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 supporttourism 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.
The project will be promoted through the Internet websitewww.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.
“The town looks solemn and powerful, with its doors, the main road and the church of San Francesco” (M. Tabarrini)
Monteleone di Spoleto, photo by Claudia Ioan
Set on a hill along the Corno river valley, Monteleone di Spoleto is among the most fascinating and characteristic villages of Valnerina. Over the centuries, thanks to its position, it gained the appellation of Lions of the Appennines. Its territory is part of one the most typical and uncontaminated environment of the central Apennines.
The city is like a small casket which has been keeping precious objects of history, art and architecture for centuries: in fact, Monteleone boasts very ancient origins, as evidenced by the numerous tombs found in the surroundings. About the ancient wars and battled fighted in the area, numerous testimonies remain. Among them, the famous chariot of the sixth century BC stands. It was found here in the early twentieth century. Inside the local Church of San Francesco is preserved a splendid copy, while the original one is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The town, since ancient times, appears solemn to the visitor in all its majesty; witness of its ancient vestiges, Monteleone shows off all the pride of its history to the traveler. The city, in fact, isolated among the bleak mountains of the Apennines, is rich in symbols and meanings. Such as the repetition of certain numbers: three are the city walls and, each of them, is provided with three doors, moreover, there are six towers and eight ramparts in the city. The castle, surrounded by solid walls, watchtowers and gates, preserves the typical medieval and renaissance appearence, with its houses, churches and noble buildings that overlook alleys and squares. Characteristic element of the whole country is the local white and red rock, which makes the architecture unique, able to recall the magical two-color of the ancient orders of chivalry. The territory has four residential areas (Ruscio, Rescia, Trivio and Butino), whose main activities were agriculture and sheep – farming. But the area was known due to the industrial activities too; such as the Ruscio lignite mines and the iron mines. From these mines according to the tradition, was exctracted the raw materials for the Pantheon gates in Rome.
The spelled, photo by Claudia Ioan
Excellence in Monteleone di Spoleto
To make Monteleone di Spoleto an even more wonderful town is the amber color that distinguishes its land: the spelled of Monteleone is among the excellences of Italy. Thanks to the efforts of local producers, it was possible to request and obtain the DOP brand (Protected Designation of Origin).
Monteleone di Spoleto, photo by Claudia Ioan
Church of San Francesco
Crossing the town’s walls, it is possible to discover, through pleasant alleys, important historical and artistic treasures. The Church of SanFrancesco, built between the 14th and 15th centuries, is one of them. The church is the most remarkable and suggestive monument in Monteleone, because it has been witness of the most significative historical periods of the town.
Originally, the church was dedicated to Saint Maria or better Madonna dell’Assunta, but it has been always commonly known with the name of the poor of Assisi, since the early Franciscans settled there around 1280. The Franciscan order in Monteleone always used the Church for their functions and in every official act, a seal bearing the image of the Assumption abducted in heaven with the initials S (Which stands for Sanctae) and M (which stands for Mariae). Various frescoes decorate the church walls with devotional images probably painted by artists of the the Fourtheen Century Umbrian School
Church of St. Nicholas
The church is located at the highest point of the historical center; It dates back to the early Middle Ages, in fact the first documents date from 1310. It has a single nave with ten chapels with its own altars. The ceiling is coffered and covered with a tempera painted canvas with floralmotifs. Among the several works of considerable value, we mention the decollation of St. John the Baptist between St. Anthony from Padova, St. Isidore and La Maddalena, attributed to the painter Giuseppe Ghezzi and the Annunciation, probably a work by Agostino Masucci.
Church of Santa Caterina
In 1310 five Augustinian nuns, coming from the Monastery of St. Catherine in Norcia, asked for a small church and a house in the lower part of Monteleone in order to build a monastery there. Both the house and the church were outside the circle of walls, and they had been built in 1265. The nuns remained there for almost five years. Of the eighteenth-century church, only the perimeter walls remain.
Church of Santa Caterina, photo by Enrico Mezzasoma
Church of Santa Maria de Equo
The interior of the church is typical of rural churches: in the center of the church there is an eighteenth-century altar, adorned with a wooden statue of the Madonna with Child; on the sides, inside two niches, there are the wooden statues of St. Peter and St. Paul. Along the left wall is the venerable Gilberto or Liberto, a hermit who lived here for many years.
Bibliography: L’Umbria si racconta. Dizionario E-O, Foligno 1982 di Mario Tabarrini.
Let’s talk about the numbers: 150,000 / 180,000 flowers of Crocus Sativus cover an immense field beautiful and violet, and from all that field you get only one kilogram of saffron.
A huge amount of flowers for a small product: of course this causes a raise in the price, as the caviar, but unlike this one, the saffron has a thousand-year history that oscillates between magic, health, prestige and cuisine. It has been a successful product for centuries, to the point of obtaining the nickname of red gold. It was a multitasking product, used as a dye for real fabrics, but also as a precious aphrodisiac and cosmetic to revive pale cheeks.
In Italy the word saffron immediately evokes the risotto alla Milanese, while in France it is an ingredient of bouillabaisse (fish soup) and in Sweden it is an element of the Grande Amaro Svedese.
Everyone uses saffron. In fact it is really requested and 180 tons a year are produced in the world. 90% comes from Iran. The powder of saffron is one of the spices which is most subject to fraudes and to be adulterated. The powder can be mixed with turmeric or with calendula, but there are those who do not hesitate to add powdered minerals or synthetic dyes. Moreover, as in ancient spices shops, there is also the risk of buying a badly preserved product.
Saffron of the dukedom
Once, the saffron arrived from the East following the path of the Via delle Spezie, eventually it started to be was cultivated in Italy too, above all in Abruzzo and in the territories of Spoleto and Terni.
Various historical and economic events had made it disappear from the domestic market, but now it is back and it is becoming really very important. In Italy it is not produce so much, but we cultivate the red saffron variet, which is really precious. In order to face the expenses and difficulties of cultivation and harvesting, forty Umbrian producers created an association with the evocative name of Saffron of theDukedom, to rember the presence of the Duchy of Spoleto. One of the associates, Mr. Giuliano Sfascia, explained to me the characteristics that the product must have to be of the highest quality, and brought me to the field, where I observed the saffron itself.
The flowers, the crocuses, are born from the bulbs that are placed in the ground in July, but they do not bear the intensive cultivation, they need space and air, they grow on the hills, they need light and well drained soils, sandy or silty. The 180,000 flowers, needed to obtain a kilo of saffron, can only be picked up by hand, bent over the crocuses, early in the morning, when the flowers are still closed. Each flower has only three red stigmas (antennines) that contain the spice which is the saffron. This harsh harvest is called overflowing and is done in October.
Once the flowers have been collected, the three stigmas are delicately come off, placed in a glass vase and immediately left to dry. The first they dry, the better the taste of the spice will be. Saffron production requires effort and many hours of work and it is subject to a thousand risks, bad weather and parasites. To all this we must add that every collection, to obtain the quality certification, must be analyzed by an authorized laboratory. Crocina, the color, Pirocrocina, the bitter taste and Safranale, the aroma, are the three substances that characterize the saffron, but only if the presence of these substances is high we have the saffron of the best quality. No magic. Good cultivation helps the three substances to give their best. So, good “risotto” to everyone.
Fragments, scraps of broken glass, bones and decorated porcelain. Objects people would think of being nothing but rubbish have been restored, catalogued and are now on display in Casteldilago Museum, in the province of Terni. The exhibition, not by chance, is called Rubbish: tre secoli di ceramiche (Three Centuries of Pottery) have been supervised by Sir Timothy Clifford, British Art historian who, after having directed the Victoria & Albert Department of Pottery, the Department of Prints and Drawings of the British Museum, after having been the Director of the National Galleries of Scotland and Director of Manchester City Art Galleries has spared his time, after retirement, for the fine pottery of this small hilltown in Umbria.
Who found the great deal of everyday objects was Angelo Francucci, a keen local entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the restoring of Casteldilago since he was fifteen. It was, indeed, during a reconstruction process that Francucci found a butto, an old dump. Originally built for water storage, most likely poisoned, the cistern was turned into the perfect site for dumping food wastes, metal objects, scraps of glass, pottery and animal carcass.
A Wasted Away Treasure
Strongly impressed, the entrepreneur decided to show the butto to the Cliffords, who have a summer holiday home in the town. Timothy became soon aware that he was facing countless, stunning findings datable from the Middle Ages to the 15th century. The Art historian gathered all the bits and assembled the parts as if it were a tiny jigsaw puzzle. The more he went on, the more he was fully conscious of how fine the ceramics were, masterly decorative designs attributed to Deruta. Engaged in his studies, Timothy found out that Deruta belonged to the Diocese of Spoleto to which Casteldilago was part. In the Middle Ages Casteldilago was an important fortress, run by several governors who moved from House to House and, once their mandate was over, it was accustomed for them to throw away what was not needed for their new residence. Decorated coats of arms purport to be those of noble families like the Orsini, the Medici, the Lauri and the Clementini.
A Local Production
Proceeding from the museum showcases, proud of himself, Timothy’s wife, Jane, narrates how they made an even more important discovery. A good deal of ceramic scraps bear the same singular motifs which somewhat meant there was a factory site in Spoleto as well. Timothy found out a document stating an agreement reached between two bankers, a Deruta potter and a Faenza one. Besides that, he found fragments reporting the same decorative designs close by the Amphitheatre and the Palazzo di Spoleto.
To confirm the existence of a pottery factory in Spoleto was Duccio Marignoli, President of The Marignoli di Montecorona Foundation. Sewer works were being carried out when Marignoli found scraps of kiln with the same decorative designs.
Last but not least, bits have been found in the Rocca di Spoleto as well as the Rocca in Narni which confirm the presence of a local craft.
Per prenotare visite al museo:
Durate orario d’ufficio: +39-0744388710
Fuori dall’orario d’ufficio: +39-3357529230
«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
One of the main characters of Expo 2015 was Strettura’s bread, a distinctive product of Umbria along with truffles, saffron from Cascia, spelt from Monteleone di Spoleto and the red potato of Colfiorito. In this mixture of cultures, traditions and craftsmanship called Expo, Umbria was symbolize by an overworked but genuine product: bread.
But why the one from Strettura one?
Strettura, unlike what the name suggests, is a beautiful valley placed about 13 km from Spoleto; his width valleys allows the cultivation of ancient cereal varieties, now set aside from the large industrial production. The golden ears cover the gentle slopes, which seem to suggest the rounded shape of the finished product and, before that, the soft texture of the dough, together with the lightness of the leavening.
It looks like an oasis, Strettura. Spring waters, that flow from the Apennine rocks, make it a pleasant place to stroll; Spoleto is near, but far enough to leave this village in the tranquility owned by the ancient sites with genuine traditions. It seems to smell the scent of freshly baked bread, a symbol of what is familiar and good in the things of the world.
But Italian habits have changed: the consume of bread, contrary to the past, seems to have diminished. According to Coldiretti, in 2016, each person has consumed 85 grams of bread a day, compared with 1,100 grams a day during the years of the Unification of Italy.
A change also evidenced by the countless idioms that concern the goodness of bread and its essential presence on the tables – “You’re as good as bread,” “To sell like bread,” “For kings, there is no tastier food than bread”, etc. Those expressions existed because of the difficulty to find any other nourishing food beside bread, but now they seem shells, emptied from any grip to reality.
It is true that we eat less bread, but when we do it, we want to try a unique experience higher than the flatness of industrial production. Today, consumers choose products based on alternative cereals -kamut wheat and spelt, also because of the increasingly amount of food allergies – but they choose also to purchase products at zero distance and high nutritional value, which can somehow raise quality of their culinary experience.
More quality and less quantity, therefore, along with the desire to consume products that are the result of love and respect for the Earth, and of the people who perpetrate them.
The bread Strettura is emblematic product of these changes in eating habits. It acts also as a link between past and present, combining a production chain that belongs to the past with the modern consumer, more aware and attentive.
«Thou shalt prove how salty is / The bread of others» D. Alighieri, Paradise - Canto XVII
It’s true, the bread of this Umbrian village is a rare commodity: the crops are limited, peculiar of those lands brushing that side of the Apennines; they use only spring water, with unique chemical and physical properties.
The bread itself is not suitable for mass distribution, bound as it is to a slow and handicraft processing. Indeed, it’s composed of wheat flour, obtained by a milling process made by traditional methods: the oilseed and protein parts are not brutally separated from the starch, but, enriching its composition, they let the bread retain an aroma and a unique fragrance, which speak of goodness, simplicity and authenticity.
The flour is skillfully combined with the leaven of the previous processing and with little salty spring water: the bread of Strettura is indeed an unsalted bread, like other types from Umbria, Tuscany and Marche.
This loaf, marked with a cross in the center, rests all night; the next day, the mixture is cooled with the addition of other warm water and flour. It follows a strictly manual processing, which makes the dough smooth, homogeneous and with a “right” consistency, that only the bakers of Strettura could recognize.
Just a few more hours of leavening and finally the loaf can be baked. The cooking is made exclusively in a brick oven fueled by twigs from the Mediterranean forest: they give the filone acciaccato the characteristic aroma which, together with the thin crust and the solid soft part, becomes the perfect side to cured meats, cheese, vegetables and soup.
Strangozzi, stringozzi, strozzapreti, bringoli, umbricelli, bigoli, umbrichelle, lombrichelli, ciriole, anguillette, manfricoli: if you ever had the chance to take a ride in the Umbrian taverns, sitting in the rural atmosphere of those rooms and probing the delicious menu, in the section dedicated to main courses you see something with an ambiguous but evocative name.
It is not easy to reconstruct the history of a dish with an ancient birth, especially when confusion still reigns even on his name, as it is contamined by the vagueness of the spoken language and by the use of certain customary terms rather than others.
But let’s go in order: first of all, we are talking about a type of fresh pasta, rustic because its handmade processing and therefore inaccurate, coarse, whose goodness lies in the roughness of its own composition. Sources agree on the poor origins of this dish, made of the sole water and wheat flour. What makes the difference, however, is the shape it assumes: so, the same dought produces many types of pasta, whose names are often confused because of their etymological similarity.
In Spoleto, «Erti de stinarello e fini de cortello»
The stringozziof Spoleto -called strangozzi in Terni, manfricoli in Orvieto, anguillette in the area of Lake Trasimeno, umbricelli in Perugia for their resemblance to earthworms, or even brigoli, lombrichelli or ciriole – are a type of stubby and coarse spaghetti, with a circumference of 3-4 mm and of a length of 25 cm, hand-rolled on a work surface. As the saying goes, the dought must not be excessively stretched; you will pay attention to the thickness only when you cut the phyllo dough lenghtwise with a knife.
Strangozzi must be cooked in plenty water, and you have to dredge them up at the exact moment they emerge. They are seasoned with meat sauces, truffles, parmesan cheese or vegetables. Beyond doubt, the most characteristic preparation is the one holding up the name of Spoleto – “alla spoletina” – where tomatos, parsley and hot pepper enhance the taste of pasta.
It is curious that strangozzi – for their assonance with the verb “to strangle” – are often confused with strozzapreti, another preparation made out the simple mixture of water and flour.
Although the names are often used interchangeably, the shape of strozzapreti is very different from strangozzi one (and their counterparts): strozzapreti are shorter and the strips of doughare rolled up on themselves; their shape looks like shoelaces, once made of tough curled leather.
Someone had to end up choking
The legend says that the anti-clerical rebels used these strings to strangle the walking ecclesiastics, during the Pontifical State domain. An hypothesis that does not seem too remote, if we consider the constant struggle of Perugia against the interference of the Papal States: when we think about episodes like the Salt War of 1540 or the XIX century anti-clericalism resulted in massacres of Perugia, we do understand the lack of love of the population towards the prelates. The latter, indeed, in addition of collecting taxes were notoriously gluttons, always ready to scrounge meals off the poor people.
Another interpretation says that strozzapreti were so called because the housewives, forced to halve the portions to their beloved ones to serve prelates, whished them to choke with the food they were eating. A variant says that the housewives cursed the priests that wanted the eggs as a tribute, forcing them to make a “poor” dought, only composed of water and flour.
A further interpretation – that confirms the enormous appetite of the curia – is given by the poet Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, Roman vernacular master:
Nunpòi crede che ppranzo che cciàffatto Quel’accidente de Padron Cammillo. Un pranzo, ch’è impossibbile de díllo: Ma un pranzo, un pranzo da restacce matto. Quello perantro c’ha mmessoerziggillo A ttuttoer rimanente de lo ssciatto, È stato, guarda a mmé, ttanto de piatto De strozzapreti cotti corzughillo. Ma a ppropositocqui de strozzapreti: Io nun pozzo capíppeccherraggione S’abbi da dícche strozzino li preti: Quannooggni prete è un sscioto de cristiano Da iggnottissemagara in un boccone ErzorPavoloBbionni sano sano.
(G.G. Belli, La Scampaggnata)
Thus it appears that the echo of the hungry stomachs of the prelates had spread up to Rome: their appetite was so huge to overcome even the difficulties that the particular shape of strozzapreti gave to the act of eating them. Other than choking: it takes more than a bowl of strozzapreti to extinguish the appetite of a religious!
Today, though strozzapreti are produced on an industrial scale, a processing implemented with a bronze die plate makes them rough as homemade ones, allowing the full absorption of seasoning with which they are served. Between the contour of its profile, in fact, the sauces deposite and there remain, giving the palate a pleasant sensation of texture and body, and so are all the flavor of the ancient types of pasta..
«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.
Giovanni di Pietro, called Lo Spagna, after his family’s Spanish origins, (Spain 1470 – Spoleto 1528) is one of the protagonists of Umbrian pictorial art between the XV and XVI centuries. Not as well known as other followers of the Umbrian master Pietro Vannucci (some of his more famous students: Pinturicchio and Raffaello), he is an interesting and pleasing artist and worthy of closer study.
The young Giovanni was probably in Florence around 1493 when Pietro Vannucci, known as Il Perugino, was among the four more prominent masters in the city together with Botticelli, Filipino, and Ghirlandaio. Perugino at that time assumed a leading role by opening the workshop near the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova; his studio was on of the most active and was also frequented by numerous students from all over Europe who came to learn “the grace that he had in his own colouring technique” (G.Vasari, 1568). This has led us to believe that our artist may have come into contact with the Umbrian master, subsequently becoming his pupil and collaborator.
Influences and first Works
When in 1501 Perugino opened a workshop in Perugia, a rich town that wanted to renew its style and adopt a more contemporary feel, Giovanni followed him, where he probably also came into contact with Raffaello, another young follower of Perugino. Giovanni worked together with the Master on a series of frescoes for the Franciscan Convent of Monteripido, of theseonly a fresco of Saint Francis receiving the stigmata remains. It was located on the gable of the façade of the Church and attributed to Lo Spagna and which is now preserved at the National Gallery of Umbria.
Critics agree that in the pictorial style of Giovanni di Pietro there is a strong similarity to Perugino’s style of models,which was a fundamental step in the formation of the painter and in obtaining commissions, and also inhis ability to grasp the influence of Raffaello while maintaining a personal and simple language that is rich in the fine use of colour and grace. Some of his works form part of collections of some of the most important museums of the world, among which are: The National Gallery, London, The Louvre, Paris and the Vatican Museum Art Gallery, Rome.
From the first keeps to Success
At the beginning of 1500 the Perugino environment was under the control of the Bottega del Vannucci and in common with Perugino collaborators including Pinturicchio, Lo Spagna needed to move on in search of work in order to be able to create his own entourage. His artistic career finally took off in other Umbrian towns.
The beautiful and elegant town of Todi, that dominates the valley of the Tiber is significant: in 1507 a contract was agreed in Todi between the painter and the body of the Church of San Potito to create an altarpiece depicting the Coronation of the Virgin (Todi, Museo Civico) (fig.1), which was completed in 1511 when the artist went to live there and set up a business. In addition to the Montesanto altarpiece, Giovanni worked in the cathedral where he painted various chapels with frescos (between the 1513 and 1515) and he also decorated the organ (1516). Two tablets remain depicting St.Peter and St.Paul and a fragment of a fresco depicting a Trinity (fourth nave on the right, Cathedral of Santa Maria Annunziata, Todi).
Another important Umbrian centre in Lo Spagna’s career is the city of Trevi, a village at the top of Monte Serano, beautifully dominates the Spoleto valley, the seat of powerful local families. Here the artist was commissioned by Ermodoro Minerva, ambassador of Ludovico Sforza, to decorate the chapel of San Girolamo in the church of S. Martino. The lunette with the Virgin in Glory with Saints Jerome, Giovanni Battista, Francesco and Antonio da Padova dated 1512 is a fresco with clear Perugino references with its ideal and pleasant landscape, but in more decisive colours. He also created the imposing altarpiece with the Coronation of the Virgin in the same church in 1522 (now at thePinacoteca of the San Francesco Museum complex). It is rich in pure refined iridescent tones, with solidly constructed figures and subjects and items carefully rendered in an illusionary style, derived from the prototype of Filippo Lippi in the Cathedral of Spoleto (1467-69) and by the Coronation of the Virgin of the Ghirlandaio that he created at San Girolamo in Narni in 1486; both were also referenced to Raphael in 1505 for the altarpiece at Monteluce in Perugia. While at Trevi, the Master Lo Spagna, who by now was in demand and lauded by the whole of Umbria, decorated the church of the Madonna delle Lacrime between 1518 and 1520 with references to the sought-after style of Raffaello, shown in particular in the scene of the transportation of Christ (fig.2), where there is a strong association to the masterpiece by the Urbino Master carried out for the Cappella Baglioni in Perugia in 1507 which is today curated at the Borghese Gallery in Rome. This was testament to Lo Spagna’s development in rapid and continual renewal, stimulated by continuous in depth study, in keeping with the requests for special commissions by the more affluent.
In 1516 he was granted citizenship of Spoleto, witness to the fact that Giovanni had resided in Spoleto already for several years. On 31 August 1517 he was appointed Head of Art for painters and goldsmiths, confirming his recognition in the role of Head of the school. From 1516 onwards, his activities were based in Spoleto and the surrounding centres, based on documentary evidence as well as by a large body of work which reveals the presence of assistance and workshop activities that had assimilated his style. Among the more interesting and significant works are the Madonna Ridolfi a Madonna with Child between Saints Giacomo, Niccolò da Tolentino, Caterina and Brizio commissioned by Pietro Ridolfi (fig.3) who was governor of Spoleto from 1514 to 1516 (Spoleto, Palazzo Comunale), the Virtues painted for the Rocca, removed in 1824 and reconstructed in a monument dedicated to Leo XII (Palazzo Comunale). The arrangement and the iconography of the three allegorical figures, justice at the top, with charity and mercy on each side, suggests their destination was to have been an environment with judicial functions. In Charity, conceived in accordance with a rotating composition, and in Clemency, characterised by the perspective that confers rhetoric in gestures and postures, there are also solutions developed by Raphael in the Roman year, thus suggesting a history ahead of its time.
Along the Via Flaminia, not far from Spoleto in the church of San Giacomo Apostolo, the patron saint of pilgrims, Giovanni di Pietro is asked to decorate the apse and two chapels in 1526. The semi-dome depicts the Coronation of the Virgin (fig.4) and the wall depicts San Giacomo and the Miracle of the hanged man and the Miracle of the chickens. With an extraordinary richness of gilding, colours and grotesque ornaments and crowded with figures, it is scenically complex and it is here Lo Spagna achieved the pinnacle of his career, a rare Umbrian display in a modern style.
Spoleto – San Giacomo
Durign this time, together with his workshop, Lo Spagna worked at Valnerina: in the church of S. Michele Arcangelo in Gavelli, where there are frescoes dated 1518 and 1523; to Visso in the church of S. Augustine; at Scheggino, where, finally in 1526 he signed the contract to decorate the church gallery of S. Niccolò for which he was offered 150 guilders.
Lo Spagna may have died of plague in October 1528 confirmed by an entry in the Town Archives of Spoleto which reports that on 9th day of that month candles for the funeral ceremony were received: “die 9 octobris, havemmo per la morte dello Spagna pictore quatro torcie” (Gualdi Sabatini, 1984, p. 395). (“ day of 9 October, we received four candles for the death of the painter Lo Spagna)
Dono Doni was the best known of his followers, but not the only one to collect the baton; his flourishing workshop still today constitutes a characterizing feature of the artistic heritage of the area of Spoleto and the Nera Valley. Among the collaborators to be remembered are also Giovanni Brunotti and Isidoro di ser Moscato, Giacomo di Giovannofrio Iucciaroni (circa 1483-1524) active in Valnerina and Piermarino di Giacomo who in 1533 completed the Scheggino frescoes.
FOR MORE INFORMATIONS:
Todi – Museo civico (closed on Mondays. Open: 10.00-13.00/ 15.00-17.30), Cattedrale di Santa Maria Annunziata (open all day: 9.00-18.00). Tourist Office tel. 075 8942526
Trevi – Pinacoteca complesso museale di San Francesco (open from Friday to Sunday: 10.30-13.00/ 14.30-18.00), other spaces open on request). ProTrevi tel. 0742 781150
Spoleto – Palazzo Comunale (open from Monday to Friday: 9.00-13.00; Modays and Thursdays: 15.00-17.00). Tourist Office tel. 0743218620/1
Fausta Gualdi Sabatini, Giovanni di Pietro detto Lo Spagna, Spoleto, Accademia Spoletina, 1984.
Pietro Scarpellini, Perugino, Electa, MIlano 1984. Perugino: il divin pittore, cat. della mostra a cura di Vittoria Garibaldi e Federico Francesco Mancini, (Perugia, Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria 2004), Silvana Editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo 2004.
Giovanna Sapori, Giovanni di Pietro: un pittore spagnolo tra Perugino e Raffaello, Milano, Electa, 2004