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The historical heritage of this city speaks a language of modern inflection. An emotional place, to be saved from oblivion.

«Et maiores et posteros vestros cogitate».
«Think of your ancestors, think of posterity», wrote Publio Cornelius Tacitus and never, like in the case of Carsulae, has it been ever so adequate.
Even though today’s visitors may walk through a site of scattered ruins and remains around 20 hectares large, the compared studies supported by modern technologies (applications and video-mapping especially), are allowing to enjoy a rather complete vision of a sensational place, which deserves to be torn from oblivion.

A salubrious island, florid and welcoming

Built in the vicinity of Interamna Nahars and Casventum, the modern cities of Terni and San Gemini – harbingers of contrasting images of steel mills and mineral water springs – Carsulae is an island in the course of the Roman Flaminia way. Its destiny is consumed along the white cobblestones of the consular road, marked by the furrows of the wagons – and there were many! – built between 220 and 219 b.C. to connect Rome with the northern Adriatic Sea.

The pre-roman populations had understood the opportunity for increasing trade and quality of life and eventually settled closer to the road, building town centers and putting to use the nearby flat lands. Under Emperor Augustus (44 a.C – 14 d.C.), after being recognized as a township, Carsulae reaches its definitive urban layout. The Roman historian Tacitus (Hist. III, 60), together with Plinius the Younger (Ep. I, 4), describe it as florid and hospitable, rich in architectural splendors, salubrious and fertile, speckled with cultivations, vineyards and olive groves, politically active and open to the world.

 

Carsulae, photo by Carsulae site

Teeming with life

What if we were tourists in the age of its maximum splendor? We would be blinded by its white monuments, statues and bright enthusiasm! Let’s try and walk through it all again, walking along the Cardo Maximus (Flaminia road) cutting through the ancient town. There is the San Damiano Arch, suggestive northern gate, built with robust travertine block and inset in a triple-vaulted structure. Beside it, just outside the town perimeter, we find a place of remembrance: the Necropolis, with its sepulchral monuments of illustrious families. In front of the Forum, the basilica – once used as a tribunal – and around it, we can almost hear the sound of passing-by wagons, voices of men, women and children, of deals being struck at the shade of the associations’ guilds. The square, paved in marble and lined with porticos on its longer sides, is embellished by the facades of the public buildings, two twin temples dedicated to Castor and Pollux and the Capitolium, in honor of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. All around, the tight network of the domus, the Roman houses. Social life was enriched by entertainment varied in venues and cruelty. In the theater, harmoniously inserted in the urban context, tragedies, comedies and satires would be staged, while the nearby amphitheater – about 85 meters long and with a dug-out ring built into a natural depression – gladiators would engage in gruesome fights. Among the luxurious urban commodities, the cistern replenished the city with water, also used for the public thermal baths, major attraction for relaxing and socializing time.

 

Carsulae, photo by Carsulae site

End and rebirth

Yet a mist of forgetfulness descended on Carsulae. Between the Fourth and Fifth century A.D. it became an inhospitable place, after an earthquake caused great damage and caused the route of the Flaminian way to be diverted towards Terni and Spoleto.

The white road which had once brought favorable conditions for the city, now concurs to its fall, and Carsulae becomes a mine for construction materials. The archeological digs, started in the Sixteenth century but especially effective between 1951 and 1972, have now allowed the rediscovery of a historical heritage of inestimable value for the province of Terni, which has entrusted its communication to the documentation center U.Ciotti[1].

BOX – The battle of battles

During the winter of 69 A.D., in full Roman civil war, while the generals Vitellus and Vespasian were fighting for power, Carsulae became a crucial player for the faith of Rome and its Empire. After setting up camp on a well-exposed plain with views over Narni, where Vitellus had left some of his cohorts, Antonio Primo, Vespasian’s general, and the lieutenant Arrio Varo decide to scout out the city of Carsulae. After appreciating its beauty and its people’s warm welcome, the two spend a few days in the basilica to plan their strategy – knowing that the soldiers prefer a victory to peace. After laying out a plan and having offered sacrifices to the gods, the battle begins at the shout “Ahead men, fight! As long as you do not want to leave your banner to the enemy”. The victory of Antonio Primo end the civil war will favor the proclamation of Emperor Vespasian.

 


[1] Cfr. www.carsulae.it consulted on 19 July 2019.

One of the oldest versions of this pastry, made for the Christmas and New Year’s festivities in the Terni area, used to be white. The chocolate came much later, changing flavor and color, and only in few families does the old recipe endure, rarely found in writing.

One of the recipes for white Panpepato is owed to Giovanni Eroli from Narni, a curious and cultured man with many interests, from photography (one of the first in Narni to practice this art) to physics, from geography to astronomy. Among his passions was that of collecting cooking recipes. Giovanni Eroli (Narni 1813-1904) gathered local and extra-regional recipes, of any dish possible and imaginable, even pastries and deserts. Born in the Eroli Marquis’ family, old aristocracy established in Narni since the Fifteenth century, after graduating from La Sapienza University in Rome, he enrolled at the Ecclesiastic Academy and became prelate, later returning to his native town in his secular clothes. Here he dives into his many interests, even writing odes and sonnets; he became an inspector of antiquities and archeological excavations and a member of the Society of Homeland History and of the Society of Italian Geography. A multifaceted character, nowadays well-know, yet surely with more to uncover.

 

Food stylist Marisa Radicchi, photo di Riccardo Martinelli.

 

The many recipes he collected, some conserved in a manuscript, others as loose pages, have never been published, even though they had all the premises to become as successful as that of another personality of the 19th century, Pellegrino Artusi, known to this day for his publication The science in the kitchen and the art of good eating. Just by reading the recipe for the white Panpepato – refined by Marisa Radicchi – one shall definitely agree. The basic recipe (doses can always be doubled) foresees 100 grams of wildflower honey, 50 grams of sugar, 250 grams of almonds, 50 grams of candied orange peel, a tea spoon of fine freshly ground black pepper, ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg, the juice of one orange and half a teaspoon of freshly ground cinnamon.

Peel the almonds and crush till finely diced, add in the candied orange peel, 150 grams of flour and the spices. Let the honey melt in a bain-marie and rapidly mix with the dried ingredients, if the dough is too wet add in some flour and stir vigorously. Divide the dough into dome-shaped pastries, about 9 centimeters in diameter and let them cook for about 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 180°C. Let them cool and rest for a few days before serving.

“There is no form of art like cinema to shake the conscience, the emotions and to reach the secret rooms of the soul”. (Ingmar Bergman)
Filmmaking is an art in which the team – work is necessary. Everyone knows the actors and the director, but the most work comes from the different professionals who, employed behind the backstage, achieve the final purpose: the movie. This philosophy has inspired the Umbrians professionals who work in the world of the filmmaking, to put together their strengths, but above all, their tasks. This is the reason why the Associazione Mestieri del Cinema Umbri was established by Umbrian residents with a qualified experience in the departments of movie and in the television production. The association has among its members, collaborators and partners, over 100 people, with the common aim of developing the growth of the cinema industry in the territory of Umbria.  

Backstage of the film

  «Our goals are numerous: the first is the exchange of ideas. A second goal is that of enhancing a sector, that of cinema industry, which could create many job opportunities. And of course, the dialogue with the institutions, given that there is a 2016 law that should be applied to encourage the filmmaking. In Umbria there are many interesting festivals, but they are part of the distribution sector, but what we would like to focus on and to increase is the production of movies so that various professionals could be involved», explains Federico Menichelli, president of the association. «For Umbria it is a real novelty, nobody had ever thought of creating an association of this kind. Moreover, it is useful for a comparison between professionals and above all, to restart this sector in Umbria», echoes the costume designer Isabella Sensini, also a member of the group. The Umbria Film Commission has recently been established: there are new productions and above all, there are many cinema operators forced to work outside the region: «The Umbria Film Commission can dialogue with our association and could not only welcome new production, but also create products to exported», the president continues.  

Multimedia Center of Terni

  The importance of unity is also supported by Alessio Rossi, casting expert: «Many of us work in Rome or in other cities and this makes Umbria lose its chances of increasing production, for avoiding that, we could create job opportunities here too. Moreover, in the entertainment world the more we are united and know each other, the more we work». Karina Y Muzzio, make up artist, is happy to be part of this group because she believes it is a great opportunity to revive the seventh local art: «Umbria is a region that offers a lot, but it is essential to create unity in order to give a real boost in this sector». The business card presented by the Associazione Mestieri del Cinema Umbri was a short film entitled Umbria: La Rinascita, shot inside the Multimedia Center of Terni. «This is a very important structure, with two studios – one of 900 square meters and one with the green screen – that could be used for training or to attract productions from outside, also thanks to beauty of the surrounding landscape and villages. At the moment, the Municipality of Terni owns it, but it is an empty and unused place. Relaunching it would be fundamental», emphasizes Menichelli.  

The short film

The short film Umbria: La Rinascita was the first step in a technical-artistic movement that, after years of silence and isolation, has Umbrian professionals in the name of mutual respect for common projects. The short film was made with the complete and total investment of all the professionals of the various departments: they participated for free to support their region of origin.  

Valeria Ciangottini e Federico Menichelli

  «As a good craftsman, our first step was to shoot a short film. We are very satisfied because we have reached over 23,000 views and we involved artists likes Alfiero Toppetti and Valeria Ciangottini. Everyone gave what it is possible to give. Among the participants – and it is an important sign – there is also the municipal administration of Terni. Our next step is to attract the attention of entrepreneurs and the Region, which have to achieve the same level of the more advanced national panorama. A cinema fund is necessary and productions needs to be attracted to Umbria: the strength of the region lies in the fact that, on the big screen, it does not appear so often. Here, putting together all the pieces we can do a lot», concludes Federico Menichelli.  

«Getting back to Umbria is like taking a breath of fresh air. I love this region and its food».

Camilla Ferranti is becoming more and more known after her participations in Enchantment, District Police, Angels and Diamonds, Don Matteo and the Honor and Respect.  Next year she is bound to be the opponent of Barbara d’Urso in the new season of the TV series Dr. Giò. Born in Terni, she has been living in Rome for years, but a part of her heart remains linked to Umbria. A heart that has recently been kidnapped by the actor Christopher Lambert. A love story born by chance on the set of the fiction and of which Camilla speaks in a whisper.

 

Camilla Ferranti, photo by Melissa Marchetti

Camilla, the first question is ritual: what is your link with Umbria?

It’s a blood bond, I was born and raised in Terni. Eventually, the university took me to Rome and I remained there. The first years after leaving my city I did not feel the separation, because I considered Terni a small reality. Today I usually come back with pleasure as I appreciate the city and the region: coming to Umbria is a real breath of oxygen.

How often do you come back to Terni?

My family lives there, so on the weekends or as soon as I can, I go back to the city, even simply for a dinner: I miss the Umbrian cuisine a lot.

 

Often the Umbrian people are seen  as very  closed: living outside the region, do you perceive it?

Absolutely not. Indeed, I find that the Umbrians are very open and easy-going people. They are welcoming to people who come from outside, differently from the inhabitants of other cities who I dealt with, because of my job. In addition, Umbria – despite its problems – is a dynamic region and I do think that it hasn’t extraordinary needs. Lately I feel very nationalistic and linked to my origins, to the Italian culture and history.

Soon we will see you in the tv series Dr. Giò with Barbara D’Urso: which is your role?

I am the medical director of the hospital where Dr. Giò works. In collaboration with the director of the department, I try to impede her plans: Dr Giò would like to create a center dedicated to women victims of violence – a theme that is also very current – but I, as head of the economic  division of the hospital, take care of my interests only. I am the bad of the series.

So is it a negative character?

She is a woman who thinks only of her career, putting herself on the side of the strongest and the most powerful. It is certainly not one who can be manipulated as she is a very determined woman. There will be a redemption too….

 

Do you recognize yourself in this role or are you the exact opposite?

I am also a determined woman, but I would never sacrifice my private life and never play dirty to achieve my goals. I am a honest person and I want to reach my goals thanks to merits and my strengths. This does not mean that, if there is to play and fight I am not ready for this. I am attracted by success – I have to admit – and I am very ambitious, but I play honestly.

 

Camilla Ferranti, photo by Melissa Marchetti

When will the tv series be on air?

It is not yet known with certainty, but probably at the beginning of 2019.

This television experience brought you love too, on the set you met the actor Christopher Lambert…

I do not talk a lot about my private life, I can say that there is a good story. It was an unexpected meeting, I did not even think that it could have happened, I was focused only on my work …

I read that you get married next year…

I do not want to say anything about it. 

What are your projects for the future?

I have several work projects, both for cinema and fo television. They are still top secret.

Returning to Umbria, how would you describe it in three words?

Genuine, tough, true.

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

Green and tranquility.

«A fragrant land that evokes the colors of yellow, green and orange».

The interview with Emanuela Aureli begins immediately with a joke: “Do you deal with excellences, so why are you interviewing me ?!” I am interviewing you because you are yourself an Umbrian excellence in your field. Born in Terni, the actress and imitator is nice and friendly, while we are talking on the phone she greets the neighbors and confesses that he is setting up home: “If I’m out of breath it’s because I’m cleaning.” The chat is fun, as if we had known each other for a long time and naturally we start talking about our region.

 

Emanuela Aureli

Which is your link with Umbria?

I have a very strong bond: it is my own land and I am very proud of it. In Umbria I have my family, I have memories linked to many moments of my life. My son was born in Perugia: we must go beyond the sports rivalry between the two cities. Given that I am not a football fan I can not understand it.

How did you get on television and gain fame, starting from a provincial town?

As a child, I knew and felt that this job was my destiny. I felt it inside and I managed to realize my dream. It all started in 1992 when my mother – without I knew it – enrolled me in the Corrida. I was already an imitator, but I felt really scared, in fact I initially got angry. My mum incited me saying, “Go, try it!” So I participated imitating Al Bano and Romina, Patty Pravo and Mietta. I won the episode and from that moment on, all has been starting. In a certain way it was my mother who let me enter this world.

Actress, imitator and TV character: what is the profession that suits you best?

All of them. On television you have to be prepared in the details and study a lot. Soon I am having an audition for a fiction, I hope it goes well. We must always be ready.

Is there a character that you would like to imitate, but that you has not yet done?

Yes, a lot. The first that comes to mind is Adriano Celentano. He is a very exploited character and it is very difficult to imitate his voice to the best

In order to avoid to do something that everyone does?

I prefer that he remains an icon.

If you were to imitate Umbria how would you represent it?

I would show the genuine people with their great humanity. Then the colors of the valleys and the scent of grass and the land. Often Umbrian people are accused of being closed, I do not believe it at all. Indeed, we are very hospitable, we are always welcomed. I do not recognize myself in this closure and I do not even feel it. Those who come to visit Umbria are aware of our hospitality: many have told me it.

 

I know taht you love painting: have you ever represented Umbria?

Instead of going to the gym, I paint. I really like it and it relaxes me. I have often painted Umbria, its valleys, its colors and its light. It is a luminous land: yellow, orange and green. I love our landscapes and recently I put Collesecco on canvas. I would like to organize an exhibition and bring my paintings abroad too.

How would you describe Umbria in three words?

Familiar, welcoming, warm.

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

The smell of home.

«Olive Oil and Umbrian wine are our cultural heritage such as Pinturicchio and Perugino».

Gianfranco Vissani does not need many presentations. It is perhaps the first chef appeared on television, when the chefs were still in the kitchen. Exuberant, outspoken and a genuine Umbrian. During our talk he remembers stories connected to his father: when he killed the pig or when he prepared the aromatic liqueurs so as the numerous things  that he taught him. Then the interview moves on to the Umbrian cuisine and to the bond to this land. At this point everything gets clear: “Mine is a true relationship with the territory”.

 

Gianfranco Vissani

What is your link with Umbria?

My origins are in Maremma but I was born in Umbria in Civitella del Lago in the province of Terni, At the lake of Corbara my father opened the first restaurant when there was still little electricity in the area and the streets were not very practical. When I was young, I was attracted by everything that was different, for this reason I traveled a lot thorough Italy: Venice, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Genoa, Florence and Naples, today all that is here represents my life. I love Umbria, I have a very deep bond with this land.

If Umbria was a dish, what would it be?

It would not be just a dish, but many. It would be hunting, the lentils of Castelluccio, the potatoes of Colfiorito, the truffle caved and not cultivated, the olive oil, the wines like Sagrantino, the torta al testo cooked under the embers, the “maialata” and the “sanguinaccio”, the thrushes of Amelia and the “palomba alla ghiotta” of Todi. We are a small region, but very important and innovative in the fileld of cuisine

An ingredient that can not miss on the table of an Umbrian…

Certainly the olive oil, for its small size, Umbria produces a lot, and the wine of Caprai and Lungarotti that were true innovators. These two products are our cultural heritage equal to Pinturicchio and Perugino.

How much, and how, has this region influenced your cooking and your work?

Very very much. Umbrian products are very present in my recipes.

Your latest book La cucina delle feste has this subtitle: “L’altro Vissani” Who is the other Vissani? Is there another one?

Yes, it’s another nuisance like me (laughs). It’s a subtitle that I enjoyed to choose.

A good chef is the one who cooks the best pasta with tomato sauce or the one who makes a great dish never made by others?

A good chef must know how to do both: starting from the simplicity of a pasta with tomato sauce to get to a more particular and complicated dish.

Little curiosity: is there a food that you can not stand? And one which you can not do without?

I do not like sauerkraut and I could not do without olive oil or ham, but the ham which doesn’t

How would you describe Umbria in three words?

Hills, nature and green landscapes.

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

Quiet life and grape vines.

INGREDIENTS FOR 4 PEOPLE
  • 1.5 kg of freshwater shrimp
  • A few leaves of mint
  • fresh marjoram
  • parsley
  • garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons of extravirgin olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

 

 

PREPARATION

Put a pot with salt water on the stove and, when it boils, add the prawns. Cook for 7-8 minutes, until they have turned red; drain and let it cool. In the meantime, chop mint, parsley, marjoram and garlic, mix with oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. Remove the shell, then the intestines; place them in a bowl, season with the sauce and serve.

 

This recipe belongs  from the area of Terni, where there is Piediluco lake. In Norcia and in Foligno, people made fried shrimps instead: tails, once clean, are fried in hot oil, salt and pepper. In areas where water offered shrimp, those who fished them put them in large buckets and then passed through the streets of the city to sell them.

 

 

Courtesy of Calzetti-Mariucci Editore.

INGREDIENTS FOR 4 PEOPLE
  • 100 g of hop tops
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 fresh spring onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

 

PREPARATION:

Wash the tops of hops, dry and cut them into pieces about 3 cm long; peel garlic and spring onion and chop finely. Put the mixture in a pan for omelettes with oil, add flavor, then add the tops of hops. Cook over low heat and pour, if necessary, a drop of hot water; lightly salt, then add the beaten eggs, to which you have added a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Let bind on both sides; the omelette can be served hot or cold.

 

The omelette with hops was widespread especially in the area of Terni. In dialect they call hops li lupari.

 

Courtesy of Calzetti & Mariucci

 

The city of Terni had one of the most prolific and renowned printer presses of the time, along with the first experiment of public lighting and the telephone line. But above all, the city owned an enlightened, forward-thinking man, with an entrepreneurial spirit aimed at spreading culture among the masses: Virgilio Alterocca.

«Me, Virgilio Alterocca from Terni, teacher by profession and vocation, and due to the facts of life, also owner of small publishing and telephone companies». These are the words with which he identifies himself in his last will[1] and with which he humbly summarises his professional life. Virgilio was born in Terni as the second son of nine children from Ferdinando «coffee seller» and Maria Angeli «housewife»[2].

 

A passion for teaching

Despite his humble background, his family wanted him to continue studying after primary school and so he was able to graduate from technical school in the school year 1870-1871. Then, following his father’s advice, in the years 1868-1870 he attended the local Music School where he learnt to play the saxhorn and the violin. Initially, obtained the basic license, he thoroughly devoted himself to teaching. In 1878, at only 25, he was appointed as headteacher of the primary school of his town but he was then forced to resign from the school in 1883 to take up his business. Throughout his life, he always gave great importance to education, both through his political activities as a member of the socialist party and through the pages of his weekly magazine, as well as a private citizen. Well known is his commitment to the cause of the Workers’ General Society that had the aim of «promoting the workers’ education, morality and well-being, so that they may also contribute effectively to the unceasing improvement of mankind»[3]. He was also active in the Charitable Committee for people’s education, an organisation that «believing that society will never be really civilised as long as the category of illiterates exists, intends to do what is necessary to ensure that the law on compulsory primary education (promulgated 13 years before, but treated as a dead letter) is thoroughly applied here in Terni»[4]. As the Public Education councillor for the Municipality of Terni, in 1903 he founded the League for people’s education against Early School Leaving. Then, since 1904, he committed himself to making sure that a professional school was established in Terni in support of large companies; the school opened in October 1909 with 125 students.

umbrian entrepreneur

Printing presses and illustrated postcards

However, as mentioned, his passion for teaching was accompanied by an equally strong passion for entrepreneurial activities in particular, but also artistic activities, as we will see. In fact, in 1877, he started up a printing press that would later become the source of his success in Italy and abroad. The idea of starting this business probably came from his father Ferdinando who, already in 1871, was listed as a bookseller in the registry of Italian Booksellers, publishers and typographers and was the owner of a small stationery shop. After the death of his father, Virgilio decided to follow in his footsteps founding a new printing press that in 1886, thanks to the purchase of two new machines, was able to print 50,000 copies per day; a much larger number if compared with the 2,500 copies roughly printed by standard machines[5]. The purchase of more innovative machinery – that he had probably had the opportunity to examine at the Berlin Exposition of 1893 – enabled him the following year to win the first prize at the Milan Exposition for an advertising calendar printed in various colours and also, starting from 1897, to begin the production of illustrated postcards on a large scale.
Therefore, Virgilio Alterocca was one of the first to introduce the illustrated postcard into the Italian market; it had been invented only the previous year for the wedding of the future King Victor Emmanuel III and Princess Elena. The first postcard in the first series (consisting of 18 views of Terni and surrounding areas) was dedicated to the Cascata delle Marmore, incredibly beautiful waterfalls located in the territory of Terni. Soon, the architectural and natural wonders of Umbria were accompanied by other postcards of artistic nature that reproduced the salient acts of theatrical and lyrical operas, something never seen before. The idea was to allow the audience to take a piece of the show home with them but also to allow those who could not attend the shows to learn about operas and artists. Still pursuing his educational goals, Virgilio Alterocca applied his work also to the masterpieces of Italian literature such as The Divine Comedy[6], thanks to an agreement with the Alinari Brothers following a competition won by Alberto Zardo, or The Betrothed, a series printed in numerous copies to be used by schools.
Always interested in new inventions, following an agreement with the Pathé Brothers of Paris, his printing press, starting from 1904, began to produce illustrated postcards representing the most significant scenes of films of the time. It didn’t have much luck, instead, the invention of the talking postcard launched for the first time in 1905 in the Alterocca manufacturing plant. It was a phonographic postcard which through «a small and elegant mechanism» registered the sender’s voice and allowed the recipient to listen to the recorded message many times.

 

The Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy

The importance of being an advertiser

In December 1883, Virgilio Alterocca founded the weekly magazine «L’Annunziatore umbro-sabino» (which in 1887 changed its name in «Il Corriere umbro-sabino») with the aim of enhancing the industrial progress of his city that had seen the launch of a weapons factory in 1881 and that of the renowned Terni Steelworks the following year. The publication of the first issue of the magazine coincided with the first test of electric lighting in the city, which was praised with great positivist spirit in the pages of the magazine: «Terni, destined to be the Manchester of Italy, is lit with electric lighting!»[7]. With the foresight and the skills of a modern entrepreneur, he understood the importance of advertising as the text that appeared on the back cover of each issue of the magazine demonstrates: «Advertising is the backbone of commerce, of civilisation, of progress. What is not known might as well not exist. It is the ultimate path to riches […] who does not believe in advertising does not believe in light »[8]. The magazine had to close though when Virgilio Alterocca, completely engaged in other work activities (in 1886 he had been appointed manager of the Politeama theatre[9] and the following year he would sign an agreement with the town for advertising and billboards), realised that he could not be able to guarantee the necessary intellectual independence to the magazine.

And there was the telephone

In 1884, Virgilio Alterocca had another winning idea, also founded on a modern entrepreneurial vision: not long after his invention, he decided to set up in Terni one of the first telephone lines. He was absolutely certain of their importance and of their future success: «Initially, as it is for any new thing, there will be people who may find the adoption of the telephone unnecessary or premature. Then, as its many advantages become known to all, even porters and shoe shine boys will want one. You’ll see»[10]. The telephone network started with just 50 subscribers but it expanded very quickly. The following year it had 72 subscribers and in 1907 Terni was connected to several Italian cities[11].
In 1908 he was awarded the very coveted investiture as Knight of Labour and the gold medal that the Ministry of Education offered only to meritorious teachers. He passed away in Arrone after a long illness.

 


BIBLIOGRAPHY

The content of this article was mostly taken from the book by C. Armadori, Virgilio Alterocca (1853-1910). Biografia analitica con cenni sulla sua famiglia, Arrone, Thyrus, 2016 to which we refer for a fully comprehensive bibliography of Virgilio Alterocca.

 


[1] S. Marigliani, Il testamento segreto di Virgilio Alterocca, Terni, Stampa litografica Stella, 2012, p. 339.

[2] The professions of the parents are deduced from a birth certificate of their fifth child. Document mentioned by C. Armadori, Virgilio Alterocca (1853.1910). Biografia analitica con cenni sulla sua famiglia, Arrone, Thyrus, 2016, p. 18.

[3] D. Ottaviani, L’Ottocento a Terni, part II, Terni, Arti grafiche Nobili, 1984, p. 98.

[4] «Il Corriere umbro-sabino», 30 Aug 1888. Quoted from C. Armadori, cit., pp. 74-75.

[5] «L’Annunziatore umbro-sabino», 21 Jan 1886. Quoted from C. Armadori, cit., p. 134.

[6] On this subject see P. De Angelis, Divina Commedia. Le cartoline illustrate di Virgilio Alterocca, Terni, Dalia, 2014.

[7] «L’Annunziatore umbro-sabino», 27 Dec 1883. Quoted from C. Armadori, cit., p. 101.

[8] Quoted by C. Armadori, cit., p. 135.

[9] In 1886 Virgilio Alterocca bought from a company a run-down theatre, the Gazzoli, that he completely renovated turning it into a modern theatre that thanks to manager Ciro Scognamiglio would feature an interesting programme. The Politeama would be ceded to the Cassa di Risparmio di Terni in 1894.

[10] «L’Annunziatore umbro-sabino», 30 Dec 1886. Quoted from C. Armadori, cit., p. 139.

[11] Albano, Ancona, Arezzo, Avellino, Bologna, Caserta, Castellammare di Stabia, Cava, Florence, Foligno, Forlì, Frascati, Genoa, La Spezia, Naples, Nocera Inferiore, Perugia, Pesaro, Rome, Salerno, Scafati, Tivoli, Turin, Torre Annunziata and Torre del Greco.

«He was disciple of Angelico Friar John, rightly loved by him, and by those who knew him and considered him a man of great talent and a very skilled painter in representing animals, perspectives, landscapes and ornaments» . (Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de’ più eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani da Cimabue, insino a’ tempi nostri)

 Few are the biographical data about the Florentine Benozzo di Lese di Sandro, better known as Benozzo Gozzoli. Close collaborator of Beato Angelico, indeed his partner, he loved to reproduce his master bloodless expressive dolls, without exceeding him, without going beyond the border. Anyway, in his first works he was able to reach an admirable balance between the firmness of forms in full light and disarming white light.

 

The Annunciation at the Pinacoteca of Narni

A Huge Signed Painting

These characters are perfectly recognizable in the Umbrian works made by the painter. Not only in the cycle of the stories of the life of Saint Francis, frescoed in the homonymous church of Montefalco, but also in the Annunciation of the Virgin, an altarpiece found in Narni and still preserved in the Picture Galley of the town.
The work is a great tempera on a table, 117 cm wide and 142 high; its attribution is certain, as it is signed by the painter himself who, along the lower edge of the brocade curtain behind the Virgin, engraved in capital letters «OPV[S] BENOTI[I] DE FLORENTI[A]». This is not the only inscription but another one is on the mantel of the Virgin: «AV[E] REGINA».
The characters of the altarpiece, the Archangel Gabriel and Mary, are in a portico, of which there are two pillars. The Virgin, with her hands crossed on her chest, is kneeling on a small stool, tracing the model of the Angelico in the third cell of the convent of San Marco in Florence. In the upper part, the rays of light are still partially visible, probably originally completed by the figure, now lost, of the Eternal or the Dove of the Holy Spirit that lit up the scene from above. The refinement of the work is reflected in the care and elegance of the details, such as in the highlights of the fingernails of the characters, the realism of the double keys and the refined inlay decoration of the wooden box behind Maria.

Damages and Restorations

The work is very damaged and has undergone several restoration interventions (1901, 1933, 1947, 1952, 1988, 2002). The author’s signature was already visible before the 1988 intervention, although this is the date that has always been accepted for the discovery of the inscription, actually, already in 1959, Castellani could see it. In any case, perhaps  between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, due to the bad state of conservation, it was no longer easily readable, so much so that the Guardabassi attributed the table to Pierantonio Mezzastris, while Eroli considered it more generically of «Umbrian  School».
To attribute it to Benozzo Gozzoli was Pératé in 1907 which dated it to 1450-1452. The attribution to Gozzoli was also accepted by Gnoli, who subsequently placed the painting around 1449, considering it «the most ancient work of the Florentine master». Even today the painting is dated around 1449, at an early stage of the Florentine master’s stay in Umbria which extended over a period of five years. In 1449 the painter is documented in Orvieto, a city not too far from Narni, which at the time represented an important center of the Papal State, not too far from Rome.
As for the location, Guardabassi, at the end of the nineteenth century, places it in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, today San Domenico, and writes: «II Chapel. The entrance was architected at the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty of the lines correspond to ornamental sculptures. Indoor. Left Wall: Tempered table – the Annunciation; work of the Mezzasti[1]». From Eroli, on the other hand, we know that in 1898 the work was no longer there: «The second chapel was stripped of its ornaments, as well as the paintings that embellished it (…) I do not forget a small table, which I saw here set on the right wall of the altar, having in itself the Annunciation, which I have no doubt in attributing to the Umbrian school; but the worms have done damage, and will soon perish, if the Town Hall, which today has custody, does not cure it and heals it».

A Client's Matter

If the attribution of the work is certain, the commission is uncertain. The proximity of Narni to Orvieto has revealed  the probable link with a work depicting the Annunciation, which had been requested to Benozzo by a «domina Gianna Gregorii» and which had remained incomplete due to the insolvency of the client. Benozzo then tried to give the painting to the members of the Opera of the Cathedral of Orvieto, offering  them to complete the work begun at his expense. The members accepted the offer declaring themselves willing to bear the cost of the colors, provided that the emblem of Donna Gianna was replaced with that of the Fabbrica del Duomo. Of this painting, however, neither the fate nor the execution technique is known, but it is not excluded that the work was the one arrived in an unknown way to Narni.
Another hypothesis is that Benozzo had got in touch with the Dominican friars of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Narni through Angelico’s intermediation. Actually, various iconographic elements, combined with the original location within the Dominican church, lead to a more narnese commissioning.

Symbols

Some apparently decorative details, actually, have a strongly symbolic function; if we accept the Narnese commissioning, they can provide important clues not only on the client itself, but also on the destination of the work. The decorative motif of the carpet at the feet of Mary is of particular importance, it consists of a bevy of black dogs, placed all around the Madonna, almost deployed in her defense. It is probable that an allusion to the Friar Preachers should be seen according to a word play based on their Latin name. The Dominicanes,  followers of Domenico, considered themselves Lord’s Dogs, in Latin Domini canes, as defenders of Catholic orthodoxy, in particular for their function as inquisitors of heresies. Another element that reinforces this thesis is given by the color of the dogs, black with a white outline. These are the same colors of the dress worn by the friars of the Order of Preachers. Moreover, as already mentioned, Benozzo got in touch with the Dominicans thanks to his long fellowship with Beato Angelico and with this monastic order he remained always bound by doing many works for it in different cities. Another element in favor of the Narnese client is the floral decoration on the pillars of the arcade that divides the Archangel Gabriel from the Annunziata. The leaves are clearly ivy leaves, depicted in both the stylized heart and naturalistic shapes. The heart-shaped version of these is distinctive of the House of the Eroli and are present in the coat of arms of the noble family of Narni that in this historical period enriched the city churches with many works of art. Therefore, what looked like just a decoration probably represents a precise reference to the client and is placed significantly at the center of the work. It is very probable that the client was the cardinal Berardo Eroli who, given his close relations with some of the greatest exponents of the political and religious world of the time (Niccolò V, the Medici in Florence, Sant’Antonino Pierozzi, for example,  might have come into contact with the Florentine artist and entrusted him with  his work.

 


[1] M. Guardabassi, Indice-guida dei monumenti pagani e cristiani riguardanti l’istoria e l’arte esistenti nella provincia dell’Umbria, p. 134, Perugia, G. Boncompagni,1872

 


City Museum is located in via Aurelio Saffi, 1 – Narni (TR)

Opening time:

April-June

from Tuesday to Sunday, holidays and pre-holidays 10.30am – 1.00pm/3.30pm – 6.00pm closed

on Mondays

September

every day 10.30am – 1.00pm/3.30pm – 6.00pm

October-March

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, holidays and pre-holydays 10.30am – 1.00pm/3.00pm – 5.30pm

Closed  on 25th December.  On 1st January  afternoon time only.

Telephone: 0039 0744 717117

E-mail: narni@sistemamuseo.it

 


Bibliography:

G. Vasari, Le vite de’ più eccellenti architetti, pittori et scultori italiani, da Cimabue a’ tempi nostri, Firenze, per i tipi di Lorenzo Torrentino, 1550

E. Lunghi, Benozzo Gozzoli a Montefalco, Assisi, Editrice Minerva, 2010

A. Novelli, L. Vignoli, L’arte a Narni tra Medioevo e Illuminismo, Perugia, Era Nuova, 2004

B. Toscano, G. Capitelli, Benozzo Gozzoli allievo a Roma, maestro in Umbria, Silvana Editoriale, 2002

U. Gnoli, L’arte umbra alla Mostra di Perugia, p.32, Bergamo, Istituto italiano d’arti grafiche, 1908

M. Guardabassi, Indice-guida dei monumenti pagani e cristiani riguardanti l’istoria e l’arte esistenti nella provincia dell’Umbria, Perugia, G. Boncompagni,1872

G. Eroli, Descrizione delle chiese di Narni e suoi dintorni: le più importanti rispetto all’antichità e alle belle arti, Narni, Tipografia Petrignani, 1898

Diane Cole Ahl, Benozzo Gozzoli , Cinisello Balsamo, Silvana Editoriale, 1997

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