Urban trekking among tales and legends in Medieval Italy
A very nice way of visiting a city is the urban trekking, best when it’s guided by a certificated guide. I took one in 2011 in the Italian town named Todi, Umbria, organized by Todiguide.com and though I had visited the town several times before, I discovered completely new spots and entered places that I would never have found on my own.
We visited the Monastero di San francesco Suore Clarisse, entered some churches that were normally closed and admired some amazing frescos.
We roamed around the town and saw the three circles of the walls that Todi consists of, each built in a different period, and saw the impressive gates in them. The outside wall is Medieval, the middle one dates from the Roman period and the inner circle contains parts of the Etruscan period.
Not to mention the lovely piazza. On one of those I took this picture, because the lady on the left reminded me of my nonna.
So this year when I learned there would be another guided tour in this great town I had to be there. The tour was part of the Medieval festival and you could admire Medieval dressed people everywhere in town.
The tour was called “tra storie e leggende” (tales and legends) and that meant we did not only visit very attractive spots in town, but also learned the most interesting and sometimes funny stories that belonged to them. I will mention only a few.
The tour started at the Cathedral from which we had an amazing view on the Piazza del Popolo with its impressive buildings. The one facing the Cathedral, the Palazzo dei Priori, had the famous Todi eagle on its facade.
There the first legend was told: it is said that the founders of the town were having a picnic on a red tablecloth. Suddenly an eagle appeared, grabbed the tablecloth and flew away with it. The bird dropped the cloth on a hilltop, pointing out the spot where Todi was founded.
Walking on we reached a piazza where, like history tells us, the witch Matteuccia was burned in 1428 after having been accused of witchpractice. Most likely, she has only been preparing love potions and herbal mixtures but she confessed at her trial, probably out of fear of being tortured.
After having seen some more picturesque spots we reached the Convento delle Lucrezie. From its courtyard we had an amazing view of the Tiber and of a balcony which, as the legend tells, is said to be the first, original nest of the eagle.
Walking along the walls (partly Roman) we were told that Todi is built on two almost parallel hills, which caused a drainage and with that, a landslide problem. The Romans solves that by building two equal walls and bassins under the city, creating a drainage system.
Almost at the end of the tour, we entered San Fortunato which houses the remains of Friar Jacopone di Todi. There are some funny stories about this friar, mostly concerning his ecentric behavior. He preached a more severe way of life, that of poverty and penitance. It led to a conflict between Jacopone and Pope Boniface III and Jacopone was excommunicated.
The funny thing about his memorial stone in the San Fortunato is that it has an inscription about Jacopone’s death in 1296, obviously erroneous as he was excommunicated in 1298 and freed in 1303. The real date of his death is 1306.
The tour ended at Fonte Cesia, a tribute to Bishop Angelo Cesi. It was, as you will understand, a very interesting day and I am most curious if there might be more Umbrian cities hiding a treasure of so many “storie e leggende“. At least, the Tuderti know how to be proud of their awesome city.