On the podium of nature, San Leo’s renaissance fortress

Forte di San Leo

A village on a rock as if suspended in the air, a surprising view. We are in Emilia Romagna in the Rimini hinterland, Valmarecchia, in San Leo. A small village of just over three thousand souls, overlooking San Marino and the river Marecchia. Umberto Eco is an honorary citizen since 2011, and he said: “The most beautiful city in Italy? San Leo: a fortress and two churches”. The most famous figures in Italian history, religion, and literature, from St. Francesco to Dante have crossed this place.

The village, which is ranked among the most beautiful in Italy and orange flagged by the Touring Club since 2004, is accessible by only one road that is carved into the rock. The impregnable castle of San Leo stands at the top. Look up and admire its grandeur, with a slight feeling of awe: you’re faced with a natural fortress that in the Miocene was transported from the Tyrrhenian to the Adriatic. Contended by several civilizations throughout the history, the fortress was first climbed in 1441 by the young Count Federico da Montefeltro, who then entrusted to the architect and engineer Francesco di Giorgio Martini from Siena the task of redesigning the boulder and adapt it to the needs of the war. In later times the fort was disputed by the noble families in the area, up to 1631 when it was turned into a prison. And today the castle of San Leo is back to being a splendid architectural treasure of military art, with its elegant Renaissance lines cleaned from the nineteenth century superstructures. From the fort you can enjoy a view full of special effects that match the sea to the mountains, the forests, rocky peaks and gullies. And further down the small village, secluded and lying on a pavement of stone with the alternation of tiny groups of houses, lights and small streets where time flows at a gentle and comfortable pace.

Some other sights to visit in San Leo are the two churches, the Duomo and the Pieve. The first, also known as the Cathedral of San Leone, is the best example of medieval architecture still preserved in the Montefeltro. It has unique and important examples of Romanesque-Lombard style in the current structure that contains some remains of the first structure built in the seventh century. Inside there are numerous sculptures and engravings of enigmatic emblems. On the side  is the entrance topped by the two busts of St. Leo and St. Valentine. The portal of the Pieve dell’Assunta is in the middle, and that’s the oldest religious monument of St. Leo and the whole Montefeltro, but also one of the most fascinating medieval treasures of central Italy. Before you see it live, you can imagine the church as a ship stranded on a rock, a stone ship anchored in the rock that supports it and from which it takes shape. The basilica has three naves.

Thus San Leo has a soul of art and history, but not above the pleasures of the palate. Among the typical products of the village, you can enjoy a walnut leaves cheese, the local honey, the Cagliostro balm, which is a liqueur made ​​from licorice, and the ‘spianata’, inevitable in the local cuisine. If you want to enjoy the San Leo dish, remember to order the rabbit with fennel.

Per chi si ferma qualche giorno in Emilia Romagna, risalendo verso Forlì una proposta culturale da non perdere è la mostra Novecento. L’arte fra le due guerre, fino al 16 giugno.

For those staying a few days in Emilia Romagna, a cultural show not to be missed while going back to Forli is the Novecento show: the art between the wars, until 16 June.

Castello di San Leo

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