Arpino day three
04.09.2017 - 04.09.2017
A walk in Colle
Lane near our apartment
Madonna della Pietà church - detail
Monday in Arpino dawned bright and warm. We had breakfast again at the Bar Sport in the Piazza which was much quieter than it had been the previous day - no visiting band playing, no locals meeting to gossip before and after Mass, no children playing. Just a few other people having breakfast like ourselves and others heading to work or to the shops perhaps.
After breakfast it was time to explore another of Arpino's quarters, the Colle district. Our walk took us up the steep via Pio Spaccamela, passing the intriguing small 16th century church of Madonna della Pietà – intriguing because of the skull and crossbones above the door and, unfortunately, because of our inability to ever find it open. I read that it houses a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows by the Tyrolean carver Michele Stolz but we were never able to get in to see this, despite passing the church several times a day during our stay.
We passed the turning to our apartment and continued to climb, the road getting steeper. The views were fantastic, especially looking across to Civita Falconara where we had been yesterday.
Views from via Pio Spaccamela
The road is lined with old houses from the 16th – 18th centuries. One feature of Arpino is the style of its stone door frames, with the family’s coat of arms carved at the top – the work of local stone-cutters, some of them rather fine and considered valuable, and all of them a delight to photograph (we had also come across some yesterday in Civita Falconara).
Family crests on via Pio Spaccamela
After a short distance the road opened out into the Piazza Sant’Andrea, with its impressive church (dating from the 11th century) which was however closed. Had we been able to get inside we could have seen another work by the Cavalier d’Arpino – an altar piece which depicts the patron saints of the church and its adjoining convent: Sant’Andrea and San Benedetto. It was frustrating to find this second church of the morning also closed, especially as yesterday we had no such problems.
The piazza in front of the church was once the cloister of the enclosed Benedictine convent which still stands to the left of the church in a building dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Behind the grilles on the windows, religiously guarded and only seen for the annual festival each December, when it is paraded through the streets of the town, is a papier-machè statue of the Madonna of Loreto, patron saint of Arpino, and its ornate wooden platform, carved by Stolz, which depicts the House of Nazareth carried by the Angels.
The Arpino Turismo website also describes a painting of the crucifixion among the treasures of this convent. It was discovered when a later oil painting was restored to reveal a 14th century tempura work on the wooden panel under the canvas. The website goes on to suggest that this and other treasures can be viewed in the convent’s ‘meeting room’ but we saw no way to access this, unfortunately.
From here we continued to climb, taking photos as we did so of all the picturesque buildings and little details.
On via Pio Spaccamela
Lanes leading off - up, and down
Soon after leaving the Piazza Sant'Andrea we were greeted by a local man who opened up a large doorway to show us where he made wine and invite us to try some. He wouldn't take our polite 'no grazie' but insisted on pouring us a glass and refusing payment for it! It was really good too. Unfortunately he moved when I took his photo but as it's the only one I have of him I have included it below:
In his basement winery
On we climbed to reach the medieval Gate of Saturn, another of the spots we remembered from our 1987 visit.
Approaching the Saturn Gate
Saturn Gate in 1987 and today
This is actually a double gate – above the outer side of the first is a Latin inscription, which I have found translated rather poetically as:
‘Oh wanderer, you’re entering Arpino, founded by Saturn, the city of Volsci, Roman community, the home of Marcus Tullius Cicero prince of eloquence and Caius Marius seven times consul.
The triumphal eagle took flight from here to the empire, and subjugated all the world to Rome. Recognize its prestige, and live in health.’
Passing through this we were in more open countryside with even more expansive views.
View just beyond the Saturn Gate
We came across a small church which almost straddled the road - the Chiesa di San Giuseppe e Maria Santissima del Riparo, according to the notice board outside. This one was open, so we could go inside to admire the painted ceiling and other features.
In the Chiesa di San Giuseppe e Maria Santissima del Riparo - altar and ceiling
I read later that the crucifix is another of Michael Stoltz’s works and that the chapel dates from the 16th century. Its construction across the roadway is deliberate, as in the past travellers would pass beneath it as they started on the then perilous journey across the mountains that lie beyond.
Painting under the arches
We walked a little further. Our aim had been to try to reach the most ancient part of Arpino, Civitavecchia, and the medieval Torre di Cicerone, high on the hill above, but it became clear that the road was veering away from these into open countryside. So we retraced our steps to the Piazza Sant’Andrea to try a different route, the via Civitavecchia which runs up the right-hand side of the church, passing the Spaccamela Palace (not open to the public) and some picturesque old houses.
On via Civitavecchia
Another great view across to Civita Falconara
My notes had suggested that this would take us to steps leading up to the tower but with the sun becoming hotter, and the distance clearly greater than we had thought, we decided to abandon our plan in favour of exploring some of the other streets of Colle below us.
Sant’Andrea itself was still closed so we headed downhill a little and turned off on a quiet road that ran parallel to the town centre below, before descending a long flight of steps to emerge again in the Piazza Municipio.
Looking down on the Piazza Municipio from Colle
By now it was lunch time but the bars in the piazza don't seem to serve food (other than breakfast 'cornetti') so we headed for the snack bar by the Belvedere where we got cold drinks and crisps - the best they could offer (despite advertising panini and tramezzini). As compensation for the simple lunch, we had the wonderful views from the terrace, and gelati back at the Baricentro in the piazza made a great dessert!
View from the Belvedere, and a sleepy Monday afternoon local
We were beginning to realise just how closed for business Arpino is on a Monday, and were wondering where we might later find dinner. We consulted the waitress in the Baricentro and after checking with a colleague she told us that the only place open was the Splendor, about a mile out of town (and I assume named for the 1989 film of the same name which was shot here). So after a relaxing afternoon back at the apartment, with a break for a saunter down to the piazza for coffee (me) and beer (Chris) we set off on the walk to the Splendor in the early evening. It was quite a pleasant walk, passing on the way the fresco of St Christopher where in 1987 I had taken a photo of Chris, which I tried to reproduce.
Arpino, at least, has changed little in thirty years!
We were rewarded as we walked with a lovely sunset:
From the road to the Splendor
We had wondered if the restaurant might be busy, as it was the only one open, but when we arrived it was deserted, although some local guys came in a little after us, and later another English couple - like us, very relieved to have found somewhere open!
The empty restaurant
We shared a plate of antipasto to start with, which included a delicious fig. I was a little disappointed with my fettuccine with porcini mushrooms, as it was a bit too salty, but Chris's pizza was good and large; he gave me a couple of slices, so in the end we both ate quite well. Our stroll back to town was accompanied by the sound of the crickets and an almost full moon overhead.