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Umbria preserves the memory of Raphael’s extraordinary artistic story; throughout the region, in fact, Rapahael left traces, direct or indirect, of his art.

Crucifixion Gavari

He was one of the most famous painters and architects of the Renaissance. He considered one of the greatest artists of all time, his works marked an essential path for all subsequent painters and he was of vital importance for the development of the artistic language of the centuries to come.
Raphael was born in Urbino in «the year 1483, on Good Friday, at the tree in the morning, by Giovanni de’ Santi, a painter no less excellent, but a good man of good talent, and capable of directing his children to that good way which, unfortunately for him, had not been shown to him in his beautiful youth»[1]. A second version identifies the artist’s birth day on 6th April.

The school of Perugino

The city of Urbino was decisive for young Raphael: indeed, from a very young age, he had access to the rooms of Palazzo Ducale, and he could admire the works of Piero della Francesca, Francesco di Giorgio Martini and Melozzo da Forlì.
But the real apprenticeship took place in Perugino’s workshop of Perugino, where he was able to rediscover, through the refined variations of the master, the rigorous spatial articulation and the monumental compositive order.
Raphael intervened in the frescoes of the College of Change in Perugia: his painting is recognizable where the masses of colour assume almost a plastic value. It is precisely in this context that Raphael first saw the grotesque, painted on the ceiling of the College, which later entered his iconographic repertoire.[2]
In 1499 a sixteen-year-old Raphael moved to Città di Castello, where he received his first independent commission: the Standard of the Holy Trinity, commissioned by a local confraternity that wanted to offer a devotional work as a token of thanks for the end of a plague. It is preserved now in the Pinacoteca Comunale di Città di Castello. It is one of the very first works attributed to the artist, as well as the only painting of Raphael remained in the city. The banner, painted on both sides, depicts in the front the Trinity with Saints Rocco and Sebastiano and in the direction of the Creation of Eve. The precepts of Perugino art are still evident, both in the gentle landscape and in the symmetrical angels.

 

Marriage of the Virgin for church of San Francesco.

 

In Città di Castello the artist left at least two other works: the Crucifixion Gavari and the Marriage of the Virgin for the church of San Francesco. In the first one it is easy to note a full assimilation of Perugino’s manners, even if we note the first developments towards a style of its own. Today it is conserved at the National Gallery in London. The second, however, is one of the most famous works of the artist, which closes the youthful period and marks the beginning of the stage of artistic maturity.
The work is inspired by the similar altarpiece made by Perugino for the Duomo of Perugia, but the comparison between the two paintings reveals profound and significant differences.
Entering the small but delightful church of San Francesco, next to the chapel calves, built in the middle of 1500 on a design by Giorgio Vasari, there is the altar of San Giuseppe, which contains a copy of the Marriage of the Virgin. The original, stolen by the Napoleonic troops in 1798, is kept in the Pinacoteca di Brera.

The works created in Perugia

Meanwhile, the artist’s fame soon began to spread throughout Umbria; thus he came to the Umbrian capital city: Perugia. In the city he was commissioned the Pala Colonna, for the church of the nuns of Sant’Antonio and in 1502-1503 the Pala degli Oddi, commissioned by the famous family in Perugia for the church of San Francesco al Prato.
In 1503 the artist undertook many trips that introduced him to the most important Italian cities such as Florence, Rome and Siena. But the commissions from Umbria were not long in coming: in 1504 was commissioned the Madonna and Child and saints Giovanni Battista and Nicola, called Pala Ansidei.
In the same year he signed in Perugia the fresco with the Trinity and Saints for the church of the monastery of San Severo, which years later Perugino completed in the lower band.
The work of crucial importance was the Pala Baglioni (1507) commissioned by Atalanta Baglioni to commemorate the bloody events that led to the death of Grifonetto, her son. The work was carried out for the church of San Francesco al Prato in Perugia. Raphael in the altarpiece represented the indescribable pain of a mother for the loss of her son and the vital disturbance, through a monumental composition, balanced and studied in detail.

 

Trinity and Saints

 

Raphael became the reference painter for the largest and most important families of Perugia such as the Oddi, Ansidei and Baglioni, establishing himself as a great artist of relief; in the contract of his work, the Coronation of the Virgin, for the church of the nuns of Monteluce, he was mentioned as the best teacher in town. Raphael died on 6th April 1520 of fever caused, as Giorgio Vasari specifies, «by loving excesses». This year marks the 500th anniversary of death.
The artist was at the top of the Renaissance artistic season, bringing his painting to the highest levels of beauty and harmony. Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo wrote: «Raphael had in his face that sweetness and that beauty of the traits that are traditionally attributed to Good».
He lived his life with great commitment and continuity, giving future generations his incredible talent and his precious art, so much that he already deserved the title of divine in life.


[1] Giorgio Vasari, The lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors and architects, Life of Raphael from Urbin, Firenze, 1568.
[2] Paolo Franzese, Raphael, Mondadori Arte, Milano 2008, p. 13.

Pietro Vannucci, known as Il Perugino, is considered one of the greatest exponents of humanism and the greatest representative of Umbrian painting in the 15th century. The painter moves in a historical context that is that of late humanism. «In the city of Perugia was born to a poor person from Castello della Pieve, called Christophe, a son who at baptism was called Peter (…) studied under the discipline of Andrea Verrocchio». (The lives of the most excellent Italian architects, painters, and sculptors, from Cimabue to our times. Part two. Giorgio Vasari).

Self-portrait

Perugino was born in 1450 in Città della Pieve and its first Umbrian artistic experiences were probably based on local workshops such as those of Bartolomeo Caporali and Fiorenzo di Lorenzo. From a very young age he moved to Florence, where he started attending one of the most important workshops: Andrea del Verrocchio’s. The city of the Medici was fundamental for its formation.
His masterpieces conceal religious intimacy: the gentle hills typical of Umbria, the wooded landscape realized with more shades of green, the soft-patterned characters and the fluttering tapes of the angels are his decorative styling that he then transmitted also to his pupil: Raphael.

The works in Umbria and beyond

One of his first documented works is The Adoration of the Magi, and the gonfalone with the Pietà, both in the exhibition halls of the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria. In 1473 Perugino received the first significant commission of his career: the Franciscans of Perugia asked him to decorate the niche of San Bernardino.
Later (1477-1478) is the detached fresco, today in the Pinacoteca Comunale of Deruta, with the Eternal Father with the saints Rocco and Romano, with a rare view of Deruta in the lower register; probably commissioned to invoke the protection of the Saints Roman and Rocco, since an epidemic of plague raged in the territory of Perugia. In 1478 he continued to work in Umbria, painting the frescoes of the Chapel of La Maddalena in the parish church of Cerqueto, near Perugia.
When he reached fame, he was called to Rome in 1479, where he carried out one of the greatest and most prestigious works: the decoration of the Sistine Chapel, work in which also Cosimo Rosselli, Botticelli, and the Ghirlandaio. It is here that he realizes one of his many masterpieces: The Delivery of the Keys to Saint Peter, the Baptism of Christ and the Journey of Moses to Egypt. In the next ten years Perugino continued to gravitate between Rome, Florence and Perugia.
Between 1495 and 1496, he created another masterpiece: the Pala dei Decemviri, so called because it was commissioned by the decemviri of Perugia. In the same period he worked on the decoration of the Sala dell’Udienza in the Collegio del Cambio in Perugia, a cycle completed in 1500. In 1501-1504 is the year in which he made the Marriage of the Virgin, painted for the Chapel of the Holy Ring in the Cathedral of Perugia, iconography taken by Raphael for the church of San Francesco in Città di Castello.

 

Marriage of the Virgin

 

Perugino continued to receive commissions; in fact he realized the Madonna of Consolation, the gonfalone of Justice and the Pala Tezi, preserved in the exhibition halls of the National Gallery of Umbria and the Resurrection for San Francesco al Prato. Excellent works of the painter are also preserved in Città della Pieve, not far from the border with nearby Tuscany. At Santa Maria dei Bianchi and the Cathedral of SS Gervasio and Protasio, there are some of his most significant works such as the Adoration of the Magi.[1]
Following the footsteps of Perugino, you must sop in Panicale, a picturesque village that is part of the most beautiful villages in Italy. In the Church of San Sebastiano there is the work the Martyrdom of San Sebastiano, an entire wall frescoed by the artist.

 

Martyrdom of San Sebastiano

 

Another important stop to discover the whole art of the Divin Pittore is Fontignano, where in 1511 Perugino established his workshop to escape the plague. But the painter died because of the plague in 1523-1524, while he was working on a fresco depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds commissioned for the small Church of the Annunziata. That fresco then was finished by his students, and finally a Madonna with child, the last work he completed in 1522.
Perugino was the initiator of a new way of painting; the artist goes in constant search of landscapes of wider breath, admiring the example of previous Florentines such as Filippo Lippi, Domenico Veneziano and Beato Angelico. The Perugino proceeds towards a slow and gradual conquest of the natural. The harmony inherent in the landscape of Perugia was created by a mystical approach with nature and by an art that, rather than being based on the intellect and training of the eye, as happened in Florence, flowed from the heart and strength of feelings.[2] The Perugino thus marked the taste of an era.

 


[1] Emma Bianchi, “Petro penctore”: l’Adorazione dei magi e la confraternita di Santa Maria dei Bianchi di Città della Pieve, in Perugino e il paesaggio, Silvana Editoriale, 2004, pp. 119-128.
[2] Silvia Blasio, Il paesaggio nella pittura di Pietro Perugino, in Perugino e il paesaggio, Silvana Editoriale, 2004, pp. 15-41.

Berto di Giovanni is a very important Umbrian painter because he helps us understand how the art of Perugino and Raphael greatly influenced even the smallest Umbrian personalities.

Berto di Giovanni is mentioned for the first time in a notarial deed dated 3rd January 1488. His name appears in the freshman painters for Porta Sole, although some documents mention him as Alberto or Ruberto. He is mentioned Chamberlain of Art and in 1502 he receives various payments together with Eusebio da San Giorgio and Nicolò da Cesena for the fresco, now disappeared, of a room intended for the bishop in the canonical of the cathedral.

 


St. John the Evangelist writes the Apocalypse. Perugia, Nazioanle Gallery of Umbria

In Perugino’s workshop

Berto di Giovanni worked in Perugino’s workshop together with other notable personalities: Eusebio da San Giorgio, Sinibaldo Ibi, Ludovico d’Angelo and Lattanzio di Giovanni. The store was a small reality in which social contrasts, their own time and their own experience were shared. This community led to the development of a Koiné, a style in which it becomes really difficult to try to isolate individual shaded areas in precise contours, suffocated by the need to adhere to a common and winning style.[1]
The most important work is the Madonna and Child with Saints James the Greater and Francis; first in San Francesco del Monte and now in the National Gallery of Umbria. The Virgin, seated in a vast landscape, holds the Child in her lap, holding a wreath of flowers in her hands, the Saints kneeling beside her, while two angels in flight place a crown on her head. The Child derives from the overturned cardboard used for the Madonna of the Kress collection, now in the National Gallery of Washington, with appropriate modifications to the little face and the right arm to make him hold, very visibly, the crown of flowers. The landscape, which opens behind the protagonists, makes the table even more fascinating. The figurative language of the composition seems to be articulated on several registers: on the one hand the calmness of a typically composition by Perugino, on the other a more modern evolution of the characters.[2]
Dated 1507 is the Sacred Conversation, now in London at Buckinghain Palace, in which they are depicted the Nativity of the Assumption and the Marriage of the Virgin. The altarpiece shows a prevalent Peruginesque influence with some memories of Pala Ansidei by Raphael.The painter also participated in an excellent work, now preserved in the Vatican Art Gallery: the Coronation of the Virgin, made by Raphael, then completed by Giulio Romano and Francesco Penni. Berto di Giovanni took part in the construction of the predella, now in the National Gallery of Umbria.[3]

 

 

Banner in the cathedral of Perugia

 

In the four scenes the strong color contrasts show the clear influence of Giulio Romano. In fact in the last period, Berto di Giovanni was attracted by the great painter. Walking through the halls of the National Gallery of Umbria you can admire other masterpieces of the painter: St. John the Evangelist in Patmos with the Eternal and the Stories of the saint, which was executed for the Cistercians of St. Giuliana in Perugia. In the table we can see the clumsy representation of the evangelist taken from the figure of Pythagoras in the School of Athens. The last certain work preserved in the cathedral of Perugia is a standar painted in 1526 on the occasion of the plague.[4]

 


[1]Laura Teza, A painting in society: Perugino, Berto di Giovanni and the Store  of 1496, pp. 47-61, in Pietro Vannucci and the Perugian Painters of the early sixteenth century. Mondays of the Gallery. Proceedings of the Conferences 23 February- 10 May  2004, curated by Paola Mercurelli Salari, Superintendency for Architectural Heritage, Landscape, Umbria’s Historic Artistic and Ethno-anthropological Heritage, Perugia, Ponte San Giovanni.
[2] F. Santi, National Gallery of Umbria. Paintings, sculptures and objects of the XV-XVI centuries, Rome, 1985, p. 140, considers it Giannicola, while F. Todini, The Umbrian painting from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, Milan, 1989, I, p. 278 e P. Mercurelli Salari, Painter from Perugia area 9. Madonna with Child, two angels, the Saints Giacomo Maggiore and Francesco, in Perugino and the landscape, catalog of the exhibition (Città della Pieve, 28 February-18 July 2004), Milan 2004 , p .60 close to Berto di Giovanni.
[3] Dictionary of Painters and Engravers Biographical and Critical, by Michael Bryan, p. 119, New Edition Revised and Enlarged, Edit by Robert Edmund Graves B.A., of the British Museum. Volume I A-K, London 1886.
[4] Encyclopedia Treccani, Biographical Dictionary of Italians, Volume IX, 1967.

Ingredients:

  • 500 g of flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 200 g of mixed cheese, possibly pecorino and Romanesco, half of which is grated and half into small pieces
  • 50 g of lard
  • 50 g of extra virgin olive oil
  • 60 g of brewer’s yeast
  • 7-8 pepper granules
  • salt
  • Oil or lard to grease the cake tin

Directions:

Place the pepper granules in a saucepan together with a little water and boil for 15 minutes, then leave to cool and strain. Mix the flour, the eggs, the lard, the oil, the cheese, the pepper-flavored water, a nice pinch of salt and the yeast, dissolved in a little warm water. Grease a tall cake tin, with the base narrower than the top, and fill it in half with the dough. Leave to rise until the cake has reached the edges of the pan (it will take about an hour – an hour and a half) then bake at about 160°. Cook for about an hour, raising to 180° towards the end of cooking. Remove from the oven and let cool before enjoying the cake, which can be kept for many days.

 

This is the modern version of the Easter Cheese Cake because it is baked in the oven, but it respects the traditional ingredients and shape. I owe it to Mrs. Carla Onorini di Magione, who incidentally, instead of mixing the pepper granules in the dough as the original recipe, flavored the cake with boiled pepper water. The pie – pizza in southern Umbria, crescia in Gubbio – with cheese, today is found all the year round in bakeries, but once it appeared on Umbrian canteens only during the Easter period and also on January 6th, Easter Day Epiphany which, according to popular tradition, is the first Easter of the year.

 


Courtesy of Calzetti & Mariucci.

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

Piazza Nuova in Fontivegge

Piazza Nuova in Fontivegge

 

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

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

The itinerary

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

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

 

Architecture

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

 

Piazza Nuova

Piazza Nuova

Stories, activities and projects

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

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

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

Valnerina, praised all over the world as Terra dei Santi (The Land of Saints), it is known also for outdoor adventures and fun. Numerous activities unfold among waterfalls, cliffs and paths through which you can discover the charm of a wild nature that is reflected in the clear water of an indomitable river, the Nera, a name that in its oldest form really means “strong”.

Rafting

Adrenaline descents between the waves: rafting and hydrospeed

The most famous water sport that allows you to sail the Nera is undoubtedly rafting, a particularly dynamic and adventurous way to travel the river aboard colorful rafts. A sport to be experienced, very successful among the youngest. There are many itineraries to choose: from the more adrenaline – fueled ones that run alongside the water of the Marmore Falls – where the river is more bubbly – to the more peaceful ones suitable also for the little ones, but which nevertheless reserve strong emotions. Particular mention deserves the hydrospeed, a river descent clinging to a sort of life preserver in the points where the water flows faster and the rapids are wilder. A faster and more exciting solution for those who want to be protagonists on the river. An adventure to share with a rather unusual travel companion: the Nera. The force of nature, the spirit of adventure, the adrenaline that rises in a whirlwind of emotions that will make you go home changed by this new experience.

Rock balconies: sport climbing

Rock, water, earth: these are the three elements that merge together in this corner of Umbria, shaping rocks, the landscape and nature that are the protagonists of this land. A mountain with a unique and unrepeatable landscape, which offers views of bright beauty from the Ferentillo cliff. A landscape shaped by man, who has been able to preserve the authentic nature of this place; it offers the better a free climber could wish for. Look at the rising wall, follow its lines, the protrusions and then feel the rock under your hands. Climbing keeps in contact with the mountain, a feat no longer reserved for a few athletes, but something that enjoys increasing popularity, for the desire to challenge one’s strength, to be able to observe the altitudes from a rock balcony that offers a totalizing natural experience.

 

climbing

Climbing

Discover the old Spoleto-Norcia railway by mountain bike

Valnerina is a land forged by Mother Nature to be discovered by bike. In this corner of Umbria, between the limpid blue of the River Nera and the skyline of medieval villages and towers, a pedestrian and cycle path develops for over 30 km along the old railway that once connected Spoleto to Norcia. A greenway in the wildest heart of Umbria that runs through places where landscape and cultural contrasts keep tradition alive and accompany bikers on an itinerary with a thousand faces. There are many opportunities to experience interesting encounters: it is quite easy, in fact, to see numerous species of diurnal birds of prey that soar in flight from the majestic rocky folds that frame the path. The most common are the kestrel and the buzzard, or even a pair of golden eagles which has its nest in one of the gorges crossed by the old railway. While rafting enthusiasts glide on the water of the Nera, those who go trekking or cycling can also explore an old abandoned road tunnel. Darkness, bats, frozen drafts and sinister squeaks guarantee 5 thrilling minutes.

 

Old Spoleto-Norcia railway

Old Spoleto-Norcia railway

Walking between heaven and earth: trekking in Valnerina

Valnerina is the ideal setting for those who, with boots on their feet, are looking for a slow experience, in the name of nature and sport. From the Monti Sibillini National Park to the Marmore Falls, each path leads to villages that hold important architectural testimonies or to panoramic points that offer unforgettable views. Trekking in Valnerina means discovering and rediscovering ancient forgotten roads and corners, walking on the border line between heaven and earth, on fox’s or on ancient knights’ traces. Unplug from the everyday life and give yourself a space to live out of time, controlling your steps and feeding yourself with indispensable sensations.

 

Trekking

Between reality and spell: hang-gliding and parachuting

The idea of ​​flying, the desire to imitate birds, has always aroused extraordinary sensations in man, from the myth of Icarus and the genius of Leonardo da Vinci, up to Wright brothers’ invention. However, sitting in comfortable reclining armchairs, we certainly do not feel that sensation to hover in the air. Sensations that pleasantly affect paragliding and hang-gliding enthusiasts. A few steps and away … A long breath and the air seems to suddenly have a scent never felt before. Once in the air, the silence is almost surreal. The only noise you hear is the wind between the sail ropes. The senses are colored with emotions never experienced before. Once the powerful emotional charge of the first seconds is exhausted, you become familiar with this new perspective: it’s time to enjoy the view reserved for the birds and to the lucky few who have this passion in their blood. Down below, with the cutting light of a splendid sunset, the green of the woods and the countryside lights up in all its nuances, and the horizon line becomes more pronounced. An experience to live, halfway between reality and enchantment.

 

hang-gliding

Hang-gliding

Ingredients:

  • 400 g of roveja flour
  • 2 l of salted water
  • 5 anchovy fillets in oil, plus others to decorate
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • extravirgin olive oil to taste

Directions:

Put the pan with the salted water on the fire. As soon as the water boils, pour the roveja flour and mix vigorously with a whisk to prevent lumps from forming. At a low heat, keep turning the polenta with a wooden spoon for about 40 minutes. While the Farecchiata is cooking, heat the extra virgin olive oil with the whole garlic in a non-stick pan; when they are golden brown, remove them and insert the anchovy fillets, letting them melt slowly over low heat. Once the polenta is cooked, remove it from the heat, pour it into the dishes and season with the flavored oil you have prepared; let it rest for a minute, then serve with a rolled anchovy in the center of the plate. Your Farecchiata di Roveja is finally ready to be enjoyed.
A tantalizing variant: to make your Farecchiata more crunchy, cut it into slices, fry it and serve it with an anchovy fillet.

 

Farecchiata, (or polenta with Roveja flour), is a typical polenta with a delicate and slightly bitter taste that is prepared in different areas of the Marche region, but especially in the Castelluccio di Norcia one, in Umbria. It is a dish that belongs to pastoral tradition: an important source of sustenance for the families of shepherds and farmers of the Sibillini Mountains. A very poor dish that in the past was served as a breakfast to the local shepherds. The main ingredient is Roveja, a small and tasty brownish legume, similar to chickpeas but with a stronger flavor. Also known as field pea, robiglio or corbello, roveja is an ancient legume, which risks disappearing due to the difficulties related to the impervious conditions of the territory and the morphology of the plant. Nowadays, in fact, it only survives in a limited area of ​​Valnerina thanks to the efforts of some farmers who work in the locality of Preci (Cascia), where there is also an ancient water source called dei rovegliari. Extremely nutritious, with a high intake of proteins, phosphorus, carbohydrates and a reduced fat content, roveja is now a Slow Food Presidium.

Bernardino di Betto, known as Pinturicchio, was born in Perugia in 1454 by Benedetto di Biagio, in the neighborhood of Porta Sant’Angelo.[1] He was probably called Pinturicchio because of his tiny stature.

He was the heir to an important pictorial and miniaturist tradition, which has its precedents in Bartolomeo Caporali, Fiorenzo di Lorenzo and Benedetto Bonfigli. The Pinturicchio stood out as one of the architects of the great Renaissance season of rediscovery of classicism: in fact he copied the frescos of the Domus Aurea, and contributing to the spread of the grotesque.
He entered the Perugino’s workshop and collaborated with his teacher in Rome, between 1481 and 1482, creating two frescoes: the Baptism of Christ and the Circumcision of the sons of Moses in the Sistine Chapel.
In 1486 he executed the Stories of St. Bernardino that decorate the Bufalini Chapel in S. Maria in Ara Coeli. These frescoes were commissioned to the painter by messer Niccolò di Manno Bufalini, a concistorial lawyer, to recall the proximity between his family and the Baglioni of Perugia, thanks to S. Bernardino. In Rome he also came into contact with the painting of the Ghirlandaio and the Botticelli, who contributed to his artistic formation.
In the second half of the Fifteenth century, the artist made a small but delicious tempera on a table depicting the Madonna and Child and San Giovanni, preserved in the Duomo Museum in Città di Castello.

 

Madonna and Child and San Giovanni

 

The small table depicts Mary, Child Jesus, standing on the knees of her mother and Saint John the Baptist, who holds the inscription Ecce Agnus Dei. The three figures are bright on a broad background, with a composed and severe stylistic language.
The artist returned to Perugia on 14 February 1495, concluding, with the religious of the convent of S. Maria degli Angeli in Porta S. Pietro, the contract for the realization of the Polyptych of S. Maria dei Fossi, now in the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria. The contract for the work has reached us and contains very detailed instructions about the realization, which was intended for the high altar for the church, called dei Fossi. The painter was at the time at the height of his success, favourite by Pope Alexander VI for whom he had just concluded the great undertaking of the decoration of the Borgia apartment.

 

Polyptych of S. Maria dei Fossi

 

The altarpiece is now composed of seven main panels; in the centre stands the Madonna with the child and Saint John, flanked by Saints Augustine and Jerome, dressed as a cardinal and with a model of the church in hand, perhaps the same Santa Maria degli Angeli. Above them two panels with the Announcing Angel and the Virgin announced. On the tree stands the dead Christ supported by two angels and the Dove of the Holy Spirit.
In 1497 the frescoes were painted for the decoration of the Eroli chapel in the Cathedral of Spoleto, portraying the Madonna and Child between San Giovanni Battista and Leonardo, immersed in a sweet lake landscape typical of the Umbrian school.
In 1501 Pinturicchio made another of his best works the chapel Baglioni in Santa Maria Maggiore in Spello. The decoration was commissioned by the Prior Troilo Baglioni. The company was the last important commission of the Pinturicchio in Umbria, before leaving for Rome and Siena.

Self-portrait

These frescoes bear the signature Bernardius Pictoricius Perusinus and represent on the walls: the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Magi, Jesus among the doctors, in the sails instead the four Sibyls and a self-portrait.
The Piccolomini bookshop in Siena, built in 1502, is considered his absolute masterpiece: powerful chromaticism, taste of detail, great attention to the decorative aspect, characterize the intervention of Pinturicchio in the library built in 1495 by Cardinal Todeschini Piccolomini in honor of Enea Silvio Piccolomini.
The last documented work of the artist is the Madonna in Gloria among the Saints Gregory the Great and Benedict, for the Olivetans of the church of Santa Maria di Barbiano near San Giminiano.
It was Vasari, thanks to an anecdote, who recounted his last years: the painter had found accommodation at the Friars of San Francesco in Siena and asked insistently to remove from his cell a trunk, but during the move this broke, revealing its treasure: five hundred ducats of gold, which belonged to the friars, filling the painter with sadness until he died.[2]
The artist died on 11 December 1513 in Siena. He rested in the parish of SS. Vincenzo and Anastasio.

 


[1] Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architetti, a cura di G. Milanesi, III, Firenze 1878, pp. 493-531.
[2] Giorgio Vasari, Vite de’più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architetti, edizione commentata del 1878, vol. III, pag. 503-505.

An engineering masterpiece and monument-landmark of a civilisation which has been studied as much as it is mysterious: the Etruscan Well is an architectural wonder and live testament to the population which founded Perugia, as well as museum site known worldwide.

Etruscan Well

At no. 18 of the central Piazza Danti, a short walk from Piazza IV Novembre, the elegant open-air living room in town, well known due to the magnificent Fontana Maggiore, with Palazzo dei Priori and the cathedral of San Lorenzo around it there is an impressive structure dug into the underground rooms of Palazzo Sorbello, a stately home and headquarters of the Ranieri di Sorbello Foundation, a cultural association dedicated to the memory of Uguccione V Ranieri di Sorbello, a cosmopolitan intellectual, war hero, journalist and local history scholar. Following an intuition by Uguccione, around 1960, the first surveys were conducted on what he considered family property, to be studied and preserved; they confirmed that it was built by the Etruscans, something that had been forgotten despite continuing use by the local population over the centuries.
In the reception room, an introductory video constitutes the actual admission ticket to the wonders of Etruscan hydraulic engineering, presented using a basic approach, adding nothing to this spectacular natural site: the Etruscan Well is a millenary colossus, dating to the second half of the 3rd century B. C. which reaches underground as far down as 37 metres below road level. The well is still working today (even though it is no longer used as a source of drinking water), having been fed by the same three underground springs for more than two thousand years.

The well belongs to a class of engineering works spread everywhere, with the same purpose, although not always with the same shapes that, in the specific case of this structure, take on considerable dimensions: from the various speleological surveys carried out over the years it has been ascertained have a total size of 424 m3 reaching up to 424,000 liters of water.
The structure consists of a cylindrical barrel whose largest point is reached at the level of the water collection tank, where it is 5.60 metres wide and 12 m tall. The upper section of this room is definitely one of the highlights of the visit: the structure here is covered by large travertine slabs extracted from the quarries in Ellera (8 km from Perugia), a construction material which was also used to build the monumental walls around the town.
Also the top cladding of the well, supported by large slabs placed transversally and surrounded by stone beams which are stuck together without using any mortar or lime and forming two trusses weighing 8 metric tons each, is made of travertine. This homogeneity of materials and construction techniques found between the well and the Etruscan walls of Perugia, has made it possible to hypothesize that this was carried out from the beginning as a public work.

 

 

The presence of grooves detected on the surface of the travertine blocks of the upper cover has left us to suppose that for the collection of the water a rather simple system had to be used initially such as the use of buckets tied to a rope. A central pulley system would have been adopted only later, with the realization of the curb that still indicates the well at street level. In 1768, an iron lattice was made to close the mouth of the curb, on which two noble coats of arms were placed, still in iron, relating to two of the noble families who owned Palazzo Sorbello: the Eugeni counts and the Bourbon di Sorbello marquises.
The Ranieri di Sorbello Foundation has been managing the Etruscan Well since July 2016 and – during this period – it has completed an important mission aimed at enhancing the tourism experience for the visitor by means of a restoration and upgrading project with a view to enhancing the narration and use of the facility, also thanks to a fruitful collaboration with other museums in town dedicated to Etruscan archaeology, for example the Museo del Capitolo in Perugia, a starting point for the discovery of Underground Perugia: a journey that leads us inside the architectural stratifications of the acropolis of ancient Perusna (the ancient name of Perugia).

 

Palazzo Sorbello

 

The history of Perugia has deep roots, as does the Etruscan well: an incredibly unique monument which reminds us of a distant age, still allowing us to soak in its atmosphere.

 


For information about opening days and hours, please refer to: www.pozzoetrusco.it
The Wikipedia page on the Etruscan Well has been updated: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pozzo_etrusco

«So in the form of a white rose that was shown the holy militia (…) in the great flower came down that is adorned with so many leaves, and then went back where his love always updates». (Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, Paradise, Canto XXXI, vv. 1- 2 e 10-12)

The rosewindows, real embroideries of stone placed on the facades of the churches, through their decorations filter the divine light, becoming colored beams that illuminate the aisles. The rose window is a spoke wheel that symbolizes, according to Christian tradition, the dominion of Christ on earth. It is present on the axis of the main nave, sometimes also of the secondary ones or in correspondence of chapels or cross arms. The circular shape and the chromatic range allowed the glass masters to create works of sacred art depicting, in the form of an icon, the most significant passages of the Gospel. The rose window represents the wheel of Fortune: Dante himself defines it as an angelic Intelligence that is based in Empiricism and operates among men through a divine plan. The rosette «clearly explains the cyclical nature of human fortune and confines human time to the immeasurable nature of God’s time».[1]

 

Basilica of San Benedetto

 

Its name, used since the Seventeenth century, is an accretive of the Latin term rosa, which suggests its similarity to the structure of the flower. The rose, whose freshness and beauty suggests an ethereal symbol, also recalls the chalice of Christ.[2]
In the Divine Comedy, in the XXXI canto of Paradise, Dante evokes the celestial rose that gathers in paradise the circle of the blessed admitted to contemplate God. The rose window is closely related to the circle, a symbol of perfection and therefore of God, but at the same time it is also the symbol of the labyrinth, which is created by the many plant motifs present within. The labyrinth recalls the inner search and the initiatory journey. It thus represents a link between the human and the divine worlds.

Church of San Francesco in Norcia

A tour in Valnerina

Umbria, a land of deep mysticism and spirituality, conceals in its territory the footsteps of the saints who changed the face of Christianity. It was in the green hills and highlands of Norcia that found the faith San Benedetto.
In the historic center of the city, stands the Basilica of San Benedetto, built at the birthplace of the saint and then enlarged in the Thirteenth century.
The facade, with a gabled profile, has at the bottom a splayed portal and is enriched at the top by a rose window, decorated with acanthus leaves and accompanied by the symbols of the four evangelists. Unfortunately the church was deeply damaged during the earthquake of 2016, but you can easily guess its ancient splendor.
Of great artistic and architectural interest is the church of San Francesco in Norcia, built entirely in white stone and completed by the Conventual Franciscans.
Valuable is the large rose window that dominates the façade: a frame made with rosettes and round arches, like a real embroidery, pierces the hard stone, revealing its deep meaning through the void of matter but full instead of the divine light.
A few kilometres from the homeland of San Benedetto, in Preci, stands the Hermitage of Sant’ Eutizio. The oldest part of the abbey dates back to the Ninth century and it was completed at the behest of Abbot Tendini I in 1190. The abbey bewitches the viewer as it is entirely built on a terrace between the cliff and the valley below. The rose window, a true jewel of sculpture, prevails over the structure of the church. It is a large circle surrounded by the symbols of the evangelists, typical of Romanesque architecture, but also bears fragments of early medieval sculpture.[3]

Hermitage of Sant’Eutizio

Not far from Norcia another magnificent rose window dominates the facade of the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Vallo di Nera. The church dates back to 1176 and has a façade with stone conce typically Romanesque. It is distinguished by a Gothic portal with an ogive decorated with capitals and friezes and in the upper part a rose window punctuated by twelve columns perfectly in line, which seems to be reabsorbed in the wall.
City deeply linked to spirituality, but also to the symbol of the rose window and therefore to the rose itself: Cascia is a religious center linked to the figure of Saint Rita. In this village stands the church of San Francesco, where the Blessed Franciscan Peace was buried in 1270. A prominent element of the façade, made by Comacini masters, is the refined rose window, very particular because it is given by ingranaggio of the two opposing wheels that create a dynamic effect of rotation. It is composed of eighteen columns with capitals and eighteen trilobed arches, which converge towards the center where there is a Madonna with Child. All around acanthus leaves recall classic motifs. The delicacy of the inlay making this rose window is a true masterpiece of the regional sculptural art. The Umbrian Apennines are the silent guardian of the traces of saints and pilgrims, founders of hermitages inspired by the rules of poverty, solitude and simplicity.
A legend says that Saint Mauro, his son Felice and their nurse passed through Sant’Anatolia di Narco. The population asked Mauro for help to be freed from a dragon that infested those places. Saint Mauro, thanks to divine help, faced and killed the dragon. The episode of the liberation is depicted in the frieze of the façade. In it there is also the rose window, among the most interesting examples of Umbrian Romanesque sculpture, with two rows of columns, inscribed in a square with the apocalyptic symbols.

 

Church of San Francesco

The symbology of the facade is exemplary: the rose window represents Christ, who brings light to the world, identified with the Church, through the voice of the four evangelists who allowed the knowledge.[4]
Finally, one of rose window most particular is that in the church of San Salvatore in Campi di Norcia. The tragic earthquake events of 2016 led to the collapse of much of the building and the destruction of the bell tower dating back to the sixteenth century. The remaining walls have been consolidated to secure the portions of frescoes that will be reinstated in the recovered parts.

 

Church of San Salvatore in Campi di Norcia.

 

The church, nestled in the Umbrian hills, is a rare example with two naves, with two doors and two rose windows, moreover not aligned with the line of the roof. Particularly interesting is the large outer ring of the rose window, carved with acanthus branches arranged in a sinuous spiral rotation. Basilicas, abbeys and small churches, surrounded by green Umbrian typical valleys, magical and mystical places at the same time, but also essential guides that help the visitor, spectator or hermit to grasp the purest and deepest part of Umbria. These and many other places give back precious jewels of a past time. Unfortunately many of them were deeply affected by the earthquake of a few years ago, but very often art and beauty conquer the silence that descends on the rubble, bringing these places back to their ancient beauty.

 


[1] Claudio Lanzi, Sedes Sapientiae The symbolic universe of cathedrals, Simmetria edizioni, Roma, 2009, pag. 162.
[2] M. Feuillet, Lexicon of Christian symbols, Edizioni Arkeios, Roma, 2006, p. 97-98.
[3] L. Zazzerini, Umbria Eremitica. Ubi silentium sit Deus, Edizioni LuoghInteriori, Città di Castello, 2019, pp. 124-131.
[4] L. Zazzerini, Umbria Eremitica. Ubi silentium sit Deus, Edizioni LuoghInteriori, Città di Castello, 2019, p. 109.

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