Vico nel Lazio is on a hill of the lower Ernici Mountains, overlooking the valley of the river Cosa and in a strategic position for what was Alatri’s surveillance system.
The area was inhabited continually since the Ernici and then the Romans, probably due to its position of control of two valleys: Alatri and Fiuggi. There are important Roman traces both in villas and in the remains of aqueducts fed by the river Cosa that rises in nearby Guarcino.
The name Vico derives from the Latin Vicus, a ‘group of houses close to the city’ or ‘village’.
The aqueduct of Betileno Varo, a Roman nobleman of Alatri from the 2nd century BC, brought water to Alatri and had cisterns in Vico. We must remember that the Romans used free-flowing water or leaded pipes that could not withstand much pressure. For this reason, they had to build cisterns to reduce the pressure, some of which were then also used as fountains.
An interesting cistern of the aqueduct of Olmo, from the 2nd century BC, is visible behind the Fontana Vecchia near the Collegiate Church of St Michael Archangel.
Vico was transformed in the 6th century AD, when the King of the Goths, Theodoric II, changed the layout of the town by giving land to nomadic shepherds.
The first written document dates back to 1005 and it deals with the donation of land that the community of Vico gave to San Domenico of the Ecio Forest, where he then built the monastery of San Bartolomeo. San Domenico had lived for some time in Vico in a cave in the Ecio forest near a stream. The monastery is the first centre of the famous Certosa of Trisulti given to the Carthusians by Pope Innocent III to counteract the growing power of the Cistercians in the area.
A second document of 1061 shows another donation of a private resident, with the consent of his wife, to the monks of San Domenico da Sora.
For much of the Middle Ages Vico was under the authority, even though it enjoyed wide autonomy.
The statutes of the town of Vico were already in existence in 1263 and governed the whole life of the community. For example, it was forbidden to sell wine outside the city before July because it had to serve the needs of residents first.
In the 13th century it was subjugated by Alatri and in 1427 it was assigned to Antonio Colonna in the will of his uncle Papa Martino V.
Vico was on the border between the Pontifical State and the Bourbon Kingdom and was crossed by the Marsican Way along which trade and new concepts passed. In the woods you can find 11 border stones placed to put an end to disputes between shepherds on grazing rights.
The town is unique in having an intact circumferential wall with its 24 towers, there is nothing like it anywhere else. Near the wall are the remains of the aqueduct from the Ernici mountains to Alatri that has some ancient water management ‘machinery’. Among the places of worship there is the Church of St George with a range of powerful artworks remembering the allegory of St George, who did not really slay a dragon.
This town and the local area saw great emigration at the end of the nineteenth century and then around the two wars. Now the town is becoming re-invigorated with pride in its medieval past and clean ways and piazzas.