Bicycle routes - Lazio by bicycle
From Rome to the ruins of Galeria Antica
Roma-Galeria Antica e ritorno ~ 40km Flag

Galleria fotografica
Galleria immagini

The placename Galeria survives on the map of Rome at two locations: Ponte Galeria and Santa Maria di Galeria, both within the city limits of Rome. But the original village of Galeria, abandoned since 1809, is to be found in a hidden place and away from modern roads.

Realistically, the route that is described here could barely be considered cyclable, since, for the most part, it requires riding with traffic, but all the same the final destination is very compelling.

The point of departure can be the train station of Roma Monte Mario [near San Onofrio]; upon leaving the station turn left [north] onto via Trionfale, which here is heavy with traffic, heading in the direction of La Giustiniana. The traffic decreases progressively, but the road is narrow and one needs to pay maximum attention. Once you have reached the village of La Giustiniana, merge onto Via Cassia, once again very busy with traffic, and continue to just before the town of Spizzichino, where, by passing under the railroad tracks of the train to Viterbo, one joins the Variante [alternate route] della Via Braccianese, which can be more or less busy with traffic depending on the time of year, and follow it all the way to Osteria Nuova [9 km or 6 miles], where you turn left onto Via di Santa Maria di Galeria; this, finally, is a peaceful road, and in less than 2 km [about a mile] you reach the homonymous agricultural village which merits a brief visit. One gets back on the road and after a few hundred meters one will find, on the right, an unpaved farm road; during my last visit there still was a sign indicating Galeria; take this road and after a few hundred meters you reach an open area in front of a group of farm buildings. On the right a small road, which can be difficult to negotiate by bicycle, allows one to reach the ruins of Galeria.

To visit the ruins obviously it is more convenient to leave the bike at the entry and to pay particular attention; the ruins are not supervised or maintained regularly, therefore there is a real risk of falling or stumbling and getting injured.

One could return the same way one came. However, an alternative route, but which is not described in detail here, is to turn right [south] onto Via di Santa Maria di Galeria until it runs into Via di Boccea, towards the east, which takes one all the way back to Rome, by way of the Primavalle Quarter [west of the historic center. RB].

This village has a strange history which derives perhaps from the Roman waystation Careias (*). In the Middle Ages it became the seat of the Counts of Galeria, originally German, faithful to the Holy Roman Emperor and hostile to the pope (in a word: Ghibellines), who extended their power over a vast region of upper Lazio. Defeated by the Guelphs, the Counts of Galeria became extinct by the fifteenth century, when their castle passed to the Orsini. The village declined further and fell into extinction by the late eighteenth century, and was finally abandoned in 1809, perhaps because of a malaria epidemic.

In the late nineteenth century Ferdinand Gregorovius, a German but a passionate visitor to Rome and its surroundings, described the ruins of Galeria (which he calls Castel Galera) a place somewhat evocative of Ninfa (*). The remains of the village were by then wrapped in green and abandoned to neglect.

Not much has changed from the time of Gregorovius, and the remains of Galeria, renamed Galeria Vecchia and more recently Galeria Antica, continue to be covered by vegetation and visited mostly by occasional tourists.

In 1999 a “Parco Naturale di Galeria Antica” was established, but as of my last visit in 2005 not much seemed to have changed, so much so that I was not able to walk the last stretch of road which was blocked by brambles and nettles; or perhaps I missed something. On that occasion I also was warned by a local person who did not like my taking pictures of his house and in general did not seem to like strangers passing in front of his property. In short, the place still seemed very far from the being “visitor friendly”!

Last visit: July 2005

Links and references

Careias is the name, found in ancient Roman documents, of a waystation on the ancient Via Claudia near the present Galeria, and very likely the word "Galeria" comes from "Careias",  probably a name of Etruscan origin. X
Ninfa is the name of another ancient city similar to Galeria, abandoned and covered with green, south of Rome, near Norma. X
The Pines of Rome made famous by Ottorino Respighi. X