In 1389 Paolo Conti instigated a massacre in the neighboring town of Velletri in retaliation for the alleged ransacking of his Torrecchia castle by Velletri’s inhabitants.
The origins of Torrecchia go back to the times of the Volsci, an ancient Italic people of the 6th and 5th century BC. The restoration work carried out in 1991 by Prince Carlo Caracciolo unearthed Etruscan and Roman ruins. Torrecchia was, at that time, part of the large estate of a great Roman family, the Julias, of which Julius Caesar was a descendant. After the fall of the Roman empire in 476 AC, Torrecchia became part of the Papal State.
Torrecchia was officially mentioned for the first time in April 1101, in the papal bull of Pope Pasquale (Paschal) II where he thanked the inhabitants for their loyalty during the conflict with antipope Clemente (Clement) III.
The Origins: As early as the Volsci ...
In 1111, Henry V of the Holy Roman Empire captured Pope Pasquale (Paschal) II and forced him to consecrate him as emperor. Tolomeo Tuscolo, a member of the powerful Counts of Tusculum family and close to the emperor, seized Torrecchia as well as Ninfa, which thus triggered fierce fighting between supporters of the Papacy and the Holy Empire. In the writings of Pope Gelasius II we find the description of the attack carried out in 1118 by the emperor Henri V against the estate of Torrecchia, which at that time had more than 800 inhabitants.
In 1202, Torrecchia was passed on to the Conti family, and became the property of Pope Innocenzo (Innocent) III and his brother-in-law Pietro degli Annibaldi. Apart from two short periods when Torrecchia belonged to the Frangipane family (1262 to 1264), and to the Caetani family (around 1455), the estate remained in the hands of the Conti family until 1628. Five popes lived in Torrecchia during that period.
Western Schism wars were so devastating that in a document dated 1416 related to the salt tax, Torrecchia was listed among the "destroyed and depopulated lands" of the province of Campania.
Coat of arms of the Conti Farmily
... to the Western Schism
In 1482, after a short period of peace and reconstruction, Roberto Malatesta had his troops rest in the castle of Torrecchia to prepare one of the deadliest battles of that era, the battle of Campo Morto (August 1482). His five hundred men joined forces with Pope Sisto (Sixtus) IV’s against those of the King of Naples, Ferdinando (Ferdinand) II of Aragon.
In 1521, the Cardinal Camerlingue Francesco Conti died in Torrecchia and left the castle to his friend Pope Leone (Leo) X (son of Lorenzo de Medici, also known as Lorenzo the Magnificent) who passed away later that same year. With the permission of Pope Urbano (Urban) VIII, the Conti family and the Salviati family sold part of Torrecchia in 1628 to the Borghese family.
Popular legend tells of a “beautiful parricide” Beatrice Cenci who, in 1599, was imprisoned in the tower of the castle before her beheading in Rome for having killed her father.
Italy’s War and Renaissance
The Family rivalries and the Prince's crush
As the famous cadastre “Alessandrino” (land-registration initiated by Pope Alessandro (Alexander) VII in 1660) attests, Torrecchia belonged to the Borghese family up until the end of the XVIIIth century.
During this period, although Torrecchia still belonged to the Borghese family, the influence of the Borgia family began to be felt within the estate. In fact, the chapel of Santa Maria di Torrecchia was ruled by the Archbishop of Fermo, Alessandro Borgia.
This chapel, carved in the volcanic tuff rock, was probably built in the XVIth century by the Borgheses for the 350 peasants who worked at Torrecchia.
Prince Borghese finally sold Torrecchia in 1908 to the Sbardella family, who managed the lands. During the Second World War, the Sbardella family as well as numerous inhabitants of the neighboring towns took refuge in the multiple volcanic tuff caves of Torrecchia.
In 1991, the property was bought by Prince Carlo Caracciolo di Castagneto who decided to buy it without even seeing it! He subsequently commissioned Gae Aulenti, the renowned architect behind the restoration of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, to restore the castle and entrusted landscape architect, Dan Pearson, with the creation of a superb English garden within the estate walls.
The Prince Carlo Caracciolo