Proprietà Scalfati is located in the heart of the Circeo National Park. By a short walk, you can reach the beach of Torre Paola (400 mt) and the Monte Circeo, on which you can organize a trek up to the peak of Circe (about 3 hours walk).
Inside the property, you can walk among ancient Roman ruins (the Roman port channel – first century A.D.) and eighteenth century structures built when the fishing valley was ruled by the Vatican. An oasis of history, culture and nature.
You can also organize naturalist tours of Lago di Paola with our boat.
By a short car-trip, you can visit sights in the surroundings. Below are listed our favorites.
A medieval village perched on the slopes of the Monte Circeo, with characteristic alleys that open onto squares and panoramic views of the coast.
(6 km – 10 min)
The “Casone dei Pescatori” (Fishermen House) was built between 1721 and 1750 as part of the renovation activities which involved the fishing valley, started by the Apostolic Chamber, at that time owner of the Feud of Circeo. Since 1718, in fact, the Holy See was became the owner of the “Valli di Comacchio”, a wide range of ponds, coasting the sea for about 49,000 hectares, a third more than the entire territory of the Pontine Marshes. And in Comacchio was practiced for centuries the “vallicoltura”, the art of cultivating fish in lagoon areas through the work of man. Therefore, the Vatican Administration tried to use the “know how” acquired in Comacchio, to realize in the Lago di Paola a small fishing valley. The Fishermen House has had, since that time, the purpose of hosting – on the first floor – the fishermen, while – on the ground floor – the fishing net making, the carpentry, a canteen and a dock.
The Paola Canal (or “secondary canal”), built at the same age of the Roman port-canal, starts after the Ponte Rosso (the Red Bridge) and ends into the Lago di Paola, near the Quaternary sand dune. The lower docks, still recognizable, are dated around the first century A.D., even if the upper structures of containment have been extensively refurbished over the centuries, and especially with the intervention of the Apostolic Chamber at the beginning of ‘700. Even the buttresses were built at that age. The secondary channel draws a “S”, with after a long straight which flows into the basin. A small bridge (18th century) crosses the canal and leads in the “Isolotto di Paola”, a small forested island isolated between the two canals.
In 1854, the fish farm was rented by the Apostolic Chamber to Clementino Battista (ancestor of Scalfati Family), who bought the lake definitively in 1888.
After the death of Clementino Battista, the fish farm was rented to a third party until about 1950, when Scalfati family decided to manage directly the activities. Alfredo Scalfati Sr. and his son Giulio, in the ‘50s, using funding from the Cassa del Mezzogiorno (a public Bank for Investments), implemented a complete renovation, with the purpose to bring back the former magnificence. In this phase, the Azienda Vallicola del Lago di Paola occupied more than fifty families of fishermen. Since the early 80s, however, the activities were largely reduced, almost to disappear, mainly because of pollution due to sewage discharged into the lake, the depletion of freshwater used from agriculture, with the consequent increase in the salinity of the waters and, finally, the impact of illegal activities (intensive presence of motorboats). Following the death of Giulio Scalfati in September 2007, the heirs have reconstituted the Azienda Vallicola del Lago di Paola and have started a requalification project, which provided to revitalization of the historical activities (aquaculture and mussel farming) and new sustainable activities (rooms, restaurants and sport activities), enhancing the centuries-old tradition that inextricably links these places to the history of the Pontine territory.
The whole canal, dug during the Roman Age as part of the settlement of the Pontine waterways system (already started with the construction of the Via Appia) was to communicate with the “Fossa Augusta”, a small canal which prowled the Monte Circeo. It was part of a navigation path through lagoons, which probably arrived to Terracina, that in the intention of Emperor Nero was to link Ostia to Lake Averno and could also have the function of serving as access to Domitian’s lakeside villa.
With regard to the first section, the port-canal was made by cutting the sandy dune and rearranging the natural pre-existing trench approximately 700 m long and 16 m wide. Along the northern slope was built a wall, partly visible, in opus reticulatum, reinforced by pillars. The canal was bordered by masonry embankments with side walls that form two docks, about two meters wide, and two moles that jutted into the sea for a few tens of meters. Surely dating to the early years of the Empire is the western arm of the new canal, and probably older (perhaps Domitian Age) is the current eastern arm. The river bed, by now silted up and unable to ensure the natural flow of water was completely dug and modified in ‘700, by the Apostolic Chamber. In the same period, they were built two water gates (the “Red Bridge” and the “Chiusa Innocenziana”, demolished in 1945).
During the works carried out by the Apostolic Chamber and starting from 1721, primary importance had the construction of two water gates. The first, the “Chiusa Innocenziana”, protected the mouth of the canal at the junction with the sea, while the second (the current Red Bridge) was positioned further back, before the bifurcation of canals, which then flow into the Lago di Paola. The two water gates had different purposes. The outside gate had the task of protecting the canal by the strength of winter storms, simultaneously preventing the entry of seaweed into the lake, able to seal the canal during the cold season. The Red Bridge, however, was mainly used to manage the flow of water and to “call” the migration of juvenile fish. In the eighteenth century, the original structure of the bridge had – at the top – the house of the “Guardapasso” (the guardian). After the Second World War, the German armies blew up the upper portion of the bridge, completely demolishing the house and leaving intact only the three underlying arches. In 1954, this was finally restored by the Azienda Vallicola del Lago di Paola with red bricks, in line with the other real estate of the fish farm, taking the current nickname of “Red Bridge”.
The path leads to the beach through the Mediterranean dune and allows reaching the sea with a short and pleasant walk of about 300 meters. The “avanduna” is the portion of dune that is not usually reached by the waves but which is however strongly exposed to the force of wind, highly salted. High temperatures, long drought, little fertile soil and strong winds make it difficult the survival of plant species, which have had to develop special adaptations. In the “avanduna” develop mainly salt-tolerant plants including: beach-weeds, marine camomile, Sea holly, marine alfalfa, the beautiful wild lily and the ammofila. These colonizing plants settled on the end of dune, more mobile and exposed to the wind. Thanks to the robust and long roots that anchor them to the ground, these plants attenuate the force of the wind, securing the soil, counteracting the erosion phenomenon and allow for the gradual installation of the Mediterranean maquis.
The “retroduna” is the back portion of the dune, protected from sea winds, in which it develops a luxuriant Mediterranean maquis which, descending towards the lake, mainly composed of mastic, myrtle, buckthorn, clematis and Smilax aspera. The maquis reaches its peak on the side of the dune overlooking the lake, where we find holm oaks, juniper, honeysuckle and arbutus.