Why Visit Anagni – The City of Popes?
The city of Popes may not sound like a must-see for scarcely religious travellers, but there are other reasons to visit Anagni, a medieval hill town 100 km south of Rome.
The part of Lazio south of Rome is relatively devoid of foreign tourists, even though there are plenty of interesting places to see. There are the views and the villas around Frascati, the ancient roman ruins in Terracina, the city of two waterfalls near Sora and the mysterious natural phenomenon in Posta Fibreno Lake to mention but a few of the attractions, we have visited over the years.
And you might expect Anagni, promoted as the city of popes to have an even greater tourist appeal, given the fact that it has got a funny history centered in a core of medieval houses spilling out over a picturesque hilltop along with a Lonely Planet recommendation. Nevertheless we didn’t hear any foreign voices during our weekend stopover. I guess most people are too occupied with Naples and Rome to bother with the comparatively inferior sights of a 3.000 inhabitants town in the province of Frosinone. But for those willing to explore the region, Anagni has definitely got something to offer. Here are five reasons why it might be worthwhile to visit Anagni.
Pursue the Story of the Anagni Slap
If you Google Anagni you will invariably find references to the Anagni Slap. The story itself gets a bit murky with the facts of who slapped who, when and why, but the where is unequivocally answered. The slap took place in Anagni 700 years ago, and for the price of 3 euro you can visit the assembly hall, where it all happened.
When asked about the slap, the custodian handed us a leaflet and stressed that the slap was a moral and not a physical punishment, but we would have to do the rest of the hard work and read the story ourselves.
Another good reason to visit Anagni is the 13th century cathedral with its towering medieval walls, freestanding bell tower and a soaring pope seated in a kind of litter high up on the facade. A sign on the wall tells us the church should only be entered by worshippers, but for the price of 9 euros, you are admitted into the church museums, which includes a visit to the library, the church and the downstairs crypts. The crypts contain some of the conceptually most interesting frescoes in vibrant medieval colours, I’ve ever come across. A must-see for anyone with an interest in history, art, religion and philosophy.
When the museums are spoken for you are free to enjoy the more basic delights of Anagni, such as the food, the weather and the views. The town perches on the ridge of a hill with means there are grand sweeping panoramas every which way you look. From Piazza Cavour where there’s a lovely park overlooking the hilly landscape. You can see the sun set from Piazza Duomo. And if you walk up behind the cathedral, there’s a three arched balcony gate framing the Apennines and a scattering of houses towards the east.
You’ll also have time to enjoy the romance of a well-preserved medieval town with heavyset grey stone houses in narrow alleys. The main streets of Anagni are lined with Vicoli where beams and arches help one house support the other, and where rows of potted plants and flowers dash colour on the raw stone walls. Most alleys end in a view of a clear blue sky and green hills as it should according to snapshots in the perfect holiday poster.
Quality Restaurants and Inviting Outdoor Cafes
A final reason to visit Anagni is the food. Although the town is constricted and quasi-deserted within the old city walls, there is a good choice of quality restaurants and inviting outdoor cafes, where you can sip your spritz or cappuccino, while watching a tiny but authentic Italian portion of the world go by. And in my book that’s one of the best ways to spend a holiday.