Ariccia (Latin Aricia) is a town and comune in the Province of Rome. It is in the Alban Hills of the Lazio (Latium) region and could be considered an extension of Rome's southeastern suburbs. One of the Castelli Romani towns, Ariccia is located in the regional park known as the "Parco Regionale dei Castelli Romani".
Ariccia is the center of a region that was extremely important in Roman and pre-Roman mythology and religion because of its association with the goddess Diana and the god Virbius. Legend also recalls that it served as a temporary burial place of the Greek hero Orestes (Servius on Aeneid, ii. 116). Aricia was one of the oldest cities of ancient Latium, and as the leader of the Latin League was a serious contender against Rome during the early days of the Roman Republic.
In modern times, Ariccia has become famous for its porchetta, pork that is slowly roasted with herbs and wild fennel, and it has been known since historical times for its wine. The comune of Ariccia includes the frazioni of Vallericcia and Cecchina. It is bounded by the communes of Albano Laziale, Castel Gandolfo, Genzano di Roma and Marino Laziale.
Ruins found in the city confirm the existence of a settlement in the 8th-9th centuries BC. From the end of the 6th century BC until 338 BC, the city was the central member of the Latin League.
In its territory, which then included the Lake of Nemi, was located the sanctuary of Diana Aricina (or Diana Nemorensis) held by the Latin cities in common, and presided over by the Rex Nemorensis made famous in Frazer's The Golden Bough (see ). The association with the cult of Diana led to its development as an influential and affluent center of healing and medicine.
According to Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Lars Porsenna sent his son Aruns with an army to Aricia, which often served as a center for negotiation and mediation. With support from the Greeks of Cumae, an important town near Naples, the Aricians under the leadership of the tyrant Aristodemus Malacus defeated Arruns in the Battle of Aricia in 505/504 BCE.(Livy 2.14.5-9 and Dionysius of Halicarnassus Rom. Antiq. 7.5-6)
Aricia was definitively conquered by the Romans in the 4th century BC. It received the title of municipium, and expanded towards the valley below, where the Via Appia connected it with Rome. Ariccia became, therefore, the first main posting station on the overland journey from Rome towards southern Italy.
Being rather near to the Imperial capital, and favoured by a fresher climate, Ariccia was chosen by many of the Rome's patricii as a location for their leisure villas. It also was recognized for the caliber of its wine and food stuffs. Martial wrote favorably of its leeks and Pliny relished a unique variety of Ariccian cabbages.
Because of its wealth and its strategic location near the coast, the city was sacked several times during and after the fall of the Roman Empire, by Goths, Vandals and, finally, by the Saracens who destroyed it in 827. The inhabitants subsequently moved to the ancient acropolis and founded a new community.
In 990 the Castrum Ariciensis ("Ariccia's Castle") was a dominion of Guido, count of Tusculum. During the reign of Pope Nicholas II the castle was absorbed by the Papal States, from which it in turn passed again to the Earls of Tusculum as a fiefdom (1116). The Roman Church regained Ariccia in 1223 with Pope Honorius III, of the Savelli family, and maintained it until the first half of the 15th century.
The population of Ariccia began to decline, however. After a period under the administration of the castle of Lariano, it passed to the Genzano district, which at that time registered only 100 residents. Around 1400 all the territory became property of the Monastery of Sant'Anastasio alle Tre Fontane and, after a brief period under the Savelli once more, was sold to the Abbey of Grottaferrata.
Pope Sixtus IV handed Ariccia over to the Savelli, who executed several works to improve its condition, including the draining of the volcanic lake (Lake of Vallericcia) which lay to the west, between the hills and the sea.
In 1661 the city passed to the powerful Chigi family, who rebuilt the splendid Palazzo Savelli Chigi in the main square, in which the invaluable Chigi archives were housed. The Chigi Pope Alexander VII lived for long periods in Ariccia and drastically changed its character, with important contributions from Gian Lorenzo Bernini, designer of the piazza of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Among Bernini's rich contributions to the character of the town were the piazza and the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta which faces the palazzo.
In 1854 Pope Pius IX ordered the construction of a bridge. This bridge bypassed the large wood (now the Parco Chigi) in the valley, which hindered access to Ariccia from Rome along the Via Appia.
Nearly a century later, the bridge -- along with much of the city -- was destroyed by retreating German troops during World War II . Rebuilt in 1947, it crumbled suddenly in 1967 and was rebuilt again.
Other monuments include the Porta Romana, also by Bernini, and, two kilometres outside the city, the venerated Sanctuary of the Madonna del Galloro, with facade by Bernini. The latter is the final stop of a religious procession held on December 8 and called "Procession of the Lady", as a young woman is asked to lead it.
The area around Ariccia houses many interesting archaeological finds such as the Villa of the Roman Emperor Vitellius, the remains of the Via Appia Antica, as well as those of the ancient temples on Monte Cavo and in the Lake Nemi basin.
The forested landscapes of Ariccia, which had given birth to the Latin-Roman cult of Diana, also had a special appeal to later writers and artists, especially those associated with Romanticism. Ariccia appears as a subject in noteworthy paintings by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, George Inness, Ludwig Richter, Alexandre Calame, Friedrich Wilhelm Schirmer, Adrien Manglard, Franz Ludwig Catel, Hermann Winterhalter, Oswald Achenbach, J. M. W. Turner, Mikhail Lebedev, and Richard Wilson. Goethe visited in the 1870s, and Henrik Ibsen wrote his epic verse play Brand in Ariccia in 1865. In Italian Hours (essays collected in 1909), Henry James observed the natural beauty of Ariccia and the pleasantness of the "little piazza".
The Locanda Martorelli, the hotel which faced the palace in the Piazza di Corte, was a popular stop between Rome and Naples for those on the Grand Tour, and was frequented by artists and writers such as Turner, Corot, Ibsen, Gogol, D'Azeglio, Richter, Hans Christian Andersen, and Longfellow.
Today, the Palazzo Savelli Chigi often hosts exhibitions drawing from its own extensive collections as well as visiting exhibitions. The Palace is also the site of frequent public musical performances.
Much of the city's greatest art, Roman-era sculpture excavated by archaeologists, has been distributed to the world's collections of classical artwork, so one often sees the name "Ariccia" pinned next to statues of Augustus or Diana that are being displayed far from Latium.