Allumiere: Ex-alunite center can still draw a crowd

Allumiere has a population of about 4.000

The path from the international port city of Civitavecchia to Rome has been well beaten for nearly 2,000 years. Yet to this day, few cruise ship passengers on shore leave know that just above the port lies a slice of rural Italy they can’t get in the bright lights of Rome.

Little Allumiere, with a population of 4,000, was once a major center for alunite, the material that produces aluminum, when mines were discovered in 1462. When aluminum became more of a synthetic, the alunite mines fell into disuse in 1941 but remnants of the mining life remain in Allumiere.

There remains a beautiful indoor-outdoor 15th century church where the miners prayed and which still attracts pilgrims from all over Italy every Sept. 6-8. The church is nestled in the hills high above Civitavecchia, just nine miles away, and trails in the beech forest reach 630 meters for cool respites in the summer and great picnics with an even better view of the Tyrrhenian Sea. And do you like horse racing? Try donkey racing. Yes, Allumiere has a palio.

Palazzo Camerale in Piazza della Repubblica
A piece of alunite
Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie was built in the 15th century.
The outside chapel of Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie where miners came to pray.
Clerck at Pistola panetteria holds up Allumiere’s trademark durum bread.

Things to do

1 • Faggeto: Allumiere has a rare forest where beech trees (faggeto in Italian) grow at relatively low altitude. Scientists have come to study the 100-hectare forest to discover why they grow at 400 meters when normally beech grows at much higher altitudes.

You don’t have to be a scientist to enjoy it, though. The forest has 10 well-marked, wide trails covering five to six kilometers reaching up to 630 meters. Even at the trailhead where you park you get a great panoramic view of the sea. On a clear day you can see Monte Argentario and the Tuscan island of Giglio.

One of 10 trails in the Faggeto.
Two Allumiere residents hiking in the Faggeto.

2 • Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie: This is one of the most amazing religious sites in Italy. Built next to one of the first alunite quarries, it’s an outdoor chapel with 10 rows of pews at the foot of the forest.

Go to the back row and look up. Atop a towering rock is a statue of Jesus on a cross, Every Sept. 6 pilgrims from all over Lazio travel by foot to this spot where ceremonies for the Feast of Our Lady of Graces start at 9 p.m. and continue until 6 p.m. Sept. 8.

Adjacent is a church from the 15th century where in 1987 Pope John Paul II visited and crowned a statue of the Virgin Mary.

In an adjacent room is a statue of Friar Giovanni, a local hero who, legend has it, cured the sick from a pan of oil and who was murdered during a robbery.

Jesus on the cross above the outdoor chapel.
In 1987 Pope John Paul II placed a crown atop the Virgin Mary in Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie.
Statue of Friar Giovanni inside Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie.

3 • Palio. You may have heard of the palio in Siena, where men ride horses representing each neighborhood around Piazza Del Campo.

Allumiere has a palio, too. But it’s lower in scale. They use donkeys and its Piazza della Repubblica is much smaller than Siena’s.

The first Sunday after every Aug. 15 donkeys representing Allumiere’s six neighborhoods follow a big parade showing off traditional costumes. Started in 1965, the contest consists of two races and the donkey that compiles the most points wins a huge feast and party that lasts late into the evening.

This year’s race will be Aug. 18.

The Palio, with donkeys, had been run in Allumiere since 1965. (ph. Franco Pierini)

4 •The Cammino dei Minatori is a hike created by the Association Cammino dell’Allume, CAI and the Agricultural University of Allumiere.

Allumiere mayor Luigi Landi

Luigi Landi, 54, was named mayor in June 2022 after 10 years as mayor of neighboring Tolfa. The native of Civitavecchia is a moderate who was born Christian Democrat. We sat in his office with a balcony overlooking Piazza della Repubblica and talked about his town and hopes for the future. 

Q: What do you like most about Allumiere?
A: The city is exclusive. No other city is like it. It’s exclusive because of the alunite quarry. It was mostly founded because of the quarry. 

Q: How is it exclusive now?
A: We have historical events like the Palio and also the geological and naturalistic part, especially for the quarry.

Q: When you moved here, what potential did you see?
A: I saw huge potential. Huge potential because there are many opportunities. The history of the palio, and also the forest and we can find kilometer and kilometer of different trails for hiking, horses and bikes.

Q: What other potential does the city have to show?
A: We have enormous potential with our cuisine. Our cuisine is very good. There are different kinds of meat from cows you can find around here. Also there are different kinds of local wines. Also there is bread that is without salt and the color is yellow.

Q: How can you attract more tourists here?
A: To attract more tourists we need to construct a local culture. It’s important to put more energy into hospitality, and to find a way to attract tourists. 

Q: How do you get word about Allumiere to the cruise ships?
A: This is a very intelligent question. This year it’s important to look at the transport between Rome to Civitavecchia and Allumiere. There is public transport but not tourist transport. We need a solution until the tourist service of pullmans from Rome to Civitavecchia also goes to Allumiere. It’s also important for tourists to try local foods and meet local people.

Q: What’s the biggest problem facing Allumiere today?
A: The biggest challenge is communication. We need better roads. Also to find a way for better marketing and to give people who don’t know Allumiere a place to go.

Q: How do you plan on getting word out?
A: We put some boxes at the port of Civitavecchia and also all around the city. Also on different trails in the woods.

Q: What kind of tourists do you get?  
A: We get three types of tourists: We get tourists who come on weekends. Then we have the tourists who come in the summer for some weeks and we get the tourists who come for the big events. And we’re working to attract tourists during our dead periods.

Mayor Luigi Landi on his balcony overlooking Piazza della Repubblica.

Where is it:

51 miles (83 kilometers) northwest of Rome.

How to get there: Trains leave Rome’s Termini station for Civitavecchia about every 30 minutes.

The hour-long journey is €4.60. Cotral buses leave Civitavecchia every hour for Allumiere.

The 15-minute journey is €1-2.

For more information:

Visit Allumiere, 
Piazza della Repubblica


Where to eat:

Ristorante Tramontana, 
Via Braccianese Claudia 61, 39-07-662-1831/07-662-8831, 11:45 a.m.-4 p.m., 7-10 p.m. Wednesday-Monday.
Tramontana has been in the Moroni family for 85 years covering five generations.
Check out the 9,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of a 1611 world map on the wall. Tramontana serves down-home Italian country meals ranging from fettuccine to grilled local meats.
Dinner of a mixed bruschetta plate, vegetables, fries, steak, bread, tiramisu dessert and a half liter of local red wine was €25.
Ristorante Tramontana opened 85 years ago.
Mixed bruschetta at ristorante Tramontana