Vetralla was originally a ‘Pagus Villanovan’, i.e. a Villanovan village that became an Etruscan centre, of which traces remain in some graves dating back to the VII and VI centuries BC. In the fourth century BC the Romans arrived that moved the town to be around a staging post along the Via Cassia, the Cassii Forum.
The proximity to a major traffic artery favoured the Barbarian invasions and looting, then, in the seventh century AD, the population moved into present Vetralla inside a defence wall.
In 728, with the donation of Sutri, Vetralla became part of the church’s property so that it could control the last stretch of the Via Francigena.
It was then destroyed by Viterbo between 1110 and 1134 and immediately rebuilt. In 1145 it housed Pope Eugenius III who, from Vetralla, officially proclaimed the Second Crusade.
For years the powerful Viterbo tried to take over a large wooded expanse given to Vetralla by Innocent III in 1206. Viterbo was finally defeated in a battle that is still commemorated with the celebration of the “Marriage of the Tree”.
After the Orsini, in 1345 the estate was given to the Prefects of Vico, who built the castle. Here Giacomo and his three sons were captured and Giacomo was later beheaded at Soriano but his tomb is still preserved in the church of Saint Frances.
They were followed by other feudal lords like the Anguillara and Farnese families with whom, in the seventeenth century, was a period of prosperity under the government of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, nephew of Pope Paolo III.