History Of Immoglie

San Valentino

In the early Middle Ages – until around 900 AD the hamlet of Immoglie was actually called San Valentino, complete with its own church and Benedictine Monastery in what was then the oldest monastic settlement in the diocese of Sora.  Lost in the mists of memory for over 1,100 years since, it is not known if the village was named after the original San Valentino (St Valentine) or not, as there are actually 14 martyred saints of ancient Rome with the same name of Valentino (In Roman Latin the name is Valentius).
The saint most likely referred to here was born Feliciano in the year 176 AD in a village now called San Giovanni Profiamma just north of Terni now in Umbria. Terni is some 103 kilometres (64 miles) north of Rome.  As a young man Feliciano studied in Rome then went home to preach and where at the age of just 21, in the year 197 AD he was consecrated a Bishop and Deacon of Terni. He was the first Bishop of Terni and since 1644 has been their sole Patron Saint.

At the age of 93 he went in Rome at the invitation of the great orator Craton. Whilst there he was arrested on the orders of the Senate and was beheaded in 269 AD during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, for aiding and marrying Christians who at the time were being persecuted; and for trying to convert the Emperor Claudius himself, to Christianity.
This Valentino – then a Bishop, now a Saint  – was buried on 14 February 269 AD along the Via Flaminia – one of the main roads to the north, out of Rome. He was exhumed by 3 of his followers – young Athenian students over from Greece to study the Latin language in Rome – and they re-buried him in Terni. They were also executed and until 1644 were joint patron saints of Terni.
The date of the 14 February became purely a feast day in the Roman Catholic calendar dedicated to martyred Saints.  It was not at that time a celebration of romance or love but just another religious feast day in Italy, every year on 14 February.
That is, until the 14th Century when the famous English poet Geoffery Chaucer (best known for his collection of stories, The Canterbury Tales) and his circle of English friends, invented many of the current legends that characterise St Valentine.  It is from this period that the feast day of 14 February first became associated with romantic love – thanks to Chaucer and to his 690 line poem – The Parlement of Foules written around 1382 supposedly for the 1st anniversary of the engagement of King Richard ll to Anne of Bohemia. The poem mentions St Valentines Day in the romantic context that we now celebrate each 14 February.


The hamlet of San Valentino was neither romantic nor lucky, as in the 8th and 9th centuries the area was regularly attacked, not only by the Saracens from Syria and Arabia – sailing from the eastern Mediterranean, then across the Adriatic sea to land around the heel of Italy before invading across the Apennine mountains –  but also by marauding tribes and local brigands and bandits who plagued the Val di Comino area, finding refuge in the mountains.
At this time the village settlement had its own San Valentino Church whose ruins were only re-discovered in 1984 by the retired local Priest and keen historian Monsignore Don Dionigi Antonelli, who still lives in nearby Picinisco.
The ruins and site of the Church – after being lost for centuries – were found by Monsignore Antonelli and described in his well researched book chronicling all the churches and religious buildings, past and present, throughout the diosese of Sora. The book is a huge work of great religious significance which was first published in 1986 by the Papal University Press in Rome. It was presented to the then Pope, John Paul ll and a copy of the book now has a deserving place in the Vatican library in Rome.
The village of San Valentino suffered a final devastating attack by invading Saracens, around 894 AD and was razed to the ground, burnt and demolished, including the ancient church – the oldest in the region.  Attempts to rebuild were made in the following decades but the centre of local life and worship had moved to Picinisco – a newer town nearby, but higher up the mountain which would offer relative safety. The castle and its towers, walling and new fortifications were begun in Picinisco in 1054 and continued with various ‘torrette’ (a small tower) and churches added over the next 2 centuries.  So the old Church of San Valentino and the monastery down near the river, were never rebuilt.

New Beginning

After the Saracen devastation of 894 AD the surviving villagers moved to live in the more protected environment of the growing town of Picinisco – 3 kilometres (2 miles) away.  Over the following centuries around the old San Valentino, a new village emerged as a collection of dwellings and farmsteads clinging to the olive-clad and forested hillsides. The peoples tending their cattle, sheep and goat herds and farming the fertile fields alongside the Rava and Mollarino rivers.  This new village – now over 1,000 years old – is our hamlet of Immoglie.
Local dialect calls the village ‘Lemolle’ or ‘Lemoglie’ – which in modern Italian roughly translates as ‘the wife’ – though the name Immoglie is more probably derived from a family name, perhaps of one of the first families to re-settle the land and to re-build a home in the area – at the ‘new beginning’ – back in the 10th century.

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