A dead city always exerts a special fascination with the visitor, especially if the reasons that led to its abandonment remain obscure. In the Roman countryside there are several "dead cities" and Monterano is one of them.
Located a few kilometers from Lake Bracciano, near "Channel Monterano", these ruins doze on a small hill, immersed in a nature reserve among the most important in the Lazio region. The history of Monterano begins already in prehistory as evidenced by the finds found in some caves around the Lenta stream. Research so far has traced these settlements back to the 2nd millennium BC, in late prehistory. There are also caves of undoubted artificial origin, dating back to the 1st millennium BC. and probably used as burials or dwellings.
Of Etruscan origin, Monteranno was built on a hill with steep slopes about 100 meters high on the valley floor. The ancient roads were dug directly into the tuff. Unfortunately the material used, the scarcity of suitable archaeological research and the overlap of the various settlements does not allow us to say much about this first "historic" settlement. In fact, the Etruscans erected the "sacred" and "civil" construction buildings of wood and clay, using the stone only for the construction of the walls, the doors and the tombs. The necropolis began just outside the wall and on the plateau of the Palombara you can see another series of tombs that extends along the path of an ancient road that connected Monterano with the locality Pozzo Tufo. There is a third necropolis located on the Bandita hill whose best known and richest tombs were used for centuries by shepherds as a refuge.
With the invasion of the Germanic peoples, which began in the 4th century Ad, the citizens of the surrounding urban areas, in fear of a longobarda incursion, decided to take refuge in a place less "known" and more strategically secure since placed on the top of a hill and fortified: Monterano. The town was expanded and further fortified, so Monterano returned to the position of predominance and importance that he had already known under the Etruscans. This situation lasted until the 10th century, when the local diocese was transferred to Sutri. In 1300 there was a cultural and demographic recovery, but the most important center of the area was now Bracciano. In the 1500s it was the property of the Orsini, and then in 1671 under the podesta of Pope Clement X (at the time Emilio Bonaventura Altieri) who gave it as a fiefdom to his family. Wanting to make Monterano the flagship of their possessions in the Sabatini Mountains, they even called the famous Gian Lorenzo Bernini for the design of the church of San Bonaventura, the convent, the octagonal fountain and the refurbishment of the palace Feudal. Pope Altieri died and therefore the protection and benevolence of the Pope had died, the city found itself in a state of economic and political languor.
In addition to the decline of agriculture, a new scourge came to end the life of the citizen: malaria. This disease prompted the surviving inhabitants to leave the center in favor of neighboring countries such as Canal and Montevirgilio. Now completely abandoned, Monterano suffered one last and very severe blow: in 1799 the French troops destroyed the buildings. The reasons for this were to say the least incredible for their banality: the inhabitants of nearby Tolfa (a city that had repeatedly rebelled against the army French), given the inadequacy of their mill to meet the needs of the inhabitants, they decided to use the mountain grinder, never from Monteranesi, in fear that the army might also consider them rebels, they prevented the Tolfateans from grinding the grain. After learning of the incident, the army commander sent the Tolfateans escorted by a part of the army to grind with the monteranese grind. The few inhabitants left in Monterano, seeing the army arrive French, were panicked and, collected as much as they could, left the country. The French decided to plunder and set fire to the entire town and the convent.
But (because there is always a but) the legend tells another story to explain the abandonment of the urban center. In the gorge below the conglomerates it was impossible to erect a bridge, as the always strong wind swept it away continuously. The inhabitants decided, therefore, to make a pact with the devil: if the devil had built a bridge that would last forever, the citizens would sacrifice oxen and goats to him. And so in one night the bridge was erected, solid and resistant to wind and weather. The Montenegrins, instead of keeping their promises, feasted all night with the meat of the beasts promised to Lucifer. But their brazen gesture had unfortunate consequences: the next day they were struck by pestilence. legend? Maybe… but on the shoulders of the infamous bridge you can see two bas-reliefs representing a demon that with one hand captures a man and with the other he slaughters a cow. Last touch, as you approach the ruins, you hear the sound of a bell, but don't bother asking the locals… even in the face of the evidence of sound, they will fiercely deny that they have ever heard anything.