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A Typical Umbrian Village

A village of central Umbria, a frazione of Giano dell' Umbria: 42°50N, 12°33E. Altitude: 483 m

[image ALT: A one-lane country road snaking leftwards into the middle distance toward a clump of a dozen houses among which a small square tower sticks out. A road sign announces that it is Castagnola, a little village in Umbria (central Italy).]

We're looking roughly N: a clump of old masonry, a tower over the gate, pines and olive trees, and one road thru the town (and on to Montecchio); Castagnola lives her life as she has for centuries, and doesn't see too many visitors.

Within the comune of Giano dell' Umbria, about 2 km NW of that town, Castagnola is a little village like hundreds of others in Umbria: so much so in fact, with her medieval walls, her churches, her madonnina, her history, that I think of her as a sort of microcosm of Umbria.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a view of Castagnola, Umbria (central Italy).]

It's not that Castagnola hides in some inaccessible landscape, mind you. Here is the postcard view the visitor has of the town from the front door of the abbey of S. Felice di Giano, looking SW.

Castagnola's history is right in the mainstream. In 1241, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II handed the Duchy of Spoleto over to the Pope, and a few years later documents mention Castagnola for the first time: the hamlet belonged to Montecchio, a fief of Giano, which in turn belonged to Spoleto, and an inventory of all the little places involved in the transfer is recorded in 1247. Thru much of the Middle Ages, central Umbria was fought over by four main players: Perugia, Todi, Foligno, and Spoleto; and at one time or another Castagnola belonged to all except the first, which is a bit farther away than the others: from 1391 to 1439, the notorious Trinci family of Foligno owned the place, then in 1478 we hear of Spoleto getting it back; by the 16c, Spoleto having traded it to a pope's nephew, it had fallen from there into the clutches of Todi — which left its carved eagle over the gate here just as it did in the dozens of other little towns it controlled. Eventually as all the independent towns of Umbria were absorbed into the Papal States, things settled down: Castagnola gave herself some Statuti, the medieval equivalent of a constitution, and went back to tending her sheep, her vineyards, and her olive groves; a quieter little village would be hard to find.

Castagnola's sights and monuments are not outstanding either, or at least if there is something exceptional, I haven't seen it yet; a disclaimer that small as it is, I haven't explored the whole town, the main item missing from my list being the church of S. Croce. But again, what I've seen could be a cross-section of Umbria:

[image ALT: A plaque in Gothic lettering, the text of which is given on the page linked. It is a paean to hometowns, in Castagnola, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 1 page, 2 photos ]

Tucked away on a wall in front of someone's garden, a paean to our hometowns: in some ways, what Italy is all about — and, though it's well inside the town, that doesn't stop computers: it's an excellent prelude to a visit.

[image ALT: The head of a veiled, crowned and haloed woman. She is the Virgin Mary, and it is a detail of a roadside shrine, or madonnina, in Castagnola, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 1 page, 3 photos ]

A more literal prelude to Castagnola, for someone coming up to the town in real life, is the little shrine to the Madonna that we greet as we come up the road.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a detail of the tower over the main gate of Castagnola, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 1 page, 4 photos ]

To a military man, the approach to Castagnola is yet again something else: its walls and its gate.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a detail of the tower over the main gate of Castagnola, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 1 page, 1 photo (and details) ]

If Castagnola ceased fighting her own wars long ago, in the 20c like all of Europe she fought the wars of others; one of her sons fell in World War I and is remembered by his war memorial.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a view of the church of the Madonna del Fosco in Castagnola, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 1 page, 5 photos ]

The church of the Madonna del Fosco is the main sight in Castagnola; about 400 meters out of town, actually.

(And if, leaving to others the rush to famous places, you've opted for slow travel in this part of Umbria, you'll find my diary entry of Apr. 24, 2004 a better resource than these formal pages, with one more photograph, too.)

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Page updated: 31 Jul 05