Saturday 18 December 2021


Aerial view of Casperia courtesy of Fabrizio Gherardi

Great News! After many decades of absence, artistic and commercial activity is slowly starting to reassert itself inside Casperia’s 13th century stone walls. Well up until the 1980s Casperia’s historic centre was home to a surprising number and variety of businesses, including alimentari (foodstores), macellerie (butcher shops), tabaccherie (tobacconists), mercerie (haberdasheries), negozi di ferramenta (hardware stores), falegnamerie (carpenter shops), negozi di elettrodomestici (electrical appliance shops), calzolai (cobblers), stagnai (tinsmiths), fabbri (blacksmiths), bottai (barrel makers). There were barbieri (barbershops), parruchiere (beauty shops), negozi di frutta e verdure (fruit and vegetable shops), a lattaio (milk shop), notai (notary offices), a post office, bars, restaurants, an inn, also a travel agency and on Casperia’s Piazza Municipio there was even a bank.

In February of 1956, disaster struck central Italy in the form of a terrible late winter freeze that killed most of the olive and fruit trees in the region. Imagine Sabina left without a proper olive harvest for years. This event forced a lot of residents who had been self-sufficient farmers to look for employment in Rome and elsewhere. This accelerated the post war pattern of migration to the cities that slowly depopulated Sabina’s hill towns and undermined the traditional local economy. This depopulation trend increased with each following decade. Families that maintained a toehold in Casperia’s historic centre were often here only on the weekends and many families that did not make the move to the city moved out into new houses they built in the surrounding countryside. With the shift in demographics and changes in technology, many of the businesses that had once flourished inside Casperia’s castle walls either closed shop or relocated outside the centro storico. The last hold out business to leave was a beauty parlour located on Via Massari which moved outside the walls at the end of April, 2010.

Happily, thanks to the optimism, courage and efforts of the following artists and entrepreneurs, this trend is being reversed. What follows is a list of the studios, ateliers and shops currently operating inside Casperia’s historic centre. 

We will start our tour on the black sampietrini-paved Via Tomassoli, just inside the Porta Romana. A quick note: If you ever get lost in Casperia, all you need to do is find one of the streets paved with black basalt cobbles known as sampietrini. Descending any of these black paved streets will take to you one of Casperia's two main gates, either the Porta Romana or the Porta Reatina.

Casperia, by Richard Burel

Laboratorio d’Arte di Richard Burel
Via Tomassoli, 4
Hours: Usually open weekends and on holidays
Tel: 342 747 6679
Instagram: @richardburelart

Richard Burel is celebrated for his humorous and colourful townscapes and his original and highly recognisable style. Each scene has a simple narrative which is brought to life by figures and structural details that have amused him or fired his imagination. Employing a technique of layering paint and collage, Richard incorporates rich, jewel-like colours and creates an extravagant visual treat. Using a variety of tools, he adds pastels, inks and gold leaf to his vibrant collages creating a sense of depth that draws the viewer in to his world of vivid colour and quirky charm.

Born in 1974 in Rouen in France, Richard is a self-taught artist. His work has been warmly received in exhibitions at many leading British Art Galleries.


Immediately next door to Richard's studio is another popular stop on the Casperia shopping route, the Bancarella of Maria Rita Polverini

La Mia Bancarella di Maria Rita Polverini

Jewellery, Accessories, Arts & Crafts
Via Tomassoli, 6
Hours: Generally open weekends and holidays and upon request
Tel: 3493935519

This small stall was born for two fundamental reasons, first the intent to offer a touch of colour and liveliness to those who enter the main door of the town, the other, more personal, was the desire to give life to the objects I create (both in leather, costume jewellery, sewing and more), which until now were only for me or made following requests from friends and acquaintances.

Artist's Statement:
I am a person curious to learn a lot more, in particular the execution of jobs that require manual skills. I consider myself an eclectic woman who likes to range between different arts, DIY, leather, painting, costume jewellery, embroidery, sewing, and much more. I also like to measure myself with things I don't know how to do and I always accept new challenges and new projects.


Proceeding a few steps up Via Tomassoli, we come to our third shop, the newly opened Coleotterolab

Coleotterolab di Viola Nocciola
Decorative Artisanal Lamps, Bijoux, Accessories
Via Tomassoli, 10
Hours: At the time of writing the shop is open on the weekend from Friday to Sunday with continuous hours but still to be defined.
Instagram: @coleotterolab

Coleottero was born from the desire to combine in a single container the proposals of Susanna and Viola, mother and daughter, both born in Venice. Susanna initially embarked on a career as an illustrator for advertising in Milan, then she preferred to use her talent in the design of high fashion bijoux, collaborating with the most important Italian fashion brands. Viola started working with Susanna as soon as she finished school. After moving to Sabina, she first began to make her lamps (Coleottero Arborea), and then devoted herself to various wooden furnishing accessories, such as bowl holders for dogs and cats, animalier lamps, and "light theatres" (Coleotterolab).

They moved to Sabina after falling in love with the beauty of the place, wanting a better quality of life, surrounded by nature, but conveniently close to the capital and other towns of central Italy. Now they work on joint projects such as children's games, looking for craftsmen in the future to enrich their site and make it grow.


Continuing up the steps you arrive at a Piazza Umberto I with its monumental fountain, spectacular panoramic view and the popular restaurant and bar, Osteria Vigna. This is a great place to come to enjoy a sunset aperitivo or meal. Heading north along the piazza you see Via Rivellini which runs atop Casperia's once crenellated ramparts. Proceeding a hundred metres along Via Rivellini you arrive at La Cantina nel Borgo of Loredanna Muscatiello which is open irregularly but always worth a visit

La Cantina nel Borgo di LoreMus
Handmade Jewellery & Accessories/Casperia Wedding Planner
Via Rivellini, 22
Hours: Irregular and by appointment
Tel: 347-7981262

The owner, Loredana Muscatielli, besides selling her handcrafted jewellery and accessories organises and creates everything needed for couples wanting to hold their wedding in Casperia, including bomboniere—traditional Italian wedding favours. People come from as far away as Japan, Russia and Argentina to get married in Casperia.


Returning along Via Rivellini to Piazza Umberto I turn left and continue up Via Tomassoli. As a point of interest, just before you head through the arch of Casperia's second gate, check out the window immediately to the left of the gate. The room you see, beautifully illuminated at night, was one of a number of different olive oil mills which once operated inside Casperia's walls. Note the antique pottery as well as the bank of massive terracotta olive oil containers along the wall to the right.
Once through the gate, Via Tomassoli winds to the left and you come to one of Casperia's most interesting and important new commercial activities, the Bottega di AnTeAs.  This commercial space started out as a Dazio or excise tax office. Note the heavy grilled window with the specially designed section through which people exchanged money. Later on this space was used as a fruit and vegetable store and later an organic produce shop.

The Anteas shop and showroom is located just below the massive ivy.

Bottega di AnTeAs – Animus Terrae Asprae
Via Tomassoli, 20
Hours: Saturday & Sunday, 10:00-13:00, 14:00-18:00
Tel: 380 738 6351
Instagram: @anteas_casperia

AnTeAs is a showcase of the world of Casperia; a set of excellences, people, places, stories, energies, events, services, products and attractions that make Sabina, with its wide array enchanting small medieval villages, unique and unforgettable.
AnTeAs is an investment of energy and creativity whose aim is to promote the economic viability of Casperia and work to prevent the depopulation of the town, thus safeguarding the life of the village itself and its precious beauties. Our aim to be part of a large, united and responsible community, an example to imitate in winning our battle against this pandemic.

Our main activities:
AnTeAs provides exhibition spaces at their "Bottega di AnTeAs" in order to give visibility to local excellences. AnteAs sells local art in all its forms, souvenirs of Casperia and typical products of Sabina working to maintain and renew Sabine traditions. The "Studio di AnTeAs" multipurpose room at Via San Rocco, 14 is available to independent professionals working in the health, wellness, arts and related sectors. AnTeAs works to promote tourism to Casperia by organizing events, workshops, fairs and markets, conferences, workshops, training courses, tastings, competitions, press meetings, and conferences as well as making available brochures and other information about local tourism attractions and services. AnTeAs also provides a Mountain Bike rental service.


La Cantina di Gran Burrone
is the name of the very busy workshop of Casperia's multi-talented and very creative Elisabetta "Betta" Orsini. Some years back she began to experiment with wood burning art, also known as pyrography. From there she branched out into wood carving and creating furniture, unique shelving and garden accessories from recycled wood pallets. 
More recently she has turned to creative talents toward glass etching creating beautiful, personalised etched wine glasses and ashtrays. Her workshop located at Via San Rocco, 43  is not necessarily open to the public but she is glad to show off what she is currently working on to and interested passers by. People interested in commissioning Betta to make a piece of pyrographed art, etched glass or any other of her creations can contact her at the numbers below. You can find her creations for sale at AnTeAs and at the monthly artisans market at Piazza Umberto I.

La Cantina di Gran Burrone – Elisabetta Orsini
Via San Rocco, 43
Tel: 338 976 3736


Turning left on Via Cola di Rienzo, immediately to your left is the Slow Living show room and shop of Stefania Pochesci. This prized commercial space has an interesting history. It was once a women's clothing shop, then a fabric shop, then a haberdashery, an artist's studio and most recently the much loved bio-boutique Naturalmente.  

Stefania Pochesci Slow Living
Art, Fashion and Nature Held Together By The Thread Of Kindness 
Handcrafted, Cruelty Free Collections for Colourful Souls Made In Italy 
Via Cola di Rienzo, 24
Tel: 0765 1897153
Instagram: @stefaniapochesci

Philosophy: The idea naturally stems from the desire to combine eco-sustainability, fashion, graphics and art and at the same time bring it back to the territory and he desire to “create” as an expression of love for nature, design, craftsmanship: art, fashion and nature held together with the thread of kindness. 

We create Slow Fashion collections of high manufacturing and design starting from fabrics of vegetable origin, made unique by personalized, eco-sustainable, cruelty-free and Made in Italy designs. The fabrics are vegetable in origin with certified printing. Our production is responsible, our quality is high, our care is infinite, 

Packing is kept to a minimum. We believe that the real experience is the product, in fact we have chosen a compostable envelope printed with certified and compostable inks too. With the packaging of cardboard boxes, when necessary, we support reforestation efforts through the “Plant a Tree” project which always ensures to plant more trees than those used to make packaging. The tailoring workshops are all close to Casperia. We promote the work ethic and mutual respect with a view to constructive collaboration with all our collaborators.

Bio: Graduated from the Academy of Fashion and /costume, with a past as a graphic and motion designer for TV, Stefania has a real passion for fabric design. She has a study in the Sabine countryside surrounded by nature and one showroom in Casperia’s medieval historic centre. She believes in the power of dreams and that starting from small actions we can change things for the better and she is convinced that meaningful change can can also start from wardrobes.


Returning to the black basalt cobbles of Via Tomassoli, take a left turn at the monumental nail-studded wooden door of Palazzo Perrini and half way up the street to your left you will find the studio of the very talented artist, interior decorative painter, fresco restorer and art teacher, Giovanna Somai. Her studio is located in what was once a butcher shop.

Monte Soratte, by Giovanna Somai

Studio Arte di Giovanna Sommai
Artist, Visual Arts, Interior Decorative Painting, Jewellery & Painting Lessons
Via Tomassoli, 28
Tel: 333 650 9116
Instagram: @giosomai

Artist's Statement: I love painting, using brushes and palette knives, colours but also black and white. I like to experiment with different subjects and painting techniques. Interior decoration on walls gives me satisfaction. For me, abstract art is the most intimate form of pictorial expression.


Continuing up the steps past Giovanna's atelier you arrive at Casperia's Piazza Municipio where you will find the Town Hall and Rosita's very popular Al Solito Posto Pub, and the Fendi school of haute couture, the Accademia Alta Sartoria Massoli which occupies the old bank location. Proceeding parallel in front of the Town Hall you cross the piazza and come to another black basalt san pietrini-paved street, Via Garibaldi which will take you down to Casperia's back gate, the Porta Reatina, also known as the Porta Santa Maria, as it faces the provincial capital of Rieti, but also is the gate you need to exit to got to the historic hamlet of Santa Maria in Legarano. Just as you pass the intersection with Via Tito Tazio you will see on your right the entrance to the last gift shop on your itinerary which is located in a former cobbler shop.

Il Profumo dei Colori di Marzia Taormina
Ceramic Art and Gift Shop

Via Garibaldi 46 (near the intersection with Via Mazzini)
Tel: 392 843 4369
Instagram: @martao_77
Hours: The atelier is open on weekends and by appointment during the week.

Artist's Statement: I am a master ceramist and have been working in the artistic ceramic field for about 20 years. I have a workshop in Rome where I teach both adults and children. I lived in Casperia and had the honour of being able to do two projects for the town. The first was the external rose window of the Church of San Giovanni Battista depicting the baptism of Jesus and the second is the ceramic Crucifixion just inside the Porta Romana entrance to the town.

I love the world of art and nature, which is why I wanted to open an atelier that could combine these two passions of mine and what better place than the beautiful Casperia. All the objects inside the atelier are produced in a completely handmade way and I can do custom work to order.


Finally, this last artist does not have an atelier open to the public, per se, but his work is well loved in Casperia and abroad and is for sale at AnTeAs, the monthly Mercatino which usually takes place once a month on Piazza Umberto I, and by appointment or commission.

I Colori di Nicola - Andrei Nicolae Stroia
Mixed Media Artist/Pebble Art
Instagram: @icoloridinicola

Andrei Nicolae Stroia is a long time resident of Casperia. For years, his whimsical creations mixing painted stream pebbles and wood have been popular among visitors to Casperia's monthly artisans' market at Piazza Umberto I. You will find his art featured inside almost every restaurant, bar and home here in Casperia and many a tourist has carried his whimsical renderings of our little hill town in wood and stone as a souvenir to their homes overseas.


Sunday 24 January 2021


If you have ever come to Casperia and visited for more than a couple of days you have likely discovered our beautiful hiking trails and other gorgeous routes for walks in the country. Right outside Casperia's back door, the Porta Reatina is Via Santa Maria which, if you follow it, will not only take you to the hamlet of Santa Maria in Legarano with its beautiful romanesque church built atop ancient Roman Villa ruins, but also connects to a number of other interesting walking routes in the countryside below Casperia. This road is actually the original road that connected Aspra (Casperia since 1947) with Rieti to the east and and Terni to the west. 

Crossroads shrine with directions to Terni on left and Rieti on right.

The picture above shows a fork in this ancient road. If you look carefully on either side of the shrine's arch you can see a terracotta panel. The one on the left, reads TERNI and the one on the right reads REATE 1632, the date the crossroads shrine was restored.

But before you reach this historic crossroads, just a five minutes walk from Casperia's back gate, you will come across this roadside fountain with its very interesting little shrine on top which houses a beautiful fresco.

The fresco is so faded and damaged that it is hard to make out who the figures are. You need a day with perfect light to be able to make out the figures. On the left stands a woman, while on the right sits a male figure his right hand raised in a gesture that seems more of an admonishment than a blessing. 

Every time I passed by I was struck by the beauty of the fountain and how sad it was to see that fresco cracked and fading. Could nothing be done? I wondered how much it would cost to repair the shrine and restore the enigmatic fresco.

It took a while before I learned the real name of the fountain and the identity of the figures represented in the ruined fresco. For years I heard some of our UK friends refer to it, rather irreverently, as the Fountain of Our Lady of the Salame. You may wonder why they referred to it that way. But if you look closely at the picture below, you can see a dark object suspended by a rope from a tree branch. It looks very much like a salame hung up to dry. But what is it really?

In reality, what looks to the untrained and irreverent eye like a salame is in fact a pulley for a rope suspending a bucket used to draw water from a well... because what we are seeing is actually Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. The scene is described in the fourth chapter of the ✚Gospel according to Saint John in verses 4 to 26. The actual name of the fountain is Fontana della Samaritana.

Here follows a translation of an explanation of the well and the fresco according to Casperia historian and archivist, Lorenzo Capanna:

The “Fontana della Samaritana” is called Fonte Meritana by the Aspresi. Thirteenth-century sources in the Municipal Historical Archive of Casperia names the fountain as "Fonte d’Aspra”. A parchment dated 8 December 1279 tells that the representatives of the castles of Aspra and Caprignano gathered on the border of the territories of the two communities "in loco qui dicitur supra source Aspre ", or "in the place called Sopra la fonte di Aspra ", in order to establish the rules concerning the purchase and sale of land.

A convincing clue concerning the correspondence between the medieval "Fonte d'Aspra" and the current Fonte Samaritana comes from the Statutes of Aspra, promulgated in the year 1397: Here the "Fonte d'Aspra" is cited together with the Fonte Vecchia (now disappeared) and the Fonte Nova (recently restored) as fountains near the town of Aspra to be kept in complete efficiency.

Certainly, the fountain, over the centuries, has undergone changes as regards the structure: for example, up until a few decades ago, it was flanked by an ancient laundry, which was later incorporated into a structure now used as a storehouse.

The fresco, housed in a small shrine that today surmounts the two arches of the fountain and depicts the Gospel episode of the Samaritan woman at the well, is attributed by the art historian Dr. Giuseppe Cassio of the Superintendence of Archeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the provinces of Frosinone, Latina and Rieti, to the Verona-born Torresani brothers, Lorenzo Torresani (d. circa 1564) and Bartolomeo di Cristoforo Torresani (d. circa 1567), Italian painters of the sixteenth century, mainly active in Sabina. There is documentation to attest to the presence of the Torresani in Aspra between 1560 and 1561, the year in which they made various works in the convent complex of Santa Maria in Legarano, including the monumental "Last Judgment” and the “Annunciation”, and some frescoes in the Montefiolo convent. The placement of the fresco, on a rural fountain, is rare in Sabina.

Photo of Sta. Maria in Legarano's Last Judgement courtesy of Enrico Galantini 

According to the Gospel account, Jesus had to cross Samaria on his way from Judea to Galilee. “So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there.” Stopping by the well to rest, Jesus saw a Samaritan woman coming to draw water and he asked her for a drink. The Samaritan woman, having recognized him as a Jew, was surprised and asked him why a Jew would address a Samaritan woman—the Samaritans were not well regarded by the Jews. To which Jesus offered the woman, in return, " water”, thanks to which “...whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Jesus then asked the Samaritan woman: “Go, call your husband, and come here.”. When the woman answered that she had no husband, Jesus replied: “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” Amazed by the knowledge that Jesus showed about her life, the Samaritan woman returned to the city announcing that she had met perhaps the Messiah. Many Samaritans came to him and, the Evangelist says, “…many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman [...] they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word.”

The fountain is located in via Santa Maria, formerly part of the main route to reach the cities of Rieti and Terni, often travelled by foreigners. The fresco of the Samaritan woman could therefore have a welcoming value towards the stranger just as Christ offered the Good News even to those who were not considered pure Jews, like the Samaritans.

The great news is that finally the Pro Loco di Casperia Association is currently soliciting funds to be donated to the Municipality of Casperia in order to restore the mural painting depicting Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well on the Fontana della Samaritana. 

The spring that feeds the fountain, located on the ancient road connecting Casperia to Terni, was an important water resource and point of contention between the rival hill towns of Aspra (present day Casperia) and Caprignano, which makes the profound religious message of the fountain’s mural painting all the more interesting.

The mural painting is attributed to an artist of the Torresani brothers’ circle. Bartolomeo and Lorenzo Torresani were two 16th century Italian painters born in Verona and mainly active in Sabina. 

Fresco of the Annunciation by the Torresani brothers. Photo courtesy of L. Capanna

The Torresani Brothers are credited with the painting of the frescos of the Last Judgement and the Annunciation in the nearby Church of Santa Maria in Legarano, Aspra’s parish church until 1409. Alessandro Torresani, Lorenzo’s son, is credited with the execution of the fresco of the Marriage of the Virgin in the same church.

It is estimated that it will cost about €7000 to repair the shrine and restore the fresco of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at Fonte della Samaritana. 
Currently, donations are being accepted online at to raise this money and restore this precious piece of our town's history. 
If every visitor to Casperia over the past couple of decades even donated 10, 20 or 50 apiece, we could easily raise a significant portion of the necessary funds. Of course, if you can and want to contribute more, that would be wonderful. I hope everyone who reads this story will be inspired to make a contribution to help save this important piece of our local history.