Here are just a few of the beautiful places to visit….
Caprese Michelangelo is fifty kilometres from Arezzo, which is the principal town of the province to which the municipality belongs. Lying 653 metres above sea level Caprese Michelangelo has a population of 1625 inhabitants. The name originates from the Latin word ‘Capra’ meaning wild goat, ‘Michelangelo’ was added because the celebrated renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarotti was born in Caprese.
The first settlements in the area date back to the Etruscan and Roman periods evidenced by the extensive archaeological finds that have come to light over the years.
Anghiari is 25 minutes drive from the Barn. It is one of the most beautifully preserved medieval towns in Italy. The walled town nestles into the hillside and sits above the vast plains of the Tiber Valley below and the town of Sansepolcro. It’s a town full of charm and character, of stone buildings, terracotta tiles, rounded Romanesque and square medieval towers with round-headed arched window recesses, supported by neatly carved pillars. Coned and pyramid shaped roofs with intricately forged weathervanes stretch towards the sky and you half expect to see a damsel in distress and those long thin, brightly coloured silken flags curling in the breeze. It is home to an abundance of fabulous artisan shops including the world renowned ‘Busatti’ lace and linen makers. A wealth of restaurants, cater for all budgets and offer a range of choices from a simple Pizza and locally produced wine, to that of an à la carte menu and the more prestigious Tuscan wines such as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello.
A general market is held weekly on a Wednesday morning, whilst on a Sunday the piazza is home to a ‘Bric a brac’ style market. Throughout the summer months the town also plays host to various music concerts and food festivals, including the London Southbank Sinfonia Orchestra. We have even seen ‘Morris’ dancers performing in the main piazza!
Church of Santa Maria in Micciano
This beautiful church which lies only minutes from Anghiari, is reached along a road lined with cypress trees and has been documented since the year 1080. It was originally under the patronage of the Counts of Galbino. Today the church and its bell tower with its striking clock face sits in a prominent position overlooking the plains of the Tiber valley set with fields of sunflowers and tobacco plants.
Sansepolcro lies forty minutes away from the Barn, on the plains of the Upper Tiber and at the foot of the last stretch of the Appenine Mountains. The area was historically populated by the Etruscans and then succeeded by the Romans; the fertile plains once covered in walnut trees, provided a source of timber to both.
The City which has a population of just over sixteen thousand people is probably best known today for being the birth place of the famous painter Piero della Francesca (1416-1492). The memory of the great master is preserved in the Palazzo della Residenza or Civic Museum which was constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries. Its highlights include two of Piero’s most important works, ‘La Resurrezione’ and ‘La Madonna della Misecordia’.
At the end of Via Aggiunti lies the Medici fortress which was originally built in the 13th century, commissioned by Cosimo I of Medici. In the 1800’s the fortress with its angular bastions was transformed into a farm and is now owned privately. The heart of the historic centre is the Piazza Torre di Berta, where on the second Sunday in September the traditional Palio della Balestra is held. Here the townsfolk dress in medieval costumes and compete with the team from the nearby town of Gubbio in a crossbow competition.
Sansepolcro is filled with many treasures within the museums, churches, convents and monasteries of which there are far too many to mention. Many are tucked away in the narrow back streets, out of sight of the main thoroughfare which is lined with designer boutiques and cafes. It is also home to the famous Pasta makers ‘Buitoni’ which was founded in 1827. A general market is held here every Tuesday and Saturday morning.
Citerna, a town which lies thirty kilometres south east of the Chestnut Barn, sits on the border of Tuscany and Umbria and is classed as one of Italy’s most beautiful medieval hilltop villages, having featured in the ‘Borghi più Belli d’Italia’ (most beautiful villages in Italy) competition. The city walls which protect the heart of Citerna were built between the 13th and 14th century and the views alone are worth the visit. There is also much to be discovered when it comes to its history and works of art. In the church of San Francesco you can view an exquisite terracotta statue of the ‘Madonna and Child’, that was discovered in 2001. After four years of scrutiny by various experts, the Madonna and Child, was finally attributed to Donatello the famous Florentine renaissance artist. The statue dates between 1415 and 1420. The Citerna tourist information office offers a guided tour of the church and a visit to the temperature controlled side room where she is housed under lock and key.
The small town, once a fortress takes its name from the word cisterna meaning cistern, and today the extensive network of channels, tanks and vaults that lie below have been fully excavated and restored and can also be seen on this tour, for the princely sum of five euros.
Another unique feature of the town is the medieval arched walkway or camminamento medievale which circles much of the east and west sides of the town, at the base of the fortified walls, part of which is known as Via degli Innamorati, or ‘road of the lovers’.
Villa La Ripa – Vineyard
The Villa La Ripa estate is located in the hills on the outskirts of the nearby town of Arezzo, at Antria. The magnificent Renaissance Villa suddenly appears as you walk up the last fifty metres of lawned steps and a grand gravel frontage opens out before you. It is here where you can start your guided tour of the formal garden and the cave or cellar where the wine is made. The Vineyard is relatively small in terms of production; the area of land, only two hectares in size produces seven thousand bottles of wine per year, which is just over one bottle per vine. There are four wines produced in total, 3 red and one rose and all are delight to the senses. The wines are of incredible quality and deserve to be at the top of their class.
For more information, please visit www.villalaripa.it/ or let me know if you would like to visit and I will arrange for you to be part of a tour.
Gubbio lies to the south east of the Barn and is full of impressive buildings the Palazzo dei Consoli which was built between 1332 -1338, being one of the most beautiful public halls in all of Italy. To the left of the building is the crenellated bell tower where the ‘big bell’ which weighs two tonnes and dates back to 1769 can be found. The main building now houses the Municipal Museum where there are various collections displayed from the 6th century BC right up to the 19th century. The Museums most treasured possession being the world famous Eugubine Tablets, seven bronze tablets, which are engraved with religious rites, the most extensive text of the ancient western world, which have ever been discovered and the most important text in the Umbrian language.
This is a town of a mix of medieval, Gothic and Renaissance architecture where the houses and palaces that tower above you, climb ever higher up through narrow streets to another level on the lower slopes of Mount Ingino. The Colle Eletto cable car connects the town to the convent and Basilica of Saint Ubaldo, a former Bishop of Gubbio. The saint died in 1160 and his remains are now kept within a Neo Gothic Urn which sits above the high altar. The cable car runs from near the Porta Romana gate, although the convent and Basilica can also be reached by car if you have no head for heights!
La Verna which is eighteen kilometres north of the Chestnut Barn is the well-known sanctuary where millions of pilgrims pay their respects every year to St Francis of Assisi. The Sanctuary is made up of a number of buildings, chapels, beautiful cloisters, gardens and walkways. Count Orlando Cattani of Chiusi della Verna gave La Verna to St. Francis in 1213 as a place for quiet prayer and contemplation. Five years later the Count funded the building of the first chapel Santa Maria degli Angeli; fittingly on his death the Count was buried in the chapel.
As you make your way through the ‘Corridor of the Stigmata’ that leads to the spot where St Francis received the stigmata in 1224, you can enter a small door on the right and find yourself amongst the vibrant lime green fronds of ferns that grow out of the constantly wet rock formations. The unmistakable sound of dripping water echoes through the low entrance to a cave, where St Francis often slept, and a metal grate now protects the horizontal stone he used for a bed.
The frescoes that line the ‘Corridor of the Stigmata’ were painted more recently between 1929 and 1963 and have subsequently been restored; they depict significant episodes in the Saint’s life. The ‘Chapel of the Stigmata’ now stands on the spot where St Francis is said to have received Christ’s wounds on his own body. The building was erected in 1263 under the direction of Count Simone da Battifolle. The famous Florentine born artist Andrea Della Robbia created the altarpiece. A glazed terracotta panel, which depicts the Crucifixion, the border, filled with enamelled lemons. The artwork stands at six hundred centimetres by four hundred and fifty, the largest he ever made. In the ‘Chapel of Relics’ within the main Basilica you will find St Francis’s cowl and habit. The much-treasured relics of his garments were kept in Florence for nearly eight hundred years, and were returned to La Verna in the year 2000. There are also other interesting artefacts on display; one is a piece of linen possibly stained with blood from the wound in St Francis’s side.
A portico of nine arches dating from the 15th and 16th centuries surrounds the beautiful Basilica of Assumption from its square bell-tower to the start of the ‘Corridor of the Stigmata’. On the wall on the right is a niche which houses a bronze by V.Rosognoli, which was given to La Verna in 1888 by Pope Leo XIII; it portrays the Crucified Christ embracing Saint Francis. Unfortunately it bears the scars of bomb splinters caused by the bombardments during 1944, which La Verna endured. The bell- tower that luckily survived was built between the years 1486-1490. The Basilica of Assumption holds services throughout the day, some of which can be attended by the general public and there are also festivals held throughout the summer.
The city of Ravenna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the capital of the Roman and western Byzantine empire and has a wealth of stunning early Christian mosaics which are an absolute must-see! A thriving seaport in ancient times (it now lies 5 miles inland). Ravenna rose to power in the 1st century BC under the Emperor Augustus. The Roman emperor built a port and naval base at nearby Classe. The town converted to Christianity very early, in the 2nd Century AD. As Rome’s power declined, Ravenna took over as capital of the Western Empire (402AD) and in 540 the city became part of the Byzantine empire under Justinian. Ravenna’s exquisite early Christian mosaics span the years of Roman, Ostrogothic and Byzantine rule.
Today, Ravenna is a very pleasant town of about 140,000. It looks much like any other Italian city at first glance, with old streets, fine shops and peaceful piazzas, but the Byzantine domes of its churches still evoke its Eastern heritage. As an extra bonus, it’s a great place to taste the famously delicious food of the Emilia-Romagna region. The city annually hosts the Ravenna Festival, one of Italy’s prominent classical music gatherings. Opera performances are held at the Teatro Alighieri, while concerts take place in the Palazzo Mauro de André as well as in the ancient Basilica of San Vitale and Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe. A ticket can be purchased from the Tourist information centre to 5 of the major sites and they are well worth a visit.
Cesenatico on the Adriatic Coast
Cesenatico lies 64 miles north-east of the Chestnut Barn. The town dates from 1302, when the harbour was created and a fortress built to protect the town. In 1502 the famous renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned by Cesare Borgia to design the harbour canal. It was from here on the 2nd August 1849 that Garibaldi sailed with his armies to save Venice. Ten traditional sailing boats line the canal and are a sight to behold, especially when used as part of the towns many festivals which take place during the summer months, the brightly coloured sails or ‘Vele a terzo’. The town also boasts a wonderful Maritime Museum dedicated to the seafaring history of the port and coastline, as well as the small but interesting museum, which uncovers the Roman history and archaeological finds of the area. The museums are open only on weekends and holidays from 10am-12am and 3pm-7pm. The entrance fees are around 2 euros.
The beaches are sandy and many lined with umbrellas and loungers which can be hired for the day. Cesenatico is renowned for the ‘Adriatic Blue fish dish’ the name taken from the colour of the fishes dorsal fin, which is available in most of the fish restaurants which line the old canal, they offer freshly caught fish and shellfish of all varieties. Ristorante Ca Nostra also offers vegetarian, vegan and gluten free dishes…
Casa Castagno | A Chestnut Barn in Tuscany