The Lacus Velinus
The river that nowadays flows across most of the land where the old lake used to be is precisely the Velino river, whose source is located on Mount Pozzoni’s slopes, next to Cittareale. Near Castel Sant’Angelo and Cittaducale the river receives the abundant waters of the Peschiera Springs, the second biggest ones in Italy, which supply Rome itself.
The springs are located in St. Vittorino Plain, where you can find an extraordinary church of the same name, partially collapsed in the countryside and bathed by a spring that comes out of the floor. Completed in 1613, St. Vittorino’s Church was indeed built on a marshy land characterised by karst topography, and the floor collapsed soon after, as well as the roof; the spring replenishes the clear waters of the creek that comes out of the building’s entrance.
Not far from the church, in Caporio (municipality of Cittaducale), there is the archeological site of Vespasian’s old thermal baths (or villa), whose ruins are gathered around a big pool: Roman emperor Vespasian, born in Falacrine (today Cittareale) and father of the Colosseum, used to come here often.
The Velino river is the main subtributary of the Tiber and is 56 miles long; it calmly flows through Rieti as well, the capital of the province itself, under its beautiful Roman Bridge. Rieti’s Plain, however, includes also several lakes. Lakes Lungo and Ripasottile, remains of old Lacus Velinus, are part of a Natural Reserve of great natural value, thanks to its wetland plant and animal life, with observation cabins for birdwatching and a Visitors Centre inside the drainage building.
In the municipality of Rivodutri, one of the six covered by the Reserve (the others are Rieti, Cantalice, Colli sul Velino, Contigliano and Poggio Bustone), are the unmissable St. Susanna Springs, linked to the Velino river and to the two lakes through a canal of the same name.
In the waters of this Natural Monument - next to which there is a historical watermill built ages ago by the men of Pepin the Short, King of the Franks - every Christmas is set up a underwater nativity scene in fiberglass, whereas every August takes place here the Organic Trout Festival. The animal lives and is bred in the area, so much that it has shaped the local cuisine and has given its name “La Trota” (the trout) to one of the best restaurants in Central Italy.
In Roman times, the waters of the St. Susanna Springs also supplied a wonderful country residence, the villa rustica of senator Quintus Axius. Its ruins are today in Grotte di San Nicola, in Colli sul Velino’s municipality, near the luxurious Relais Villa D’Assio.
Finally, going north you will reach Lake Ventina (again, Colli sul Velino), particularly appreciated for fishing and relax, and the Piediluco one, between the regions of Latium and Umbria, chosen by the Italian Rowing Federation as the headquarters of the National Federal Centre; both lakes are remains of the old Lacus Velinus.
The Velino river is an emissary of Lake Piediluco, and near Marmore it falls into the Nera river forming the Marmore’s Falls.