San Martino al Cimino is a small village that owes its importance to Donna Olimpia Pamphili, sister-in-law of Pope Innocent X. Donna Olimpia was so fond of this village that she received the title of Princess of San Martino al Cimino, in fact, entering the town, under the name of the village there is the writing "Principato" (principality). The Princess entrusted Borromini to carry out the architectural renovation of the village, who took charge of the work on the Cistercian abbey dating back from the 12th century.
Meanwhile, as the palace was being erected, the builders received in exchange for their work, the houses around the court that they had built to stay in, while carrying out the work. This is one of the earliest examples of planned construction. The cottages housed the citizens within the village, which was equipped with everything they needed, from pubs to entertainment, shops and workshops. The princess was also very generous and she exempted the citizens from paying taxes. She also settled a dowry, even after marriage, for the girls who choose to remain in the village.
Another example of very special architecture is the coffered ceiling in the bedroom of the princess in the Palace Pamphili. The ceiling is fitted with a pulley system, which meant that it could raise or lower depending on the seasons, to favour the heating. And again, the row houses within the walls are also very interesting as the first examples of terraced houses.
However, the highlight of the town is the beautiful Cistercian abbey overlooking the village from the top of the small town centre. Borromini was appointed to raise the bell towers. The abbey is very simple and solemn, with its pointed arches. I have great memories of this place, because it lends itself to weddings, especially if the guests are particularly numerous. In addition to weddings, San Martino was also one of the towns I studied for a project I worked on while at University; with my then fellow master students we came to San Martino to do some research and ended up at a table in one of the town’s delicious restaurants.
San Martino, in fact, is also worth visiting for its culinary specialties and the simplicity of its home cooking, where the dishes are mainly based on local delicacies such as game, rich in the area, due to the vast woodlands surrounding the village.
One would rarely happen to find San Martino by chance, unless one follows an alternative route to the Cassia Cimina or the Cassia to reach Viterbo; but if one is in the neighbourhood, I would suggest a quick visit to the village and a tasty dish of local cuisine in one of its exquisite restaurants hidden throughout the historic centre.