If it’s early Sunday morning and you run into me in some little town in Lazio wearing running sneakers caked in several layers of thick mud, chances are I’m accompanying my eight-year-old to one of his state running competitions.
My Sunday morning under the pounding rain in pretty Paliano, was no exception.
My son had a running race at the nearby nature reserve of La selva. Since we arrived early, we stretched our legs walking around the slippery cobblestones of Paliano. Okay, full confession. My son stretched, I made my way to the nearest café for a frothy cappuccino. I’ve happily gone native. : )
Perched on a hilltop (475 meters from sea level), at the foothills of the Prenestini and Emici Mountains, the little town of Paliano (population 8000) – about 65 kilometers southeast of Rome- commands a panoramic view over the surrounding Lazio countryside.
The first references to Paliano are found in the eleventh century, but the town rose in importance when it became a fortification of the Papal State. By 1378, it was a vicariate of the Counts of Segni-Valmontone.
Paliano grew in prominence under the reign of Pope Martino V Colonna (1417-1431) when he invested his nephews as feudatory heads of Paliano. The town held a strategic location in defending the Papal State, and would undergo many attacks. It is the Colonna Fortress that dominates the town.
Outside of the town, the nature reserve La selva – where my son’s race was taking place – was founded by Prince Antonello Ruffo di Calabria. This area was once rich with wildlife – including ostriches and pink flamingoes.
Later, the nature reserve would fall into disuse. In 2010, it was opened once again as a public park. The park today is open during weekends to visitors, and tours can be arranged.
Unfortunately, I saw the nature reserve in a driving rain and, by the end of the race, the runners all resembled swamp creatures, but I’d love to go back and enjoy the park on a sunny day.
And my little sprinter? He competed against 70 kids and took first place in his 400-meter race, eventually going on to place first in the series of three Lazio races for his age category.
So, bravo to my little runner, and here’s hoping his next Paliano race is under clear, blue skies and blazing sunshine!