Italy: Vetralla and its English connection

Detail of Henry VIII's coat of arms in Vetralla.
What? 
Vetralla, in Viterbo province,  is the only town outside the U.K. that can boast the historic protection of the  English crown.  

Why visit?
Vetralla has an unusual claim to fame: it boasts the protection of Tudor King Henry VIII (1512) and the exiled Stuart monarchs (1770s) and was the site of a prison camp where hundreds of English pilots were interned  during World War II. 

The area also has an excellent climate, magnificent sunsets and a large  international population who promote  numerous  musical and  cultural events. Vetralla is well connected to Rome and in the vicinity there are beaches, lakes, hot thermal baths, forests, as well as olive and hazelnut groves.

Where? 
About one hour north of Rome along the SS2 Via Cassia, or 30 min from Civitavecchia port. Map

LOCATED AT THE crossroads of historic Roman roads (the via Cassia and the via Aurelia), this typical Italian hill town’s strategic setting made it an important stopping place over the centuries. Even today multiple layers of history are still visible: Etruscan and Roman sites, medieval streets, Renaissance and 18th century palaces, as well as monuments that support its 5 centuries’s old connection with the English crown.



San Francesco church contains the most complete Franciscan fresco cycle outside of Assisi, Cosmatesque pavements and an eerie crypt. All of the churches contain art work of note and for a glimpse of what life was like  in past centuries  there are two museums both housed in ancient  towers: Museo della Città e del Territorio  (Via Aurelia bis) and Casa Museo (Via Cassia ) containing household objects donated by local people.  

Just outside the town are the intriguing Etruscan sites of Grotta Porcina and the Necropolis of Norchia plus the recently discovered sanctuary to Demetra dating from the first century A.D. 
Necropolis of Norchia. 
At the Villa Comunale gardens there is a well organized tennis club offering lessons, soccer fields, skating and running paths. 
Unique  festivals include the Wedding of the Trees (Sposalizio dell’Albero) ceremony held on May 8th for the past 700 years. In the first weekends of June the historic center comes alive for the Cene in Cantina gastronomic festival featuring the area’s extra virgin olive oil and local dishes served at long trestle tables in cool wine cellars. 

Don't forget to visit the City Hall (Palazzo Communale) which contains  the English monuments: a large heraldic  plaque  1512) with  the coat of arms of Pope Julius II , Henry VIII and his ambassador Cardinal Christopher Bainbridge, and a portrait bust (1802) of Henry Cardinal Stuart.  During World War II Vetralla had a prison camp where hundreds of English pilots were interned.  
Triptych showing the coat of arms of King Henry VIII, the Pope, and the English ambassador.
Bust of Henry Cardinal Stuart. 
Getting there: 
Vetralla is well connected to Viterbo, Civitavecchia and Rome by train from Rome’s San Pietro or Valle Aurelia stations and the local Cotral bus.

Useful links: 
A wealth of info on Vetralla as well as the rest of the Etruria region can be found at www.elegantetruria.com 
Author Mary Jane Cryan's blog. 
Regular local opera performances. 



About the author: Mary Jane Cryan is an historian and educator and has authored several books about central Italy where she has lived since 1965.

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