23 February, 2019
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The title of this article, is also the name of the project presented to the press at the Rocca Albornoziana in Spoleto. It is emblematic of the spirit o f the project itself and of the objectives that it intends to pursue.

La Rocca is the symbol of Spoleto, a city that is a chest containing distinguished treasures, not only within and outside its walls, but also beyond the fortress itself, which has stood for centuries as a its suggestive sentinel. Behind the fortress, commissioned by Pope Innocent VI and built under the guidance of Cardinal Egidio Albornoz,there is what is called the Spoleto Mountain. The ridge extends for about 7000 hectares between the Flaminia state road and the Nera Valley. It contains many natural, historical and religious treasures, which can be experienced through suggestive paths that are worth to be known and appreciated.

Dalla Rocca alla Roccia aims of enhancing, promoting and redeveloping the strong bond between Spoleto and its mountain by proposing routes that from the “Rocca” – heart of the whole project – wind both towards the city center and towards itineraries in the heart of the mountain.

The project, winner of public tender: “Por Fesr 2014-2020 Cultural and Creative enterprises”, will be realized by the Icaro Network, composed of three Umbrian companies of excellence: Hyla Nature Experience (project leader), an association through which experiential initiatives are organized in contact with nature; Int.Geo.Mod. Srl, former spin-off of the University of Perugia, which deals with research and development in the field of  local marketing and by the Link 3C Cooperative Company which has developed the Umbrex Circuit, an innovative platform which facilitates traders in buying and selling, and offers the chance of using commercial credits for the payments.

 

New technologies to support the tourism

Dalla Rocca alla Roccia has been recognized an innovative idea because it offers an integrated solution of new technologies to support tourism and provides a complete answer to the different needs of the potential tourist. Innovative supports have been identified, in order to promote sustainable tourism and improve the accessibility for disabled people. Moreover, the project includes the creation of immersive experiences for tourists, thanks to green paths and light mobility networks. Dedicated packages for families and schools will be available, so as specific tools designed to communicate the beauties of the territory to children, thematic events about the environment and the local history, scientific conferences and enogastronomic itineraries.

The multimedia center and the innovative app

The Rocca of Spoleto will become a multimedia center where, through totem touchscreen, it will be possible to have multilingual information about the main sites of interest in the area. The Rocca will be the centre where renting special laptops which will accompany the tourist through the path choosen. The App of virtual reality, through a highly innovative technology, will automatically activate near the sites of interest identified by the project, and will provide information, photos and videos.

 

Rocca Albornoziana di Spoleto, photo by Enrico Mezzasoma

Tourist packages and commercial credit circuits

Specialized excursionist guides will guide the visitors to the discovery of the Spoleto’s mountain paths. We are talking about: the “Greenway del Nera”, the “Fontanili of Monte Fionchi”, “Monteluco” and the hiking network of the environmental areas of the Spoleto Municipality. These itineraries will be included in real tour packages through an activity involving the receptive structures of the territory. Furthermore, they will be proposed in the complementary regional market of the Circuit Umbrex and in the commercial credit circuits of other eleven Italian regions, through the internet portal www.viaggiareincrediti.it.

The Laboratory of Earth Sciences

Another remarkable element of the project will be the Laboratory of Earth Sciences: a special classroom with panoramic projections for providing an immersive educational space thanks to video mapping techniques. Here there will be a bookshop too, for the sale of books / guides about the territory and gadgets inspired by the branding of the project.

Additional services

The project will be promoted through the Internet website www.dallaroccaallaroccia.it – currently under construction. It will provide updated information, the chance of online booking of the services offered, links with the accommodation facilities of the territory. The access to a virtual newsstand in which the digital editorial material on Spoleto and its highlights will be collected.

The love for a craft work which turns into art: this is the story of a boy who has preserved an important heritage, guided by his grandmother.

Photo by Claudia Ioan

 

The meeting is at the Retificio Mancinelli, in San Feliciano (Magione). To frame the garden there are the plastic circles of the larger nets, bundled on one side to indicate the industriousness of that villa on the lake, apparently quiet.
Andrea Mancinelli and his grandmother welcome us in the large and bright work room. The morning sun cuts it obliquely like a perfect diamond. On one side, stacked wooden chairs rise face to face with a particular hanger, which instead of cloche, shows some nets.

 

Andrea Mancinelli and grandmother, photo by Claudia Ioan

A room lost in the past

In a room with many windows, Andrea and his grandmother sew the nets. The Retificio Mancinelli could be reduced to this luminous box, where the boy learns an ancient trade and gives it new life. Andrea is guided by a person who is really well known in this area. It does not seem so out of place that table, dangerously similar to the teaching post, sandwiched between boxes filled with nets and covered with sinkers and needles.
A room that seems lost in the past, with the cotton models of the nets and the photo of the late patriarch to keep under control every element of a craft work that has its roots in the daily life of the Trasimeno fishermen.

 

Photo by Claudia Ioan

 

To complete the scene, a sort of wooden stool placed above a cabinet – which I will later discover to be a support for the large nylon traps – and some pulleys hanging from the ceiling, to which Andrea immediately hangs a tofo.
While the photographers are unleashed, I observe the technical perfection of this creation, with its deceptions that trap the fishes. Andrea, meanwhile, gives us a practical demonstration of how the net is attached to the circles, counting the points one by one: every four points, he stops and makes a knot. This is suggests a rather repetitive work, which  demands an extreme attention. What he calls the needle, is actually achecella, a sort of comb with only two teeth that Andrea uses smoothly and careful as if he were combing the hair of his beloved.

 

Photo by Claudia Ioan

Since 1955

According to his grandmother, Andrea still has much to learn. I try to understand if she is proud of her nephew, and of how he has decided to preserve a craft work to which she has dedicated her life. Instead of answering me, she starts talking about herself.
Since 1955 this was her work, but for a year now it has been taking a break because of her health conditions. She has worked a lot and with passion, but now she feels that her energy is fading.
The worry for the health, as well as the difficulty of resigning herself to the inevitability of this situation, make her voice crack – but I do not need to tell her that she is a warrior and that we all would want to have a grandmother like her.

 

Photo by Claudia Ioan

Accuracy and experience

From the demonstration by Andrea we understand that this type of work is extremely complex: it requires precision and experience, as well as an extremely high attention. Andrea deploys a trammel spreading it between the hanger and the window to the east: the nylon, initially a very light blue, seems almost to disappear, suspended between the dust and the late morning sun.

 

Photo by Massimiliano Tuveri

 

Now I understand why the room is so bright. It should not be easy, moreover, to remember the innumerable patterns of the equally innumerable types of the nets. Then some worn out notes appear, stored in the drawers of the teaching post: schemes, numbers, updates. All you need to build a perfect net is written there, on unfolded accounting sheets and notebooks, a humble looking heritage that is worth more than a rare treasure.
It is this knowledge that allows the construction of complicated trammel nets and similar hare hunting nets, or those used at the sea, for the sport, for the shop windows, for the restaurants and for children’s games. Those nets that generations and generations of fishermen have used as their work tools on the Trasimeno Lake, whose pastel green stands out discreetly at the end of the road.

 

Photo by Massimiliano Tuveri

 


Retificio Mancinelli

“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.

Let’s talk about the numbers: 150,000 / 180,000 flowers of Crocus Sativus cover an immense field beautiful and violet, and from all that field you get only one kilogram of saffron.

Red gold

A huge amount of flowers for a small product: of course this causes a raise in the price, as the caviar, but unlike this one, the saffron has a thousand-year history that oscillates between magic, health, prestige and cuisine. It has been a successful product for centuries, to the point of obtaining the nickname of red gold. It was a multitasking product, used as a dye for real fabrics, but also as a precious aphrodisiac and cosmetic to revive pale cheeks.
In Italy the word saffron immediately evokes the risotto alla Milanese, while in France it is an ingredient of bouillabaisse (fish soup) and in Sweden it is an element of the Grande Amaro Svedese.
Everyone uses saffron. In fact it is really requested and 180 tons a year are produced in the world. 90% comes from Iran. The powder of saffron is one of the spices which is most subject to fraudes and to be adulterated. The powder can be mixed with turmeric or with calendula, but there are those who do not hesitate to add powdered minerals or synthetic dyes. Moreover, as in ancient spices shops, there is also the risk of buying a badly preserved product.

 

prodotti tipici umbria

Saffron

Saffron of the dukedom

Once, the saffron arrived from the East following the path of the Via delle Spezie, eventually it started to be was cultivated in Italy too, above all in Abruzzo and in the territories of Spoleto and Terni.
Various historical and economic events had made it disappear from the domestic market, but now it is back and it is becoming really very important. In Italy it is not produce so much, but we cultivate the red saffron variet, which is really precious. In order to face the expenses and difficulties of cultivation and harvesting, forty Umbrian producers created an association with the evocative name of Saffron of the Dukedom, to rember the presence of the Duchy of Spoleto. One of the associates, Mr. Giuliano Sfascia, explained to me the characteristics that the product must have to be of the highest quality, and brought me to the field, where I observed the saffron itself.

 

umbria

The crocuses

 

The flowers, the crocuses, are born from the bulbs that are placed in the ground in July, but they do not bear the intensive cultivation, they need space and air, they grow on the hills, they need light and well drained soils, sandy or silty.
The 180,000 flowers, needed to obtain a kilo of saffron, can only be picked up by hand, bent over the crocuses, early in the morning, when the flowers are still closed. Each flower has only three red stigmas (antennines) that contain the spice which is the saffron. This harsh harvest is called overflowing and is done in October.
Once the flowers have been collected, the three stigmas are delicately come off, placed in a glass vase and immediately left to dry. The first they dry, the better the taste of the spice will be. Saffron production requires effort and many hours of work and it is subject to a thousand risks, bad weather and parasites. To all this we must add that every collection, to obtain the quality certification, must be analyzed by an authorized laboratory. Crocina, the color, Pirocrocina, the bitter taste and Safranale, the aroma, are the three substances that characterize the saffron, but only if the presence of these substances is high we have the saffron of the best quality. No magic. Good cultivation helps the three substances to give their best. So, good “risotto” to everyone.

For centuries the area around the lake Trasimeno lake has been an important reference point for the cultivation of wine in Umbria.

A difficult search for identity

The production territory has always had a significative difficulty in finding an identity with regard to its wine production. Quite hard identifing a specific wine variety, as it is possible in other areas of Umbria, like Orvieto, Torgiano or Montefalco.
Since the very beginning of the millennium, the lake area, like many others in Italy, has seen the spread of the production of Sangiovese and of other international wine varieties, first of all the well – known merlot and with large use of small wooden barrels. A type of production influenced by the trend of that moment, but which leaded to a lack of common identity among the wineries of the Trasimeno.
The same disciplinary of production of the DOC “Colli del Trasimeno” is very varied, as it admits numerous international vine varieties, from the chardonnay, to the pinot noir, as well as typically Umbrian ones, such as the Grechetto and the Trebbiano.

 

Trasimeno wine, photo by Facebook

A reference point in the middle of chaos

In recent years, this difficult search for identity, seems to have reached a turning point: we are talking about the increasing discovery and enhancement of Gamay del Trasimeno, already included in the DOC, cited above.
The history of this vine variety is not one of the most lucky, since it has been confused with the most famous Gamay cultivated in France, in the Beaujolais region, for a long time.
Actually, the Umbrian Gamay  is part of the Sardinian Cannonau family, the Alicante and the Spanish Garnacha.
Its ancient origins are Hellenic and from that area, it spreaded to the rest of Europe, above all, it took root in the Iberican peninsula. Eventually, Spanish people introduced it to Sardinia, around the middle of the fifteenth century. From here, originated its journey towards our Umbria.
This happened thanks to the numerous Sardinian shepherds migrated to the Trasimeno area from the middle of the nineteenth century, who brought with them the wine varieties of their lands.

An example of adaptation to the territory

 

The Gamay of Trasimeno wine varieties has been protagonist of innumerable displacements, but it has always managed to adapt and take root in the territories in which it was brought, assuming different names, while the original one has been lost in the memory of the places. The Gamay of Trasimeno has, in fact, a twin brother also in the Marche, called Bordò, cultivated by a handful of wineries in the Piceno area. Instead, in Veneto its name is Tocai Rosso, and in France, Grenache.In any case and whatever its name, the Gamay Of Trasimeno produces many bunches and can be harvested in two moments: a first harvest, for rosé wines, while the second one, gives ruby-red wines with hints of bitter almonds and red fruits.Today Gamay Perugino or Gamay of Trasimeno is increasingly appreciated and known, as shown by the three gold medals won last April by some of the wineries from the Trasimeno lake, at the 2018 edition of the Grenaches du Monde in Catalonia. This is an international event that compared over 850 wines from all over the world, made with grapes from the Grenache family.

Christmas is celebrated in the various part of the world in different ways. In the German-speaking countries the Christmas tree is set up and the four Advent candles are lit. In the Scandinavian countries, where the night is very long, behind each window, candles are placed, as their lights reflecti on the snow and make the night less dark. London, Paris and New York show off more and more beautiful Christmas lights. In Rome too all the traditions are respected with the monumental Christmas tree and the representation of the nativity in St. Peter’s Square.

In Umbria, the tradition of the cri bis dominant. In Massa Martana, cribs are made with all kinds of material, including ice. They come from all the regions of Italy and they are of variouskind: traditional and very modern, classic and abstract. The town of Massa Martana is an evocative setting for the nativity scenes:  every alley and every square celebrates the Christmas time.

The living nativity scene of Marcellano

In the small town of Marcellano, the ancient eastest possession of Todi that still retains the eagle tuderte, is staged every year a picturesque living nativity scene. It i san event which attracts a growing public. The village dates back to the early 1200s, and built inside the castle. For the past thirty years Marcellano has staged the living nativity scene, an event that attracts a growing public. The initiatve involves all the inhabitants of Marcellano who, inside the castle, recreate scenes of daylife as they probably were at the time of Jesus.
Eventually, when night falls, commercial activities stop and on the church square the sacred representation begins. It  starts with the Annunciation. Tourists are pressed in front of the church, then the action moves towards the valley, in the cave where there are the main characters: Maria, Giuseppe and Baby Jesus.
Tourists are still  in the village when the comet star appears, croaking down a line to the cave and leading the way to the Magi Kings. The Magi Kings go to pay homage to Jesus and to bring their precious gifts, on horseback. Only now tourists can move and get off.

 

The Christmas carols

The Christmas carols in Umbria, are called  “laudi”, born in Umbria around the thirteenth century  and still known and appreciated as recently proved by 5,000 umbrian people who gathered to listen to the Polyphonic Choir “M° Tommaso Frescura” directed by professor Emore Paoli. These music is both religious and popular and have been handed down over the centuries almost unaltered. Hearing them, it is possible to experience the traditions of the shepherds, the images of cribs and the music of the pipers.
A pleasant experience that professor Paoli makes live again thanks to the concert which is held every year during the Christmas feast days, in the plateau of Gualdo Cattaneo.

“I experienced the countryside from an arcadian point of view in the first part of my life; with a wish for innovation and above all, under a cultural outlook in the second one».

Maria Grazia Marchetti Lungarotti is a cultured woman: as it is easily understood, talking to her. She is courteous and kind as a woman of other times. Her passion for art and archeology, for wine and olive oil, and the rigor in her studies are the cornerstones of her life. A life also based on discipline: “I have never left much time for amusement and I have never been a “Latin mother.” I have always demanded a lot from my children and this has borne fruit “. In 2011 she was awarded the highest honor conferred by the President of the Italian Republic: Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.
In 1987 with his second husband, Giorgio Lungarotti (they had already created the Wine Museum in 1974) opened the Lungarotti Onlus Foundation, of which she is the director, to promote and enhance the culture of wine. Among the activities of the Foundation, today, there is the management of the two museum complexes: the Museum of Wine and the Olive and Olive Oil Museum, dedicated to wine as well as to olive oil. They are private museums which host precious art collections and are visited by tourists from all over the world.

 

Chiara Lungarotti, Maria Grazia Marchetti Lungarotti, Teresa Severini

How did you come up with the idea of ​​ opening the Wine Museum and later the Olive Oil Museum?

I joined the Umbrian culture and its typical products, a combination that belonged to me. I am an art historian and an archivist: from my interests in the cultural field came the idea of ​​combining high quality production – which was started by my husband, an enlightened entrepreneur, first in Umbria to do that – with a rigorous and complex opening on the historical and artistic aspects related to wine: we speak about Umbria, but above all, about the Mediterranean area. The second museum, the MOO, was opened in 2000, when my husband had already disappeared, and it responded to the same needs to get out of a merely agricultural-productive perspective. In both of them, you can take a real journey through time to discover origins, mythology, imaginary, and other many aspects of the two products.

The New York Times in a review, called The Wine Museum: “The best in Italy”. It was a great satisfaction…

Not only in Italy, but in Europe. It is an unusual reality that proposes a 5,000 year journey through art collections including cups, jugs, amphorae, pottery, medieval, Renaissance and baroque ceramics up to contemporary ones, ancient engravings, as well as ethnographic collections. Both are family-friendly museums, also thanks to the cognitive paths dedicated to children.

For the town of Torgiano they are really meaningful.

Definitely. my husband and me wanted to promote an area of ​​Umbria, very beautiful in terms of landscape, but little known despite the proximity to Perugia and Assisi. The realization of the two museums was very demanding, but today the result is a specialized complex that gives voice not only to the territory, but, to the Italy of wine. This project underlines the tourist potential of our land.

Mrs. Lungarotti what is your bond with Umbria?

I am umbrian and not etruscan – she smiles – a naturalized “Perugina” from Gubbio. With this region I have a very strong bond, which is conneted to the land itself, to culture and to wine. They are the reasons why I have taken this path and I have achieved these results.

How do you see the Umbrian and the Perugia reality, in a social and in artistic point of view? 

I can see interesting effects and a real interest in art, music and culture. Umbria is a fascinating land, unfortunately back compared to other regions, Tuscany for example. We have a beautiful and compelling history, under many aspects. There are some periods of our history which deserve to be discovered such as Umbria during the phase of the Municipalities. In these days an exhibition dedicated to this historical period is taking place in Gubbio: “One day in the Middle Ages. Daily life in the Italian cities of the eleventh-fifteenth centuries”. We contributed through a substantial loan of art works by MUVIT to this event.

Is there a project by the Lungarotti Foundation that you particularly care about?

We have so many exhibitions and conferences. An idea I would like to realize is giving more expository space to the Etruscan period.

The first thing that comes to your mind thinking of this region…

Assisi and San Francesco that have made it famous, but Umbria must be more valued even in the historical and artistic fields.  This suggests major attention to the means of transport system, considering the difficulty in reaching it.

Summer in Florence is hot, down below the Apennines and far from the sea. Even Perugia is far from the sea, but at least it is at the top of a hill and there is always a wind chill refreshing.

Surely in that hot July 1503 Pietro Vannucci was regretting his city. Work and family had brought him to Florence and he was forced to deal with the heat. There are times when the heat also takes away the power to think, not even knowing that the summer is bound to finish, can relieve the feeling of being inside an oven.
But he had to work despite the heat and, while he was working, he sucked his sugared almonds. His supplier was Di Giovanni who provided him, at a high price, with those little delights that cheer the long hours spent sitting in front of the canvases.
Di Giovanni was the apothecary of the Al Giglio pharmacy, and he was used to listen to the artists’ requests, and we’re not talking about painters or stonebreakers, but of the most famous Italian artists of the Renaissance.

 

The painter in black

In the highest spheres of Olympus there was Perugino, the painter with a round, plump face, high forehead, long hair, a cap and an elegant black velvet jacket. Perugino portrayed himself exactly like in the description above, in the Sala del Cambio in Perugia.
Pietro Vannucci from Città della Pieve, known as Perugino, was one of the most influential painters of his time, and like all the best ones, he worked in Rome for the Pope and for the most prestigious customers of that time. Perugino and his colleagues – the painters of the Renaissance – did not use much black because it was considered  the color of mourning. They preferred the delicate colors.
Pietro Vannucci used the black color in the Lamentation of the Dead Christ and in Depositions because the pain inspired by the topics required it. On the other hand, in his portraits he always wears a black jacket, perhaps because it was fashionable among the artists. Even in the portrait done by his pupil, Raphael, he wears a very elegant black jacket and on his head he has a paired black cap.

 

Il Perugino

Confetti with a heart

In July 1503 the artist sucked the sugared almonds with coriander seeds. The sugared almonds make the flavor last for a long time in the mouth. Perugino was a well-to-do gentleman who could afford confetti. Confetti had been known since Roman times because considered digestive, and Lorenzo de ‘Medici offered them at the end of his wedding dinner.
The apothecary  Di Giovanni recorded that in July the painter’s employees, bought three ounces of sugared almonds, about two hundred pounds, so as other delicacies: pink and violet sugared candies, candy quinces and other specialities which were the medicinal preparations of the time.
If Mary Poppins sang: “just a little sugar and the pill goes down”, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the processed sugar was the pill. Sugar and quinces were the base to use with spices and sauces of plants, in order to obtain medicines in the shape of dates, hands, rods and also of clamps.
Perugino was like a rich oilman and he did not pay any attention to the expenses to satisfy his pleasure and care for his big family, because the products that he bought were, from the “Florentine Pharmaceutical Recipe book of 1498: only for the rich and powerful”.

 

 

The Vannucci’s family food

Unfortunately, not everything was so easy. In 1503 his fame as a Vannucci went through a crisis because new trends were advancing and more torment in painting and sculpture was requested. The serenity of Humanism was no longer in fashion and did not correspond to the harshness of the times. The fact of not being appreciated and even criticized, as had happened at the Gonzaga court, had left its mark, and he slept badly. Di Giovanni prepared him some pills which contained poppies to reconcile sleep, as it was believed.
The apothecary’s records are precious, because he noted all the purchases of his customers allowing us to know, over the years, the diseases that occurred in the Vannucci family. So we know that the stomach and intestines were his weak points and also the same for his wife. They often sent somebody to buy the powder of Cassia and Agaric which are laxative plants, so as the Trifera persica.
This remedies of ancient Persian origins, were a very complicated preparation and contained a wide variety of plants: prunes and agaric, but also red roses, oils of violets and dried violets.
It was thought that an ancient remedy was a guarantee of effectiveness. In fact, pieces of mummy were also used, because if the mummy after millennia was still existing, it meant that it was something certainly effective.
The”stomachic things”, were good remedies for treating the stomach of his wife. Chiara Fancelli, daughter of a famous Florentine architect, was the wife and mother of Perugino’s five sons.
He  painted “Our Lady” dozens of times. To paint the Madonna he always used young and beautiful models and perhaps, the most beautiful, was Chiara Fancelli, who seems to have a fragile constitution. Perhaps because of the parties which debilitated the woman.
The products that came out of the ancient pharmacies were remedies with various indications, from the plague, to the headache, to the dog’s fleas.
At home Vannucci come two preparations that are almost panaceas, but that may have to do with childbirth. In fact, the Galen Infringing ointment was also considered an aid to labor pains, while the maidenhair water was considered useful after the birth. Will it be true? We’ll never know. But the aphotecary Di Giovanni has brought down Perugino from Olympus, close to us. Because he suffered from stomachiche and struggleed to sleep too and he loved sucking sugared and sweet things.

 


  1. A. Covi, New sources for the study of Italian Renaissance art., 1969.
  2. Covi, Tacuinum de ‘spezierie, Perugia, ali & no, 2017.

From a symbol of martyrdom to that of marriage: the curious story of the Torcolo di San Costanzo.

Studying the first centuries of Christian cult, it is easier to come across the so-called historical martyrologists, in which the names of the saints and the place of their death were reported. Later, to these lists was added the life – of the martyr or of the confessor – and a description of the death: the undoubtedly most famous document is the Geronimian Martyrology.

 

San Costanzo

The Antonines and the anti-imperials

In this ancient document, compiled in Rome in the fourth century, the name of San Costanzo appears, one of the three patrons saint of the city of Perugia together with San Lorenzo and Sant’Ercolano. Traditionally celebrated on January 29th and therefore called “the saint of the great cold”, to indicate the low temperatures of the period. The first Christians were persecuted for their anti-imperial attitude, responsible for a rather tense civil climate, in short, for political crimes. This is the case of Constantius, the first bishop and protector of Perugia.
The consul Lucio made him immerse in a cauldron of boiling water, from which the future saint came out practically unharmed; after being taken to prison, he managed to escape by converting the keepers. Arrested again, he was condemned to beheaded, a penalty that was imposed around 170 in Foligno, in a place known as Il Trivio. It seems that in this area – called the Campaign of Saint Costanzo, there was a church dedicated to him, demolished in 1527.
After martyrdom, Costanzo’s remains were moved to a place called Areola, outside Porta San Pietro in Perugia, and there they found burial. The church, named after him, was consecrated in that area in 1205. It is in that same building that the unmarried girls, every 29 January, asked the image of the saint about their possibilities to get engaged and to marry.
It seems that, for particular games of refraction, the Saint winks at girls destined for marriage, but only to those unmarried and virgins. For the others there was a consolation prize, necessarily donated by the engaged couple: the Torcolo di San Costanzo.

 

La luminaria, photo by Umbria24

Forms that speak

The shape of this bundt cake, enriched with tasty as rare ingredients, candied citron, raisins, pine nuts, aniseed seeds, recalls a wedding ring; but other interpretations state that it represents the crown of flowers affixed to the reconstituted body of Constantius: a necklace of precious stones untied during the decapitation. For some scholars, the shape of a donut would have only facilitated transport during fairs and markets: you could put several “torcoli” along simple poles. And perhaps, it is no coincidence that San Costanzo, in the official iconography, is represented with a stick. A further interpretation assimilates the hole to the cut neck of the saint, while the five incisions on the surface, which reveal the precious composition, recall the five entrance doors of the city of Perugia. Five are also the gifts donated, every year, by the civil authorities.
Symbols of concord, the laurel wreath from the Municipal Police, the candle from the Mayor, the incense from the Parish Pastoral Council, the “holy wine” and the “torcolo of San Costanzo” from the local artisans, are offered before the traditional illumination inside the Basilica. To follow the Great Fair takes place in Borgo XX Giugno and, of course, the tasting of the delicious torcolo.

 

The recipe (by Rita Boini)

Ingredients:

500 g of flour

125 g of sugar

100 g of  olive oil

75 g of candied cedar made into small pieces

125 g of raisins

50 g of pine nuts

12 g of aniseed seeds

30 g of brewer’s yeast

A pinch of salt

 

Preparation:

Pour the flour on the pastry board, place inside the yeast dissolved in a little ‘warm water, knead the whole flour with warm water in sufficient quantity to obtain a dough from the consistency of the bread and place it in a terrine capable. Cover with a clean cloth and keep it in a warm place away from drafts, at least until the dough volume is doubled. Pour it on the pastry board and add the other ingredients. Work well and give it the shape of a donut, which you will place in a greased pan. Let rise for two to three hours, then bake at 180 °and cook for 40-45 minutes.

 

The torcolo of San Costanzo was consummated in Perugia on 29 January, in the Patron Saint’s day, Sometimes it was prepared at home, but more often it was bought from bakers, as this is a typical baking cake. The girls from Perugia used to give one, as a gift, to their boyfriend on this occasion. The custom of the torcolo of San Costanzo is still felt in the city and, even now, that it is on the market all year round, on 29 January bakeries and pastry shops are filled with torcoli. Other similar cakes are the torcolo of San Biagio, in Pianello, where it is prepared on the saint Patron’day: 3rd February saint is prepared and the torcolo of St. Joseph, which is consumed in Montone. It differs from the first two only because of the lack of aniseed and due to the fact that it is not consumed for the feast of the patron saint.

 


Sources:

www.stradadeivinicantico.com

www.turismo.comune.perugia.it

www.santiebeati.it

  1. Trotta, Diary (gastronomic) of Umbria, Perugia, Aguaplano, 2011.

Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, 1764, in https://www.scribd.com/doc/98861647/Voltaire-Dictionary

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