the soaring Mastio: the entire building, now a hotel, is in perfect condition, with a drawbridge, Guelph battlements and a patrol walkway. The Rocca di Proceno looks more like a fortified citadel, with hanging gardens on the ramparts and buildings furnished with period furniture, in one of which Galileo Galilei stayed. The physicist had to spend a period of quarantine here in 1633 because he was coming from Florence where there was a plague and therefore could not enter Rome immediately to face the abjuration process in 1633.
Strolling through the village
Strolling through the alleys of Proceno you will come across numerous buildings worthy of interest, including Palazzo Sforza, with its beautiful ashlar façade and balcony still bearing the coat of arms of Guido Ascanio Sforza, the cardinal who commissioned the work. The interior of the palace, probably designed by Sangallo, has beautiful frescoes on the lower floor and houses the "Museo della Civiltà Contadina" (Museum of Rural Life): there are more than 2000 historical artefacts linked to the rural soul of Proceno, including work tools and simple objects linked to daily life in the past.
The village is also rich in churches, including the Church of Santa Maria del Giglio, built in the 16th century on the ruins of previous places of worship, where ancient frescoes can be seen: it is said that it was the Virgin Mary herself who expressed to a simple shepherdess her wish that a church be built in her honour.
Equally beautiful is the Gothic Church of San Martino, which dates back to the 13th century and contains beautiful frescoes from the 14th and 15th centuries. Also worth seeing are the Sienese school frescoes in the Church of the Santissimo Salvatore, which also houses a handful of earth soaked in the blood of the crucified Christ.
The nearest airports to Proceno are those of:
You cannot leave Proceno without tasting its cuisine, which is based on typical local products such as the Alto Viterbese IGP potato, evo olive oil and, above all, the Proceno Red Garlic, whose spicy flavour enhances dishes such as lombrichelli all'Aglione and lamb with garlic.