The Regional Natural Reserve Montagne della Duchessa is located in the province of Rieti, in the Lazio Region and from a geographical and historical point of view, the territory of the Reserve is part of the Cicolano, which is the extreme east of Lazio, on the slopes of the central Apennines. The Cicolano has an area of 446.37 km2 and includes at least seven administrative units (municipalities): Borgorose, Fiamignano, Pescorocchiano, Petrella Salto, Marcetelli, Concerviano e Varco Sabino.

Before the Roman age the Cicolano was inhabited by the Aequicoli, from which the name Cicoli derives according to some medieval sources. According to Alvino (2004), the name Aequicoli refers to people living along the Salto River valley and deriving from the Aequi population, whose original area of occupancy was much more extended before the Roman conquest.

The Aequi inhabited the Cicolano area probably from the IX century b.C. Tito Livio (in the work Ab Urbe condita) describes the Aequicoli as a fierce and violent population, strongly hostile to Romans.

The Aequicoli founded some important villages and towns:

In 304 BC the Aequicoli were definitively subdued by the Romans, after two hundred years of clashes; the remains visible today in the archaeological site of Alba Fucens are those of the Roman colony. The Romans exterminated most of the Aequicoli and moved many colonists to the region. The year after the foundation of the fortified city, the Aequicoli attempted a final assault to regain the territory but without success.

During the Roman period many roads connected the villages; the most important road, coming from Reate (Rieti), crossed the Valle del Salto, to reach Alba Fucens.

In the Augustan age, the territory was divided in two municipia: Cliternia (identified with Capradosso) and the Res Publica Aequiculanorum, a group of little villages whose reference centre was Nersae, in today's town of Nesce.

On December 17th 2016 in Corvaro, the Archaeological Museum of Cicolano was inaugurated. The museum dedicated to Aequicoli has as its centerpiece the large central area, dedicated to the grandiose mound located in the plain of Corvaro (municipality of Borgorose, which has returned 368 pre-Roman and Roman tombs.
The ten exhibition halls of the Museum correspond to the various phases of occupation of the Cicolano, from the Middle Bronze Age to the late Imperial age. For more information on the MAC, see:

From the VII - VIII centuries the monks and in general the religious authorities took the responsibility of local people ( cura animarum("care of souls")) in the Salto River valley; from 1153 many "pievi" were established in the Cicolano: Santa Maria in Fosso ( Mercato di Fiamignano), Santo Stefano di Cliviano ( Corvaro di Borgorose), San Leonardo (Cartore di Borgorose).

By the end of the IX century the Saracens began to invade the Cicolano and sacked many towns. As a consequence, local people began to retreat in castles and fortifications; in fact from the X century the castles of Torano, Corvaro and Castelmenardo were built.
In the same period (X - XI centuries) the Cicolano was included in the Forcena County, and from the beginning of the XII century the area came under the jurisdiction of the bishops of Rieti.
In the half of the XIII century, during the reign of Frederick II (King of Sicily from 1198 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1220), the Cicolano was annexed to the Abruzzi province.
After the fall of this reign, the Cicolano area was dominated by a single, very powerful family, that of the Mareri. In 1532 the Mareri sold the county to the Colonna family, another very powerful family with properties in all the Lazio region.
In 1661 the Colonna handed over the Cicolano area to the Napoli reign, which in turn sold it in 1663 to the Barberini family.

At the beginning of the 19th century, during the French domination, the Cicolano returned under the Kingdom of Naples and the administrative divisions were established between the municipalities of: Petrella dei Cicoli (today Petrella Salto), Pescorocchiano, Borgocollefegato (today Borgorose) and Mercato ( today Fiamignano).

After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the Cicolano was included in Abruzzo under the Cittaducale district. In 1927, with the administrative reorganization requested by Mussolini, the whole area was assigned to the Lazio region, in the new province of Rieti.

List of works cited:
Tito Livio, Ab Urbe condita. Libro IX, cap. 45.
Alvino G., 2004. Gli Equicoli. In: Alvino G. (a cura di), 2004. Gli Equicoli, i guerrieri delle montagne. Ministero per i beni e le attivita culturali, Soprintendenza per i beni archeologici del Lazio. Comune di Borgorose & Roma.