Il Borgo

Il Borgo

The Borgo is the oldest part of the town that still retains its medieval style and atmosphere. Due to its elevated position enjoys a magnificent view of the lake and the rest of the town..

The History of Bracciano

The territory of Bracciano, as evidenced by numerous findings, it has been inhabited since Etruscan times, but the formation of the urban settlement is dated back to the Middle Ages. The Calisse tells us that in the eleventh century  Bracciano and Manziana (then called Santa Pupa) belonged to the family of the Prefects of Vico, they built the fortress on the hill.

The first document about Bracciano was dated back to 1234 and concerns the boundaries of Castrum Brachiani. By the word”Castrum” it was intended a fortified place :Bracciano,at that time, had a fortress and fortifications.

The name of Bracciano (called during the Middle Ages Brachianum, Brazanum, Brasanum or Barcenium) is related to the word “arm”. The coat of arms of the town itself is an arm holding a rose, a symbol of the Orsini family, showing the link between the Community and its lord.

The Prefects of Vico retained the ownership of the territory of Bracciano throughout the fourteenth century, albeit with some interruptions. After them the land became the property of the Orsini family. There is no exact date that marks the advent of this family. Commonly the chosen day is September 1, 1419, a date which corresponds to the assignment of the Vicariate of Bracciano Orsini for three years by Pope Martin V. They were able later to consolidate the possession of the territory becoming vassals of the Church.

Gentil Virginio Orsini Duca di Bracciano (Clicca per Ingrandire)It was Napoleon Orsini, in 1470, to begin the work of construction of the castle, a masterpiece of military and civil architecture, expanding what had been the fortress of Vico.
Construction was completed after his death by his son Gentil Virginio, who called to decorate the palace Antoniazzo Romano, one of the main Roman painters of that time.

Under the government Gentil Virginio, Bracciano reached its greatest territorial extent, becoming the largest fief of the Papal States.

Bracciano is linked to the arrival in Italy of the French king Charles VIII. Gentil Virginio was, with other leaders, head of the Neapolitan army, an opponent of Charles VIII and ally of Pope Alexander VI. The pope ordered to Orsini to block the passage of the French king on his land, north of Rome. Gentil Virginio however, concerned about the fate of his estate, appointed his son Charles to deal secretly with the King of France, by making available its castles.

The pope accused Gentil Virginio of treason, excommunicating him and declaring war on their status. Bracciano, attacked in 1496, was defended by the spouses Bartolomea Orsini and Bartolomeo d’Alviano. It was then that it was built the bastion known as “the Sentinel”, modifying the existing fortified wall. Bracciano withstood the siege for several months, until the battle moved to Soriano, where troops of the Orsini defeated the papal ones. Meanwhile Gentil Virginio died in prison.

Bracciano was important the figure of Paolo Giordano I Orsini, who married in 1560 the daughter of the Grand Duke of Florence Isabella de Medici. Despite what many historians report, he did not kill her and, indeed, theirs was a marriage of love, as demonstrated by the dense correspondence preserved in the Archives Capitol of Rome, in fact, she died a natural death. Paolo Giordano, in Bracciano, built the first aqueduct and planted some industrial activities in the country: the ironworks, a tapestry, a printing press, the industry of sulfur. At the end of the sixteenth century Bracciano was inhabited by about 700 families, and had more than 3,000 inhabitants.

Isabella De Medici (Clicca per Ingrandire)Noteworthy was Virginio Orsini II, born in 1572 by Paolo Giordano I and Isabella De Medici. Virginio, a descendant of two important families and educated at the Medici Florence’s court, was in contact with many famous people, such as the king of France, Henry IV, the husband of her cousin Maria de Medici, Queen Elizabeth I of England. He married Flavia Damascenes Peretti, who bore him 11 children, no matter how great were his riches, even the arrangement of her offspring influenced negatively on the economic situation of the family, already problematic.

One of the sons of Virginio, who had the same name as his father, joined the Discalced Carmelites, he was to give to the Order the land on which, in 1668, was built the hermitage that was called Montevirginio in his name.

Don Virginio was succeeded by his son Paolo Giordano II, an educated man, a lover of literature and music. He married Isabella Appiani, the Princess of Piombino, from which he obtained possession of the iron was worked in the ironworks of his state. This, however, did nothing to fix the family economy, on which negatively influenced the heavy expenses that Paolo Giordano made to reorganize the infantry of his feudal state to arm and two military galleons.

The conditions of the Orsini family went worse, so much so that in 1696 Flavio Orsini was forced to sell the duchy of Bracciano, which was purchased by the Odescalchi family.

The Odescalchi remained the property of the estate until 1803 when, in a time of economic difficulty, were forced to sell it to the Marquis Torlonia but agreements “jus redimendi”, that is, with the possibility of re-buying it contractually. That happened in 1848, after the marriage of Livio III with its beautiful Polish princess Sofia Branicka.

The Odescalchi family is still the owner of the castle. Don Livio IV opening the castle to the public in 1952.

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