The old fortress
The oldest part of Greccio, on top of the hill, is the actual medieval hamlet, the ‘borgo’ with its narrow alleys and little stone houses which since 2011 have formed the Sentiero degli Artisti (Artists’ Trail), in honour of St. Francis and of the time, 800 years ago, when he was the one walking these same streets.
One of the most picturesque streets is Via del Forno, along the old town walls, where the village bakery once was. Imagine how this place used to be: the delicious fragrance of fresh bread, people working incessantly since dawn, women chatting while shopping for the day. At the end of the street you can enjoy the superb view of the Holy Valley and of the mountains around it.
Not much is left of the old walls, other than one of the gates and three of the original six towers. During the 17th century, the biggest one was converted into a bell tower for St. Michael’s Church.
Of the old ‘castrum’ structure, still discernible and dating back to the 11th century, there are also a few remains of the castle left, especially when looking at its flooring.
Since its founding we read of conflicts with the neighbouring fortresses, but the first devastation of Greccio’s castle happened in 1242 because of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and his army: Frederick, at war with the pope and unable to take Rieti after ten months of siege, destroyed all the neighbouring fortresses and villages. Furthermore, Greccio was pillaged in 1799 by Napoleon’s troops.
On the contrary, today Greccio is a place of great peace and spirituality, and it looks back to the Middle Ages only to remember its best years, with the annual Historical Reenactment of the Nativity and the Giorni del Velita (Velita Days), dedicated to the good lord of Greccio who helped Saint Francis create the first manger scene in history.