Geographic location has always played a fundamental role in the development of civilizations; in fact, we know that the most important settlements were established on high ground to provide an extensive view of the entire territory.
This is how Civitella dei Conti came to be positioned on a hilltop above the Middle Tiber Valley and the slopes of Mt. Peglia, looking out over a beautiful landscape that expands out toward the nearby Tuscany and The Marches Regions.
The strategic importance of this area has left its mark on its long history: during recent excavations significant archaeological evidence was found, testifying to civilizations that have spanned the time between the Iron Age and the present day with a wealth of evidence from the Etruscan period. In fact, the street that currently leads to the castle follows the ancient Etruscan road that connected Perugia and Orvieto; some theories also suggest that a pagan temple may have existed.
Even today the small village, with its beautiful medieval church dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, still radiates an air of sacredness and speaks of a past that has been lost to time.
In the village itself there is evidence of the Byzantine period, while the imposing watchtower, which has the typical characteristics of the early Middle Ages, was built between the 5th and 10th centuries during the Barbarian invasions that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.
The strategic position perched on a hilltop marked the passage of Civitella della Montagna (Fortress of the Mountain, as it was then known when it was under the ownership of the Fiordivoglia family) into the hands of Baldino di Neri of the Counts of Marsciano under the territorial control of Orvieto, a passage that was repeated over time amongst the most noble families of Umbria.
The ownership remained in the name of the Counts for a long time, so much so that that it acquired the current name Civitella dei Conti (Fortress of the Counts), but then passed under the territorial control of Perugia, for a brief period in 1376 when it asked for protection against the abuses of power of Orvieto; then in 1409 Manno of the Counts of Marsciano gave it nominally to Ceccolino Michelotti while continuing, nevertheless, to exercise full jurisdiction.
The family ordered the fortification of the castle during the 14th century, which consisted of the first quadrangular wall where only the militia and lord resided; during the 15th century, with the creation of the role of podestà, or the chief magistrate who was to reside within the Castle, the layout was defined, the perimeter walls were extended and the tower went from being a fortress to being the symbol of civic power and administration. Testifying to this increase in power a Statute was written in 1529, which is now held by the Augusta Library in Perugia.
Later Perugia and Orvieto continued to quarrel over Civitella, starting with the Baglioni family, and continuing on with the Monaldeschi, Boncambi and then the Saracinelli families, who turned the watchtower into a noble residence and placed their coat of arms on the gates in pietra serena (grey sandstone) alongside the large staircase, on the windows and inside the chapel, which are all still perfectly preserved.
The family then moved to Orvieto and around the castle a simple estate, inhabited by a few, poor families, remained. After the end of the baronial estates decreed in 1762 by Pope Clement XI, it was dominated by the powerful Faina family for all of the 19th century.
Claudio Faina, appointed Count of Civitella by Pope Pious IX in1852, died following his kidnapping by bandits, and the estate was donated in 1926, in part to the parish of San Venanzo, and in part to Fondazione Faina.
Currently, the Civitella dei Conti Castle is private property and has been declared a historic, artistic and cultural heritage site.
L'Umbria si racconta, M. Tabarrini; vol. 1; S.Maria degli Angeli, 1983
Albero et istoria della famiglia de' conti di Marsciano, F. Ughelli; Rome, 1667
Memorie storiche del comune di Marsciano fino a tutto il secolo XVI. Con statuto inedito e documenti, A. Riccieri; Bologna, 1969
Castelli, fortezze e rocche dell'Umbria, D. Amoni; Ponte San Giovanni, 1999
Historic Archive of the Municipality of San Venanzo