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I was talking to a friend of mine who decided to spend her holidays in Umbria. I found myself giving advice on local design-themed itineraries! Thinking about which stages could be more curious and interesting, I could not help mixing design with craftsmanship and architecture, facets of a single large area made of manual skills, planning and creativity that strongly characterizes the Umbrian territory.

Piazza Nuova in Fontivegge

Piazza Nuova in Fontivegge

 

During our chat, my friend was pleasantly surprised by the amount of small and large companies operating in these areas, but, to tell the truth, what she found most interesting was Aldo Rossi, architect and designer who worked in Perugia, drafting, in the Eighties, the project for the redevelopment of the Fontivegge district, designing a new face for the former Piazza del Bacio, now Piazza Nuova.

I will tell you what I told her a few days ago and I leave you some indications for a short route through this architectural work, the most important of Perugia in the Twentieth century.

The itinerary

Leave your car in Pian di Massiano and get the Minimetro: by doing so you can easily reach the Fontivegge district which, a few steps from the railway station, houses the complex of offices and houses that embrace the square. Coming from the station, you enter this space by passing through a large staircase; as soon as you go up, the feeling you have is to be extremely small because of the grandeur of the buildings surrounding this urban space. The eye is immediately enraptured by the main building, a modern temple with clock, characterized by a massive colonnade with a staircase that, like a fortress, dominates the area; on the sides, there are two other buildings with a highly rational character. In the center of the square stands a fountain with straight lines and a monolithic appearance, today – alas – without water. Other modern residential and commercial buildings complete the modern acropolis.

The architect accepted the assignment in 1983, designing the long-awaited business center. In fact, in the previous decade, the international competition launched by the municipal administration had been cancelled, since the winning project was too oversized and expensive to afford, especially because of the crisis that ran in the Seventies.

 

Architecture

Rossi, who was the first Italian to win the Pritzker Prize for architecture, designs a long brick-paved pedestrian square that follows the natural slope, similar to other Umbrian squares placed in the city center. Looking for dialogue and integration with the past, Aldo Rossi – in this as in many other projects – makes use of archetypes, recurring elementary geometric shapes in the history of architecture, easily recognizable and capable of making the project surprisingly innovative and traditional at the same time. In this regard, someone wanted to see in Piazza Nuova the modern revival of Piazza IV Novembre with the steps of San Lorenzo, Palazzo dei Priori and the Fontana Maggiore. Pure and essential geometries are also recurring in his projects as designers; at the beginning of the 1980s, Rossi devoted himself to this type of activity by designing miniature architectures for Alessi, creating poetic small-scale domestic landscapes; the Tea & Coffee Piazza project is the realization of this definition.

 

Piazza Nuova

Piazza Nuova

Stories, activities and projects

A story full of contaminations, therefore. I leave you with a last note: walking towards the park, you can notice a curious conical brick structure dating back to the 1920s, which break the penalty. It is the testimony of its original use, intended for one of the most important activities of Perugia; this brick tower is in fact a find of industrial archaeology: it is one of the old smokestacks of the Perugina confetti and chocolates factory that occupied this place from 1915 (year in which, in addition to the production of sugared almonds, the production line comes into operation cocoa powder and cocoa butter) until 1965, the year of transfer to the new industrial plant in San Sisto.

The original project, which also included the construction of a theater, was never completed and Rossi’s Piazza Nuova never played the role of modern acropolis desired at the time of the project. However, the charm of the monument remains intact. «I have always thought of architecture as a monument… only when it is realized as a monument does it constitute a place». A. Rossi

Rossi’s Piazza Nuova is also destined to have a new redevelopment; in these days, work began on the implementation of a project presented by the municipal administration. Who knows if this place will finally manage to have the long-awaited social and urban role thought by Rossi?

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.