Picinisco is one of the main small towns situated in the south east of the Lazio Region, in the Abruzzi mountains of the Apennines. Perched high on a ridge (750 metres) overlooking the whole of Val Comino valley. Picinisco’s territory forms part of the Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise -voted by Lonely Planet in 2011 as one of the five best National Park’s in Europe. Its height offers in the hottest months of the year, a relieving freshness, especially at nighttime.
While the origins of Picinisco are lost in time, what is certain is that the first written record of the name is to be found in 1017 and the first record of the Castle in 1054 – one of many in this part of Italy at this time as the formation of new settlements (castella) enabled more effective land development, the fortification of settlements (new or old) for defensive purposes, and the vesting of jurisdictional powers in these castelle. The Castle was followed by the Belltower in the early 13th century adjacent to the Church of San Lorenzo and then the Church itself in 1305 – although the Church of Santa Maria at the Cemetry was mentioned in the records of Monte Cassino in 1110, but further archaeological evidence proves this to have been a place for votive offerings by the Romans before the birth of Christ. The first dwellings in the environs of Picinisco which have been discovered (by Don Dionigi Antonelli) to date are located in the hamlet today known as Immoglie formerly San Valentino, razed by the Saracens prior to 894.
The majority of the buildings in the Old Town date from 1700 to 1900, although parts of the original fortification walls from 1000 remain in use in a number of buildings (including the Hotel “Sotto Le Stelle”).
Picinisco has Five Gates:
- Porta della Prece, (the prayer gate) built in 1711, as can be seen from the date on the keystone of the arch, at which you will find the Hotel Sotto Le Stelle;
- Porta Saracena on Via Porta Saracena. This was at one time the only point of entry from Val Comino into Picinisco;
- Porta Codarda, located on the northwest wall;
- Porta Rione, situated on the southeast approached from the Parco Montano. On either side lie the towers of the castle;
- Porta della Piazza, leading onto the piazza (today called Piazza Ernesto Capocci) is constructed in its present form in 1838.
Iron ore was dug from its mountains in time of antiquity along with silver and copper. Iron was still being promoted in the mid 19th century at a time when paper produced by the Bartolocmucci – Visocchi mill at Castellone was famous throughout Europe. However, like all of central and southern Europe, emigration resulted in millions leaving their homes throughout the 19th and early 20th Century. The inhabitants of Picinisco (and many other towns in Val Comino) found themselves following the tracks of relations to England, America, Belgium and Scotland and did not forget the route home. To this day, thousands return for holidays, weddings and baptisms.
But wine, olive oil, carpets, wool and cheese and the harvesting of snow for sale in Roma and Naples were the principal products and with the exception of carpets and wool (and of course, snow gathering), remain so. However, the village’s relationship with the mountains and with nature have also generated an important tourist trade, providing ski-ing and trekking in the winter and climbing, mountain biking, walking and everything a nature lover could ask for in the spring, summer and autumn seasons.