The name of Vitorchiano is tied in a visceral way with peperino stone and its profile melds with the surrounding landscape and with this rock. The city lies on a peperino bank, fractured into huge boulders, with steep sheer slopes surrounded by two trenches that converge on the Vezza river.
Even today its economy is based on the extraction of the stone that is exported to Canada, Japan and the Middle East. But it all started with the Etruscans whose architecture is inextricably linked to the use of peperino in buildings or in the incredible necropolis dug out of the peperino. The most beautiful sarcophagi are all in peperino and the famous Ferento theatre is in this stone.
Peperino is a magmatic rock, that is, it comes directly from the heart of the volcanoes, and that of the Viterbo area comes from the Cimino volcano between 200,000 and 20,000 years ago. Its colour varies according to the type of volcano: from the gray of the Castelli Romani area to the yellow of the Viterbo area, there is also a very valuable pink variant. In any case, the Latin name ‘peperinus’ – ‘pepper’ underlines the black dots of the rock that appears as a set of small spots of different shades and colours (as distinct from perperoncino – orange and spicy, and pepperoni – American salami).
The hardness pf peperoni, yet also the softness of its colours, has made it suitable both as a rock for construction and as a rock for sculpture and to create cornices, string courses or chimneys. Vitorchiano is a perfect example of the use of this stone in the architecture of the city and its monuments.
In Vitorchiano the peperino has also given rise to contexts of art and nature such as that of the Park of Pietreto where large boulders expelled from the volcano are found inside the forest and in the past these were carved to be homes, altars, shelters and artistic forms of various kinds.
We cannot avoid mentioning the fascinating Park of the Monsters of Bomarzo, known all over the world, built in the 16th century by Vicino Orsini: all the grotesque statues and the mysterious buildings are made from peperino. While also, throughout Viterbo (Guide of Viterbo), with the superb Palazzo dei Papi and the intriguing Villa Lante are in peperino.
The ancient Romans knew this material very well and called it lapis albanus, since they mainly used the rock coming from the Albano Laziale area (Guide of Albano) and Castelli Romani. Roman monuments such as the Mamertine Prison, the Cloaca Maxima (Rome Sewers) and the most celebratory buildings on the Capitol are worth mentioning. According to a legend, the emperor Nero sent oriental slaves to work on a quarry of Marino to have more stone available.
But even more surprising is the link between Vitorchiano (Guide of Vitorchiano) and Easter Island created thanks to the peperino. Entering the belvedere of the village you are struck by a real Moai statue like those you see on the famous Pacific island. Thanks to a project of a television channel, a group of inhabitants of Easter Island has built this monolith identical in all respects to those in the most exotic island. Note that the sculpture cannot be moved for any reason according to tradition, otherwise a curse could fall on the town and its inhabitants.