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The earliest record of the hermitage dates back to 1206, but it certainly existed long before the Benedictines of the Abbey of Santa Maria di Valdiponte of Perugia decided to settle in the area. Here, they built a cistern to collect drinking water and a church with a monastery dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles. Following the environmental remediation carried out by the monks in the surrounding areas, the hermitage was now amidst vineyards and so, it was defined in Vigneto.

Hermitage of San Pietro in Vigneto


The hermitage is placed along a road that was very frequented in ancient times – as evidenced by the ruins of a Roman bridge over the River Chiascio near the Castle of Peglio – and it was probably a detour of Via Flaminia. A route that started from Pontericcioli on the border between Umbria and Marche, crossed Gubbio (perhaps along what today is the state road La Contessa) and, continuing towards Assisi, led to Foligno where it joined Via Flaminia. This constant transit was the reason for the construction of a shelter for pilgrims, for a long time the main function of the hermitage. On 8th August 1463, the hermitage of San Pietro in Vigneto was dissolved by Papal Bull of Pope Pius II and, together with the land, it became the property of the Canons of the Cathedral of Gubbio who still own it today. The earthquakes of 1979 and 1984 required the involvement of the Superintendency that oversaw the restoration of the hermitage and at the same time removed what had been indiscriminately added over the years, correcting what had been altered. It’s located along Via Francigena which still today welcomes travellers and pilgrims thanks to funding offered by a private citizen, Stefano Giombini[1].

The Frescoed Stronghold

The convent, because of its tower and its compactness, looks more like a stronghold than a religious settlement. It is difficult to distinguish and identify the individual buildings due to its architectural continuity and the reuse of the various spaces throughout the centuries. Only the bell gable and a tiny lancet window are a hint of the presence of the chapel in the north-east corner of the complex. In the paved courtyard, overlooked by the buildings, there is a large and beautiful cistern. Inside the church there is a 15th-century fresco of the school of Gubbio; it’s a sweet depiction of Madonna with Child with Saint Sebastian, Saint Anthony, Saint Peter and Saint Rocco at their side.


Madonna with Child

Appearing Ruins, Disappearing Ruins

The Castle of Peglio, which stood in proximity of the hermitage, was senselessly destroyed a few years ago to build the dam on the Chiascio: its beautiful, perfectly-cut stones that had survived the centuries are no more there, swept away by bulldozers in 1978. Its remains were impressive: the slits that were used to operate the drawbridge could be seen on the façade and beautiful segmental arches adorned the walls. The water of the dam submerged also a centenary elm that was «so beautiful and large that it would take three men to embrace it»[2].
Due to heavy rain, in 1780 there was a landslide that unearthed the remains of a Pagan temple near the hermitage: clay lanterns, fragments of inscriptions, coins and twelve pieces of a marble statue of Mars Cyprio, the tutelary deity of the temple (today kept in the Archaeological Museum of Florence). An inscription offered evidence that the temple had been restored by some Lucio Avoleno in the 2nd century AD, while 5th-century coins were proof that the inhabitants of the area had been making offerings to the pagan god until that time.




For the historical bibliography, see B. Martin, S. Pietro in Vigneto, Vispi&Angeletti, Gubbio 1997, that is also the reference.

P. Pizzichelli, Gubbio Francescana e sentiero francescano della pace, Gavirati, Gubbio 1999, pp. 53-55.

Sentiero francescano della pace da Assisi a Valfabbrica a Gubbio, Provincia di Perugia, Perugia 2000, pp. 30-31.

L. Zazzerini, In ascolto dell’assoluto. Viaggio tra gli eremi in Umbria, Edimond, Città di Castello 2007, pp. 68- 73.

[1]   For information and for bookings, please call 3334789564.

[2]  P. Pizzichelli, Gubbio Francescana e sentiero francescano della pace, Gavirati, Gubbio 1999, p. 52.

Christmas, in Umbria as in the rest of Italy, rhymes with gluttony. Among all the typical sweets, however, there is one that refers to the municipal history of Perugia and the municipalities it subjugated: the pinocchiate.

The Main Ingredient

Called also pinoccati, pinocchiati or pinoccate, to indicate the nature of the basic ingredient – the pine nut – these sugary sweets typical of the Christmas period are born from the massive diffusion of the domestic pine (Pinus pinea) across the European continent. Umbria has not been excluded from such diffusion, so much that it is not so unusual to come across odorous pine forests.
It is difficult to find the precious seeds, as the pine nuts take three years to reach maturity. Despite this difficulty, pine nuts, rich in protein and fiber, have been consumed since the Paleolithic era, especially because they were believed to have aphrodisiac properties. This allowed them to become part of the most refined and delightful human creations, such as the pinocchiate, as they were already known in the fourteenth century[1].
«The nobles and the rich eat them frequently with the first and the last plate. With pine nuts wrapped in sugar dissolved in a teaspoon, you can make the tablets to which you apply thin tears of beaten gold, I think for magnificence and for pleasure.[2]» Thus wrote the gastronomist Bartolomeo Sacchi, called Plàtina, at the turn of the fifteenth century and the sixteenth century; they aren’t our pinoccate yet, but surely they are very close.


Pinoccate were eaten already in 1300 and this does not seem fortuitous, if we think of the colors of these tasty sweets. Sometimes flavored with lemon, sometimes with chocolate, they are always served in pair, in a delicious two-color white and black match. The memory of the factions of the communal age – the white Guelphs and the black Guelphs – now comes to mind, recalling those struggles between secular power and temporal power that did not even save the areas where these sweets are most widespread – Perugia, Assisi and Gubbio.
Perugia, in fact, in the thirteenth century subjugated first Gubbio and then Assisi, but not before having suffered excommunication for having carried out an offensive against the Ghibellines, contravening a papal veto. Even though the two factions were historically of Florentine origin, these struggles multiplied in every municipality of the Italian peninsula, demonstrating the strong influence of the Florentine capital in that fervent era.
The conditioning is also found in the architectural style and in the heraldic, characterized by decorations in balzana: look at the emblem of Siena, a truncated shield consisting of two full glazes, one silver and one black. And that the city of the Palio had influences on the capital Perugia is out of the question: Perugia, pursuing an expansionist policy, got near not only to Gubbio and Città di Castello, but also to the area of ​​Lake Trasimeno, Città delle Pieve and Val di Chiana.


The regular octahedron

Shape and packaging

Peculiar of the pinocchiate is also the lozenge shape which, doubled, gives life to the regular octahedron, one of the five Platonic solids. These figures, in an era like the humanist one, held allegorical, transcendental meanings but at the time aware of the abilities of the man. The octahedron, made up of equilateral triangles – as they were a symbol of transcendence, of divine perfection and of the ascent from the Multiple to the One – symbolized the air, an element par excellence linked to the impalpability of the Divine.
We have to point out that pinocchiate, wrapped like big carnival sweets, were nothing more than throwing sweets, pulled on the nobles who attended the rides and jousts. Sweets with a heavenly taste that, tossed in the air, looked like divine gifts fallen from the sky.




Recipe by Rita Boini

  • 1 kg of sugar
  • 500 g of pine nuts
  • 200 g of flour
  • 1 tablespoon of bitter cocoa
  • Peel of an untreated lemon



Melt the sugar over a low heat in a glass and a half of water; add the syrup to the grated lemon peel and pine nuts. Mix and add flour. Mix well and, when the mixture is firm but still soft, quickly pour half on a marble surface or on a baking sheet and roll it with a knife blade, in order to obtain a layer of about 2 cm high. Add the cocoa to the dough remaining in the casserole, stir and pour into another corner of the marble top or on another baking plate. Cut and lozenge the two layers and let them clothe. Wrap the pinoccate combining a dark and a light one.


Courtesy of Calzetti – Mariucci Editori

[1] Cfr. www.matebi.it

[2] Cfr. www.taccuinistorici.it

  • 500 g of flour
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • fresh white grape must
  • ½ brewer’s yeast
  • 1 pinch of salt



Pour the flour on a pastry board, melt the yeast in warm water, mix it with a little flour, place it in the center of the fountain you have created and cover with other flour. Leave the dough to rise, covered, for about half an hour. Then mix it with oil, a pinch of salt and must in sufficient quantity to obtain a soft but substantial dough. Make sticks in order to create many little donuts. Place the donuts spaced from each other on an oiled baked plate, bake at 180 ° and cook for 35-40 minutes.



Must biscuits were typical of the grape harvest period, throughout Umbria. In Southern Umbria, with a more or less similar mixture, they prepared a must bread.



Courtesy of Calzetti-Mariucci Editori

A Day for Custody of Creation; a journalistic information forum to find new ways to narrate Creation; a path, along the Francis’ Way, to follow the steps taken by the Saint during the long and stiff winter of 1206. 
A tripartite celebration, from September 1st to 3rd, which has primarily the aim to spread sustainable tourism, but also to protect the cultural heritage and the landscape beauty in which these monuments, like us, are plunged. The common denominator is the Saint of Assisi, Italy and Ecologists Patron Saint: who better than Francis, who had wandered in these lands abducted by their magnificence and perfection, could have been the symbol of a renewed attention to the environment? 

Eremo di San Piero in Vigneto

Eremo di San Piero in Vigneto

The Pilgrimage

At its ninth edition, the 50 kilometers pilgrimage from Assisi to Gubbio is an opportunity to enter in the atmosphere of this celebration. It is, in fact, the route made by Francis after his dispossession, the gesture of the radical rejection of the comforts he had been used to, a sort of prelude of a rather symbolic clothing, not only because the bag that he will be gifted will become the symbol of his Order, but also because nudity will allow him to wear the Eden’s splendor, the emblem of an harmonious world.
It is precisely on this assumption that the path begins, articulated not only on the places the Saint actually visited, but also on the unique value they have had for the elaboration of his doctrine, borrowed from the beauty, simple and essential, of Creation.
Starting from Assisi, the first stop is in Pieve of San Nicolò and then in the Church of Santa Maria Assunta; then you will arrive at Biscina Castle and at the Church of Caprignone, where the Saint proclaimed itself, in front of some bandits, «the Herald of the Great King». After being beaten, Francesco found a shelter at the Abbey of Vallingegno, another stage of the pilgrimage, that we reach after having been supplied with drinking water at San Piero in Vigneto, a Benedictine hermitage similar to a fortification. In Vallingegno, Francesco was welcomed reluctantly, and he was reduced to a simple scullery boy; he will come back several times, testifying its love for animals.  
Undoubtedly, however, the most famous episode concerns the wolf, the beast that Francis managed to tame near Santa Maria della Vittorina, the last but one stage of the pilgrimage before the goal. Gubbio stands indeed not too far, among the silvery olive trees, ready to welcome the hikers in the Church of St. Francis, whose unfinished façade reflects the statue of the saint with the wolf, a character of primary importance in the definition of the holy figure.
But if every church and every corner of Assisi shines out of the aura of Francis, it is in Gubbio that the most significant biographical turns have taken place. Here Francesco worn the habit for the first time, here he found his friend Giacomo Spadalonga, a mate during the imprisonment in Perugia after the defeat of Collestrada. And it is always in Gubbio that the Bishop granted Franciscans their first cenobia, at least according to the proto-biographer Tommaso da Celano. 


I pellegrini arrivano a Santa Maria della Vittorina (edizione 2016)

Pilgrims arrive at Santa Maria della Vittorina (edizion 2016)

The Forum

A similar path, though dedicated to communication experts, is also the novelty of the annual Catholic Information Forum for Custody of the Creation. Starting from the new – and emblematic – Sanctuary of the Dispossession in Assisi, the forum will first reach the village of Valfabbrica, where will be presented the new Horse Slow Way (Ippovia), whose main aim is to improve this part of the route along the Francis’ Way. Indeed, is  many women and men, perhaps accompanied by trusted friends on a leash, had embarked on this route both on foot and by bicycle, the part dedicated to the equestrian tourism was not sufficiently valued so that they often encountered slippery asphalted tracts and scattered points of refreshment. Hence the idea of ​​strengthening the Horse Way – according to an integrated project between the municipalities of Valfabbrica, project leader, Assisi, Gubbio and Nocera Umbra, supported by Umbria Region and Sviluppumbria – with farriers, assistance and food refreshment points for riders and horses: the path from Gubbio to Assisi will stand as a symbol of slow tourism, a perfect way to enjoy the beauty of the landscape around us.
The Forum, organized by the Greenaccord Onlus Association, will then route to Gubbio where, among artistic and spiritual hot points, they will discuss the responsibilities of the Press on news sharing after the post-emergence, in order to help affected areas’ rebirth. Within this articulated dialogue, those journalists who have distinguished in the spreading articles on issues will be awarded the honorary title of “Creation Sentinel”. 


Pilgrims on horseback

Pilgrims on horseback

The Word Day of Custody of Creation

Each of these paths will find its epilogue on September 3rd, with the solemn liturgical celebration for the Creation Day, broadcasted live on Rai Uno. Travelers in God’s Land – the theme chosen for this twelfth edition – is nothing but the summit of the two experiences previously described. It is the perfect title of a story of inner growth, which is based on respect for the surrounding world; is the perfect prelude to the World Tourism Day of September 27th, which is also geared to sustainable tourism, one hundred percent. 



The article is promoted by Sviluppumbria, the Regional Society of Economic Development of Umbria

This huge garden, nowadays property of the Province of Perugia, has behind its realization the name and the story of an English woman: Sarah Matilda Hobhouse for whom the love of his husband, the count Francesco Ranghiasci Brancaleoni from Gubbio, lead to the progressive and masterly acquisition of the lands and the vegetable gardens for the realization of the park according to her desires.

Ranghiasci Garden, pic kindly provided by Gubbio City

A Keen Courtship

Sarah Matilda Hobhouse was the daughter of Sir Benjamin, and sister of John Cam, baron of Broughton, minister of the United Kingdom. She grew up in the Duke’s House within the beautiful setting of Whitton Park in Richmond, where she attended his brother’s close friend, Byron, and where she had been courted by Foscolo. Ugo Foscolo had also sent her a tome of Petrarch’s Rhymes with a dedication to the «Gentile giovine», the kind young; he asked for her hand in 1824, but he received a sharp and bitter refuse from her brother because the poet, exiled, penniless and sick, at the age of fourty-six dared to propose to «one of the prettiest girl in England».

Pic via

The Arrival in Gubbio

Sarah Matilda will marry, three years later, in Rome, the 27-years-old Francesco Ranghiasci Brancaleoni, young, rich and moreover noble. In the same year she was lead in Gubbio by her husband, during the Feast of the Ceri, the city’s most festive time, so she could see the Umbrian town under the best light. Her arrival arose curiosity in the town because the beautiful English girl brought, as a dowry, the huge sum of sixty-thousand ecus.

Wineyards, houses and orchards

Sarah Matilda should have felt immediately the lack of her beloved gardens, of the colours and the scents of the plants of the English park where she grew; so her husband, since December 1831, began to acquire vineyards, houses, orchards and, within twelve years ,he became the owner of the lands and the tenements stationed along the huge elliptical floors situated in the declining plot of land.

The creation of the park starts between September and October 1841. As it can be read in the memoirs of the Armanni Acreage «it was demolished San Luca’s Church at the ground floor of Rosetti’s house that was the ancient San Luca’s monastery, it was demolished from top to bottom all but the tower that remain standing, although isolated». The testimony is important to understand the modus operandi of the Count that, faithful in his job of realising the so desired park for Sarah Matilda, did not even spare the historical buildings where they cannot be integrated in the comprehensive plan.

The works for the fitting-out of the English garden continued until 1848: neoclassical buildings were built between limes, horse chestnuts and oaks and medieval ruins were positioned there.

A Pleasant Grove

Ranghiasci Garden, pic kindly provided by Gubbio City

Entering the park from the main entrance, overlooking the actual Via Gabrielli, it is possible, even today, to see two columns that should have been placed near the terracotta statue of a Roman deity, now lost. Through the covered bridge on the creek Camignano, from whose windows can be seen the landscape on the medieval city, we come to the big avenues that walk up the slope creating an ellipsoidal hairpins game. Looking at the city from the boundary wall deliberately not covered by vegetation, Gubbio shows all its undeniable charm. Walking on the hairpins, delimited by different plants that create a yellow and red pattern in autumn, we come up a cottage paved with bricks on example of the scheme of Palazzo Ranghiasci in town. Over there, a fountain, once graced by marble columns, collects water from tanks on the top and channels them towards the inferior hairpin that leads to the most hidden and privileged place of the park; from there it can be seen, in an elevated area, a classical small temple. In the middle of the tympanum there is the coat of arms of the Ranghiasci with their motto «Virtus omnia vincit».

Ranghiasci Garden, pic kindly provided by Gubbio City

Beyond the temple there is, in a place hidden by trees, the tower of San Luca. There were also greenhouses in the park, where plants and exotic flower were cultivated. A contemporary, Stefano Rossi, decribes the just finished park: «a pleasant grove […] that nowadays is really liked by the touching literature lovers, or by those who love dramatic sensations».

This great tribute of love was not enough to let Sarah Matilda enjoy Italy and she did not have a pleasant life in Gubbio: her two children, Edoardo Latino and Federico Latino, died at an early age, she felt melancholic about England and the echoes of her far motherland. She died in England after her comeback together with the daughter, Anne Amelia Latina, in 2 Eaton Square County, Middlesex, a few days after December 9th, 1853, date of her testament.


More on Gubbio



This article previously appeared in «Piano.Forte», n. 1 (2008), pp. 54-55.