by Laura Zazzerini
«The scenery of the region is perfectly pleasant, just imagine it: an immense anfitheatre as only nature could design. An open vast plain land surrounded by mountains; which are covered by grand and old woods up to their summits, where game is rich and abundant. On the sides of the mountains coppices gently slope down into humous-rich and fruitful hills that can compete in fertility with the fields wich lay on the lowlands […] Below, the wide vineyards hemmig from every side the hills make more smooth the face of the landscape, and which lines, disappearing in the distance, half-reveal graceful thickets. Then meadows everywhere,and fields which only powerful oxen with very robust ploughs can break up; that land so hard, at first cutting through, precisely gets up in such clods so large that you need nine ploughing before it can be completely tamed. The meadows, fat and rich in flowers, produce clover and more herbs always soft and tender as if they had just come up, since all those fields are wet from perennial brooks. Still, though the abundant water, there are non marshes, and that is because of the sloping land pouring into the Tiber all the waters it couldn’t absorb… […] Add to this, of course, the health of that area, the serenity of the sky, and the air, purer than elsewhere.»
(Letter from Plinio il Giovane to Domizio Apollinare, Book V, epistle 6)
The first settlements of San Giustino, the further north municipality of the region, trace back to Umbri as evidenced by the discovery of numerous small bronzes. In Roman times – under the name Meliscianum taken from nymph Melissa, whose name stands for “honey producer” and recalls an area where beekeeping was surely widely practiced– San Giustino became an important trade centre along Via Tiberina. The same Roman time is evidenced by the great country-style villa Plinio il Giovane wanted to be built around 100 A.D. Later on, the villa was flattened by Totila’s Goths.
Today’s name of San Giustino, coming from the Saint martyred at Pieve de’ Saddi during the time of Emperor Marco Aurelio, appears for the first time in a diploma dated 1027. Its territory has been challenged for centuries by Arezzo, Città di Castello and San Sepolcro. Oddone and Rinaldo di Ramberto were the first local lords, before bending to Città di Castello in 1218. Following their submission, in 1262 Città di Castello fortified it, but during the vacancy of the Holy See, after Clemente IV’s death, San Sepolcro ravaged the territory, destroying the fortalice. After its rebuilding, in 1393 the Castle was left to Dotti family, which were political exiled from San Sepolcro, under the pledge to use it to defend Città di Castello. After changing fortunes, because of the destruction and reconstruction of Dotti Palace, the family gave it back to the town of Città di Castello in 1841. At this point the papal governor of Città di Castello called his brother, Mariano Savelli, skilful architect, to draw the project to change the steep fortress in a strong palace in order to make it impregnable, protected by a grand moat too. Works had started, but given the unavailability of the funding to carry them out in 1487 Città di Castello gave it to a rich landowner, Niccolò di Manno Bufalini, doctor of utroque iure and Sisto IV, Innocenzo VIII and Alessandro VI’s relative, so as to complete the works. The Holy See received so many favors and services that in 1563 Giulio Bufalini and his son Ottavio were given the title of count, the feud and territory of San Giustino. During the Napoleonic time San Giustino became an independent town from Città di Castello and, after being suppressed at the end of that period of time, it was finally recognized by Leone XIII’s motu proprio in 1827. San Giustino was the first Umbrian town the Piemontese troops led by General Fanti occupied on September 11th 1860.
Castello Bufalini is the emblem of San Giustino beyond any doubt. The castle sees its origins in the Dotti family’s military fortalice. Restored by Città di Castello in 1478, after being attacked and destroyed again and again, in 1487 the legate of Città di Castello donated it to Niccolò, son of Manno Bufalini, so that he could accomplish the rebuilding, started on the project by Mariano Savelli, governor’s brother, assigned, in case of war, to defend Città di Castello and to provide accommodation for commanders and troops sent by the municipality to protect the place and the people. Bufalini, on the basis of Camillo Vitelli’s new project, changed the old fortalice in an actual fortress surrounded by a ditch, overlooked by four towers and a keep, embattled walkways and a drawbridge.
But it was the Renaissance which led that the transformation of the fortress into a manor. The authors of the transformation were the brothers Giulio I and Ventura Bufalini, owners and residents of the building since 1530. The works, carried out between 1534 and 1560, concerned both the exterior renovation of the building and the new spatial layout out, together with the modernisation of the inside. The initial project, which concerned the refitting of the inner courtyard, the building of the kneeling windows, the construction of two spiral staircases and a new internal spatial distribution, probably owes to Giovanni d’Alessio d’Antonio, called Nanni Ongaro or Unghero (Florence 1490-1546), Florentine architect belonging to the Sangallo circle, in the service of the Gran duke of Tuscany Cosimo I, but the works continued even after his death. From 1537 to 1554 Cristoforo Gherardi (San Sepolcro 1508-1556), called Il Doceno, was appointed to paint the pictorial decorations of five rooms with mythological stories and grotesques. At the end of XVII century the castle was affected by a new phase of the works at Filippo I and Anna Maria Bourbon di Sorbello’s behast. The palace was changed into a countryside villa with Italian garden on Giovanni Ventura Borghesi’s (Città di Castello 1640-1708) design. The last event of the construction history of the castle took place after the Second World War, because it didn’t endure to the bombings which struck the area.
In 1989 Giuseppe Bufalini gave it to the Italian State. Thanks to the excellent condition of the furniture, today the castle represents a rare example of historic stately home.
Villa Magherini Graziani di Celalba
The Villa, built on a pre-existing Roman fortalice, was designed by architects Antonio Cantagallina from San Sepolcro and by one Bruni from Rome, commissioned by Carlo Graziani from Città di Castello. Construction works started at the beginning of XVII century and were carried out in 1616. The quadrangular structure stretches on three levels surmounted by a turret 17 metres high. The ground floor is decorated by walled-up arches in the which centre niches and windows open up evoking the evenness of a portico. The first floor has a large porch with elegant banisters and pietra serena pillars. The side entry introduces to the carriage passageway, barrel vault designed, which enabled direct access for carriages into an indoor space and connected the farmhouse and the chapel dedicated to Santa Maria Lauretana. The building, which represents an outstanding example of aristocratic late-renaissance villa, is immersed in a recently recovered 6 hectars park and you can enjoy a wonderful example of Italian garden. Since 1981 it is a property of San Giustino municipality that has functionally refurbished the building. Today the farmhouse is used by the Municipality for socio-cultural activities, while in the little church are officiated civil marriages. Villa Magherini Graziani hosts Museo Pliniano and since February 2016 it has hosted also the permanent exhibition Iperspazio by Attilio Pierelli (Sasso di Serra S. Quirico 1924-Roma 2013). The artist, founder of Movimento Artistico Internazionale Dimensionalista, spent a large part of his work in visualizing the concept of space, concerning the fourth geometric dimension and the non-Euclidean geometry and, at Villa Magherini Graziani, it is possibile to go through the various creative seasons of his production from inox Slabs, to Knots, to Cubes through which the artist interacted with the hyperspace.
Historical Scientific Tobacco Museum
It is one of the seven Italian museums dedicated to tobacco. Built in place of the former Consorzio Tabacchicoltori’s offices, thanks to the homonymous Foundation (set up in 1997), its mission is to disseminate the knowledge and the historical importance the tobacco growing had -and has- in the social and economic development of that area. Actually, in the Upper Tiber Valley tobacco cultivation is a tradition that is meant to be handed down and spread. It is no accident that a museum dedicated to tobacco exists just in San Giustino, because in Italian peninsula the first cultivation of some account for commercial purposes of erba tornabuona – so called as the first seed had been brought to Tuscany by bishop Niccolò Tornabuoni at the end of XVI century – date back to the beginning of XVII century and laid just in the Repubblica di Cospaia land, a small territory which is a hamlet of San Giustino today.
The Museum includes offices, sort units, drying kilns, which have great charm and evoke a long story made of working hours and fatigue, but they also evoke emancipation because in this story the main character has been played by the XIX century women. As a matter of fact, the tobacco female workers -as well as the female textile workers- were among the first women who, after leaving the traditional ‘home-working’, become the workforce for the major industries of the country.
Il museo comprende uffici, essiccatoi, sale di cernita: luoghi di grande fascino dove si rievoca una lunga storia di fatica e lavoro, ma anche di emancipazione, storia che ha avuto nelle donne del XX secolo le principali protagoniste. Le lavoratrici dei tabacchi, infatti, al pari delle operaie tessili, sono tra le prime donne che, abbandonato il tradizionale lavoro casalingo, vengono inserite nelle grandi industrie.
The Republic of Cospaia
The hamlet of Cospaia, today part of the municipality of San Giustino, is the most northern Umbria locality. Its history – which is the history of a tiny independent state surrounded by three great powers (State of the Church, Duchy of Urbino and Grand Duchy of Tuscany) a long time fighting each other – deserves to be mentioned.
Cosimo dei Medici had granted a 25.000 florins loan to Eugenio IV for the ecumenical council, which was announced to be held in Basilea in 1431, demanding the jurisdiction over Borgo San Sepolcro for guarantee. When the pope died, the loan had not been repaid yet, so the two states sent their own land surveyor to define their boundaries. The surveyors worked without ever meeting directly face to face. As a result, the Tuscans established the border at the Rio della Gorgaccia, while the papal experts at the Rio Ascone. Therefore the area between the two streams, that is to say the hill of Cospaia, remained independent. From 1441 to 1826 Cospaia “for a period of four centuries had neither leaders nor laws nor councils nor statute nor soldiers nor army nor prisons nor courts nor doctors nor taxation. It outlasted according to the elders’ common sense. It used no weights and measures. Even the position of the parish prest, who took care to keep the register of the few souls up to date and who was involved to act as teacher of the town, was a symbol of independence because he wasn’t bound to any bishop.
The agreement of February 11th, 1826 between Leone XII and Leopoldo I, with which they shared out the territory, ended with the independence of Cospaia. In une 28th, 1926 Cospaia did obeisance to the Papal States and each inhabitant received one papetto as award for the lost freedom, a silver coin depicting the effigy of Leone XII.
Still today, on June 28th each year the “ex Republic of Cospaia” is remembered.
For further informations
Storia – Bibliografia essenziale
San Giustino, in M. Tabarrini, L’Umbria si racconta, Foligno, s.n., 1982, v. P-Z, pp. 265-269.
E. Mezzasoma, S. Giustino, in «Piano.Forte», n. 1 (2008), pp. 43-49.
S. Dindelli, Castello Bufalini. Una sosta meravigliosa fra Colle Plinio e Cospaia, San Giustino, BluPrint, 2016
Castello Bufalini – Bibliografia essenziale
A. Ascani, San Giustino, Città di Castello, s.n., 1977.
G. Milani-P. Bà, I Bufalini di San Giustino. Origine e ascesa di una casata, San Giustino, s.n., 1998.
S. Dindelli, Castello Bufalini. Una sosta meravigliosa fra Colle Plinio e Cospaia, San Giustino, BluPrint, 2016
La Repubblica di Cospaia – Bibliografia essenziale
Cospaia, in M. Tabarrini, L’Umbria si racconta, Foligno, s.n., 1982, v. A-D, p. 447.
A. Ascani, Cospaia. Storia inedita della singolare repubblica, Città di Castello, tipografia Sabbioni, 1977.
G. Milani, Tra Rio e Riascolo. Piccola storia del territorio libero di Cospaia, Città di Castello, Grafica 2000, 1996
E. Fuselli, Cospaia tra tabacco, contrabbando e dogane, San Giustino, Fondazione per il Museo Storico Scientifico del Tabacco, 2014