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L'armata Brancaleone


The city of Brancaleone

Nestled between the Cimini mountains and the Vezza valley, Vitorchiano (known in ancient times as Vicus Orchianus or Orclanus) is one of the most fascinating villages in Tuscia.

Its historical centre, encircled by ancient walls, is rich with towers, squares, churches and medieval houses. Vitorchiano’s origins are indeed ancient: the first settlements in fact date back to the Etruscan times.

In 1265 the village was granted the title of “Terra Fedele” (loyal town) by the Roman government: this is why the S.P.Q.R. (Senatus PopolusQue Romanus) acronym is still visible in its coat of arms. The link between Rome and Vitorchiano continued over the centuries and in recent times the Cinecittà production companies chose this village as the location for their movies set in the Middle Ages.

The Incredible Army of Brancaleone (1966) is one the most original and successful Italian comedy movies. Directed by Mario Monicelli, the movie was largely filmed (60% of all the scenes, according to the film director) in the countryside near Viterbo and in villages, towns, strongholds and castles within its province.

Vitorchiano is one its most important locations. In the first part of the movie, the knight Brancaleone from Norcia (Vittorio Gassman) and his ragtag army of misfits (Ugo Fangareggi, Folco Lulli, Luigi Sangiorgi, Carlo Pisacane, Gian Maria Volontè and Enrico Maria Salerno) enter a deserted town - abandoned after a plague - and decide to pillage it.

Monicelli shows his mastery by filming the village and its historical center with a framing sequence that enhances the beauty of the local landscape and architecture.

The great success achieved by The Incredible Army of Brancaleone soon led to a sequel - Brancaleone at the crusades (1970) – which was also filmed in the Tuscia area.

Vitorchiano appears again in The mighty Anselmo and his Squire (1972), a movie that draws on the narrative line (the crusades) from the second episode of Brancaleone’s adventures and a significant amount of obscenities from the so-called “boccaccesco” genre, originated from the Decameron (1971) by Pier Paolo Pasolini.

In the most entertaining sequence of this movie, Gian Puccio Senza Terra (Enrico Montesano), the sluggish squire of the crusader Anselmo da Montebello (Alighiero Noschese), in order to escape the German commander Ottone di Buldoffen (Renzo Montagnani) seeks refuge in the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo (the most beautiful one in Vitorchiano), takes the place of the statue of the patron Saint and gets carried in procession by a group of unaware believers through the streets of Vitorchiano’s historical centre.