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 «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)[1]

umbria

 

Simmel considered  landscape as a «work of art in statu nascendi»,[2] 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,[3] 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.[4]
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.[5]

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.[6]
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.[7] 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.

 

Guarantees

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[8] – 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.

 


[1]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.
[2]G. Simmel, Philosophie der Lanschaft, in M. Jakob, Il Paesaggio, Il Mulino, Bologna 2009.
[3] M. Jakob, Il Paesaggio, Il Mulino, Bologna 2009.
[4] Ulivo e olio nella storia alimentare dell’Umbria, in www.studiumbri.it
[5] TreviAmbiente > paesaggi da gustare, 2015
[6] Umbria: protezione di un’origine, a cura di D.O.P. Umbria, Consorzio di tutela dell’olio extra vergine di oliva, 2014.
[7]Da www.reterurale.it
[8] 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

 


 

More on Trevi

Giovanni di Pietro, called Lo Spagna, after his familys 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 Master

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 these only 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 Peruginos style of models, which was a fundamental step in the formation of the painter and in obtaining commissions, and also in his 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 Spagnas 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 the Pinacoteca 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 Spagnas 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.

Inheritage

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:

TodiMuseo 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

TreviPinacoteca 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

SpoletoPalazzo 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