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The love for a craft work which turns into art: this is the story of a boy who has preserved an important heritage, guided by his grandmother.

Photo by Claudia Ioan


The meeting is at the Retificio Mancinelli, in San Feliciano (Magione). To frame the garden there are the plastic circles of the larger nets, bundled on one side to indicate the industriousness of that villa on the lake, apparently quiet.
Andrea Mancinelli and his grandmother welcome us in the large and bright work room. The morning sun cuts it obliquely like a perfect diamond. On one side, stacked wooden chairs rise face to face with a particular hanger, which instead of cloche, shows some nets.


Andrea Mancinelli and grandmother, photo by Claudia Ioan

A room lost in the past

In a room with many windows, Andrea and his grandmother sew the nets. The Retificio Mancinelli could be reduced to this luminous box, where the boy learns an ancient trade and gives it new life. Andrea is guided by a person who is really well known in this area. It does not seem so out of place that table, dangerously similar to the teaching post, sandwiched between boxes filled with nets and covered with sinkers and needles.
A room that seems lost in the past, with the cotton models of the nets and the photo of the late patriarch to keep under control every element of a craft work that has its roots in the daily life of the Trasimeno fishermen.


Photo by Claudia Ioan


To complete the scene, a sort of wooden stool placed above a cabinet – which I will later discover to be a support for the large nylon traps – and some pulleys hanging from the ceiling, to which Andrea immediately hangs a tofo.
While the photographers are unleashed, I observe the technical perfection of this creation, with its deceptions that trap the fishes. Andrea, meanwhile, gives us a practical demonstration of how the net is attached to the circles, counting the points one by one: every four points, he stops and makes a knot. This is suggests a rather repetitive work, which  demands an extreme attention. What he calls the needle, is actually achecella, a sort of comb with only two teeth that Andrea uses smoothly and careful as if he were combing the hair of his beloved.


Photo by Claudia Ioan

Since 1955

According to his grandmother, Andrea still has much to learn. I try to understand if she is proud of her nephew, and of how he has decided to preserve a craft work to which she has dedicated her life. Instead of answering me, she starts talking about herself.
Since 1955 this was her work, but for a year now it has been taking a break because of her health conditions. She has worked a lot and with passion, but now she feels that her energy is fading.
The worry for the health, as well as the difficulty of resigning herself to the inevitability of this situation, make her voice crack – but I do not need to tell her that she is a warrior and that we all would want to have a grandmother like her.


Photo by Claudia Ioan

Accuracy and experience

From the demonstration by Andrea we understand that this type of work is extremely complex: it requires precision and experience, as well as an extremely high attention. Andrea deploys a trammel spreading it between the hanger and the window to the east: the nylon, initially a very light blue, seems almost to disappear, suspended between the dust and the late morning sun.


Photo by Massimiliano Tuveri


Now I understand why the room is so bright. It should not be easy, moreover, to remember the innumerable patterns of the equally innumerable types of the nets. Then some worn out notes appear, stored in the drawers of the teaching post: schemes, numbers, updates. All you need to build a perfect net is written there, on unfolded accounting sheets and notebooks, a humble looking heritage that is worth more than a rare treasure.
It is this knowledge that allows the construction of complicated trammel nets and similar hare hunting nets, or those used at the sea, for the sport, for the shop windows, for the restaurants and for children’s games. Those nets that generations and generations of fishermen have used as their work tools on the Trasimeno Lake, whose pastel green stands out discreetly at the end of the road.


Photo by Massimiliano Tuveri


Retificio Mancinelli

From a symbol of martyrdom to that of marriage: the curious story of the Torcolo di San Costanzo.

Studying the first centuries of Christian cult, it is easier to come across the so-called historical martyrologists, in which the names of the saints and the place of their death were reported. Later, to these lists was added the life – of the martyr or of the confessor – and a description of the death: the undoubtedly most famous document is the Geronimian Martyrology.


San Costanzo

The Antonines and the anti-imperials

In this ancient document, compiled in Rome in the fourth century, the name of San Costanzo appears, one of the three patrons saint of the city of Perugia together with San Lorenzo and Sant’Ercolano. Traditionally celebrated on January 29th and therefore called “the saint of the great cold”, to indicate the low temperatures of the period. The first Christians were persecuted for their anti-imperial attitude, responsible for a rather tense civil climate, in short, for political crimes. This is the case of Constantius, the first bishop and protector of Perugia.
The consul Lucio made him immerse in a cauldron of boiling water, from which the future saint came out practically unharmed; after being taken to prison, he managed to escape by converting the keepers. Arrested again, he was condemned to beheaded, a penalty that was imposed around 170 in Foligno, in a place known as Il Trivio. It seems that in this area – called the Campaign of Saint Costanzo, there was a church dedicated to him, demolished in 1527.
After martyrdom, Costanzo’s remains were moved to a place called Areola, outside Porta San Pietro in Perugia, and there they found burial. The church, named after him, was consecrated in that area in 1205. It is in that same building that the unmarried girls, every 29 January, asked the image of the saint about their possibilities to get engaged and to marry.
It seems that, for particular games of refraction, the Saint winks at girls destined for marriage, but only to those unmarried and virgins. For the others there was a consolation prize, necessarily donated by the engaged couple: the Torcolo di San Costanzo.


La luminaria, photo by Umbria24

Forms that speak

The shape of this bundt cake, enriched with tasty as rare ingredients, candied citron, raisins, pine nuts, aniseed seeds, recalls a wedding ring; but other interpretations state that it represents the crown of flowers affixed to the reconstituted body of Constantius: a necklace of precious stones untied during the decapitation. For some scholars, the shape of a donut would have only facilitated transport during fairs and markets: you could put several “torcoli” along simple poles. And perhaps, it is no coincidence that San Costanzo, in the official iconography, is represented with a stick. A further interpretation assimilates the hole to the cut neck of the saint, while the five incisions on the surface, which reveal the precious composition, recall the five entrance doors of the city of Perugia. Five are also the gifts donated, every year, by the civil authorities.
Symbols of concord, the laurel wreath from the Municipal Police, the candle from the Mayor, the incense from the Parish Pastoral Council, the “holy wine” and the “torcolo of San Costanzo” from the local artisans, are offered before the traditional illumination inside the Basilica. To follow the Great Fair takes place in Borgo XX Giugno and, of course, the tasting of the delicious torcolo.


The recipe (by Rita Boini)


500 g of flour

125 g of sugar

100 g of  olive oil

75 g of candied cedar made into small pieces

125 g of raisins

50 g of pine nuts

12 g of aniseed seeds

30 g of brewer’s yeast

A pinch of salt



Pour the flour on the pastry board, place inside the yeast dissolved in a little ‘warm water, knead the whole flour with warm water in sufficient quantity to obtain a dough from the consistency of the bread and place it in a terrine capable. Cover with a clean cloth and keep it in a warm place away from drafts, at least until the dough volume is doubled. Pour it on the pastry board and add the other ingredients. Work well and give it the shape of a donut, which you will place in a greased pan. Let rise for two to three hours, then bake at 180 °and cook for 40-45 minutes.


The torcolo of San Costanzo was consummated in Perugia on 29 January, in the Patron Saint’s day, Sometimes it was prepared at home, but more often it was bought from bakers, as this is a typical baking cake. The girls from Perugia used to give one, as a gift, to their boyfriend on this occasion. The custom of the torcolo of San Costanzo is still felt in the city and, even now, that it is on the market all year round, on 29 January bakeries and pastry shops are filled with torcoli. Other similar cakes are the torcolo of San Biagio, in Pianello, where it is prepared on the saint Patron’day: 3rd February saint is prepared and the torcolo of St. Joseph, which is consumed in Montone. It differs from the first two only because of the lack of aniseed and due to the fact that it is not consumed for the feast of the patron saint.






  1. Trotta, Diary (gastronomic) of Umbria, Perugia, Aguaplano, 2011.

Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, 1764, in https://www.scribd.com/doc/98861647/Voltaire-Dictionary

Bettona belongs to the Club
I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia


Being the only Etruscan settlement on the left bank of Tiber river, Bettona rises 365 meters above the sea level, on a hill that outlines the extreme propagation of a hilly system detached from the Martani Mountains. Railing of Umbria, it dominates the flat valley below, and it opens up to the surrounding towns and the Apennine, which, far away, rise above.


Museum of the City of Bettona


Its ancient Umbrian-Etruscan origins, numerous archaeological finds and well preserved walls, make Bettona a place rich in historical-artistic testimonies, a widespread museum that extends throughout the territory. Its palaces, once splendid residences, its breathtaking views, its finely adorned churches and oratories, and its municipal museum, are an compulsory stop for tourists, scholars and enthusiasts.

The Museum

Placed in Piazza Cavour, the Museum of the City of Bettona is set on the contingency of Palazzo del Podestà and Palazzo Biancalana. The first was built in 1371 as part of the city reconstruction ordered by the cardinal and papal legate Egidio Albornoz; the second was built in neoclassical style on owner Francesco Biancalana’s project after the second half of the Nineteenth Century.



Marble head of Aphrodite, II sec. A.D


The collection, deeply rooted in local history, includes two distinct sections, both of great value: an archaeological and a pictorial one.
The archaeological section of the Museum makes the exhibition start, testifying the territory’s origins. It includes Etruscan artifacts, a large number of architectural crockery, funeral and border caskets, ceramics, sculptural works of the late Hellenistic period and Roman marbles.
Among the most remarkable pieces of the collection there is a magnificent marble head of Aphrodite dating back to the middle of the Imperial Age, discovered in 1884 in the agricultural land owned by the Bianconi family; stolen in 1987, it was found then in New York in 2001.
Jewels and other finds found in the tomb of the Colle, the burial chamber discovered in 1913, are instead exposed to the National Archaeological Museum of Umbria in Perugia.
The renovation work of the pavement of Piazza Cavour has shown an ancient monumental well dating back to the end of the Fifteenth Century; it is a circular plant made by squared stone rocks. Interesting
are also the remains of an underground masonry and a Roman road.

The Picture Gallery

The Town Picture Gallery occupies, on the other hand, the Fourteenth Century Palazzo del Podestà and some rooms of Biancalana family’s residence.
The collection, which dates back to 1904, includes different kind of pieces, all close to local history. The Picture Gallery houses about sixty works, mostly pictorial, such as: the Saint Anthony of Padua and the Madonna della Misericordia with the saints Stefano, Girolamo and clients by Pietro Vannucci called “Il Perugino“, two precious fourteenth-century miniature chorales, St. Michael the Archangel of Fiorenzo di Lorenzo, a polychrome wood crucifix attributed to Agostino di Duccio, the monumental altarpiece with the Madonna in glory and Saints by Jacopo Siculo, a tabernacle with Christ and Evangelists attributed to Domínikos Theotokópoulos better known as “El Greco“, Saints Peter and Paul by Giuseppe Ribera known as “Lo Spagnoletto“, an in the round glazed earthenware depicting St. Anthony of Padua, inspired by the eDella Robbia, and a wonderful table with the Adoration of the Shepherds of the artist Dono Doni from Assisi, fast restored after the earthquake of October 2016. The intervention, funded by the Uffizi Gallery, was lead intra moenia through the creation of a restoration laboratory visible to everyone.
Inside the Museum, there are also active educational services with a quality teaching offer that combines the artistic rigor of collections with a creative atmosphere. Art, play and creativity used to communicate to the new generations the importance that art has in the social and anthropological development of each one of us.



The Picture Gallery

 «The (true) landscape is broad and harmonious, quiet, colorful, large, varied and beautiful. Mainly, it is an aesthetic phenomenon, closer to the eye than to the reason, more related to the heart, to the soul, to the sensitivity and to its dispositions than to the spirit and the intellect, closer to the feminine than to the male principle. The true landscape is the result of the becoming of something organic and living. To us, it is more familiar than extraneous, but more distant than closer, it manifests more homesickness than presence; it elevates us  above the everyday life and it borders on poetry. But even if it reminds us of the unlimited, the infinite, the maternal landscape always offers humans a home, warmth and shelter. It is a treasure of the past, of the history, culture and tradition, peace and freedom, happiness and love, of the rest in the countryside, of solitude and health found in relation to the frenzy of everyday life and the noises of the city; it must be crossed and lived on foot, it will not reveal its secret to the tourist or to the naked intellect. »(Gerhardt Hard)[1]



Simmel considered  landscape as a «work of art in statu nascendi»,[2] and it exists on the basis of three unavoidable conditions: it cannot be realized without a subject, without nature, and without the contact between them. The relationship, in particular, is expressed through the signs, the constructions created by man on the territory and then through agriculture,[3] the litmus paper of that union’s happiness. But the relationship can also be the one given by the visitor who, with his curious look, characterizes a zone, linking its significant traits with the concept of typicality.

The Plant of Civilization

Between Spoleto and Assisi, where millions of olive trees follow one another for about thirty-five kilometers, that type of relationship finds its highest shape.
In the Fascia Olivata (Olive Tree Belt), stretched at seven hundred meters of altitude, the history of olive cultivation begins long time ago, indeed. The olive tree is, for Fernand Braudel, the «plant of civilization», because it marks the boundaries of the ancient Mediterranean area; the oil was used as a seasoning, for religious rites, but also in the pharmacopoeia and lighting. On the Edict of Rotari (643 BC), for those who had cut an olive tree, it was inflicted a punishment three times severe than the one imposed on anyone who cut any other fruit tree. Finally, according to Castor Durante from Gualdo Tadino (1586), some olives at the end of the meal helped digestion.[4]
But without spending too much time in reading books, just take a trip to Bovara, near Trevi, and admire the legacy of that tradition with your own eyes. The majestic Olive Tree of Saint Emiliano, with its nine meters of circumference and five in height, is a specimen seventeen centuries old. Leaving aside the story of the decapitation of Saint Emiliano, Bishop of Trevi – attached, at least according to a code of the IX Century, to the plant and then beheaded – the studies have shown that the olive tree belongs to a particular genotype, very resistant, that after the first eight hundred years of life saw the inside of his trunk rotting and then outer parts divide, turning counterclockwise.[5]

A Unique Landscape

The olive growers know that these areas of Umbria require a rather strong cultivar, able to cling to the dry soil, which cannot maintain moisture. The Muraiolo variety has therefore been designated as the ideal plant to ward off the hydrogeological risk in the area and, at the same time, to give that typical oil with a spicy and bitter taste, refined by aromatic herbs.[6]
Its cultivation has also altered the territory, remodeling it, forming a continuous upward strip that is detrimental for the forest. It has characterized the area with embankments, lunettes and terracing, making it recognizable to the point of enrolling it in the catalog of Historical Rural Landscapes, along with the Plestini Highlands, the emmer fields of Monteleone di Spoleto, the hills of Montefalco, the cliff of Orvieto , the knoll of Baschi and the plateaus of Castelluccio di Norcia.[7] Goal that follows the subscription to the Cities of Oil National Association – which brings together all the Municipalities, Provinces, Chambers of Commerce and LAGs producing environmental  and cultural values, centered on PDOs – and preludes to the recognition of the area as a FAO Foods Landscape (it would be the first in Europe) and then as a UNESCO site.
The greatest danger that the landscape can incur – not to be enrolled into collective memory and not to be recognized as characteristic of a Planet’s particular area – is thus avoided: no one, whether it is born in that place or from afar, can now separate the Fascia Olivata from the cities of Assisi, Spello, Foligno, Trevi, Campello sul Clitunno and Spoleto.



However, the objective is not to transform the territory into a museum, but to link it with its cultural and community heritage, even to preserve it from the changes that might destroy it. Indeed, the years of World War I are not too far, when the olives were cut to fill the lack of coal in the Northern factories; neither the terrible frosts of 1929 or 1956, which led to a significant contraction in production. Neither the Sixties are not far away, when fashion preferred seeds oil instead of the olive one, as well as failing to find labor for every autumnal harvest. Above all considering that the dictates, established by the Trevi Olive Growing Cooperative, born in 1968 to overcome the familiar dimension, are very strict: all the olives must come from the territory of Trevi, they must be hand-collected  and delivered to the mill within few hours , and they have to be pressed within twelve hours to maintain the right levels of acidity and oxidation.
There is no way for industrialization and mass production: this Strip keeps adhering to the genuineness of ancient things in the same way as it encircles the hilly slopes, even the harshest. In this way the visitor can enjoy it, perhaps walking along the Olive Trail between Assisi and Spello, or along the one of Francis, whose symbol was the olive itself. It will be able to reconnect the silver foliage to the spicy flavor of the bruschetta with the new oil – the Gold of Spello[8] – that will pour into his mouth, giving him the same awareness and wisdom of those ancient Mediterranean people who preserved civilization by gifting the Earth olive trees.


[1]G. Hard, Die «Landschaft» der Sprache und die «Landschaft» der Geographen. Semantische und forschunglogische Studien, Bonn Ferd-Dümmlers Verlag, 1970, in M. Jakob, Il Paesaggio, Il Mulino, Bologna 2009.
[2]G. Simmel, Philosophie der Lanschaft, in M. Jakob, Il Paesaggio, Il Mulino, Bologna 2009.
[3] M. Jakob, Il Paesaggio, Il Mulino, Bologna 2009.
[4] Ulivo e olio nella storia alimentare dell’Umbria, in www.studiumbri.it
[5] TreviAmbiente > paesaggi da gustare, 2015
[6] Umbria: protezione di un’origine, a cura di D.O.P. Umbria, Consorzio di tutela dell’olio extra vergine di oliva, 2014.
[7]Da www.reterurale.it
[8] L’Oro di Spello is an annual event that gathers Festa dell’Olivo and Sagra della Bruschetta



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



More on Trevi

In its fifteen years of life, the Club I Borghi più Belli d’Italia has been able to preserve, valorise and recover all those realities that were likely to end up caught in the folds of geographical marginality and in economic interests: that is to say the hamlets, architectural pearls of Italian beauty and caretakers of memories tied to a past that has passed synchronized to Earth’s cycles and to the simplicity of a frugal life.

borghi più belli dell'umbria

If our grandparents had abandoned them, attracted by the economic opportunities offered by cities, villages are now a place to rediscover a life completely counterposed to cities’ frenzy and dispersion. But they are not unmovable realities: the initiatives organized by the Club I Borghi Belli d’Italia, which are now followed by those organized by MIBACT, ENIT and ICE, prove their indisputable dynamism in reinventing themselves and in knowing how to meet inhabitants and of the community’s needs.

It is the latter that, recognizing itself in the place’s stylistic features, characterizes it; at the same time, however, it is the village that gives an identity to the community, which is no longer a secondary character, separated by the great cultural flows that animate the cities, but is a real leader in creating a new storytelling.

The Organization

Born from the ribs of ANCI, the Club is made up of complementary compartments dedicated to the development of different areas. There is the Association, nationally recognized, which includes 250 of the best Italian tourist villages and the 21 hamlets safeguarded by UNESCO. Then, there is the Ecce Italia Consortium, which gathers the best companies of typical agro-food and handicraft products, placed, of course, in the village; a tour operator – Borghi Italia Tour Network – promoter of international relevance routes, and the company Borghi Servizi & Ambiente, whose main aim is to realize works and services needed to improve the environment, the organization structure and the territory’s resources.
The Club is now a recognized entity, not only as a res tipica of the Peninsula, but also as a fundamental component of Les plus beaux villages de la Terre, a transnational organization that includes villages in Japan, Russia, Germany, France, Belgium, Romania, Korea and Canada.

Regional Variations

With twenty-six certified villages on two hundred and seventy national ones, Umbria is the region with the highest proportion of associated municipalities, counting one in four.
No surprise, if we think about the region’s conformation, where villages have become centers of high-quality agro-food production and specialized handmade crafts. They are also equipped to accommodate companies belonging to the tertiary sector, if they want to produce in a quiet and harmonious place.
In order to enhance these unique characteristics, in February 2016 the Association of I Borghi più Belli d’Italia in Umbria, the territorial variation of the national club, was founded in Spello. The goal, as President Antonio Luna states, is to become a Tourist Planning Center to promote Umbrian villages’ attractiveness and hospitality services, integrating agri-food, innovation and tourism sectors.
All of this with the approval of ANCI Umbria, which houses its headquarters, the provinces of Perugia and Terni, which provide the Press Office, the TGR Rai 3 of Umbria, which has presented one by one the twenty-six associated villages, the Regional UNIPLI, partner in the organization of historical events, and the Department of Economics of the University of Perugia, who signed a protocol for the research and development of the hamlets.
The password is an acronym that could only be UMBRIA: Unicity, Mysticism, Hamlets (borghi), Relationship, Identity, Environment (Ambiente), just to find out its identifying elements.

Achievements and Purposes

On the horizon, then, there are purposes with evocative names: a landscaping economy project, an economy for villages in the advanced tertiary, a cataloguing work of one hundred identity festivals in Umbrian villages and a prominent presence at the Rural Tourism Show, organized in Bastia Umbra on October 6th-8th, 2017.
Some initiatives come easily, if we think of the results achieved. Since 2015, new holiday packages have been developed, marketed by Borghi Italia Tour Network tour operator, in order to show St. Francis mystical Umbria, St. Valentine’s romantic one, the Etruscan territory and the Middle and Upper Tiber Valley. These are routes that unwind not only among the hamlets, but also among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among the archaeological and religious sites, as well as places remarkable for their beautiful landscape and historical richness. The same routes were then promoted at EXPO 2015, through the thirteen representatives present.
The conferences were not lacking, as they are useful to discover not only the Association’s work, but also the characteristics of the villages themselves, which are crucial in defining the landscape in turn. Significant was the management of the event, Borghi, Viaggio Italiano – Giornata dedicate all’Umbria (Hamlets, An Italian Trip – Umbria’s Day), held on May 10th, 2017 at Terme di Diocleziano, under the aegis of eighteen regions led by Emilia Romagna and MIBACT to celebrate 2017, recognized by Minister Franceschini as «the year of the villages».
Finally, the Association created the national event called The Romantic Night of Italian Villages, that sees Umbria in its first place thanks to its twenty-three participant municipalities. The romantic night will be an opportunity to admire the boroughs hug by a unique atmosphere, animated by cultural and entertainment events.