The fortified little hill town of Castel Sant’Angelo lies on the slopes of the Reatini Mountains, in a dominant position overlooking the Upper Valley of the River Velino, at the point where the Via Salaria [Salt Road] crosses the plain of San Vittorino, which is rich in natural sulphurous waters.
It is a spa town, surrounded by the waters of Lakes Paterno and Canetra, tiny lakes formed by the sinking of the terrain, as well as the sulphurous Lake Cotilia and the springs of Peschiera, the largest karstic aquifer in Europe, which feeds the aqueduct of the same name supplying water to Rome. Lake Paterno is extremely deep with crystalline, icy waters.
The place was chosen by the Sabine people for conducting their religious rites. Lake Paterno was sacred to the goddess Vacunea and called Cutiliae Lacus by the Romans, it was also known as the “navel of Italy” on account of its geographical position: it was referred to in this way by Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Marcus Terentius Varro. Nearby, there are to be found the remains of a villa, the summer residence of the Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasian.
Access to the town is via a gateway with a pointed arch, then you walk along a covered alleyway that winds through the narrow lanes of the town, then follow the main street up the the loftiest part of the hill, where there are the remains of a castle, where the Roman noblewoman, Beatrice Cenci of Petrella Salto stayed for a time; it has a tall watchtower known as the Square Tower.
In August the Festival of the Waters is held, whose speciality is “Sagne all’Annanzi”, a pasta dish made with water and flour, in a tomato, garlic, oil and chilli sauce, as well as “Pizzicotti”, a starter made with leavened dough, pinched into little shapes and dropped in boiling water, then drained and served with a similarly spicy sauce.