Birthplace of St. Felice (Felix) Porri, the first Capuchin friar to become a saint, Cantalice is a proud medieval hamlet perched on a hill over the Holy Valley; you can still see the rests of the old castle. In the past it was a fierce rival of Rieti, so much that in the 17th century it was featured in an exuberant mock-heroic poem.
The town of St. Felix
The old Cassero Tower, on top of a hill next to Mount Terminillo, looks like it is scanning the entire valley below, almost challenging whoever tries to get close to the picturesque hamlet situated at its feet along the wooded slope.
This is Cantalice, proud town with a centuries-old history, that fought so often against Rieti that Spoleto-born poet Loreto Vittori wrote in 1662 a mock-heroic poem called ‘La troja rapita’ (The Stolen Sow), inspired by Alessandro Tassoni’s ‘La Secchia Rapita’ (The Stolen Bucket). It focuses on the war between Rieti and Cantalice during the 16th century, facetiously indicating as its cause the fact that people from Cantalice had stolen a sow from Rieti. Ham is clearly a matter of utmost importance around here!
Known for a delicious shape of pasta called ‘strengozze’, Cantalice seems to have been named through merging a Greek word and a Latin one, ‘κατά’ and ‘ilex’, near the holm oak. The name would refer to a holm oak miraculously born out of the crevices of a rock, which was so deeply worshipped by the inhabitants that Pope Innocent III got worried and ordered for it to be removed; today, it is on the right side of the Scentella fountain, between Upper Cantalice (the medieval hamlet, made of steps, alleys and stone houses) and Lower Cantalice (the modern part).
Established in the 12th century from the merging of Rocca di Sopra, Rocca della Valle and Rocca di Sotto and an old rival of neighbouring Poggio Bustone, the village often had to defend itself from the designs of several lords, and it was bought and sold by the Kingdom of Naples and the Papal States more than once. Despite territorial and political disputes against Rieti and the neighbouring castles, the town flourished in 1571 thanks to princess Margaret of Parma.
Cantalice is the birthplace of St. Felix from Cantalice, born Felice Porri, the first Capuchin friar to be named a saint. To him are dedicated a sanctuary which is now a pilgrimage destination and a church erected on the remains of his house, next to the Cassero Tower. Worth a visit are also the other churches, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the Ramacogi Palazzo.
From Cantalice, where you can enjoy a lovely view of Lake Lungo (or of Cantalice), you can hike or ride a bike towards Mount Terminillo following several nature trails.
Pro Loco di Labro:
+39 0746 63 61 34
How to get here
From Rieti: Take the SS79 towards Cantalice; alternatively, take the SS4bis Terminillo to Vazia and turn left at the roundabout.
From Terni: Take the SS79bis and then the SS79 towards Marmore and Colli sul Velino to Cantalice.
From Rome: Follow the directions to E35/A1/Firenze (Florence). Once on the A1 highway (there is little toll to pay), take the Firenze/E45/Fiano Romano/Rieti exit. Take the SS4 Salaria to Rieti.
By public transport:
The closest airports are the two serving Rome (Fiumicino and Ciampino).
From FCO: train to Fara Sabina + Cotral bus to Rieti.
From CIA: bus to Termini train station (Rome).
From Termini: take the B underground line to Tiburtina train station (towards Rebibbia).
From Tiburtina: train to Fara Sabina + Cotral bus to Rieti, or direct Cotral bus to Rieti from the bus station just outside Tiburtina.
In Rieti, take the Cotral bus to Cantalice.
Cantalice's Pro Loco (Info Point):
+39 0746 653436
Via Dante Alighieri snc Cantalice