14 December, 2019
Italiano
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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.

The earliest record of the hermitage dates back to 1206, but it certainly existed long before the Benedictines of the Abbey of Santa Maria di Valdiponte of Perugia decided to settle in the area. Here, they built a cistern to collect drinking water and a church with a monastery dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles. Following the environmental remediation carried out by the monks in the surrounding areas, the hermitage was now amidst vineyards and so, it was defined in Vigneto.

Hermitage of San Pietro in Vigneto

 

The hermitage is placed along a road that was very frequented in ancient times – as evidenced by the ruins of a Roman bridge over the River Chiascio near the Castle of Peglio – and it was probably a detour of Via Flaminia. A route that started from Pontericcioli on the border between Umbria and Marche, crossed Gubbio (perhaps along what today is the state road La Contessa) and, continuing towards Assisi, led to Foligno where it joined Via Flaminia. This constant transit was the reason for the construction of a shelter for pilgrims, for a long time the main function of the hermitage. On 8th August 1463, the hermitage of San Pietro in Vigneto was dissolved by Papal Bull of Pope Pius II and, together with the land, it became the property of the Canons of the Cathedral of Gubbio who still own it today. The earthquakes of 1979 and 1984 required the involvement of the Superintendency that oversaw the restoration of the hermitage and at the same time removed what had been indiscriminately added over the years, correcting what had been altered. It’s located along Via Francigena which still today welcomes travellers and pilgrims thanks to funding offered by a private citizen, Stefano Giombini[1].

The Frescoed Stronghold

The convent, because of its tower and its compactness, looks more like a stronghold than a religious settlement. It is difficult to distinguish and identify the individual buildings due to its architectural continuity and the reuse of the various spaces throughout the centuries. Only the bell gable and a tiny lancet window are a hint of the presence of the chapel in the north-east corner of the complex. In the paved courtyard, overlooked by the buildings, there is a large and beautiful cistern. Inside the church there is a 15th-century fresco of the school of Gubbio; it’s a sweet depiction of Madonna with Child with Saint Sebastian, Saint Anthony, Saint Peter and Saint Rocco at their side.

 

Madonna with Child

Appearing Ruins, Disappearing Ruins

The Castle of Peglio, which stood in proximity of the hermitage, was senselessly destroyed a few years ago to build the dam on the Chiascio: its beautiful, perfectly-cut stones that had survived the centuries are no more there, swept away by bulldozers in 1978. Its remains were impressive: the slits that were used to operate the drawbridge could be seen on the façade and beautiful segmental arches adorned the walls. The water of the dam submerged also a centenary elm that was «so beautiful and large that it would take three men to embrace it»[2].
Due to heavy rain, in 1780 there was a landslide that unearthed the remains of a Pagan temple near the hermitage: clay lanterns, fragments of inscriptions, coins and twelve pieces of a marble statue of Mars Cyprio, the tutelary deity of the temple (today kept in the Archaeological Museum of Florence). An inscription offered evidence that the temple had been restored by some Lucio Avoleno in the 2nd century AD, while 5th-century coins were proof that the inhabitants of the area had been making offerings to the pagan god until that time.

 

 


Sources

For the historical bibliography, see B. Martin, S. Pietro in Vigneto, Vispi&Angeletti, Gubbio 1997, that is also the reference.

P. Pizzichelli, Gubbio Francescana e sentiero francescano della pace, Gavirati, Gubbio 1999, pp. 53-55.

Sentiero francescano della pace da Assisi a Valfabbrica a Gubbio, Provincia di Perugia, Perugia 2000, pp. 30-31.

L. Zazzerini, In ascolto dell’assoluto. Viaggio tra gli eremi in Umbria, Edimond, Città di Castello 2007, pp. 68- 73.


[1]   For information and for bookings, please call 3334789564.

[2]  P. Pizzichelli, Gubbio Francescana e sentiero francescano della pace, Gavirati, Gubbio 1999, p. 52.

[For 8 people]

Ingredients for ravioli: 

  • 600 g flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 pinch of salt

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 1 kg of ricotta
  • 5 eggs
  • 10 tablespoons of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of rum
  • 3 tablespoons of alckermes
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon

Season with: sugar and cinnamon 

 

Preparation:

Blend ricotta with a fork, add the eggs, sugar, arckermes, rum and cinnamon. Prepare, with the eggs, flour and a pinch of salt, a normal phyllo dough; make ravioli. Boil and season with cinnamon and sugar.

The sweet ravioli in Norcia – or, as they call them in that city, cravioli – were served in winter, for Carnival, sometimes as a dessert, others as a single dish, others as a first course. They could also be fried; in this case they are cold-served.

 

 

Courtesy of Calzetti – Mariucci Editore 

 «The game that satisfied me the most? The one in favor of the people of Norcia hit by the earthquake».

More than two hundred matches in A Series, international referee since 2007 – 2017 was his last season because he reached age limits – seventeen years of activity with the debut in the top flight in 2003 and Élite Uefa referee since 2012. These are the numbers of Paolo Tagliavento, the most representative whistle in Umbria and beyond. During the game, he is strict, in order to guide the twenty-two players; on the contrary, with us he is easy-going and kind. He is an Umbrian proud of his land.

 

Paolo Tagliavento

What is your bond with Umbria and with Terni?
It is a very strong bond, because I was born in Terni, I grown up there and I still live there. I love my region and I am very fond of the people I have lived with and who have been part of my childhood.

Do you think that Umbria is a region that is “out of the game”, cut off from other realities?
For the position it has, it’s a bit cut off because of its infrastructures. For example, I often use the car for my travels. Fiumicino is not far, so I also take the plane when I leave far away, while the train is not really comfortable. In some ways, being a little out of nowhere can be an advantage, because you can experience peace and tranquility.

If Umbria was a football rule, what would it be?
The edge. Which is a special rule: when you apply it makes the game more bearable. The edge of Umbria is in its landscapes, food and life.

Is there a game that you always wanted to referee but you has not done yet?
I could say the final of the World Cup, because it is the dream of any referee and few people get there. Instead, I will tell you the game that satisfied me the most: a charity game after the earthquake of 2016, which was held in Norcia between actors and civil protection personnel. It was something concrete for Umbria and it made me very proud.

The Umbrians are accused of being narrow-minded, do you recognize yourself in this stereotype?
No, it never happened to me. Perhaps in the northern part of Umbria they are more narrow minded than Terni, which is influenced by the Roman way of living.

Are there in Umbria young referees who could reach your level?
There is an excellent school of arbitration assistants, who have reached good levels. As for the referees in the Lega Pro and Series D there is someone for it could make their way.

What would you recommend?
I would advise him to give its best, always. To have passion and to make sacrifices, because only in this way we can reach these levels. Passion is the driving force, but it is not enough. It also takes commitment and hunger to reach the goal. This profession should be put a little in front of everything. The funnel is very tight and few come in the A series. But I would also recommend to have fun and enjoy.

How would you describe Umbria in three words?
Beautiful, unique, open-minded.

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