Thursday, September 28, 2017

Narni and Amelia: Ancient Umbria on the Via Flaminia





This small town in southern Umbria is often called the heart of Italy as it is the closest town to the geographic centre of Italy. Its origins date back to the Umbri who founded Nequinium, but was renamed Narnia by the Romans in 299 BC after the nearby river. It has also been rumoured that Irish author C. S. Lewis named his fictitious kingdom after the ancient Roman town he read about while studying Latin authors, namely his classic children's series The Chronicles of Narnia. The birthplace of Emperor Nervi in 32 AD, Narni was also a stopping point on the Via Flaminia from Rome to Rimini. In the 12th and 14th century Narni became part of the Papal State and developed an important school of painting and goldsmiths. Narnia's Ponte d'Augusto was one of the famous views of classical ruins in Italy, sketched and painted by travellers, artists and poets while on the Grand Tour in the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Turner, Corot and Byron.



Walking up into the historic centre of Narni, having taken a modern funicular up from the valley below

Loggia dei Priori sign above the arches of the old Town Hall

The wealth enjoyed by Narni in the early 14th century led to building a town hall and a palace which had a large loggia where the merchants met in case of bad weather

Original fresco in the loggia

Carved stone balcony of the 13th century Torre die Loggia

14th century fountain in Piazza dei Priori built in 1303

A happy Umbrian pigeon cooling off in the fountain

Old sign for the Italian Socialist Party

Medieval arched walkway leading to a private residence

Bronze sign outside Chiesa S. Franceso

14th century Church of San Francesco where St Francis is reputed to have stayed during his sojourn to Narnia in 1213

Entrance to the little Romanesque church of Santa Maria Impensole, built around 1175

Stone carved portico with classical motifs

One of two stone carved lions who protected the entrance

Fresco of Madonna col Bambino

Exterior of Cattedrale di San Giovenale, the Cattedrale di Narni was built in 1087

Mausoleum of the Bishops of Narni

Beautifully detailed ceiling of the Duomo

Fresco of  Madonna col Bambino

Original 11th century stone and mosaic floor

Walking down Via Giuseppe Garibaldi to Piazza Garibaldi

The Duomo facing onto Piazza Garibaldi

An animated discussion by local Italians on the steps of the Duomo

The bellower and clock of the Duomo

The fountain in Piazza Garibaldi 

A thirsty pigeon in Piazza Garibaldi 

The Bridge at Narni, an 1826 painting by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot




Nearby Amelia is also one of Italy's most ancient hill towns, in fact according to some scholars, Amelia is the oldest town in Umbria. It was supposedly founded by a legendary Umbrian king, King Ameroe, who gave the city the name America, however according to Pliny, it was restored more than 900 years before the war against Perseus, that is in 1134 B.C. The city was later occupied by the Etruscans, and later still by the Romans. Amelia is especially known for its walls, parts of which date to Amelia's earliest days, built in the 5th century BC but which were further fortified and enlarged during Roman times and at various times during the Middle Ages. Today, old Amelia inside the walls, is most accessible through the Porta Romana, and thanks to its beautiful location high on a hill in the beautiful valley of the Tiber and Nera, Amelia is surrounded by fertile countryside known since ancient times for its "therapeutic", apples, pears and willows. At the top of Amelia's exhausting hilly climb is the Piazza del Duomo where the cathedral, 30-meter-high Torre Civica and small leafy park can be found, with fabulous views of the Tiber Valley. The Cathedral, which was built originally in 872, was totally rebuilt in the Baroque style after a fire in 1629, however it's iconic façade of pink stucco was completed only in the 19th century. A welcome surprise after our climb up to the Duomo in the hot sun was finding the delightful il Baronetto nestled in the beautiful gardens of an old Palazzo, with sensational views of the Tiber Valley. 



The ancient Umbrian town of Amelia, entirely surrounded by 7th century polygonal walls, 
boasts spectacular views over the Tiber and Nera Rivers  

The imposing Porta Romana dates back to the 2nd century, with much of it rebuilt in the 16th century

Climbing up Amelia's steep winding streets

Continuing our climb from via Garibaldi

Commemorative plaque to Garibaldi on the exterior of the old Post Office

The streets got steeper and steeper

Stopping to catch my breath for a moment, this property caught my attention 
— amazingly it was for sale!

La Cattedrale di Santa Fermina at the top of Amelia built originally in 872, but was totally rebuilt in the Baroque style after a fire in 1629, but it's iconic pink façade was only done in the 19th century

The ornate Baroque interior of Santa Fermina 

The opulence of the church seemed quite at odds with the Medieval character of Amelia

View over the Tiber Valley from the top of Amelia

Walking down from the Duomo through Amelia

14th century Palazzo Nacci with its interior courtyard and upper loggia

Typical cobbled stone and brick walkway in Amelia

A welcoming sign directing us to Il Baronetto, 
the only restaurant that was open the day we visited Amelia

The vine covered trellis of Ristorante il Baronetta, set in the beautiful Renaissance garden of an old Palazzo

Ripe grapes hanging from the trellis vines

The Palazzo gardens and upper terrace offer spectacular views over Amelia and the Tiber Valley

The view from our garden table

Set under the trees in the garden, our table offered a reprieve from the hot sun

Il Baronetto paper menu logo



The menu was entirely handwritten featuring traditional Umbrian dishes

Our server going back into the Palazzo kitchens with our menu order

Our bottle of cold aqua frizzante

A cold bottle of Ichnusa Beer from Sardinia

A mysterious paper bag sealed with twine arrives — it was our napkin and cutlery!

A pretty basket of fresh crusty bread

 Frantoio di Suatoni olive oil from Amelia, a blend of Frantoio, Moraiolo, Leccino and Rajo olives

Caprese Salad with tiny perfect mozzarella di bufaline and handpicked basil from the kitchen garden

Pollo Arrosto con patate e spinaci

Lasagna al Forno con ragù

As we were leaving il Baronetto, we tasted the sweet grapes hanging from the vine 

With a long drive back to the villa, we left il Baronetto having enjoyed the beautiful garden setting and lovely lunch

Walking downhill through the Medieval streets of Amelia

9th century Porta Leone