An Umbrian band: Fast Animal and Slow Kids, commended by the National Press, that has hit the most important stages of the Italian Peninsula and has become one of the most famous bands in the Italian music scene.
The band was born in Perugia nearly ten years ago, when four boys with the same flamboyant passion for music decided to set up a group for fun, where they could vent their overwhelming musical creativity that was not yet fully expressed in their formerly bands. In 2010, after some concerts around Umbria, they opened band concerts such as the Zen Circus one, Il Teatro degli Orrori, Futureheads and Ministri. In summer they participated in the Italia Wave Love Festival held in Livorno and they were rewarded as the best emerging Italian group. After a long tour, they recorded their first album, Cavalli, produced by Andrea Appino, frontman of the Zen Circus, which allowed the group to be noticed within the Italian independent musical environment, also by participating in numerous musical events. In December 2013, the single Cosaci serve won the Rockit Trophy as the best Italian song for both site readers and online magazine editors. In the same period, the album also received the recognition as the best Italian album by the readers of Xl-la Repubblica.
Forse non è la felicità, album cover – Woodworm Label, 2017
In June 2014, the group participated in the tenth edition of MI AMI 2014, an Italian festival dedicated to independent music; in the same month they also played as opening band at Sherwood Festival in Padua. Their second last album Alaska was the most sold “alternative” album on iTunes in Italy and the tour recorded six sold out concerts and 2800 spectators at Alcatraz in Milan. On December 21st, 2016, they officially announce the release of their new album Forse non è la felicità, an adrenaline record with celebrated contaminations, born in total expressive freedom and which develops a true response to deep the chaos of life. Their new promotional tour of their latest work led them to major Italian music festivals and clubs, ending this kaleidoscopic trip at home, in the Strozza Music Fest of Perugia.
From left to righ: Alessandro Guercini (guitar), Alessio Mingoli (drums and second voice), Aimone Romizi (guitar, voice and percussions), Jacopo Gigliotti (bass). Pic by Alessio Albi
«The (true) landscape is broad and harmonious, quiet, colorful, large, varied and beautiful. Mainly, it is an aesthetic phenomenon, closer to the eye than to the reason, more related to the heart, to the soul, to the sensitivity and to its dispositions than to the spirit and the intellect, closer to the feminine than to the male principle. The true landscape is the result of the becoming of something organic and living. To us, it is more familiar than extraneous, but more distant than closer, it manifests more homesickness than presence; it elevates us above the everyday life and it borders on poetry. But even if it reminds us of the unlimited, the infinite, the maternal landscape always offers humans a home, warmth and shelter. It is a treasure of the past, of the history, culture and tradition, peace and freedom, happiness and love, of the rest in the countryside, of solitude and health found in relation to the frenzy of everyday life and the noises of the city; it must be crossed and lived on foot, it will not reveal its secret to the tourist or to the naked intellect. »(Gerhardt Hard)
Simmel considered landscape as a «work of art in statu nascendi», and it exists on the basis of three unavoidable conditions: it cannot be realized without a subject, without nature, and without the contact between them. The relationship, in particular, is expressed through the signs, the constructions created by man on the territory and then through agriculture, the litmus paper of that union’s happiness. But the relationship can also be the one given by the visitor who, with his curious look, characterizes a zone, linking its significant traits with the concept of typicality.
The Plant of Civilization
Between Spoleto and Assisi, where millions of olive trees follow one another for about thirty-five kilometers, that type of relationship finds its highest shape.
In the Fascia Olivata (Olive Tree Belt), stretched at seven hundred meters of altitude, the history of olive cultivation begins long time ago, indeed. The olive tree is, for Fernand Braudel, the «plant of civilization», because it marks the boundaries of the ancient Mediterranean area; the oil was used as a seasoning, for religious rites, but also in the pharmacopoeia and lighting. On the Edict of Rotari (643 BC), for those who had cut an olive tree, it was inflicted a punishment three times severe than the one imposed on anyone who cut any other fruit tree. Finally, according to Castor Durante from Gualdo Tadino (1586), some olives at the end of the meal helped digestion.
But without spending too much time in reading books, just take a trip to Bovara, near Trevi, and admire the legacy of that tradition with your own eyes. The majestic Olive Tree of Saint Emiliano, with its nine meters of circumference and five in height, is a specimen seventeen centuries old. Leaving aside the story of the decapitation of Saint Emiliano, Bishop of Trevi – attached, at least according to a code of the IX Century, to the plant and then beheaded – the studies have shown that the olive tree belongs to a particular genotype, very resistant, that after the first eight hundred years of life saw the inside of his trunk rotting and then outer parts divide, turning counterclockwise.
A Unique Landscape
The olive growers know that these areas of Umbria require a rather strong cultivar, able to cling to the dry soil, which cannot maintain moisture. The Muraiolo variety has therefore been designated as the ideal plant to ward off the hydrogeological risk in the area and, at the same time, to give that typical oil with a spicy and bitter taste, refined by aromatic herbs.
Its cultivation has also altered the territory, remodeling it, forming a continuous upward strip that is detrimental for the forest. It has characterized the area with embankments, lunettes and terracing, making it recognizable to the point of enrolling it in the catalog of Historical Rural Landscapes, along with the Plestini Highlands, the emmer fields of Monteleone di Spoleto, the hills of Montefalco, the cliff of Orvieto , the knoll of Baschi and the plateaus of Castelluccio di Norcia. Goal that follows the subscription to the Cities of Oil National Association – which brings together all the Municipalities, Provinces, Chambers of Commerce and LAGs producing environmental and cultural values, centered on PDOs – and preludes to the recognition of the area as a FAO Foods Landscape (it would be the first in Europe) and then as a UNESCO site.
The greatest danger that the landscape can incur – not to be enrolled into collective memory and not to be recognized as characteristic of a Planet’s particular area – is thus avoided: no one, whether it is born in that place or from afar, can now separate the Fascia Olivata from the cities of Assisi, Spello, Foligno, Trevi, Campello sul Clitunno and Spoleto.
However, the objective is not to transform the territory into a museum, but to link it with its cultural and community heritage, even to preserve it from the changes that might destroy it. Indeed, the years of World War I are not too far, when the olives were cut to fill the lack of coal in the Northern factories; neither the terrible frosts of 1929 or 1956, which led to a significant contraction in production. Neither the Sixties are not far away, when fashion preferred seeds oil instead of the olive one, as well as failing to find labor for every autumnal harvest. Above all considering that the dictates, established by the Trevi Olive Growing Cooperative, born in 1968 to overcome the familiar dimension, are very strict: all the olives must come from the territory of Trevi, they must be hand-collected and delivered to the mill within few hours , and they have to be pressed within twelve hours to maintain the right levels of acidity and oxidation.
There is no way for industrialization and mass production: this Strip keeps adhering to the genuineness of ancient things in the same way as it encircles the hilly slopes, even the harshest. In this way the visitor can enjoy it, perhaps walking along the Olive Trail between Assisi and Spello, or along the one of Francis, whose symbol was the olive itself. It will be able to reconnect the silver foliage to the spicy flavor of the bruschetta with the new oil – the Gold of Spello – that will pour into his mouth, giving him the same awareness and wisdom of those ancient Mediterranean people who preserved civilization by gifting the Earth olive trees.
G. Hard, Die «Landschaft» der Sprache und die «Landschaft» der Geographen. Semantische und forschunglogische Studien, Bonn Ferd-Dümmlers Verlag, 1970, in M. Jakob, Il Paesaggio, Il Mulino, Bologna 2009.⇑ G. Simmel, Philosophie der Lanschaft, in M. Jakob, Il Paesaggio, Il Mulino, Bologna 2009.⇑  M. Jakob, Il Paesaggio, Il Mulino, Bologna 2009.⇑  Ulivo e olio nella storia alimentare dell’Umbria, in www.studiumbri.it ⇑  TreviAmbiente > paesaggi da gustare, 2015⇑  Umbria: protezione di un’origine, a cura di D.O.P. Umbria, Consorzio di tutela dell’olio extra vergine di oliva, 2014.⇑ Da www.reterurale.it⇑  L’Oro di Spello is an annual event that gathers Festa dell’Olivo and Sagra della Bruschetta⇑
The article is promoted by Sviluppumbria, the Regional Society of Economic Development of Umbria
He wears the captain’s armbund of Sassuolo every Sunday and, as a real midfielder, he runs and recovers balls for his team.
Francesco Magnanelli, born in Umbertide and raised in Città di Castello, is a DOC Umbrian, one of those who love territory and simple life, rather far from the stereotype of the modern footballer. He is a halfback, a dirty and hard work. A job done for the others. He started from the youth league of Gubbio and came to the Europe League with his Sassuolo, always carrying a piece of Umbria in his heart.
Francesco Magnanelli, 33 years
What is your link with this region?
It is my land, my original family, my friends. I have a very strong bond with this land and for that I try to come back as soon as I can. I spent my holidays in Umbria, it is a very special and fascinating place. For me it represents simple things, the countryside, barbecues and barefoot walking.
So you still consider it your home, even though you have been living in another place for years? Of course I consider it my home. I always say that I have two houses: one in Sassuolo and one in Città di Castello. In Sassuolo I have my wife, my children and my work; in Città di Castello there are my origins and sometimes, when I am there, I do things I used to do when I was kid. I enjoy the countryside, together with a simple and real life.
In your field you are an Umbrian excellence: do you feel a bit of a representative of this region and of Umbrian sport?
Without exaggerating, I’m just a boy who has managed to get out of Umbria, a region that curbs you. I’ll tell you better: Umbrian young people often go to Perugia to do the university, but only a few of them really go away. Somehow it makes it hard to get out of. If I think of the soccer world, there are so many football schools, but there are few guys who can do extra-regional experiences. Today, I have to say that the situation has a little improved, you can hear of names of emerging young people who might have opportunities, but until a few years ago it was all blocked. In short, it is still difficult to get out of Umbria.
Can this happen with sports?
Exactly. Every village has its own team and there are so many football schools and by improving them, focusing on young people, we could stimulate sport, but also the opening up to the outside.
After your career, will you come back here or stay in Sassuolo?
I still do not know what I will do, for now I take life as it comes. Let’s see in the next few years.
What does it mean to be an Umbrian out of Umbria?
Umbria is a place you really appreciate when you live outside it. You can see from afar all its merits and its defects, that perhaps by experiencing it you do not perceive.
What are the advantages and what are the defects?
The benefits are tranquility, history, art, culture and simple traditions. Traditions, however, can be a double-cut weapon and become defects if they curbs you and block development. Among the flaws there is the lack of proper infrastructure, just think of the fact that Umbria is hard to reach by trains and roads.
What about the stereotype of being withdrawn: did someone or did you notice it?
No. Maybe only Umbrians notice this narrow-mindedness. For everyone else Umbria is a paradise. They only see the best and when they talk about Umbria they talk about it as a happy oasis, a perfect place to live.
How would you describe Umbria in three words?
Charming, origins – just one hour at Città di Castello and start talking straight into dialect – and nest meant as a simple life shelter.
The first thing that comes to mind thinking about Umbria.
My return to the origins, to simplicity, to motherland.
Place water in a medium size pan, together with peeled lemon slices and a spoonful of vinegar. Add salt, bring to the boiling point, then immerse offal for a few minutes. Drain. Chop onion, carrot and celery and fry them in a saucepan together with a few tablespoons of oil. Combine the offal, cook for ten minutes in medium heat and salt. Take offal from the casserole, take them to mince, along with capers and juniper berries, and cook the cream. Add salt, add a few drops of oil, if necessary, and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes. Cover slices of slightly baked bread with this delicious cream.
Canapées with chicken offal or chicken rigaglie are spread throughout Umbria and are typical dish of central Italy. They could be made in several ways, depending on the areas and families. In some modern versions, you can also cut some pickled gherkins together with the other ingredients. At least until 1940, for example during wedding or during threshing period, canapées were made with goose giblets. They put in a saucepan a chopped onion, carrot, celery, sage, lemon peel, and a few spoonfuls of oil. They made them fry lightly, then they added chopped goose giblets, let them season, and in the end they put salt, pepper and a spoonful of vinegar. When the vinegar was evaporated, a drop of dry white wine was poured and they cooked it for about 40 minutes, pouring occasionally a drop of white wine. Giblets where then minced with their cooking bottom, mixing for a while, and finally they obtained a cream that was to be spread on a slice of bread.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
There is a place in Assisi, at PortaPerlici number 6, just inside the walls of the ancient city, which has an important historical memory, meaningful for the city and for the whole region.
It’s a hot Saturday in July when I meet for the first time GiampieroItaliani, the owner of a section of the property that belongs to his family since the 1950s. He immediately define himself as the “guardian” of this special place and tells me with great involvement the history of those walls and those courtyards animated by workers at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century: we are in the ancient Factory of Needles and Pins of Assisi. Why installing a needle factory in Assisi is a question that is unanswered, it is an area that has yet to be investigated and only a few hypotheses can be made. Certainly, this manufacturing activity has been one of the first experiences of industrial revolution in Umbria, witnessing the first attempts to subdivide the production process into work stages and hence the establishment of a young industrial enterprise.
The factory of Assisi was also special for other reasons, indeed both men and women could be hired and all activity was validated by a written regulation posted at the factory and respected by all workers. In addition of being an opportunity for the city’s population, the factory, thanks to its far-sighted Roman entrepreneur Nicola Bolasco, represented a prime example of regulated work with equal opportunities that safeguarded the conditions of workers, both men and women, each one with their own needs and without any kind of exploitation; by guaranteeing decent employment for the workers, Bolasco anticipated somehow the studies on labor law. The State of the Church is in agreement with Bolasco’s regulation so that it asks for its spread and application in all the manufacturing activities of its territories.
The Factory of Needles and Pins was an avant-garde thing, it was an happy island at a time when labor exploitation was so widespread. A written testimony is the regulation, dated 1st of November 1822, drawn up by the owner of Nicola Bolasco. It is made up of 17 articles and the preface implies respect for them not as simple imposition, but as a good standard to be respected, in a climate of participation in work to achieve a common purpose, i.e. a massive production made in a serene environment. Some articles reveal great modernity and mental openness; working hours are established, but entry and exit times may vary according to some needs dictated by the time of year, from daylight to cold. It is also possible to bring work to be done at home in accordance with the rules and everyone is allowed, after authorization, to visit the factory and to see the work closely. Everything is made in a public and transparent way.
The factory was built in the territories of the Pontifical State for which regulation is essential to demonstrate a strong moral integrity, especially because there are workers of both sexes, and therefore Bolasco defines other rules to be respected: the entry of male employees is retarded, so male and female employees will not meet each other. There are diversified tasks to be held in separate rooms, and for no reason is allowed access of a man to the rooms of women and vice versa.
Above every rule however, there is this one: all the employees, to be hired, must bring a written letter from their parish priest, called the Morality Certificate, a kind of letter of reference attesting the integrity and good conduct of life of the future worker of the factory!
The Current State
Today the old factory is not very visible to the profane eye. Thanks to a precious guide, I had the privilege of knowing, I can read some of the signs of architecture that make me wonder how the factory could be during its activity. Looking at the large entrance door, iron made, which separated the main courtyard from the pavement, one can observe a particular, a sign that stimulates the reflection. A symbol, probably a logo – a tip with two curls, an image that differs from many other symbols in the city – as a reference to the factory activity.
Entering into the large courtyard, Giampiero Italiani illustrates me the building made up with the stone of Assisi – which housed the manufacturing business and now has been housed for decades private homes – the entrance doors and the place where the old stairway leaded upstairs, where a large terrace now stands. It leads me to one of the main rooms, perhaps one of the largest, a stone and brick room that still has an ancient look, and then to the beautiful courtyard at the back where activities probably associated with manufacturing took place. One of the most quoted could be, at very precise times, the shearing of the sheep coming from the mountains by accessing through the Perlici Gate and this could also explain the strategic location of the factory within the city fabric. Currently this courtyard, immersed in the greenery lush bushes, fruit trees and shrubs of scented roses, is known by the Assisi population as the needle garden.
Since two years, the hall and the garden have been made available by Giampiero Italiani for cultural activities related to factory activity, but of great relevance: from the right to work to the rights of female employees and women emancipation, finding favor of associations and local institutions. The 1820’s Needle Factory is now a culture factory.
There is still much to discover on the needle factory: there are still many topics to look into and many are the unanswered questions; Giampiero has brought to light this reality and is working to convey as much attention as possible to this cultural asset. It is desirable that the curiosity of the researchers, coupled with the interest of the institutions, bring to light new realities that will enrich the local history of the Nineteenth Century with new dots.
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.
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.
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 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.