29 February, 2020
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Italy is considered an open-air museum by UNESCO. Churches, palaces, Greek, Etruscan, Arab, Longobard Roman, bridges, paintings, frescoes, statues. In Italy everything is art.

Italy hides an artistic heritage that few know and that summarizes in itself the stories of every era: the stones. The stones are obviously made of stone, they do not move but they speak in silence.
Through their paths, they tell stories of travel, of betrayals, of love and curiosity. There are smooth or chiseled stones and stones with inscriptions or even with bas-reliefs, imported stones and bare stones and stones on stones. Then there is color, grain and texture. In short, what looks like a simple piece of construction encompasses an infinite story.

The color of the stones

Perched on top of the hills of central Italy, stone mountains shaped like towns and cities are visible. Each region has a different color. It starts from the gray of the “pietra serena” in Tuscany to get to the brown of the tuff in Etruria. Assisi is pink like the stone of the Subasio that dominates it so as the plateaux of San Terenziano has its pink stone. Moreover, there is the travertine in Lazio and the white stone of Lecce and so on. Simple, just know what is the stone of the area and there is nothing else to see. It is not exact, this is just the beginning.

 

Gualdo Cattaneo

The Mother Church

Cinema and TV have made us know the House on the prairie or the American terraced houses strictly made of wood, swept away by hurricanes or burned from top to bottom. Italy, on the other hand, has marbles and stones that can’t burn, or fly, which have been still standing for 2000 years and that have been distributed like a deck of cards.
To learn how to look and under stand them, it is better to start from a small town like Gualdo Cattaneo that overlooks the Puglia valley and stands above the Umbrian valley. From the fortified tower of Gualdo Cattaneo, Spello, Foligno and also the fortress of Spoletoare visible. If you see, you are seen then you are coveted. Gualdo Cattaneo was the object of desire of the cities in that area, and Pope Alexander VI Borgia bought it to build the fortress. Strong point, impregnable by the dreadful warriors of Perugia. The ascent toward the keep, then the square and the Mother Church, the center of the village is reached.
It starts from the church, even from the foundations of the church that are visible from the street behind the apse. The church lays on gigantic and heavy stones, brought there by the legendary Cyclops so firm that no earthquake has never demolished them. Difficult to find more solid foundations. They were the ancient walls of Gualdo Cattaneo. Why did they build a church on the ancient walls? Because nothing is thrown away and because if it is solid and ready it is usable If it is beautiful and decorative, it is moved to another place. On the facade of the church are the symbols of the four evangelists. Two are white and two pink. All imported stone: the pink ones from San Terenziano and white ones from Giano dell’Umbria. Then you enter the church and descend into the crypt.
The crypt, like almost all the crypts, is built with ancient materials. Columns and capitals that once layed somewhere abandoned, remains of the imposing buildings of Roman times, were used there. This was the best reuse of them, because the Roman marbles, even the imperial ones, were fused together to obtain bricks.

A tour among the stones

 Poverty and fundamentalist religions caused incalculable damages. We have lost an infinite number of works of art, but we still have them, even if they are not in their original shape. Leaving the Church and walking through the village, there are gothic or modified gothic windows, travertines, existing only elsewhere – perhaps in Giano – inserted as a point of support in the buildings. Here and there are stones with inscriptions from every era, from Roman times onwards, inserted because of the lack of a brick or simply because they were decorative or because they remembered an event. Ancient entrances hidden in the walls are discovered one and a half meters above the ground, but with the floor level unchanged. The fear of the rats suggested to build in safety. It was used a flying wooden ladder, which in the evening was retired inside the house. A little like the Walsers, who lived in the Alps, and built their wooden houses on stone mushrooms.
If you’d like toh ave a trip among the stones, and learn more, you can contact the municipality of Gualdo Cattaneo, which organizes guided tours under the supervision of dr. Andrea Peruzzi, a true expert in lapidary art and epigraphy. You will have fun!

Spello belongs to the Club
I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia

 


Thanks to its stunning location on a gentle hill in contrast with the nearby Monte Subasio, Spello is one of the Borghi più Belli d’Italia (the most beautiful hamlets of Italy).

Famous for its majestic flower decorations during Corpus Domini, which year after year become increasingly popular even outside Umbria, and during which the streets are colored with flower carpets representing religious scenes, the small village was founded by the Umbrian and then it fell under the Romans around 41 BC. In the Augustan era it was named “Splendida colonia Iulia” (Splendid Iulia Colony). The Romans gave to Spello the Empire’s typical urban structures, such as walls, spas, a theater and even waterworks that, despite the various vicissitudes – from the Barbarian invasion to the Dukedom and Papal domain, have been preserved up to now.

 

View of Spello

View of Spello, photo by Marica Sorbini

 

Thanks to the rediscovery of one of them, the hamlet has become an attraction for sportsmen as well: if you are hikers with a passion for nature there is a wonderful path for you! In fact, in 2009, a section of the Roman aqueduct was recovered thanks to a planned project by architect Stefano Antinucci, in order to create a trail for hikers and mountain bikers. The old structure made of white and rose limestone, underwent several renovations over the years and was operative until the Nineteenth Century when, due to excessive losses, it was replaced by a new structure and therefore it temporarily fell into oblivion. But today the aqueduct is an important find, preserving many original traces that can be admired during the journey, intersecting with old bridges and even a drinking trough, once used to water animals. Now, there is a little fountain from which fresh water can be drawn.

 

spello

Roman aqueduct, photos by Marica Sorbini

 

The trail has its starting point in Spello: from the city center you have to reach Fonte della Bulgarella (313 m). From there you go through a well-traced path that comes under the small and characteristic village of Collepino (456 m altitude), but of course it is also possible to walk through it in the opposite direction, and indeed, it is considered as the natural continuation of the pre-existing Path 52, which directly connects Mount Subasio to Collepino. It develops for about 5 km and is predominantly flat, and it is suitable for hikers of all ages, including children and the elderly. Along it there are benches that allow people to rest, but, above all, to enjoy and admire the surrounding scenery: glimpses on the Chiona Valley, the Apennine hills and Spello are undoubtedly good reasons to undertake this walk.

 

Spello

Collepino Trail, photo by Marica Sorbini

 

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