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Narni

A town of W central Umbria: 42°31N, 12°31E. Altitude: 240 m. Population in 2003: 20,100.

[image ALT: A small but massive fortress on the summit of a hill clothed mostly in brush, but with a group of about cypresses next to its walls. It consists of two square battlemented almost windowless towers, about four stories tall, a lower bastion attached to the front tower, and a few bits of battlemented connecting walls. It is a view of the Rocca of Narni, Umbria (central Italy). ]

The recently restored medieval Rocca.

Narni is a town toward the southern tip of Umbria, 35 km N of Civita Castellana (in the Lazio) and 13 km SW of Terni, 18 km NE of Orte and 11 km ESE of Amelia, perched on a high crest overlooking the gorges of the Nera River. If, speaking Italian, you figure that the river must be black, chase that idea away: it's in fact of a most characteristic olive-grey color; but in Roman times, the watercourse was called the Nar, etymology unknown, from which the town apparently takes its name. At any rate Narni's position made it early on a place that needed to be held and fortified: it's about the only place thru which to run a road; the road was the Via Flaminia, largely built in the 3c B.C., which played so important a rôle in Roman history and later in the history of central Italy.

[image ALT: A tall hill, almost a mountain, crowned by a large square fortress. Lower down, a small town girdles the hill along a road; a plain can be seen in the distant background. It is a view of Narni, Umbria (central Italy).]

Narni as you approach her from the south on the Via Flaminia.
The bright-shining spot of buildings to the left, far below, is the abbey of S. Cassiano.

The moldering stone of the town, isolated above everybody else's landscape, oppressed by its fortress and underpinned by the colossal arched Roman bridge over the grey waters of the Nar, exudes a brooding air of the hoariest and most decayed antiquity; a setting made for The Mysteries of Udolpho or some other first-rate Gothic novel: the very ancient church of S. Maria in Pensole with its crypt and loose heaps of exposed human ribcages and other bones, thru which the visitor, if they like, can run their hands; the church of S. Domenico hulked down over the prisons of the Inquisition; the Roman aqueduct of the Formina, to visit which you have to be trained and vetted by the local speleological association; phallic symbols, of unknown date and purpose, carved in the cliff a mile or so S of town, along the Flaminia: in sum, Narni weaves a spell of dark fascination rather than sweetness and light. If you're looking to sip wine in a "quaint hilltown" — loathsome phrase — go away!

I've visited Narni and its area several times, although each time only in passing, chipping away at the town, as it were, so you will eventually get a proper site; here are my first steps in that direction. (You may also find it useful to look at my diary entries — some more detailed than others, and some covering not the actual town but little places within the township — for Oct. 18, 1994 • Oct. 3, 1997 • Oct. 22, 1997 • Sep. 17, 1998 • Nov. 15, 1998 • Aug. 26, 2000 • Sep. 21, 2000 , some of which include additional photographs. For further and much better information, see the websites linked in the navigation bar at the bottom of the page.)


[image ALT: A huge ruined stone bridge, or at least the first large arch of it since the others have to a large extent collapsed. It is seen from the level of the carriageway; in the background, about 20 km worth of scenery: populated area nearest the viewer, almost a city, with a church belfry rather prominent; in the distance, a mountain. It is a view of southern Umbria in central Italy from about ten meters away from the Roman bridge at Narni.]

[ 6/12/99: 2 pages, 3 images: a very incomplete site for now ]

Narni is famous the world over for the great Roman bridge that once carried the Via Flaminia over the Nar. The bridge was already famous in Antiquity: it was the largest in the Roman world.


[image ALT: A patch of plastered wall, covered with graffiti, the largest of which is a painted circle similar to a clock face, containing the Roman numerals I thru VI; and in the center, a twisted metal rod sticks out of the wall. It is a device made by a prisoner in Narni, Umbria (central Italy), explained in the text of the linked webpage.]

[ 1 page, 1 photo ]

There are several interesting churches in town. So what have I chosen to start with? Some 18c graffiti, and a thing that is not a sundial, in those prison cells under S. Domenico.


[image ALT: The head of an angel carved in stone, in low relief. It is a detail of the pulpit of the cathedral of Narni, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 5/14/05: 1 page, 5 photos ]

Those churches will, in fact, eventually get their pages. For now, a sampler.

Frazioni

Like most of the comuni in Italy, Narni includes in its territory some smaller towns and hamlets, of a few hundred inhabitants if that, with a certain administrative identity of their own: as elsewhere in Italy, these are referred to as the frazioni of the comune (singular: frazione, literally a "fraction"): a complete list of them follows. Gualdo and Narni Scalo are the only ones I've only been to, with links to my diary; any other links will be offsite.

Borgaria • Guadamello • Gualdo • Itieli • La Cerqua • Montoro • Narni Scalo • S. Faustino • S. Liberato • Sant' Urbano • S. Vito • Schifanoia • Taizzano • Vigne

The comune of Narni, rather unusually, maintains a series of pages on its frazioni and even some still smaller hamlets within its borders: see their orientation page. At one of these latter, the località of Stifone, in 2005 a Roman shipyard was discovered, which is now being excavated; Christian Armadori's page is of interest.


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Page updated: 20 Sep 12