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The Chronicles of Narni

Umbria and its surroundings
01 Novembre 2014

The Chronicles of Narni

A medieval town nestled in the greenery of the Nera River valley.

It is not a case of curious similarity. It is the beautiful medieval buildings and the charm of castles on the hills surrounding the small Umbrian town that inspired the writer Lewis and his famous story, the books and then the films that have fascinated many young people. Narnia for the Romans, and before Nequinum, is an ancient city. Perched on that high and impregnable rocky spur overlooking the Nera River valley (the river Nar for the Romans, from which perhaps the name of the city comes), difficult to access as a result of the roughness of the mountain slopes. Narni for centuries was a strategic and forced rest point along the road that lead from Rome to the Adriatic.

A long history

Narni bears the traces of its history still evident in its buildings and urban planning. To the north the oldest city, Umbrian and Roman, recognisable by the orthogonal road network of the terziere (neighbouring districts) di S. Maria. Then the enlargement of the medieval city in the terzieri (neighbouring districts) di Fraporta and Mezule that develops, irregular, around the beautiful twelfth century cathedral, built just outside the ancient walls. And finally, as if to tell the story of the city that joins ranks with the Pope, against the empire. A little separate, juxtaposed and almost on top of the hill, the Rocca Albornoziana and its park, the symbol of Papal power. A long history that sees the greatest splendour of the city in the first centuries of the second millennium. Then, after the plundering by the Lanzichenecchi, the city is re-dimensioned, it will not undergo any significant changes and this, for us is perhaps fortunate, because today, travelling along its roads, one seems to still breathe and live, the atmosphere of those distant times.


Gare tra i terzieri (competition among districts)

And the magic of time is not manifested only in May, when in a contest of skill, fourteenth century in origin, - la Corsa all'Anello - (the race to the ring), every year, by the three terzieri (neighbouring districts). But it happens every time you visit Narni, when walking along the main road linking the cathedral to the Piazza dei Priori, a number of beautiful sights can be seen, such as the mighty tower-houses, bishop's residences, noble residences, loggias and architecture that tell a story of ancient grandeur, while the narrow streets that cross each other, lead to architectural religious works of art, in neighbourhoods that still preserve their medieval characteristics intact. Do not miss a visit to the imposing cathedral of San Giovenale, whose construction began shortly after 1000 AD and lasted for nearly a century and was rebuilt during the Renaissance. Its beautiful "portale maggiore" (first gate), the simple and harmonious interior, the elegant arched portico and the powerful Renaissance bell tower built on Roman fortifications. Piazza dei Priori is a jewel of medieval architecture, the first Roman Forum, then centre of public life in the ancient city. Overlooking Palazzo del Podesta, which consists of three buildings from the 1200's and an internal courtyard made from Roman and medieval marble, Palazzo dei Priori, is dominated by the beautiful city tower and characterised by the fourteenth-century Loggia, attributed to the Gattapone, the Casa Sacripanti with three medieval bas-reliefs walled in the façade. But we cannot forget the fountains, the many squares, alleyways, which travel through the winding streets of the ancient neighbourhood districts, the famous Rocca and its towers, and then the numerous palazzi and churches. S. Domenico, the city's first cathedral, built on the site where once stood a temple dedicated to Minerva. Palazzo Eroli, which includes a tower and a building with beautiful Guelph windows. Palazzo Scotti with its beautiful gate and the fascinating inner loggia. Le torri dei Marzi, extremely high on Via Mazzini. The church of S. Maria Impensole from the twelfth century, built on pre-existing religious edifice, which in turn was built over an ancient Roman house, is captivating Roman architecture. Under its beautiful arched portico there are three carved gates with acanthus leaves and from the inside fourteenth century frescoes, the sixth century A.D. "sotterranei" (underground), can be accessed.


Narni Sotteranea (Narni Underground)

<pThat's not all. It is not enough just to visit the monuments and streets of the city, under their surface lies the treasures and mysteries of an ancient history. All Narni is to be "experienced"! Under the pavement of Piazza Cavour a medieval necropolis was found. Nearby, in Piazza Garibaldi, a time not surprisingly called the "Lacus" opens onto a large medieval cistern, built on a former Roman one, which fed by the Formina aqueduct that reached Narni after having channelled six different sources. But most surprisingly are the "sotterranei" (underground) of the ancient convent complex of San Domenico. From the charming Piazza with San Bernardo's gardens, where the wonderful landscape over the Nera valley can be enjoyed. The hypogeum structures of S. Domenico can be accessed: a church carved into the rock and painted in the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, a Roman cistern and a cell full of graffiti made by prisoners during the Inquisition. A guided tour takes us into the hypogeum complex discovered in 1979 by six young Speleologists. From the underground church, a gap in the wall opens up to a passage way which leads to a room that was probably part of an ancient Roman house, the small unique cell, considered to be the only one of its kind, lies adjacent to the large area that was the Court of Inquisition, the walls with their graffiti depict the suffering endured by the accused. (www.narnisotterranea.it)

Il Parco Medioevale

A small city, full of charm, treasures and surprises. Like the new Parco Medievale (medieval park), the only one of its kind in Italy, which promises its visitors unusual enjoyment among medieval villages, archery and falconry, antique music, historical dances and performances by flag-wavers. Housed in the magnificent fourteenth century castle, which is the Rocca dell'Albornoz, the Parco Medioevale, opened just this summer and promises a world of enchantment. It is a place out of time for the enjoyment and wonder of young and old. The Parco Medioevale relives the atmosphere of the past, meeting swordsmen and knights, magicians and storytellers, seductive dancers, musicians, merchants and craftsmen. Make small talk with the Ent (there is also King Arthur's talking tree) or get carried away with the heroes of the Chronicles of Narnia. (www.roccadinarni.it)

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