16 June, 2019
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“The town looks solemn and powerful, with its doors, the main road and the church of San Francesco” (M. Tabarrini)

Monteleone di Spoleto, photo by Claudia Ioan

 

Set on a hill along the Corno river valley, Monteleone di Spoleto is among the most fascinating and characteristic villages of Valnerina. Over the centuries, thanks to its position, it gained the appellation of Lions of the Appennines. Its territory is part of one the most typical and uncontaminated environment of the central Apennines.
The city is like a small casket which has been keeping precious objects of history, art and architecture for centuries: in fact, Monteleone boasts very ancient origins, as evidenced by the numerous tombs found in the surroundings. About the ancient wars and battled fighted in the area, numerous testimonies remain. Among them, the famous chariot of the sixth century BC stands. It was found here in the early twentieth century. Inside the local Church of San Francesco is preserved a splendid copy, while the original one is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The town, since ancient times, appears solemn to the visitor in all its majesty; witness of its ancient vestiges, Monteleone shows off all the pride of its history to the traveler. The city, in fact, isolated among the bleak mountains of the Apennines, is rich in symbols and meanings. Such as the repetition of certain numbers: three are the city walls and, each of them, is provided with three doors, moreover, there are six towers and eight ramparts in the city. The castle, surrounded by solid walls, watchtowers and gates, preserves the typical medieval and renaissance appearence, with its houses, churches and noble buildings that overlook alleys and squares. Characteristic element of the whole country is the local white and red rock, which makes the architecture unique, able to recall the magical two-color of the ancient orders of chivalry. The territory has four residential areas (Ruscio, Rescia, Trivio and Butino), whose main activities were agriculture and sheep – farming. But the area was known due to the industrial activities too; such as the Ruscio lignite mines and the iron mines. From these mines according to the tradition, was exctracted the raw materials for the Pantheon gates in Rome.

 

The spelled, photo by Claudia Ioan

Excellence in Monteleone di Spoleto

To make Monteleone di Spoleto an even more wonderful town is the amber color that distinguishes its land: the spelled of Monteleone is among the excellences of Italy. Thanks to the efforts of local producers, it was possible to request and obtain the DOP brand (Protected Designation of Origin).

 

Monteleone di Spoleto, photo by Claudia Ioan

Church of San Francesco

Crossing the town’s walls, it is possible to discover, through pleasant alleys, important historical and artistic treasures.  The Church of San Francesco, built between the 14th and 15th centuries, is one of them. The church is the most remarkable and suggestive monument in Monteleone, because it has been witness of the most significative historical periods of the town.
Originally, the church was dedicated to Saint Maria or better Madonna dell’Assunta, but it has been always commonly known with the name of the poor of Assisi, since the early Franciscans settled there around 1280. The Franciscan order in Monteleone always used the Church for their functions and in every official act, a seal bearing the image of the Assumption abducted in heaven with the initials S (Which stands for Sanctae) and M (which stands for Mariae). Various frescoes decorate the church walls with devotional images probably painted by artists of the the Fourtheen Century Umbrian School

Church of St. Nicholas

The church is located at the highest point of the historical center; It dates back to the early Middle Ages, in fact the first documents date from 1310. It has a single nave with ten chapels with its own altars. The ceiling is coffered and covered with a tempera painted canvas with floral motifs. Among the several works of considerable value, we mention the decollation of St. John the Baptist between St. Anthony from Padova, St. Isidore and La Maddalena, attributed to the painter Giuseppe Ghezzi and the Annunciation, probably a work by Agostino Masucci.

Church of Santa Caterina

In 1310 five Augustinian nuns, coming from the Monastery of St. Catherine in Norcia, asked for a small church and a house in the lower part of Monteleone in order to build a monastery there. Both the house and the church were outside the circle of walls, and they had been built in 1265. The nuns remained there for almost five years. Of the eighteenth-century church, only the perimeter walls remain.

 

Church of Santa Caterina, photo by Enrico Mezzasoma

Church of Santa Maria de Equo

The interior of the church is typical of rural churches: in the center of the church there is an eighteenth-century altar, adorned with a wooden statue of the Madonna with Child; on the sides, inside two niches, there are the wooden statues of St. Peter and St. Paul. Along the left wall is the venerable Gilberto or Liberto, a hermit who lived here for many years.

 


Bibliography: L’Umbria si racconta. Dizionario E-O, Foligno 1982 di Mario Tabarrini.

Citerna belongs to the Club
I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia

 


For someone it was born in Siena, during the furious plague of 1348, when a doctor gave it to the sick; for others, however, it was born out of an exclamation flown in the canteen of the Council of Florence in 1439 as a misunderstanding. However, it is no doubt that vin santo owes its attribute to some particular property, perhaps miraculous. Or perhaps to the sacred procedure used to obtain it.

Grapes for vin santo

Grapes for vin santo

A Work to be done with Waning Moon

«Do you want to taste this nectar? But this is not a vinsanto, it’s a nectar! Oh lovely sorbet, precious and delicate nectar». (Goldoni)

As an amber colored drink, vin santo is the finest product of the Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes, as well as the Grechetto, Cannaiolo, Vernaccia and San Colombano ones. In Tuscany it is also obtained from San Giovese grapes: so, it is called Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice.
Besides the grape variety, the creation of vin santo comes from the choice of the best bunches, with a state of ripeness not too advanced – so that the peels can resist the withering. They are hrvested and hung for three or even four months, so that they could wilt. It was a widespread belief that the bunches, single or double, would not rotten if they were hung with waning moon.
Widespread in the Upper Valley of the Tiber and in the nearby Tuscany, the vin santo acquires in Citerna that smoked note that has made it one of the Slow Food Presidia. The vast plains below the village, as well as the abundance of water, had in fact allowed the area to be elected as an ideal place for the cultivation of tobacco, intended for State Monopolies. So, to optimize the spaces, bunches and leaves were hung together, so that they could dry up with the heat of the stoves and fireplaces. Sources of heat that, inevitably, ended up also emitting smoke, giving the grapes the typical aftertaste of smoking.

 

A hard fermentation

The grape is then pressed and fermented – with or without marcs – in wooden caratelli with a capacity ranging from 15 to 50 kilograms. The dimensions of these containers show the quality of the drink that you will end up getting. First of all they give the measure of the production of the vin santo, extremely limited: on average a quintal of grapes, once the drying phase has finished, it reaches weighs 30-35 kilograms, and must still be crushed.
In the second instance, containers of this size allow to sacrifice only a small part of the precious vintage, in case something would go wrong during fermentation. This passage is in fact extremely delicate: given the strong drying, vin santo’s must has a very high sugar concentration which, in turn, involves a high alcohol content. The leavening agent contained in the pruine – the waxy substance that covers the grapes protecting them from ultraviolet rays and dehydration – can hardly survive alcohol contents of more than 13%, and here we are talking about values ​​that can reach even 19%.
The producers, to solve this problem, use the scum of previous years, a sort of precipitate that, preserved from year to year and divided into the various caratelli, can stimulate fermentation. It is called mother and, since it remains in the wood of the caratelli, they are re-used without being washed first.

Amber wine

Once filled for ¾, the containers are sealed and stored – in the past they were placed in the attic, so that they were exposed to thermal excursions, considered benefic – remain there for at least three years. The uncertainty about the success of the wine hovers until the opening of the caratelli.
It is curious that, in Citerna, just the vin santo was used to soften the leaves of tobacco that, taken away from the State Monopoly, were hidden in tin crates and buried in the fields. Still in Tuscany, cigar smokers are used to soak them in vin santo to taste them better.

 


Sources:

www.fondazioneslowfood.com/it/presidi-slow-food/vinosanto-affumicato-dellalta-valle-del-tevere/

www.ilportaledelleosterie.it

www.wsimag.com

As has already happened before, but in this case, it comes from a small strip of wounded land in the heart of the “Heart of Italy”. A sprout of future for Italy and Europe.

Montanari testoni

 

Four documentaries, four stories about Valnerina’s rebirth. A year after the earthquake that hit central Italy, four documentaries, written, produced and realized with the Restart project. Comunità Resistenti by MenteGlocale – permanent laboratory of social communication, based in Perugia – tell the stories of a land, the Umbrian Valnerina, which reacted to the earthquake’s material and moral damages.
Norcia, Campi, Cascia, Ruscio: the earthquake struck the populations touching them in the affections, in the habits and in the small and great security of everyday life. These mountaineers were injured but not defeated, and in some cases they were able to react to the difficulties by rolling up their sleeves. Written by Filippo Costantini, Giorgio Vicario and Daniele Suraci, who has also directed and edited the Restart project. Comunità Resistenti, it was created with the contribution of Corecom Umbria, through the 2017 Community TV competition.

The four docu-films

The four docu-films try to tell the stories of these territories, the stories little known or that few tell. People and places are the protagonists, who go beyond the earthquake and try to roll up their sleeves to start over and move on.

 

  • Montanari testoni

Born in November 2016 in Norcia, inside a field tent, the Montanari Testoni association was promoted by a group of young people from the territory to face together the adversities related to the earthquake. It was created to talk and discuss the personal and collective situation and to propose activities of participation, sharing, collaboration and cultural promotion dedicated to the inhabitants of Norcia. From a collection center for food and clothes, a real social center, the container has hosted in recent months – and continues to do so – condominium meetings, workshops for children, film clubs and much more, until the rehearsals of the famous Corale di Norcia, left without a seat, and has now become a fundamental reference point for the entire nursery community.

 

Sisters of Cascia

Sisters of Cascia

 

  • Rita

In Cascia, after the shock of October 30th, 2016, several buildings became unusable, but except for a few cases there were no collapses. For security reasons, for the first time in the history of Cascia the Basilica of Santa Rita was closed and the Augustinian cloistered nuns had to leave the monastery, returning after a few weeks. They tell the life in the Cloistered Monastery of the Sisters of Cascia and the relationship between the Casciani and Saint Rita: in a Cascia hit by the earthquake the icon of the Saint is a concrete presence of hope for the future.

 

  • Maddalena

Ruscio is a small fraction of the Municipality of Monteleone di Spoleto composed by two-storey houses, historical buildings, three churches, two squares, a bridge and many fountains. The village develops along a single road cut by a bridge that divides Ruscio above from Ruscio below. The fraction, where there are permanently seventy people, has not suffered much damage. The material signs of the recent earthquakes are there, but they are not very strong: the most evident damages are in people and are linked to the fear of depopulation, to the fear that at least for a few years it will no longer be the same. Every year in the summer the rusciari scattered in the world return to the small Umbrian village to spend their holidays, repopulating houses that for most of the year are carefully guarded by the few stable inhabitants of the country. On August 24th the traditional Rusciari Dinner is celebrated, an indispensable moment to say goodbye before returning to their places of residence. In 2016, due to the earthquake, the dinner was canceled.

 

  • Doctormonster

Back to Campi is the dream of Roberto Doctormonster Sbriccoli, bricklayer-dj of Campi, a fraction of the Municipality of Norcia strongly affected by the shocks of 2016. The upper part of the village is red zone, all the houses are unusable, and several are collapsed. Between the upper and lower parts of the village stands the headquarters of the Pro Loco, a structure inaugurated just four days before the earthquake of August 24th, 2016 and built by the inhabitants of Campi – ed by Doctormonster. A class four anti-seismic structure that was immediately used as an emergency reception center. In the weeks following the shock, it hosted up to ninety people, proving to be fundamental for shelter and assistance. Animator and coordinator of the space was Docmonster, who is also the president of the Pro Loco. These were difficult days, full of discouragement and nervousness, but that place was fundamental. Today many of the inhabitants of Campi live in the newly delivered containers and wooden houses.
Docmonster has a dream called Back to Field, a € 4 million project that aims to build a multi-purpose center for tourism and sport on a newly acquired site by Pro Loco. It is a project that aims to provide a complete and equipped with all the services to those who will be on vacation in the summer (before the earthquake many people choose this place for summer holidays) in these areas and has the ambition to be a multi-purpose center for pre-season retreats of the teams of different sports. Docmonster took it upon himself to realize this project.

 

 


The video: http://www.menteglocale.com/

«Thirty-seven kilometres from Terni, on an alluvial terrace at an altitude of 292 m, close to the bottom of the valley and on the left of the River Tiber. It’s a small centre, a fortified town with a mediaeval aspect that looks like a compact village with ruined walls.» (M. Tabarrini)

Giove

Origin of the name

Although many believe that its toponym derives from an ancient cult of Jupiter, no trace of a temple dedicated to the Roman god has ever been found, so it is more correct to think that the name derives from its geographical position, located on a peak between two valleys. Thus, the name would be derived from the Latin word jugum, meaning yoke. The earliest historical records seem to help this hypothesis: indeed, in a document of 1191, the town is called with the name of Castel di Juvo or Iugo.»[1]

History

Numerous archaeological finds attest to the existence of an ancient Roman settlement, but the current appearance of Giove is definitely mediaeval. In ancient times, the area belonged to the Lords from Baschi and for a long time the towns of Todi and Orvieto contended for its rule. In 1320, Sciarra I Colonna took possession of the castle and the surrounding areas and for a long time he had to fight against the House of Orsini for its control. In 1378, ferocious Bretons, guided by Clement VII, the anti-pope, settled in that territory and heavily devastated the village and the neighbouring areas. In the middle of the 15th century, Giove fell under the rule of the House of Anguillara, but Pope Paul II succeeded in bringing it back under the Church’s rule in 1465. The walls of the castle were destroyed in 1503 when, after strenuous resistance, Giove was conquered by Cesare Borgia. In 1545, Ottavio Farnese settled there with the office of papal governor and in 1597 Matteo Farnese ceded the fief to Ciriaco and Asdrubale Mattei. In 1646, the territory of Giove was devastated by a disastrous flood of the River Tiber. After its restoration, Giove was elevated to the status of baronial municipality.[2]

 

Palazzo Ducale

Erected on the remains of a mediaeval castle by will of Asdrubale and Ciriaco Mattei, it has a very imposing Renaissance appearance. In 1643, Pope Urban VIII conferred a dukedom on the Matteis, and the palace became property of the House of Canonici when Caterina Mattei passed it on to her son Carlo. When Carlo died without heirs, the palace became the property of Marquis Carlo Teodoro Antici of Recanati. It’s during this period that Adelaide Antici, Giacomo Leopardi’s mother, was a guest at the palace. From the Antici family, its possession passed to the Ricciardi family, then to General Mario Nicolis of Robilant, who welcomed Vittorio Emanuele III as his guest in 1910 and the Counts of Acquarone in 1936. In 1985 it was bought by American producer Charles Robert Band and turned into a refined hotel. The building has 365 windows, one for each day of the year, and consists of five floors, while the corner towers feature an additional floor. The flight of stairs that goes from the carriage area to the piano nobile is still intact. The interior walls are decorated with mythological paintings attributed to Domenico Zampieri, known as il Domenichino, Paolo Caliari, known as il Veronese and Orazio Alfani.[3]

Church of Saint Maria Assunta

In rococo style with late baroque elements, it features a façade enclosed by two symmetrical bell towers. It was completed in 1775, perhaps on a project by the Fontanas, to take the place of the ancient Church of San Giovanni Battista located within the walls, of which today only a few signs are visible in a private house. Inside the church – a Greek-cross plan with dome – there is a painting representing the Madonna Assunta that some attribute to Niccolò Alunno, while others believe that it comes from Alunno’s school. Another interesting piece is the organ located above the entrance door, which due to its peculiar design is considered the most interesting modern instrument in the entire province of Terni.

Church of Madonna del Perugino

The church takes its name from the image of the Madonna placed on the altar, called Madonna del Perugino for its fine workmanship. Actually, it is a painting commissioned in the 17th century by Francesco Caffarelli, a citizen of Giove coming from Perugia who for this reason was called il Perugino. The church also contains numerous votive offerings.

Convent of Santa Maria del Gesù

It was founded thanks to a donation by Felicita Colonna at the beginning of the 17th century. Until 1870 it belonged to the Franciscans, then it was owned by the Oblates of St Francis and finally by the Marianists. In recent years, the convent has been used as the location of a nature centre, Il Germoglio.

 


[1]The hypothesis that the name comes from the Latin word jugum is supported by L. Canonici, Alviano. Una rocca, una famiglia, un popolo, Porziuncola, Assisi 1983, while according to popular belief, M. Tabarrini, s.v. Giove, in M. Tabarrini, L’Umbria si racconta. Dizionario, v. 2 : E-O, [s.n.], Foligno 1982, pp 150-151 inclines to the toponym deriving from a pre-existing cult of the Roman god.
[2]For more common historical information see M. Tabarrini, cit. that is also the source of the information reported by www.mondimedievali.net/Castelli/Umbria/terni/giove.htm and by http://www.castellogiove.it. For bookings see: http://www.castellogiove.it.
[3]Information extracted from M. Tabarrini, cit. and from the website  www.mondimedievali.net/Castelli/Umbria/terni/giove.htm.

 

More on Giove

Bevagna belongs to the Club
I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia

 


Games, competitions and historical rigour. This is the winning formula of the Gaite Market of Bevagna.

The Gaite Market

The Gaite Market, photo by Francesco Mancini, courtesy of Mercato delle Gaite

 

The Gaite Market was established in 1989 to enliven the life of the mediaeval village, taking inspiration from the Town Statute that governed the life of the village by dividing it into four neighbourhoods or gaite. Commonly known as Le Gaite, in few years it has become an indispensable event for the citizens, as well as for anyone who wants to fully enjoy this beautiful mediaeval town – one of the Borghi Più Belli d’Italia.

The recipe

The creation of Le Gaite was an absolutely smart move that had an enthusiastic response from people. Le Gaite goes beyond the good organisation of an enthralling competition. In fact, for the entire duration of the event, Bevagna becomes an entirely new town and offers visitors the illusion of a journey back in time, to reach the years when it was just a mediaeval village, in 1250-1350, during the peaceful festive days of the fair. Thanks to the organisation of a competition (archery) and three specific reconstruction challenges (the historical representation of two mediaeval jobs in each district, the creation of a convivial environment where to taste the food of the time and the market day), Bevagna completely recreates in every district a world now lost but still incredibly fascinating. Year after year, expert advisers have offered their help to improve every single aspect, every detail of the event: from the clothes to the scenography, to the techniques, and at the same time have a historical reconstruction that is as close as possible to reality. This magical event is repeated every summer when, in the last ten days of June, voices of merchants and people can be heard in the streets and in shops illuminated by the dim light of candles, craftsmen intent on their work can be seen using techniques now obsolete and mostly forgotten, and the town squares become a stage for political discussions and typical scenes of the everyday life… of many centuries ago! Scientific consultant to the Gaite Market is Franco Franceschi, professor of mediaeval history at the University of Siena. A jury made up of renowned academics, who teach or have published essays on subjects related to the Middle Ages, assign a score to the historical and technical quality of the representations. Until the final announcement, the results of each competition are kept secret, enclosed in envelopes jealously guarded by the Carabinieri, to keep tension and expectations alive  for the whole period.

 

The old workshops, photo by Giacinto Bona

The old workshops, photo by Giacinto Bona courtesy of Mercato delle Gaite

The expertise

But why is the event called the Gaite Market? The word gaita, derived from the Lombard word watha meaning guard, is found – as mentioned – in a Medieval Statute of which we have a 16th-century copy and which subdivided the mediaeval village into several districts called guaite or gaite. The four gaite that compete each year to win the competition are: San Giorgio, San Pietro, Santa Maria and San Giovanni. Each of them has demonstrated over the years several strengths and points of excellence: the gaita of San Giorgio can boast the Novus Ignis – a group of young people who have given new life to the music of the 13th and 14th centuries – a choir and a group of mediaeval dancers, and includes traditional craftsmen such as blacksmiths, minters and luthiers; the gaita of San Giovanni has won more competitions than any other gaita. Among the crafts that have made it famous are papermaking from rags and glass production starting from sand and river cobblestones; the gaita of San Pietro features a baker’s shop and an apothecary shop. It also offers the opportunity to observe how wax candles are made, discover the secrets of the Ars Tinctoria and watch fascinated as monks carefully illuminate manuscripts inside their scriptorium; finally, the gaita of Santa Maria is specialised in any kind of wool and hemp techniques, from spinning to weaving.

Born from the desire to enliven a village, the Gaite Market has also had the undisputed merit of finding the winning formula to rediscover and recreate traditional crafts and make them known to new generations with the enthusiasm of a competition and a game, so to preserve their memory.

 

Bevagna, courtesy of Mercato delle Gaite

 


 

Bibliography and websites

Caldarelli, Il mercato delle Gaite. Grandi storie di piccola gente o, forse, piccole storie di gente grande, Marsciano, La Rocca, 2011

http://www.ilmercatodellegaite.it

http://gaitasangiovanni.it

http://www.gaitasanpietro.com/

http://www.gaitasantamaria.com/

https://www.facebook.com/gaitasangiorgio/

 

 

More on Bevagna

Bettona belongs to the Club
I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia

 


Being the only Etruscan settlement on the left bank of Tiber river, Bettona rises 365 meters above the sea level, on a hill that outlines the extreme propagation of a hilly system detached from the Martani Mountains. Railing of Umbria, it dominates the flat valley below, and it opens up to the surrounding towns and the Apennine, which, far away, rise above.

bettona

Museum of the City of Bettona

 

Its ancient Umbrian-Etruscan origins, numerous archaeological finds and well preserved walls, make Bettona a place rich in historical-artistic testimonies, a widespread museum that extends throughout the territory. Its palaces, once splendid residences, its breathtaking views, its finely adorned churches and oratories, and its municipal museum, are an compulsory stop for tourists, scholars and enthusiasts.

The Museum

Placed in Piazza Cavour, the Museum of the City of Bettona is set on the contingency of Palazzo del Podestà and Palazzo Biancalana. The first was built in 1371 as part of the city reconstruction ordered by the cardinal and papal legate Egidio Albornoz; the second was built in neoclassical style on owner Francesco Biancalana’s project after the second half of the Nineteenth Century.

 

museo_bettona

Marble head of Aphrodite, II sec. A.D

 

The collection, deeply rooted in local history, includes two distinct sections, both of great value: an archaeological and a pictorial one.
The archaeological section of the Museum makes the exhibition start, testifying the territory’s origins. It includes Etruscan artifacts, a large number of architectural crockery, funeral and border caskets, ceramics, sculptural works of the late Hellenistic period and Roman marbles.
Among the most remarkable pieces of the collection there is a magnificent marble head of Aphrodite dating back to the middle of the Imperial Age, discovered in 1884 in the agricultural land owned by the Bianconi family; stolen in 1987, it was found then in New York in 2001.
Jewels and other finds found in the tomb of the Colle, the burial chamber discovered in 1913, are instead exposed to the National Archaeological Museum of Umbria in Perugia.
The renovation work of the pavement of Piazza Cavour has shown an ancient monumental well dating back to the end of the Fifteenth Century; it is a circular plant made by squared stone rocks. Interesting
are also the remains of an underground masonry and a Roman road.

The Picture Gallery

The Town Picture Gallery occupies, on the other hand, the Fourteenth Century Palazzo del Podestà and some rooms of Biancalana family’s residence.
The collection, which dates back to 1904, includes different kind of pieces, all close to local history. The Picture Gallery houses about sixty works, mostly pictorial, such as: the Saint Anthony of Padua and the Madonna della Misericordia with the saints Stefano, Girolamo and clients by Pietro Vannucci called “Il Perugino“, two precious fourteenth-century miniature chorales, St. Michael the Archangel of Fiorenzo di Lorenzo, a polychrome wood crucifix attributed to Agostino di Duccio, the monumental altarpiece with the Madonna in glory and Saints by Jacopo Siculo, a tabernacle with Christ and Evangelists attributed to Domínikos Theotokópoulos better known as “El Greco“, Saints Peter and Paul by Giuseppe Ribera known as “Lo Spagnoletto“, an in the round glazed earthenware depicting St. Anthony of Padua, inspired by the eDella Robbia, and a wonderful table with the Adoration of the Shepherds of the artist Dono Doni from Assisi, fast restored after the earthquake of October 2016. The intervention, funded by the Uffizi Gallery, was lead intra moenia through the creation of a restoration laboratory visible to everyone.
Inside the Museum, there are also active educational services with a quality teaching offer that combines the artistic rigor of collections with a creative atmosphere. Art, play and creativity used to communicate to the new generations the importance that art has in the social and anthropological development of each one of us.

 

bettona-museum

The Picture Gallery

Lugnano in Teverina belongs to the Club
I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia

 


On the hills around Lugnano in Teverina, a few kilometers from the border between Umbria and Latium, there is a place with an ominous and evocative name: the Necropolis of Children.

The Macabre Find

Forty-seven dead infants, found inside the five rooms of the ancient Roman villa – left to decay from the III Century a.C. – were all buried within a short time, as suggested by their stratified collocation, so that the floor had risen up to three metres, even though belonging to the same archeological site. The corpses of the bigger ones were stuck in amphoras, while infants and fetuses often lay on each other or are covered byfragments from the villa in ruins.

 

villa romana di Poggio Gramignano

One of the children found in the Roman villa of Poggio Gramignano and kept at the Lugnano Municipal Antiquarium, pic via

 

You must not consider people from the late Empire period as infanticide, because the hecatomb was due to a violent epidemic. In 2016, archaeologists discovered that the most lethal form of malaria, the Plasmodium falciparum strain, making Poggio Gramignano of Lugnano the oldest evidence of the disease penetration in Europe and in the Mediterranean area.

The Archaeological Site

The villa, which appeared as the percfect villa theorized by Varro, was transformed into a necropolis since the V Century. Though the body of adults are not been discovered yet, there are interested finds to talk about. In addition to isolated bones of adults, consumed, since they were alive, by malnutrition and porous (nerve tissue necrosis), raven’s claws, part of a toad‘s skeleton and several skeletal pieces of dog puppies have also been found. The latter, without any trace of atmospheric events and scattered along all three meters of the tumulus – made of bodies, pots, earth and ashes – were undoubtedly torn apart for ritual purposes. The sacrifice of dog puppies (five or six months old) was indeed linked to the worship of Ecate, a god from the underground who had the task to carry the deads in the Hereafter, not to mention that the same type of sacrifice was used to purify the abortion women (just remember the twenty-two fetuses buried in the villa). Also Pliny the Elder soke about those habits, linking the subject chosen for the sacrifice to Sirius, the Constellation of the Dog, a star that “rises” in the summer, a period in which the recurrence of malarial fevers is at its apex in Italy.

Pagan Incursions

Also some carbonized honeysuckle remains prove that the hecatomb happened in summer, because the honeysuckle is a shrub of the Mediterranean area that is in bloom during that period of the year. It is curious that, in an area officially considered christianized, had appeared such pagan rituals.

 

Honeysuckle, photo via

 

Moreover, we do not know who were that people, what was their ethnicity or their religion, we even did not know if their settlement was isolated or even a part of a community able to maintain its cultural independence against Cristian unifying action. We cannot exclude that with such a violent pestilence those poor souls had appealed to ancestral cults in order to survive the disease that was decimating them.

Chapters to be Rewritten

Even the fearsome Attila, the notorious Flagellum Dei who threated to plunder Rome in 452, probably decided to renounce because he didn’t want to die of malaria. According to what was written in the Leges novellae divi Valentiniani (V Century), among the reasons that led him to give up there was also a not specified pestilence, but now it may have found a name and a place.
The mephitic air of those areas will also strike Sidonio Apollinare, a few years later (467 a.C.):

«Then I crossed the other cities along Via Flaminia – one after the other – leaving the Piceni on the left and the Umbri on the right; and here my exhausted body succumbed to sirocco from Calabria or the unhealthy air of Tuscan lands, dense of myasms, sometimes with a sensation of cold, some others of hot. Thirst and fever devastated my soul to the core; in vain, I drank from from pleasurable fountains, from hidden springs and from every stream of water I encountered, even thought thay were vitreous translucents of the Velino, the frozen waters of the Clitumno, the ceruleas ones of Aniene, the sulfuries one of Nera, the clear waters of Farfa or the red ones of the Tiber.» (Epistulae, I.5, 8-9)

Attila

A coin depicting Attila, photo via

It is not so strange that Attila, camped at Ager Ambulejus (today’s Governolo, Mantua), decided to save Rome – and what remained of its own troops. Undoubtedly, it is a more plausible hypothesis than the blessed crucifix of Leo I, which, according to legend, pushed the king of the Huns far from Rome.
Certainly, in this story, superstition and science intersect in a rather intriguing way, demonstrating how many and which demons a plague can give rise to in the minds of men. On the other hand,we have to say that several histories of esoteric taste also circulated on Attila. Even though he was brave and cruel in battle, probably he was a simple and superstitious man – even according to the historian Prisco of Panion: it seems that convinced that the death of Alarico, King of Visigoths, was closely related to the looting carried out in Rome in 410, had decided to stay away from the city for fear of doing the same.

 

 

More on Lugnano in Teverina

Sitography:

Con Roberto Montagnetti, alla scoperta della Necropoli di Poggio Gramignano, in www.orvietonews.it 

http://lugnanomuseocivico.blogspot.it/ 

Villa Rustica di Poggio Gramignano a Lugnano in Teverina, in www.paesionline.it 

Antiquarium comunale di Lugnano in Teverina, in www.beniculturali.it 

Lugnano: la villa romana di Poggio Gramignano tornerà a rivelare i suoi segreti, in www.umbriaecultura.it 

Lugnano in Teverina: il borgo con l’archeologia nel DNA, din www.umbriaecultura.it 

Chi fermò Attila? Forse la malaria, din www.popsci.it 

http://www.turismolugnanointeverina.it 

Lugnano in Teverina, sorprendenti scoperti nella necropoli di Villa Gramignano, in www.umbriaindiretta.it 

Sorprendenti scoperte nella Necropoli di Lugnano in Teverina, in www.terniinrete.it 

http://www.comune.lugnanointeverina.tr.it 

 

 

Montefalco belongs to the Club
I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia

 


From the top of the hills above the plains of the two Umbrian rivers Clitunno and Topino, the village of Montefalco looks out over the Umbrian valley; a village surrounded by olive groves and vineyards that form a sort of precious emerald and ruby ​​necklace, nuances that recall the deep bond between this land and the rapid passing of the seasons, each one with its characteristic colours. 

Right in this historic open-air theatre, the four quarters of St. Augustine, St. Bartholomew, St. Fortunato, and St. Francis are on stage, as actors, in the City Hall square. Every year, they make relive ancient scenes, the simplicity of never forgotten country life.
The four city inns, during these days, are decorated with the vivid colours of the neighbourhoods and they take place, always within the city walls, in typical and suggestive places of the village, where you can taste plates and wines of Umbrian tradition.
During the whole festival, Agosto Montefalchese is animated with an Historical Parade, with characters from the Renaissance Period, the Tamburini Challenge (drummers) and the Flag-wavers. 

 

Tamburini Challenge

The challenge of the Tamburini, photo via

 

All this glorious historical recalling is centred on the Palio and on the conquest of the Golden Falcon, the majestic volatile symbol of the Municipality itself. Ancient chronicles tell us that Emperor Frederick II of Swabia renamed the ancient town of Coccorone in Montefalco, just because of the massive presence of these birds flying over those hills.
The contest is structured in several races that keep the whole village in anxiety: they are ancient competitions, moments that bind all citizens, ready to scream and stunner for their fortune-tellers who contend for primacy.
The price is disputed by young people belonging to the four city districts that, every year highlight their mastery and their love for the neighbourhood.
The first challenge is the shot with the crossbow, whose target is a reproduction of a bull’s head with different scores depending on the part that is reached by the dart. Competition continues to flourish with the second race: the one of the relay, a real ring of conjunction between the Middle Ages and the athletic races of modern times.

 

montefalco

Shooting with the crossbow, photo via

 

The competition apex is reached during the Fuga del Bove (Bulls Flight). A much less crude re-enactment than the one handed down by the medieval chronicles; it was said that on Christmas day an ox was forcedly brought on the streets of the town soon after made it drink wine and pepper to make it furious and difficult to handle. There was, then, a crowd of men waiting for it that, sheltering in robust wooden barrels, stirred it up to make it run until he was exhausted.
The Bulls Race is experienced, today, in a non-cruel way; every quarter is entrusted with a bull to train and treat throughout the winter to get into the race in the middle of August and compete. The ox is dragged and driven by trusted carriers who challenge each other for the honour of their district under the careful look city, waiting for their passage in order to measure their strength and skill. 

 

The Bulls Race

The Bulls Race, photo via

 

The runners of each quarter accompany and drive, running, a bull of nearly five quintals, along an arduous path in a two-to-two-race. The winner is awarded with the Palio, which each year is commissioned to a different artist: it is a painting inspired by the atmosphere that can only be breathed in Montefalco during the days of the Palio.


Sitography: 

www.folclore.eu

Umbria WebCam

ProMontefalco.com

Comune di Montefalco.pg.it 

 

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Spello belongs to the Club
I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia

 


Thanks to its stunning location on a gentle hill in contrast with the nearby Monte Subasio, Spello is one of the Borghi più Belli d’Italia (the most beautiful hamlets of Italy).

Famous for its majestic flower decorations during Corpus Domini, which year after year become increasingly popular even outside Umbria, and during which the streets are colored with flower carpets representing religious scenes, the small village was founded by the Umbrian and then it fell under the Romans around 41 BC. In the Augustan era it was named “Splendida colonia Iulia” (Splendid Iulia Colony). The Romans gave to Spello the Empire’s typical urban structures, such as walls, spas, a theater and even waterworks that, despite the various vicissitudes – from the Barbarian invasion to the Dukedom and Papal domain, have been preserved up to now.

 

View of Spello

View of Spello, photo by Marica Sorbini

 

Thanks to the rediscovery of one of them, the hamlet has become an attraction for sportsmen as well: if you are hikers with a passion for nature there is a wonderful path for you! In fact, in 2009, a section of the Roman aqueduct was recovered thanks to a planned project by architect Stefano Antinucci, in order to create a trail for hikers and mountain bikers. The old structure made of white and rose limestone, underwent several renovations over the years and was operative until the Nineteenth Century when, due to excessive losses, it was replaced by a new structure and therefore it temporarily fell into oblivion. But today the aqueduct is an important find, preserving many original traces that can be admired during the journey, intersecting with old bridges and even a drinking trough, once used to water animals. Now, there is a little fountain from which fresh water can be drawn.

 

spello

Roman aqueduct, photos by Marica Sorbini

 

The trail has its starting point in Spello: from the city center you have to reach Fonte della Bulgarella (313 m). From there you go through a well-traced path that comes under the small and characteristic village of Collepino (456 m altitude), but of course it is also possible to walk through it in the opposite direction, and indeed, it is considered as the natural continuation of the pre-existing Path 52, which directly connects Mount Subasio to Collepino. It develops for about 5 km and is predominantly flat, and it is suitable for hikers of all ages, including children and the elderly. Along it there are benches that allow people to rest, but, above all, to enjoy and admire the surrounding scenery: glimpses on the Chiona Valley, the Apennine hills and Spello are undoubtedly good reasons to undertake this walk.

 

Spello

Collepino Trail, photo by Marica Sorbini

 

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San Gemini belongs to the Club
I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia

 


Geolab is a permanent exhibition dedicated to Geology. A place designed to tell how our planet works, how Umbria was born, and what are the mechanisms that are at the basis of its evolution. At Geolab is: “forbidden not to touch”. 

Geolab is more than a museum: it is almost a lab, which in San Gemini hosts several interactive machines
explaining things in a funny way, but above all, it invites the visitor to observe and experiment with a scientific method.

 

aquadrio

Let’s Discover the Earth

The visit unwinds through five halls along a path that leads the visitor from the discovery of the Earth’s structure to the landscape reading, through the main geological outcrops of Umbria.
The first room opens with the discovery, thanks to special lens, that the surface of the Earth is divided into large plates: a game, that allows to disassemble and reassemble the planisphere of 150 million years ago, and a wheel of time separating Africa and South America that, by showing plaques’ movements in the past, help to understand how Oceans were born.
Between the first and the second room you will enter in a great Earthy globe, where you can see how it is made the inner part of our planet – the core. Afterwards, with the help of an interactive plastic, the visitor can find out how mountains were born,  why earthquakes strike and where volcanoes open.
With the third room you get into to the geodynamic events of the Mediterranean area and Italy. A game allows you to go back in time and find out how our Peninsula had been formed: answering the questions correctly, you can make three plastics raise, and they represent as many moments in Italian geological history.
The fourth is dedicated to Umbria: here you can try to lift the Apennine from the sea and see erosion phenomena. In the centre, a large plastic with an aquarium offers, at a glance, both the geological history of the Region and the rock formation environments that form it, along with rocks specimens themselves. A space is dedicated to fossils and another to the view of Umbrian rocks secrets under a microscope.
In the last hall, made up of a deconsecrated church, you can finally get to know the main phenomena and the geological sites in Umbria.
Some examples: the recording, with a seismograph, of the jumps of visitors introduces the study of earthquakes; an active plastic explains how San Gemini mineral water forms. Digging into a tub filled with plastic balls, you can recover fossil bones, then identify the ancient Umbrian animal now extinct to which they belonged.

 

geolab

Educational Labs

Geolab is a space where it is possible to directly handling exposed materials. To this feature, creators wanted to add direct experience and scientific research. Laboratory activity is structured in different thematic paths: 
Pages written in the rock: the rocks are the only evidence of an ancient and slow history that perpetuates to present, made of settlements, eruptions and upheavals within the Earth. Interestingly, it is their study and their recognition based on their macroscopic characteristics: colour, hardness, weight and texture.
Fossils: Science that studies past life, Paleontology, has the power to bring us back in time, into a world of strange animals and plants. Fossils are the only element to understand the eternal pulsation of life and the Planets’ eternal changing.
Description and representation of landscape, geography and topography: study of the shapes of landscape in order to construct a map.
The adventures of Teo the trilobite and Minnie the ammonite: through the story of the adventures of the trilobite Teo and those of the tyrant ammonite, children will discover the various evolutionary phases of living beings, including fossils (by colouring and cutting them) and their position in the different Geological Eras drawn on the carpet.
Home Science: The thread of this lab is the story of daily experiences through the eyes of the scientist. With a series of experiments, you will be able to know some phenomena that, although seemingly obvious, introduce us to the laws of Physics that regulate them. 

 

geolab

 

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