Saturday, 16 January 2016

Umbria - Italy's green heart (day 3)

Our last day included a visit to Narnian ancient hilltown that overhangs a narrow gorge of the Nera River in the province of Terni. It is very close to the Geographic center of Italy. There is a stone on the exact spot with a sign in multiple languages
Like many of the smaller towns of Umbria, Narni is still of strikingly medieval appearance today, with stone buildings, and narrow cobblestone streets. The town is famous for one of the largest Roman bridges (Ponte d'Augusto]) ever built, by which the Via Flaminia crossed the Nera. One arch of the bridge still stands; it is some 30 meters high.
Other sights include:
  • Duomo (Cathedral).
  • Eroli Museum with a Domenico Ghirlandaio's altarpiece.
  • Church of Santa Maria Impensole.
  • Communal Palace (13th century).
  • Palazzo dei Priori, located in the ancient Roman forum's site.
  • Rocca Albornoziana (Albornoz' Castle), overlooking the town, now hosting temporary exhibitions.
  • Romanesque church of Santa Pudenziana, just outside the town.
  • Church of Sant'Agostino, decorated with 18th-century tromp-l'oeil frescoes.
  • Benedictine abbey of San Cassiano.

I love that the imaginary land of 
Narnia, described in the works of C. S. Lewis, was named after Narni after he came across the name in an atlas as a child. Magical!

Our visit concluded with a tour of Narni Sotterranea, situated under St. Dominic's monastery area, the entrance is in a 12th century church, discovered just 30 years ago. This church still preserves some of the most ancient frescos of the city. Through  a passage in the masonry we enter into a large room with a roman cistern, which is probably the remains of a roman house, a "domus". Then, through a long narrow passage, we reach a large dark room which was the Tribunal of the Inquisition, where the accused heretics were put on trial. Several documents, discovered in the municipal and Vatican Archives and Trinity College in Dublin, and the traces left on the masonry by the torture instruments , prove the existence of these trials. A little cell, unique in this way in Italy, gives evidence, through graffiti on its wall, of the pain suffered by those who were imprisoned there to be put on trial. One of them left a message in a graphic code that still isn't completely decoded.
A photogaphic exibition shows the instruments used by the Tribunal to extort confessions from those accused of heresy. The tour of "Narni Underground" ends in the big cistern of the medieval "Lacus", under Garibaldi Square.

Our tour was conducted by one of the original founders of the caves, although he spoke little English, and me even less Italian, I was captivated by his story. 


A meander through the streets of Narni, more pretty doorways and intriguing alleyways... couldn't you just wander for hours!

Our next stop, the fortress Rocca Albornoz which houses an interactive museum through 14 rooms of medieval history. On display were weapons that were used in battles and tournaments, costumes and fashions depicting the standards of beauty of that time; an exhibition of musical instruments; a true discovery of the myths, legends, truths and secrets of the Middle Ages.

Not to mention a fantastic aerial view of the hillside towns around Narni.

Unfortunately, this is where our tour of Terni stopped. I look forward to visiting again with family and exploring even more of Italy's beautiful green heart. Umbria.

For further information on the areas visited, please click below;

Julie xx 

Umbria - Italy's green heart (day 2)

An early start took us to witness the breathtaking beauty of "Cascate delle Marmore" (Marmore Falls), a man-made course reaching a height of 165m and divided into three falls. It is the highest in Europe and dates back to the 3rd Century BC. Legend has it that a young shepherd boy, Velino, fell in love with the beautiful nymph Nera after seeing her bathe in the river. After being rejected, he threw himself off a cliff in to the river so as to remain with his beloved for eternity.

Historically, it was created to divert the water into the river Nera, thus freeing the valley from the swamp and making it healthier. The waterfall was altered again in between the 15th and 18th centuries to clear obstructions caused by limestone deposits. Since the mid 19th century it has been used to produce hydroelectric energy for Terni, and is therefore only open to visitors as certain times throughout the year when the water release is controlled.

Before, a mere trickle;

After, a raging torrent;

A fairy glen....

In every age, the beauty of the Waterfalls has inspired poets and artists, among these: Virgilius, Cicero, G. Byron, and many others.

Lord Byron - Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

There are several paths to follow ranging in difficulty and length, it would be easy to spend a full day here. There are also opportunities for guided tours through the park and deep into the caves, as well as climbing and rafting by organised groups.
I think I fell a little in love with Marmore and would love to return with my family so they can experience its beauty.

All that fresh air and walking had certainly made us hungry. Our next stop was the hilltop town of Amelia which is surrounded by an imposing ring of walls dating back to the 7th century BC. But first, lunch at the beautiful La Gabelletta

Amelia - a town situated on a hill overlooking the Tiber River to the east and the Nera River to the west. Considered the oldest town in Umbria, it was supposedly founded by a legendary Umbrian king, King Ameroe, who gave the city the name Ameria.  It is especially known for its walls, parts of which may date to Amelia's earliest days. Large segments of which are built in polygonal masonry of carefully jointed blocks of limestone — most likely an Etruscan work (a 30-meter segment of this wall collapsed in 2006 and is under repair). The walls were further fortified and enlarged during Roman times and during the Middle Ages. The walls run about 720 meters and are about 3.5 meters thick, with four main gates: the imposing Porta Romana to the south, the main access to the town; Posterola to the north; Porta Leone to the east; and Porta della Valle to the west.

Tour of the palazzo, museo Archeologico and theatre

Onwards to San Gemini - a well-preserved medieval town with two lines of walls, built over the remains of a small Roman center along the old Via Flaminia. It is especially known for its mineral waters..
The twelfth-century duomo dedicated to the commune's patron, the locally venerated Saint Gemine, whose relics were recovered in 1775, was rebuilt in 1817. Brother Gemine was a monk of Syrian origins who died in 815. The burial urn and original stone are conserved in the sacristy; the saint has been reburied under the high altar. 
The saint's day is 9th October and while visiting on Saturday 8th we witnessed the historical re-enactments where the town wears the colours of the flags that the two neighbourhoods, Rocca and Piazza, hang at their windows during the celebrations. There are parades and a jousting tournament where the winning town is awarded with the Palio d'argento. We watched a fabulous display by the apprentice flag throwers at the Piazza Palazzo Vecchio.

Following the display we headed to Tenuta Marchesi Fezia, a country hotel in the heart of Umbria which produces its own salami, truffles, legumes, pasta, oil, wine, sauces, jams and cakes.

 A truly wonderful end to a wonderful day!

If you'd like to read day 3, it can be found here