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The territory of the municipality of Bomarzo is characterized by the presence of numerous Etruscan centers. The Etruscan origin of the small town is evidenced by numerous finds, such as pottery, bronzes and sarcophagi unearthed in the Pianmiano necropolis, which document a long and intense period of life in the place.

The oldest settlement most likely arose and established around the 6th century BC with functions of surveillance and control of trade routes along the Tiber valley. It maintained commercial and cultural relations with the town of Ferento (Acquarossa), but also with the more inland centers of Etruria, such as Chiusi, Perugia, and Velzna, today’s Orvieto.

The development of the town will continue interrupted in the 4th century B.C., despite the contrasts and wars caused by the rise of Rome, until 283 B.C. when, in the vicinity of the settlement, the Battle of Vadimone occurs, marking the end of Etruscan civilization and the beginning of Rome’s rule.

Around the 3rd-2nd centuries B.C., moreover, with the opening of the Consolare Amerina and Cassia roads, Bomarzo lost some of its strategic importance and its inhabitants headed for new rural communities administered by more important centers (Orte or Ferento).

By 410 AD, however, barbarian invasions along the Tiber valley forced the population to take refuge again in more easily defensible places, such as Bomarzo, Monte Casoli, Castel Colonna and Castel Vecchio. During the medieval period, Polimartium (City of Mars) became an episcopal seat. The precise time when this happened is not known, although, according to Vittori, it was one of the cities entrusted to the pastoral care of St. Ptolemy, consecrated bishop by St. Peter and sent to Tuscia.

According to historian Biondo, Polimartium also yielded a pontiff: Pope Sabinian (604-606) who succeeded St. Gregory the Great. But the most prominent bishop who can be remembered is undoubtedly St. Anselm, patron of Bomarzo. He was elected by acclamation Episcopum, Dominum, Pastorem (Vesovo, Lord and Shepherd) and as such had to face the Goth king Totila by whom he was taken prisoner. His death dates back to the late 6th century.

The end of the Diocese of Bomarzo is placed around the 11th century: Bishop Lambert is the last, in 1015, to sign Conciliar Documents as Episcopus Polimartiensis. Later the village lost importance so much so that in the twelfth century it was annexed to the diocese of Bagnoregio, and from 1200 its gradual subjugation to the municipality of Viterbo began.

In 1360, with the marriage between Angeluccio di Napoleone Orsini and Roberta di Bonconte, daughter of one of the owners of the fief of Bomarzo, the Orsini’s ownership of property and rights over Bomarzo began.

In 1502 Bomarzo was bequeathed to Gian Corrado Orsini. He, a feared condottiere, had made numerous gains during his military career, which, in part, he invested in the expansion of the fiefdom and the renovation of the Baronial Palace of Bomarzo. In 1519 he had Baldassarre Peruzzi design the first wing of the new palace, located near the church, and a new access road to avoid the narrows of the medieval village.

In 1535 Gian Corrado Orsini died and the fiefdom of Bomarzo passed to his son Pier Francesco Orsini, known as Vicino, who also inherited from his father the task of completing the work of transforming the Medieval Castle into a Renaissance palace. The latter, an educated man and lover of art and esotericism, between 1552 and 1580, had built, the “Sacred Wood,” a garden containing innovative, gigantic and monstrous sculptures and works of art representing exotic and fantastic animals.

With Vicino Orsini’s death in 1586, the fiefdom passed to his son Corradino, but his continual absences from Bomarzo due to commitments in Rome gave rise to misrule contested by the people and a period of crisis for the fiefdom.

The last Orsini in possession of Bomarzo was Marzio who, in 1645, sold the fiefdom to Ippolito Lante della Rovere, who with this transfer of ownership acquired the title of Duchy.

In the late 1600s and early 1700s Bomarzo was hit by a deep crisis, possibly due to the plague of 1656, from which it did not fully recover until the early 1800s.

In 1836, the duchy was purchased by Prince Marco Antonio Borghese. At this time the town was experiencing significant population growth, so much so that in 1901 the population reached an all-time high of 2851.

Orsini Palace

The construction phases of Palazzo Orsini are linked to the events of the underlying Sacred Forest of Pier Francesco, or Vicino Orsini born in Bomarzo on July 4, 1523. His father Giovanni Corrado Orsini, already the widower of Lucrezia Anguillara, married Clarice Orsini, daughter of Cardinal Franciotto, on April 29, 1520. As early as December 29, 1519, the Sienese architect and painter Baldassarre Peruzzi had designed the first wing of the new palace, close to the church and featuring a courtyard, loggia, staircase and other divisions.