AN ITALIAN EXPERIENCE - Places to Visit
Amelia and its territory
NEWS FROM AMELIA January 2006
The 20-metre section of wall which collapsed was undergoing restoration work in recent weeks although activity had been suspended for a few days because of bad weather.
This is from ANSA. www.cronaca.com
AMELIA, Province of Terni, Umbria
Amelia is a nearby town in Umbria. It is full of controversy these days, with the collapse of a long stretch of ancient wall holding up the town. It's worth visiting anytime.
Here's some history of the town and those ancient walls:
Cicero had a connection with Amelia, too. His first client as an attorney was a man charged with murder. The man lived just outside Amelia. I remember reading about it in Anthony Everett's book, Cicero.
Amelia was purportedly founded by a legendary Umbrian king, King Ameroe. Ameroe gave the city the name Ameria. The city was later occupied by the Etruscans, and later still by the Romans, who gave it the status of a "Municipium", possibly as early as 338 BC, but certainly by the middle of the 1st Century BC.
During the so called "Latin War", during which Rome conquered much of central Italy, Amelia was strategically located on the Via Amerinia, connecting it to Todi, Perugia, Chiusi and Nepi.
During the barbarian invasions, the city was besieged and badly damaged by the Goths, but was rebuilt by the time the Longobards descended from the north and asserted control over most of what is now Umbria. The Longobards, in turn, were forced out by the Byzantines, and thereafter, throughout the Middle Ages, and up to the time of Italian unification in 1860, Amelia stayed more or less under the domination of the Roman Catholic Church within the Papal States.
During the period the Longobards remained in control of the Via Flaminia, Amelia was an important stop on a vital alternative route, the so-called Byzantine Way, which connected Rome to the exarchate in Ravenna.
In the Middle Ages, Amelia went through the political convulsions common to other Umbrian cities: struggles that saw it emerge as an independent-minded comune (the Age of the Comunes), then as a city under the control of a succession of powerful families, sometimes ecclesiastical (the Age of the Signori), and subject to internecine warfare between Guelphs and Ghibellines.
Monuments and Buildings
The walls run about 720 meters and are about 3.5 meters thick, and have four main gates: the very imposing Porta Romana to the south, main access to the town, Posterola to the north, Porta Leone to the east and Porta della Valle to the west.
The Romans left other traces of their occupation, including a complex of ten underground "cisterns", built in the 1st Century AD, which collected thermal waters to feed a luxurious Roman Bath. There are also evidences of Roman roads within the city, some only recently uncovered. One part sits in the midst of a local restaurant, so you can dine hearing the echoing footsteps of the Amerini from the Roman period.
Roman emperors, nobles and other notables used "cool" and quiet Amelia as a getaway spa. This may account for the presence of the large bronze statue of Germanicus, (now housed in the Archaeological Museum in Perugia) which was unearthed near the town in 1963.
Today, old Amelia inside the walls, which is most accessible through the Porta Romana, is a well preserved medieval city with much to see and admire. The upper part also offers a stunning view of the Tiber Valley. The "center" of the city is the Piazza del Duomo where you will find the Cathedral and the 30 meter high Torre Civica, or Civic Tower. Nearby, the Archaeological Museum and the Pinoteca Comunale ( picture gallery ) are housed in the old Boccarini college.
There are a number of medieval churches, including the dominating Chiesa San Francesco, started in 1287, in Piazza Vera, adjacent to which is a cloister and a convent, which was added in the 14th century, and renovated with some Renaissance influences in the 16th. The church is capped with an impressive dome that dates to the 11th century, and was modified in the 17th century. There is also a campanile, or bell tower, in this complex. Inside you will find sculptures by Agostino di Duccio, and some Baroque stylings from the 17th and 18th century.
The church of Sant' Agostino, in via Cavour, built in the 13th Century, has a facade with a Gothic overlay that is a good example of Romanesque architecture. The Marotti pipe organ was installed in 1841. The church of San Pancrazio features a main door that is a decorative tour-de-force. Of note also is the church of the Madonna delle Cinque Fonti. The now deconsecrated church, San Giovanni Decollato, also called the Ospedaletto, can be viewed from the outside.
Along via Posterola, you will find San Magno, the Benedictine Monastery for cloistered nuns. Inside its little church is a perfectly restored and utterly unique double keyboard organ from 1680. None other exists.
Among the non-religious buildings are palaces built during the 14th and 15th centuries by the overlords of the city: Palazzo Farrattini and Palazzo Petrignani. Also, look for the Teatro Operino, an interesting opera house built in the 17th century.
Festivals and Events
Near the town is the Lago Vecchio (the old lake ) formed by a dam on a small river, the Rio Grande. You can rent a row boat and toodle around in the shade of alder, poplar and willow trees, looking for sometimes surprised ducks and herons. There is a small park called La Cavallerizza, hosting a horse racing track, with a walking or jogging path around the track.
ORGAN SOCIETY: Amelia, where over 7 ancient and old organs can be found, is the home of the Accademia dell'arte organaria e organistica umbra which is
devoted to organs and organ playing.
Here's what the Ministry of Culture of Italy has to say about Amelia:
These include both public and private buildings, which together with the rural villas scattered in the surrounding area, provide evidence of the flourishing economy of the Roman municipium. This prosperity transpires also from the discovery in 1963 of a beautiful bronze statue of Germanicus. The very modern Boccarini Civic Archeological Museum preserves important findings from the area, along with precious materials recently unearthed at the necropolis outside Porta Romana. Guided tours of the Roman cisterns: http://www.ameliasotterranea.it/ita.htm
The earliest findings at the Umbrian town of Amelia go back to the Bronze Age; however, despite the fragmentariness of what is currently known archeologically, it is possible to follow the continuity of life at the primitive settlement from the Iron Age to the culmination of the Archaic Age, with evidence from very ancient times of close contacts not with the Umbrian hinterlands, but with the nearby Etruscan and Italic territories. Currently, the fundamental data for reconstructing the history of the ancient town are provided by the pre-Roman necropolis and the annexed sacred area, used until the 4th-2nd century BC, near the locality of Pantanelli, southeast of Amelia. The type of tombs and the quality of the materials found confirm that the area was ruled by an aristocratic class, for whom the prestigious goods were intended.
The Tiber River and its valley played a fundamental role in the distribution of fine goods and in particular for the trading, through Volsinii, of Attic pottery on the Amerino market.
The Romanization process taking place in southern Umbria affected Amelia as well; the opening of the Via Amerina in 240 BC was essential, of course, in this process, as it facilitated Rome's penetration northward. This road, which improved on an older road, was the shortest route between Rome and Umbria passing through Faliscan and Etruscan territory.
The urbanization of the town probably took place in this period, with the building of the walls of massive polygonal blocks. Relations with the nearby southern Etruscan, Latian and especially the Faliscan areas became stronger and more evident, as is demonstrated by the importing of pottery and architectural terracottas at the Pantanelli sanctuary, where the Faliscan style dominates. The creation of the municipium shortly after the social war confirms the full inclusion of Ameria into the sphere of Rome.
And from another site:
Cronaca is a compilation of news concerning art, archeology, history, and whatever else catches the chronicler's eye, with the odd bit of opinion and commentary thrown in. Since history does not seem to have come to an end, other posts reflect a historian's-eye view of current events.
David writes regarding the wall collapse at Amelia:
Another instance of prolonged heavy rains undermining an ancient wall:
Part of a massive wall started in around 600 BC around the central Italian town of Amelia collapsed on Wednesday morning for reasons still unclear.
The so-called Polygonal walls around Amelia are famous not only for their age but also their size. Built out of huge polygonal stones, they are 8-10 metres high and about 3.5 metres thick.