The Sabine Hills

The area historically called Sabina lies at the heart of central Italy, covering almost all the present-day province of Rieti and extending along the Tiber River to include part of the metropolitan city of Rome. Sabina also takes in some municipalities of the provinces of Terni (Umbria) and L’Aquila (Abruzzo).

Dusk in the Sabine Hills
Dusk in the Sabine Hills

The Sabine Hills can be seen as you drive north along the A1 from Rome: snow-​​​​capped in winter and looking close enough to touch on a clear day. The hills stretch away to the north-east towards the ski resort of Terminillo.

Many of the unsung towns and villages in Sabina are well looked after – and well worth a visit. The rolling hills and rugged countryside are reminiscent of England’s Yorkshire, but with better weather.

The Sabine Hills produce some of the best olive oil in Italy. This advantage – and the fact that it was a malaria-​​​​free zone – made it a prosperous area in pre-​​​​Roman times and Sabina is still full of very fine pre-​​​​Roman sites.

The cuisine of Sabina is generally robust and flavorful. Rich recipes are frequently based on typical products of high quality such as chestnuts, mushrooms and truffles. Meals in the local restaurants often include pork varieties like porchetta and capicollo and speciality pastas such as stringozzi, strozzapreti, fezze and falloni. There is a good choice of both soft and matured cheeses made from the milk of cattle raised in the hills: the local pecorino, mozzarella and ricotta are among the finest in Italy.

The flora and fauna are very abundant and varied, and organic food production is also popular in the area. For more energetic visitors, the Sabine Hills are a good walking area with plenty of interesting places to visit.

Here are just a few examples:

Lake Turano

This breathtaking fairytale lake, reached over precipitous mountains, is actually a reservoir. It is ringed by enticing little restaurants and offers very good fishing. Allegedly, eels are exported from Lake Turano to Anguillara (famous for its, erm, eels) on Lake Bracciano.

Trebula Mutuesca

The Pre-​​​​Roman remains of Trebula Mutuesca (or Mutusca) are situated just outside Monteleone Sabino.

OZU arts centre

Founded in 2005, OZU is a cultural space located in a former confectionery factory about 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) from Monteleone Sabino. An eclectic variety of activities takes place here throughout the year – and if you’re looking for an alternative style of holiday you can even book to stay here.

Abbazia di Farfa

This beautiful Benedictine abbey is well worth a visit.

Olive grove in winter – Sabine Hills

Olive oil presses

The area is stuffed with olive groves (as seen in the wintry photo above) and olive oil presses, but a particular favourite is Capo Farfa olive oil press, Via Quinzia 126, Poggio San Lorenzo – just south of Rieti. This press has been in the same family since the 1600s. The current owner has lovingly restored all the old pieces of machinery and other artefacts that have been in his family for gener­ations and created a museum of olive oil production. Capo Farfa has a restaurant that offers a set meal on Sundays eaten on long trestle tables. The original Salaria Roman road skirting round the base of San Lorenzo’s walls offers a good walking opportunity.

Casperia

This well-​​​​kept hilltop village is a traffic-​​​​free haven and very popular with British and American visitors. Casperia is shown in the photograph below, which was taken on the same lowering day as the one of the olive grove.

Casperia

Via Francigena di San Francisco

This is the path taken by St Francis when he walked from Assisi to Rome to petition the Pope. Unlike most of the public footpaths in Italy, it is well-​​​​marked and the final section cuts right through the Sabine Hills. Here is a link to a PDF document showing the last leg, from Rieti to Roma.

Monteleone Sabino

This interesting and ancient village owes its name to the many stone lions that adorn its buildings.

Chiesa di Santa Vittoria

A well preserved Romanesque church (shown in the photo below) located just outside Monteleone Sabino.

Chiesa di Santa Vittoria
Chiesa di Santa Vittoria

Fara in Sabina music festival

This music festival takes place in July and August. Some of the concerts are free.