Umbria preserves the memory of Raphael’s extraordinary artistic story; throughout the region, in fact, Rapahael left traces, direct or indirect, of his art.
He was one of the most famous painters and architects of the Renaissance. He considered one of the greatest artists of all time, his works marked an essential path for all subsequent painters and he was of vital importance for the development of the artistic language of the centuries to come.
Raphael was born in Urbino in «the year 1483, on Good Friday, at the tree in the morning, by Giovanni de’ Santi, a painter no less excellent, but a good man of good talent, and capable of directing his children to that good way which, unfortunately for him, had not been shown to him in his beautiful youth». A second version identifies the artist’s birth day on 6th April.
The school of Perugino
The city of Urbino was decisive for young Raphael: indeed, from a very young age, he had access to the rooms of Palazzo Ducale, and he could admire the works of Piero della Francesca, Francesco di Giorgio Martini and Melozzo da Forlì.
But the real apprenticeship took place in Perugino’sworkshop of Perugino, where he was able to rediscover, through the refined variations of the master, the rigorous spatial articulation and the monumental compositive order.
Raphael intervened in the frescoes of the College of Change in Perugia: his painting is recognizable where the masses of colour assume almost a plastic value. It is precisely in this context that Raphael first saw the grotesque, painted on the ceiling of the College, which later entered his iconographic repertoire.
In 1499 a sixteen-year-old Raphael moved to Città di Castello, where he received his first independent commission: the Standard of the Holy Trinity, commissioned by a local confraternity that wanted to offer a devotional work as a token of thanks for the end of a plague. It is preserved now in the Pinacoteca Comunale diCittà di Castello. It is one of the very first works attributed to the artist, as well as the only painting of Raphael remained in the city. The banner, painted on both sides, depicts in the front the Trinity with Saints Rocco and Sebastiano and in the direction of the Creation of Eve. The precepts of Perugino art are still evident, both in the gentle landscape and in the symmetrical angels.
Marriage of the Virgin for church of San Francesco.
In Città di Castello the artist left at least two other works: theCrucifixion Gavari and the Marriage of the Virginfor the church of San Francesco. In the first one it is easy to note a full assimilation of Perugino’s manners, even if we note the first developments towards a style of its own. Today it is conserved at the National Gallery in London. The second, however, is one of the most famous works of the artist, which closes the youthful period and marks the beginning of the stage of artistic maturity.
The work is inspired by the similar altarpiece made by Perugino for the Duomo of Perugia, but the comparison between the two paintings reveals profound and significant differences.
Entering the small but delightful church of San Francesco, next to the chapel calves, built in the middle of 1500 on a design by Giorgio Vasari, there is the altar of San Giuseppe, which contains a copy of the Marriage of the Virgin. The original, stolen by the Napoleonic troops in 1798, is kept in the Pinacoteca di Brera.
The works created in Perugia
Meanwhile, the artist’s fame soon began to spread throughout Umbria; thus he came to the Umbrian capital city: Perugia. In the city he was commissioned the Pala Colonna, for the church of the nuns of Sant’Antonio and in 1502-1503 the Pala degli Oddi, commissioned by the famous family in Perugia for the church of San Francesco al Prato.
In 1503 the artist undertook many trips that introduced him to the most important Italian cities such as Florence, Rome and Siena. But the commissions from Umbria were not long in coming: in 1504 was commissioned the Madonna and Child and saints Giovanni Battista andNicola, called Pala Ansidei.
In the same year he signed in Perugia the fresco with the Trinity and Saints for the church of the monastery of San Severo, which years later Perugino completed in the lower band.
The work of crucial importance was the Pala Baglioni (1507) commissioned by Atalanta Baglioni to commemorate the bloody events that led to the death of Grifonetto, her son. The work was carried out for the church of San Francesco al Prato in Perugia. Raphael in the altarpiece represented the indescribable pain of a mother for the loss of her son and the vital disturbance, through a monumental composition, balanced and studied in detail.
Trinity and Saints
Raphael became the reference painter for the largest and most important families of Perugia such as the Oddi, Ansidei and Baglioni, establishing himself as a great artist of relief; in the contract of his work, the Coronation of the Virgin, for the church of the nuns of Monteluce, he was mentioned as the best teacher in town. Raphael died on 6th April 1520 of fever caused, as Giorgio Vasari specifies, «by loving excesses». This year marks the 500th anniversary of death.
The artist was at the top of the Renaissance artistic season, bringing his painting to the highest levels of beauty and harmony. Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo wrote: «Raphael had in his face that sweetness and that beauty of the traits that are traditionally attributed to Good».
He lived his life with great commitment and continuity, giving future generations his incredible talent and his precious art, so much that he already deserved the title of divine in life.
 Giorgio Vasari, The lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors and architects, Life of Raphael from Urbin, Firenze, 1568.⇑  Paolo Franzese, Raphael, Mondadori Arte, Milano 2008, p. 13.⇑
Pietro Vannucci, known as Il Perugino, is considered one of the greatest exponents of humanism and the greatest representative of Umbrian painting in the 15th century. The painter moves in a historical context that is that of late humanism. «In the city of Perugia was born to a poor person from Castello della Pieve, called Christophe, a son who at baptism was called Peter (…) studied under the discipline of Andrea Verrocchio». (The lives of the most excellent Italian architects, painters, and sculptors, from Cimabue to our times. Part two. Giorgio Vasari).
Perugino was born in 1450 in Città della Pieve and its first Umbrian artistic experiences were probably based on local workshops such as those of Bartolomeo Caporali and Fiorenzo di Lorenzo. From a very young age he moved to Florence, where he started attending one of the most important workshops: Andrea del Verrocchio’s. The city of the Medici was fundamental for its formation.
His masterpieces conceal religious intimacy: the gentle hills typical of Umbria, the wooded landscape realized with more shades of green, the soft-patterned characters and the fluttering tapes of the angels are his decorative styling that he then transmitted also to his pupil: Raphael.
The works in Umbria and beyond
One of his first documented works is The Adoration of the Magi, and the gonfalone with the Pietà, both in the exhibition halls of the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria. In 1473 Perugino received the first significant commission of his career: the Franciscans of Perugia asked him to decorate the niche of San Bernardino.
Later (1477-1478) is the detached fresco, today in the Pinacoteca Comunale of Deruta, with theEternal Father with the saints Rocco and Romano, with a rare view of Deruta in the lower register; probably commissioned to invoke the protection of the Saints Roman and Rocco, since an epidemic of plague raged in the territory of Perugia. In 1478 he continued to work in Umbria, painting the frescoes of the Chapel of La Maddalena in the parish church of Cerqueto, near Perugia.
When he reached fame, he was called to Rome in 1479, where he carried out one of the greatest and most prestigious works: the decoration of the Sistine Chapel, work in which also Cosimo Rosselli, Botticelli, and the Ghirlandaio. It is here that he realizes one of his many masterpieces: The Delivery of the Keys to Saint Peter, the Baptism of Christ and the Journey of Moses to Egypt. In the next ten years Perugino continued to gravitate between Rome, Florence and Perugia.
Between 1495 and 1496, he created another masterpiece: the Pala dei Decemviri, so called because it was commissioned by the decemviri of Perugia. In the same period he worked on the decoration of the Sala dell’Udienza in the Collegio del Cambio in Perugia, a cycle completed in 1500. In 1501-1504 is the year in which he made the Marriage of the Virgin, painted for the Chapel of the Holy Ring in the Cathedral of Perugia, iconography taken by Raphael for the church of San Francesco in Città di Castello.
Marriage of the Virgin
Perugino continued to receive commissions; in fact he realized the Madonna of Consolation, the gonfalone of Justice and the Pala Tezi, preserved in the exhibition halls of the National Gallery of Umbria and the Resurrection for San Francesco al Prato. Excellent works of the painter are also preserved in Città della Pieve, not far from the border with nearby Tuscany. At Santa Maria dei Bianchi and the Cathedral of SS Gervasio and Protasio, there are some of his most significant works such as the Adoration of the Magi.
Following the footsteps of Perugino, you must sop in Panicale, a picturesque village that is part of the most beautiful villages in Italy. In the Church of San Sebastiano there is the work the Martyrdom of San Sebastiano, an entire wall frescoed by the artist.
Martyrdom of San Sebastiano
Another important stop to discover the whole art of the Divin Pittore is Fontignano, where in 1511 Perugino established his workshop to escape the plague. But the painter died because of the plague in 1523-1524, while he was working on a fresco depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds commissioned for the small Church of the Annunziata. That fresco then was finished by his students, and finally a Madonna with child, the last work he completed in 1522.
Perugino was the initiator of a new way of painting; the artist goes in constant search of landscapes of wider breath, admiring the example of previous Florentines such as Filippo Lippi, Domenico Veneziano and Beato Angelico. The Perugino proceeds towards a slow and gradual conquest of the natural. The harmony inherent in the landscape of Perugia was created by a mystical approach with nature and by an art that, rather than being based on the intellect and training of the eye, as happened in Florence, flowed from the heart and strength of feelings. The Perugino thus marked the taste of an era.
 Emma Bianchi, “Petro penctore”: l’Adorazione dei magi e la confraternita di Santa Maria dei Bianchi di Città della Pieve, in Perugino e il paesaggio, Silvana Editoriale, 2004, pp. 119-128.⇑  Silvia Blasio, Il paesaggio nella pittura di Pietro Perugino, in Perugino e il paesaggio, Silvana Editoriale, 2004, pp. 15-41.⇑
Peel the onions, cut them into thin slices, roll them out on a baking tray and sprinkle with salt. Leave them for a hour, then squeeze them well. Grease a not too high rectangular cake tin, arrange the bread dough in a no more than a centimeter layer and sprinkle the surface with washed and dried slices of onion and sage leaves. Sprinkle the surface of the flatbread pizza with a little olive oil and cook it in the oven at about 180 ° for 30-40 minutes. The white flatbread can be served both cold and hot.
The crushed onion – which in Città di Castello it is called pampassato – is known throughout Umbria. The white flatbread can be made with the onion only or with the leaves of rosemary and, in the absence of anything else, only with a little salt on the surface. In Norcia, where it was usually made together whith the bread and where it was also called “spianata”, next to the poorer versions (with salt, ciccioli or rosemary), it is matched with zucchini, tomatoes and sometimes potatoes.
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
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 woodencaratelli 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.
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.
Michele Bravi left Città di Castello to conquer Italy. With charisma and a powerful voice he’s becoming certainty in the Italian music scene.
The Umbrian singer is touring the Peninsula with his NewPagineTour: his job keeps him away from home, but the bond with it is still strong.
What’s your connection with Umbria?
I am particularly fond of this region, I have a lot of memories related to my childhood. I would like to come back more often; unfortunately my job doesn’t allow it.
Is there a song that could describe Umbria?
No, it isn’t. But I would like to tell my land through music.
X Factor, Sanremo and tour: would have ever imagine all of this when you lived in Città di Castello? I dreamed it, singing has always been my dream. I could not imagine my life without music, everything I experience is transformed into songs and at this moment I am very satisfied with my achievements.
His tour is called NewPagineTour: what new pages would you like to write?
There are many things that I would still like to tell, but I did not have time given my young age and the little time available. After Sanremo, it was all a whirlwind of emotions and commitments. I would like to live new experiences to find new inspirations and interpretations.
Have you ever felt that Umbrian stereotype of being narrow-minded, or did someone make it notice to you?
Umbria is at the center of our country and represents the beating heart of Italy. Surely the fact that it is difficult to reach can suggest that the Umbrians are closed people, but it is only an impression.
Three words to describe Umbria…
Solar, green and intimate.
The first thing that comes to mind thinking about this region…
My home, my family, my origins and everything related to my childhood.
The rustling cypresses of Villa Capelletti, lined up as soldiers, trace green and odorous lines that, here in Umbria, we used to associate with ancient manors. Emblems of an ancient aristocracy that, concealed by a cool shade, protect its intimate secrets.
Custodian already of ancient locomotives and of the Museum of Folk Traditions and Peasant Arts, today Villa Capelletti Renaissance complex in Garavelle also hosts an extraordinary museum that we can consider as a unicum for its characteristics, but also for its location in a region like Umbria, which doesn’t have an outlet on the sea. A Malacological Museum.
The hidden treasure
Malakos has collected about six thousand specimens, but “only” three thousand have been shown: the true treasure is in the drawers of the luminous showcases filling the corridors, arranged by thematic pathways that arouse exclamations of wonder not only to children, but also to adults, fascinated by delicate architectures lying on blue quartz in the showcases.
To welcome the visitor, there is a room that is the diamond-point of the entire exhibition: in this deep hole that opens on the main corridor of the villa, has been recreated a coral reef. This is the content of one of the three containers, seized by the State Forestry Corps, doomed to illegal souvenir trade. It contained specimens of blue coral, that is to say the rare fan-shapes Heliopora coerulea, embalmed turtles, crustaceans, and all the wonderful beasts populating the reef. They tried to place them faithfully recreating the natural levels, transforming an irreparable damage into a learning opportunity. In observing that incredible shapes and architectures, it is difficult not to feel apprehensive: an entire atoll has been eradicated, its variety destroyed. Despite the tremendous efforts of curators – Gianluigi Bini, Debora Nucci and Giacomo Rettori – there is like a death patina that does not allow us to really understand the immeasurable wealth of the coral reef: all the colors, indeed, are lost, everything is cloaked from a kind of opacity, with some wan red tips – red, blue, brown. The result of a scandalous act made by scrupulous smugglers.
Guardians of Biodiversity
I take a picture of two of the curators present there – biologist Debora Nucci and Professor Gianluigi Bini – right in front of the recreated reef. They set themselves as watchmen: protectors and guardians of the planet’s biodiversity, a unique and vulnerable treasure. The visit of Japanese princes was emblematic, herald of a culture in which shells are part of the royal treasure.
Debora Nucci e Gianluigi Bini
However, it is difficult to imagine this tranquil place flurrying for the Japanese Kings. Today the villa is surrounded by a relaxed atmosphere and of deep calm. As if it wants to make me feel better what I see. I can even talk with Gianluigi Bini, curator of the exhibition, naturalist, marine biologist and paleo-anthropologist, but first of all, a great adventurer. Animated by an insatiable curiosity, the scholar has traveled long and wide to the world until he landed on the Philippine coasts, where he discovered a gastropod yet unknown to science. He called it Cinguloterebra binii, giving half of his name in the baptism of a new specimen.
The Professor tells me about his travel as well as of the innumerable dangers in which a scholar – especially in some parts of the World – can run: mangroves, for example, are inexhaustible labyrinths in which it is easy to get lost, while river rivers can be infested by some species of sharks that swim along their course. We are talking about all those interstitial areas between different ecosystems, which hide every kind of pitfalls, such as poisonous snakes and mollusks.
Experiences reflected in the choice of setting up not just a biological area – where you can discover the features that allow the recognition and classification of shells, such as the architecture that characterizes the species, why they are colored, how they reproduce and what are the deformations they may incur due to pollution – but also a bio-geographical area, organized in order to show the Planet’s variety, including the abysses or the above-mentioned “hybrid” areas, placed between sea and mainland. There are also raids in Prehistory, with fossil specimens that let you glimpse the innumerable forms in which those beings, which have become stone blocks, would have evolved.
An Ancient history
Taking advantage of the curator’s willingness, I challenge the question that has been running in my mind since I heard about the show.
«Why did you set up a collection of a kind in Umbria, considering that the last time the region saw the sea was thousands of years ago?»
It is precisely in that ancient prehistoric sea that refers to Gianluigi Bini by answering me: «When I returned to Italy, I found myself in Città di Castello (the curator is comes from Tuscany, ndr) and here, in this quiet place, I remained. Here, where the sea once covered everything.»
This one it’s an ancient story. A story that Umbria cares in the bowels of its mountains, sometimes erupting red ammonites or shells of bone blaze. A story that is now also kept in Malakos‘s belly.
Onlus Malakos – Malacological Museum
Villa Capelletti | Garavelle
Città di Castello, Perugia.
Tel 075 855.2119 / 331 130.5657 email@example.com www.malakos.it
To find out more about the initiatives dedicated to children, visit the Facebook page.
Openings: every morning from 10am to 12am (no booking) | all afternoons on call | Monday closed.
«When I arrive in Citerna, I wonder why I came. Then, after a couple of days, I resume the human rhythm of these places and I would not leave anymore.»
Journalist, television and radio author for Rai and La7, editor for Stream and film director for Tele +, everything driven by a single passion: cinema. Alessandro Boschi, born in Città di Castello, often returns to these places torediscover the human dimension that this land can give.
What’s your connection with Umbria, considering you have been living in another region for a while?
Surely it is a register bond, since I was born in Città di Castello and grown in Citerna. In Umbria I have my family and memories related to my childhood. I often go back, especially to find a more human dimension. In Rome or Milan we lose these rhythms, everything is more frenetic, but my job has led me to forcedly leave Umbria.
You deal with cinema: do you think Umbria is well exploited in this area or should it be strengthened?
It is not badly exploited, but in Umbria it would serve a mapping of all the activities related to the cinema because, while being small, it has different ones and very interesting: I think of the cinema festivals, such as the Cdcinema in Città di Castello, of which I am the president, or Umbria Film Festival in Montone. They need structures that would organize and connect to each other all the small realities related to this world. Finally, the Film Commission should be restructured and have a greater power, as has in other regions.
As radio and television programs author, if Umbria was your program how would you enhance it?
Umbria has identified and well exploited its vocation – I think of the religious one. However, it would need external contaminations. Let me explain it better: we would keep our traditions, but they would have to be guided by someone coming from outside, to take away that provincialism that does not allow that real jump of quality that Umbria deserves. The region has to open up more and accept external contamination, which can only make it grow and improve.
Have you ever felt that Umbrian stereotype of being narrow-minded, or did someone make it notice to you?
Of course it exists, but no one has never make it notice to me. Perugia is even more closed: when I was in the college – I’ve been here for little time – I did very little friendship with people from Perugia. Umbria, unfortunately, has no mental openings, is an anachronistic reality. It needs social legitimation and it is necessary to open up our eyes as soon as possible and integrate.
Three words to describe Umbria…
Appetizing, quiet and introverted.
The first thing that comes to mind thinking about this region …
I think about the map. The fact that Umbria is the only Italian region that has no outlets, either on the sea or on other countries, that it is closed and surrounded by other regions. Perhaps its closure can also come from this.
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.
«The scenery of the region is perfectly pleasant, just imagine it: an immense anfitheatre as only nature could design. An open vast plain land surrounded by mountains; which are covered by grand and old woods up to their summits, where game is rich and abundant. On the sides of the mountains coppices gently slope down into humous-rich and fruitful hills that can compete in fertility with the fields wich lay on the lowlands […] Below, the wide vineyards hemmig from every side the hills make more smooth the face of the landscape, and which lines, disappearing in the distance, half-reveal graceful thickets. Then meadows everywhere,and fields which only powerful oxen with very robust ploughs can break up; that land so hard, at first cutting through, precisely gets up in such clods so large that you need nine ploughing before it can be completely tamed. The meadows, fat and rich in flowers, produce clover and more herbs always soft and tender as if they had just come up, since all those fields are wet from perennial brooks. Still, though the abundant water, there are non marshes, and that is because of the sloping land pouring into the Tiber all the waters it couldn’t absorb… […] Add to this, of course, the health of that area, the serenity of the sky, and the air, purer than elsewhere.»
(Letter from Plinio il Giovane to Domizio Apollinare, Book V, epistle 6)
The first settlements of San Giustino, the further north municipality of the region, trace back to Umbri as evidenced by the discovery of numerous small bronzes. In Roman times – under the name Meliscianum taken from nymph Melissa, whose name stands for “honey producer” and recalls an area where beekeeping was surely widely practiced– San Giustino became an important trade centre along Via Tiberina. The same Roman time is evidenced by the great country-style villa Plinio il Giovane wanted to be built around 100 A.D. Later on, the villa was flattened by Totila’s Goths.
Archaeological reveals in Colle Plinio, pic kindly given by the City of San Giustino
Today’s name of San Giustino, coming from the Saint martyred at Pieve de’ Saddi during the time of Emperor Marco Aurelio, appears for the first time in a diploma dated 1027. Its territory has been challenged for centuries by Arezzo, Città di Castello and San Sepolcro. Oddone and Rinaldo di Ramberto were the first local lords, before bending to Città di Castello in 1218. Following their submission, in 1262 Città di Castello fortified it, but during the vacancy of the Holy See, after Clemente IV’s death, San Sepolcro ravaged the territory, destroying the fortalice. After its rebuilding, in 1393 the Castle was left to Dotti family, which were political exiled from San Sepolcro, under the pledge to use it to defend Città di Castello. After changing fortunes, because of the destruction and reconstruction of Dotti Palace, the family gave it back to the town of Città di Castello in 1841. At this point the papal governor of Città di Castello called his brother, Mariano Savelli, skilful architect, to draw the project to change the steep fortress in a strong palace in order to make it impregnable, protected by a grand moat too. Works had started, but given the unavailability of the funding to carry them out in 1487 Città di Castello gave it to a rich landowner, Niccolò di MannoBufalini, doctor of utroque iure and Sisto IV, Innocenzo VIII and Alessandro VI’s relative, so as to complete the works. The Holy See received so many favors and services that in 1563 Giulio Bufalini and his son Ottavio were given the title of count, the feud and territory of San Giustino. During the Napoleonic time San Giustino became an independent town from Città di Castello and, after being suppressed at the end of that period of time, it was finally recognized by Leone XIII’s motu proprio in 1827. San Giustino was the first Umbrian town the Piemontese troops led by General Fanti occupied on September 11th 1860.
Bufalini’s Castle, pic kindly given by the City of San Giustino
Castello Bufalini is the emblem of San Giustino beyond any doubt. The castle sees its origins in the Dotti family’s military fortalice. Restored by Città di Castello in 1478, after being attacked and destroyed again and again, in 1487 the legate of Città di Castello donated it to Niccolò, son of Manno Bufalini, so that he could accomplish the rebuilding, started on the project by Mariano Savelli, governor’s brother, assigned, in case of war, to defend Città di Castello and to provide accommodation for commanders and troops sent by the municipality to protect the place and the people. Bufalini, on the basis of Camillo Vitelli’s new project, changed the old fortalice in an actual fortress surrounded by a ditch, overlooked by four towers and a keep, embattled walkways and a drawbridge.
But it was the Renaissance which led that the transformation of the fortress into a manor. The authors of the transformation were the brothers Giulio I and Ventura Bufalini, owners and residents of the building since 1530. The works, carried out between 1534 and 1560, concerned both the exterior renovation of the building and the new spatial layout out, together with the modernisation of the inside. The initial project, which concerned the refitting of the inner courtyard, the building of the kneeling windows, the construction of two spiral staircases and a new internal spatial distribution, probably owes to Giovanni d’Alessio d’Antonio, called Nanni Ongaro or Unghero (Florence 1490-1546), Florentine architect belonging to the Sangallo circle, in the service of the Gran duke of Tuscany Cosimo I, but the works continued even after his death. From 1537 to 1554 Cristoforo Gherardi (San Sepolcro 1508-1556), called Il Doceno, was appointed to paint the pictorial decorations of five rooms with mythological stories and grotesques. At the end of XVII century the castle was affected by a new phase of the works at Filippo I and Anna Maria Bourbon di Sorbello’s behast. The palace was changed into a countryside villawith Italian garden on Giovanni Ventura Borghesi’s (Città di Castello 1640-1708) design. The last event of the construction history of the castle took place after the Second World War, because it didn’t endure to the bombings which struck the area.
In 1989 Giuseppe Bufalini gave it to the Italian State. Thanks to the excellent condition of the furniture, today the castle represents a rare example of historic stately home.
Villa Magherini Graziani di Celalba
Pic kindly given by the City of San Giustino
The Villa, built on a pre-existing Roman fortalice, was designed by architects Antonio Cantagallina from San Sepolcro and by one Bruni from Rome, commissioned by Carlo Graziani from Città di Castello. Construction works started at the beginning of XVII century and were carried out in 1616. The quadrangular structure stretches on three levels surmounted by a turret 17 metres high. The ground floor is decorated by walled-up arches in the which centre niches and windows open up evoking the evenness of a portico. The first floor has a large porch with elegant banisters and pietra serena pillars. The side entry introduces to the carriage passageway, barrel vault designed, which enabled direct access for carriages into an indoor space and connected the farmhouse and the chapel dedicated to Santa Maria Lauretana. The building, which represents an outstanding example of aristocratic late-renaissance villa, is immersed in a recently recovered 6 hectars park and you can enjoy a wonderful example of Italian garden. Since 1981 it is a property of San Giustino municipality that has functionally refurbished the building. Today the farmhouse is used by the Municipality for socio-cultural activities, while in the little church are officiated civil marriages. Villa Magherini Graziani hosts Museo Pliniano and since February 2016 it has hosted also the permanent exhibition Iperspazio by Attilio Pierelli (Sasso di Serra S. Quirico 1924-Roma 2013). The artist, founder of Movimento Artistico Internazionale Dimensionalista, spent a large part of his work in visualizing the concept of space, concerning the fourth geometric dimension and the non-Euclidean geometry and, at Villa Magherini Graziani, it is possibile to go through the various creative seasons of his production from inox Slabs, to Knots, to Cubes through which the artist interacted with the hyperspace.
Historical Scientific Tobacco Museum
Historical and Scientific Museum of Tobacco, pic kindly given by the City of San Giustino
It is one of the seven Italian museums dedicated to tobacco. Built in place of the former Consorzio Tabacchicoltori’s offices, thanks to the homonymous Foundation (set up in 1997), its mission is to disseminate the knowledge and the historical importance the tobacco growing had -and has- in the social and economic development of that area. Actually, in the Upper Tiber Valley tobacco cultivation is a tradition that is meant to be handed down and spread. It is no accident that a museum dedicated to tobacco exists just in San Giustino, because in Italian peninsula the first cultivation of some account for commercial purposes of erba tornabuona – so called as the first seed had been brought to Tuscany by bishop Niccolò Tornabuoni at the end of XVI century – date back to the beginning of XVII century and laid just in the Repubblica di Cospaia land, a small territory which is a hamlet of San Giustino today.
The Museum includes offices, sort units, drying kilns, which have great charm and evoke a long story made of working hours and fatigue, but they also evoke emancipation because in this story the main character has been played by the XIX century women. As a matter of fact, the tobacco female workers -as well as the female textile workers- were among the first women who, after leaving the traditional ‘home-working’, become the workforce for the major industries of the country.
Tabacchine, pic kindly given by the City of San Giustino
Il museo comprende uffici, essiccatoi, sale di cernita: luoghi di grande fascino dove si rievoca una lunga storia di fatica e lavoro, ma anche di emancipazione, storia che ha avuto nelle donne del XX secolo le principali protagoniste. Le lavoratrici dei tabacchi, infatti, al pari delle operaie tessili, sono tra le prime donne che, abbandonato il tradizionale lavoro casalingo, vengono inserite nelle grandi industrie.
Museo storico scientifico del tabacco, foto concessa dal Comune di S.Giustino
Museo storico scientifico del tabacco, foto concessa dal Comune di S.Giustino
Museo storico scientifico del tabacco, foto concessa dal Comune di S.Giustino
The Republic of Cospaia
Veduta di Cospaia foto concessa dal Comune di S.Giustino
Rievocazione Repubblica Cospaiafoto concessa dal Comune di S.Giustino
Cospaiafoto concessa dal Comune di S.Giustino
The hamlet of Cospaia, today part of the municipality of San Giustino, is the most northern Umbria locality. Its history – which is the history of a tiny independent state surrounded by three great powers (State of the Church, Duchy of Urbino and Grand Duchy of Tuscany) a long time fighting each other – deserves to be mentioned.
Cosimo dei Medici had granted a 25.000 florins loan to Eugenio IV for the ecumenical council, which was announced to be held in Basilea in 1431, demanding the jurisdiction over Borgo San Sepolcro for guarantee. When the pope died, the loan had not been repaid yet, so the two states sent their own land surveyor to define their boundaries. The surveyors worked without ever meeting directly face to face. As a result, the Tuscans established the border at the Rio della Gorgaccia, while the papal experts at the Rio Ascone. Therefore the area between the two streams, that is to say the hill of Cospaia, remained independent. From 1441 to 1826 Cospaia “for a period of four centuries had neither leaders nor laws nor councils nor statute nor soldiers nor army nor prisons nor courts nor doctors nor taxation. It outlasted according to the elders’ common sense. It used no weights and measures. Even the position of the parish prest, who took care to keep the register of the few souls up to date and who was involved to act as teacher of the town, was a symbol of independence because he wasn’t bound to any bishop.
The agreement of February 11th, 1826 between Leone XII and Leopoldo I, with which they shared out the territory, ended with the independence of Cospaia. In une 28th, 1926 Cospaia did obeisance to the Papal States and each inhabitant received one papetto as award for the lost freedom, a silver coin depicting the effigy of Leone XII.
Still today, on June 28th each year the “ex Republic of Cospaia” is remembered.
Storia – Bibliografia essenziale San Giustino, in M. Tabarrini, L’Umbria si racconta, Foligno, s.n., 1982, v. P-Z, pp. 265-269.
E. Mezzasoma, S. Giustino, in «Piano.Forte», n. 1 (2008), pp. 43-49.
S. Dindelli, Castello Bufalini. Una sosta meravigliosa fra Colle Plinio e Cospaia, San Giustino, BluPrint, 2016
Castello Bufalini – Bibliografia essenziale
A. Ascani, San Giustino, Città di Castello, s.n., 1977.
G. Milani-P. Bà, I Bufalini di San Giustino. Origine e ascesa di una casata, San Giustino, s.n., 1998.
S. Dindelli, Castello Bufalini. Una sosta meravigliosa fra Colle Plinio e Cospaia, San Giustino, BluPrint, 2016
La Repubblica di Cospaia – Bibliografia essenziale Cospaia, in M. Tabarrini, L’Umbria si racconta, Foligno, s.n., 1982, v. A-D, p. 447. A. Ascani, Cospaia. Storia inedita della singolare repubblica, Città di Castello, tipografia Sabbioni, 1977. G. Milani, Tra Rio e Riascolo. Piccola storia del territorio libero di Cospaia, Città di Castello, Grafica 2000, 1996 E. Fuselli, Cospaia tra tabacco, contrabbando e dogane, San Giustino, Fondazione per il Museo Storico Scientifico del Tabacco, 2014
«This publication has been created from the interest I have always had for the arts in general, in particular for painting, sculpture, architecture and photography. I have always been interested in beautiful things.»
This is how Maurizio Bigio, a graduate in Business and Economics, and a Chartered Accountant for the last 37 years, speaks of his latest enterprise “in the field of the arts”. This is not a new departure for him, as he has always been involved in the arts as a musician, having had important achievements in collaborating with major singer-songwriters of the Seventies and issuing the Rock Bigio Blues LP. He recently expanded his artistic horizons devoting himself to photography, collaborating in the creation of the new MUSA (Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts P. Vannucci of Perugia) catalogue edited by Fedora Boco and the book on Ferdinand Cesaroni edited by Luciano Giacchè.
The subject of Liberty in the Umbrian region previously had only been addressed by Professor Mario Pitzurra, when in 1995 he published Architettura e ornato urbano liberty a Perugia, a text which is now out of print and, according to the author, it was limited to the regional capital city area. It was Pitzurra himself who concluded his work with the hope that «…others will follow my example, possibly extending their study to the rest of Umbria.»
And now, twenty years on, Maurizio Bigio takes up the challenge with purpose of re-awakening interest in this XX century art movement, which has been little studied in the region.
The foreword to Il Liberty in Umbria, is written by Anton Carlo Ponti with the text edited by Federica Boco, Emanuela Cecconelli, Giuliano Macchia, Maria Luisa Martella, Elena Pottini and Mino Valeri as well as Bigio himself.
The publication is divided into sixteen chapters, encompassing the region from north to south, touching on the city of Città di Castello, Perugia, Marsciano, Deruta, Foligno, Spoleto, Terni, Allerona, Avigliano, Acquasparta and Narni.
And the author’s interest is not just in architecture, he also focuses on the decorative details in wood, wrought iron, ceramics, glass and, where possible, on the internal painted decoration inside dwellings.
An interesting chapter, edited by Elena Pottini, is devoted to liberty sculptures in the Perugia Cemetery, while Fedora Boco outlines the protagonists of this period with a small biography and related bibliography. The photographs also include Liberty design lost in time such as the Perugina shop and the internal decor of the Bar Milano. This interesting volume also includes a translation of the text in English by Eric Ingaldson.