Saturday, 16 January 2016

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