Last weekend I was dying to “get out of dodge” and leave the pollution, dirty streets and noisy charm of Rome for the day. Someone had told us we had to visit Calcata, the “hippie” town of Italy, just a short drive north of Rome, so off we went.
Calcata has an interesting history. It sits about 30 miles north of Rome on the top of a tan volcanic stump in the middle of a forest. First used as a sacred ritual sight in pre-Roman days, many of it’s current inhabitants claim to be able to still feel the spiritual force that eminates from the volcanic rock the town sits upon. In the 1930’s fearing that the rock was crumbling, the government condemned the town and moved all it’s inhabitants up the road to Calcata Nuevo.
Then in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, bohemians and artists began coming to the village, drawn by the beauty of the natural landscape, the energy of the rocks and the ability to do one’s own thing without interference. (Sound familiar? Sedona, anyone?). Eventually buying the abandoned homes from their previous owners, patching up the place and convincing the government not to demolish the village, Calcata has become home to about 100 artists, bohemians and new age enthusiasts. They opened restaurants and cafes, cleaned out the caves that sit under the village and turned them into studios and homes.
It’s a freaky place alright! You can get your fortune read or buy mediocre art in one of the little shops that are hidden in the many alleyways and nooks and crannies of the village. It seemed like there’s a perpetual garage sale happening, minus the garage, on the main street, with tables set up where residents are selling their used clothing and other household “treasures”.
We had lunch at La Piazzetta, where we were waited on by both the owner, and his adult daughter; who is still recognizable from her baby picture which hangs on the wall of the restaurant. Fresh pasta with the day’s specialty of porchini mushrooms, a plate of local meats and cheeses and of course enough wine to wash it all down, hit the spot.
I wouldn’t rush to visit Calcata, but if you find yourself there, be sure to visit the bakery. She bakes some very tasty chocolate cookies. It will make the visit seem worth it.