Tuscia, a land of ancient traditions that trace their roots back to the Etruscans and Romans. A region with a mild climate, sheltered by eastern mountains and a western sea breeze. A land rich in ancient crops, such as olives and grapes… and much more.
In fact, the culinary treasures of Viterbo are far more abundant than one might think. These are true treasures waiting to be discovered, one by one, with each bite.
THE ANCIENT TRADITION OF EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Dating back to Etruscan times, and therefore millenary, the production of extra virgin olive oil in Tuscia is certainly among the most renowned in the world. Oils like Caninese, originating from the Canino municipality, continue to make Tuscia famous year after year with their internationally recognized awards. Many agricultural companies scattered throughout Viterbo are responsible for maintaining the reputation of this oil and other typical cultivars of the area.
Thanks to these companies, we can still savor the flavors that convinced the Etruscans to settle in these areas over two thousand years ago, flavors we can rediscover today. We can do so, for example, by visiting the organic farm Petrignanum, which has made oil production and welcoming tourists its mission, offering the opportunity to experience the distinct spiciness and bitterness typical of these oils.
Or, we could choose to personally sample the “…diNotte” extra virgin olive oil, winner of the 2020 Gold Medal and featured in major international guides such as Gambero Rosso. Simply head to Frantoio Presciuttini in Montefiascone, where the owner Pierluigi can personally convey the passion he instills in his extensive olive grove. Not far away, we could also meet Annalisa and Mauro Torzilli and their Il Molino company, which has been cultivating Canino, Frantoio, Leccino, and Pendolino olives for over 300 years, allowing visitors to experience their great hospitality in historic farmhouses.
On the hills of Lake Bolsena, we will have the opportunity to relax and get a closer look at the Antica Tuscia olive mill of the Battaglini family. Here, on serene hills, Andrea and Stefano, along with their father Bruno, produce harmonious oil with just the right amount of bitterness and pungency… ideal for complementing the dishes of the local cuisine, where oil takes center stage.
Heading to Cellere, a medieval village waiting to be discovered and the heart of the “Brigands’ Trail,” we’ll have the chance to delight in the products of Azienda Agricola Pantalissi. This farm, focused on extra virgin olive oil production, is also known for its eggs, jams, and fresh pasta.
EXPLORING LOCAL FLAVORS THROUGH FESTIVALS AND EVENTS
In addition to the excellent oil production, Tuscia is also well-known for hosting countless food festivals and events, where, of course, extra virgin olive oil is a common ingredient.
There’s no such thing as a quiet period in Viterbo. From January to December, in fact, a myriad of events attract visitors seeking new flavors to taste and folk traditions to rediscover.
The new year begins with events like the Sagra della Frittella and the Sagra della Piziantella, both in January. They take place respectively in the historically rich towns of Tuscania and Monterosi, a village along the Via Francigena and known for its lake, immersed in nature.
February and March are dedicated to the many Carnival celebrations that color Tuscia. Notably, the Carnevale di Ronciglione stands out. This historic village overlooks the beautiful Lake Vico and is surrounded by the Cimini Mountains, nestled amidst parks and nature reserves.
In April, a not-to-be-missed event is the Festa dell’Asparago di Canino, held in the nearby municipality known for being the true home of Caninese Oil, one of the most famous in the world.
During Easter time, specifically on Ash Wednesday, we can explore Gradoli, a village on the shores of Lake Bolsena. On this day, it hosts the Pranzo del Purgatorio, a lunch featuring local products such as the renowned Fagioli del Purgatorio (Purgatory Beans).
May regains its status as a high point in Tuscia. It starts with the May 1st Celebration in Cellere, featuring enogastronomic competitions and guided tours to explore the magnificent surroundings famous for hosting the “Brigands’ Trail.” The celebration continues with the Festa dei Pugnaloni in Acquapendente, a centuries-old folk festival that colors the entire village with mosaics made from flower petals. This is a fantastic opportunity to visit Tuscia during this time and also head to Onano, known for “sacred lentils,” to celebrate the Spring Festival with a multitude of flavors and local traditions. Also in May, in nearby Grotte di Castro, we can indulge in the Sagra del Tortello, a perfect excuse to explore the area with its natural beauty, archaeological sites such as the Etruscan necropolis of Centocamere, and many historic residences.
As summer arrives in July, we can attend the Sagra del Pizzicotto di Latera, featuring a local pasta specialty tied to ancient peasant traditions. This provides a splendid opportunity to discover the fascinating village of Latera, perched on a rocky spur next to the Caldera of Latera, a valley of volcanic origin with numerous trails and forests. Not far away, the village of Piansano will welcome us with its lively Festa delle Cantine, dedicated to the vines that adorn the hills of the region. In July, our journey could easily continue by heading to the eastern side of Lake Bolsena, specifically to the village of Lubriano. Here, overlooking the breathtaking Valley of Calanchi and just a short walk from Civita di Bagnoregio, we can sample locally produced wines during the annual Wine Festival.
August is an opportunity to return to discover the grand volcanic Lake Bolsena. During this month, some of its most beautiful villages come alive with vibrant festivals and fairs. In Valentano, where we can admire the entire lake basin from above, the Sagra dell’Agnello a Bujone allows us to savor local specialties. Nearby, in San Lorenzo Nuovo, an architectural gem of Tuscia, the Sagra degli Gnocchi fills our evenings with delectable treats. As we descend towards the lake’s shores, in the historic village of Capodimonte, known for its long, verdant lakeside promenade, we can enjoy the local specialty at the Sagra del Coregone, a freshwater fish from the lake.
Continuing in August, our journey of discovering Tuscia will lead us to visit the northernmost village in the province, Proceno. This is the gateway to Viterbo for all pilgrims of the Via Francigena. Here, the Sagra della Bruschetta and Red Garlic, locally produced, await us. In Ischia di Castro, amidst Etruscan necropolises and nature, the patronal festival of S. Ermete will enrich our experience with tastings, music, and plenty of fun.
On the Via Francigena, but to the south of the province, Capranica will welcome us with the Sagra del Cacciatore (Hunter’s Festival), a celebration where we can indulge in many game-based delicacies. In the small yet unmissable Tessennano, we can try the tasty pasta and beans and enjoy lots of music during the Sagra della Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Bean Festival). Finally, Farnese, nestled in woods and near the Salabrone Waterfalls, will greet the month of August with the Sagra della Pastorizia (Shepherds’ Festival), a unique opportunity to taste many local products and Sardinian specialties, thanks to the vibrant Sardinian community in the area.
AN ABUNDANCE OF LOCAL DISHES TO DISCOVER
There are many other local products and typical dishes that make Tuscia a place to thoroughly experience. Delicacies like the famous Acquacotta alla Viterbese, borage fritters, chestnut and chickpea soup, “fieno alla canepinese” (a traditional dish with hemp shoots), and “gnocchi di ferro” (a type of gnocchi) are just a few examples of the rich folk tradition.
Enjoying each product, excluding the aforementioned festivals, is easy and there’s no better opportunity to do so than by visiting some of the restaurants, taverns, and agritourisms scattered throughout the Viterbo territory.
For instance, we can head to the wine-relais Il Podere di Marfisa in Farnese to savor the delicacies of the Unicorno tavern and delight in the local wines. On Lake Mezzano, in the municipality of Valentano, AgriSpa Frà Viaco will welcome us with its myriad of locally sourced products and typical dishes made from meat, vegetables, and legumes.
In Bagnoregio, we can enhance our visit to the “Dying Town” by stopping at Hostaria C’era una volta, where the ancient flavors of the region come to life to delight our palates in an unforgettable way. Even in Bolsena, among streets rich in shops and history, the restaurant of the charming Il VesConte hotel will provide ample opportunity to savor some of the local dishes.