7 June 2020 - Day 57 – Foligno
Sunday morning and I had a late start. Sleeping in until 9, I cleaned up, dressed for overcast weather, and packed so the roller was organized for a single night stay in Foligno.
After checking out, I headed to the MiniMetrò to avoid the stairs of Perugia and rode down to the train station early enough to get coffee and cornetti to go. Few trains leaving this morning, it was easy to find the platform for the 10:18 departure. Once onboard, the second-class coach was nearly empty, so the 40-minute ride was calm and comfortable.
Still in the province of Perugia, Foligno is on the Fiume Topino. The shape of the city’s central core has been probably dictated by the old defensive wall, as it is oval in shape with the river curving to the west and north, and the railroad lines to the east, with the station more south.
We arrived about 11am, and I was out of the station in 5 minutes. Straight out of the station on the north side of Viale Mazzetti, I walked by the Porta Romana, up another block and turned right. The entry to Guest House Foligno-Porta Romana was half a block.
The entire half-kilometer trip had taken 10 minutes. As this is a B&B, there is no reception, and I’d been in email communication over the past two days with Maria, who arrived just as I rolled the blue beast to the doorway. Unlocking the door, we pushed in and climbed a flight of stairs. My suite was the Giglio (there are several options) which has 2 bedrooms, a nice sitting area and dine- in kitchen. Much more than I’d need, but it’s what I booked.
I rolled my bag into the back bedroom (quieter), learned the codes and key process, and thanked Maria for letting me in early as she returned to her family.
Back downstairs and back to the corner, I turned right, away from the “gates” onto Corso Camillo Benso for 300m (about 5 blocks) to arrive at the Piazza della Repubblica with the southeast face of the cathedral in front of me. The Cattedrale di San Feliciano is in a heavily built area, and two buildings have been slotted alongside (at the corner is the baptistry, the other has a café at plaza level), back to the south transept, which is a second façade.
Both have seen recent restorations, with the primary façade (facing southeast) with smoothed banded stone and a mosaic in the tympanum above a single rose window. There are three doorways set in Romanesque arches, with the center being larger, bronze. The secondary façade is faced in rough stone with three rose windows, a central wooden door in a lovely series of carved arches, with statues of lions flanking at the three steps; the two side doors are partially blocked. There is a tower and dome at the crossing partially visible from the street.
When I was researching, I found a note about earthquake damage closing the interior of the church. The 1997 earthquake resulted in a detached façade, which was repaired within 2 years. Another earthquake on 30 October 2016 (6.6 magnitude) has reclosed the #Foligno cathedral. From my research, the nave and presbytery were significantly renovated in the later 19th century to a Neo-Classical style, at which time a baldachin, a copy of Bernini’s in St Peter’s Rome, was installed over the altar. The nave appears to be a single aisle. A quick half-minute YouTube panning the nave can be found at
From what I can determine, the (acting/temporary) pro-cathedral is the Chiesa di San Giacomo, further north by the river. The diocesan offices are next door. That became my next stop. A small simple parish church with a tower and dome, the presbytery is very ornate and the dome above is gorgeous. I saw no indication of it being a pro-cathedral, but I’ve sent an email via their website.
However, in doing my research, there are three more churches which are or have been seats of bishops. The most confusing was northeast in the civil parish of San Giovanni Profiamma. The Chiesa San Giovanni Battista apparently remains as the titular see of Foro Flamino. Per Wikipedia, historic documentation records two bishops in the early 6th and the late 7th centuries; and recently, two bishops since 1968. The latter two were also auxiliary bishops elsewhere, so as a former or “dead” diocese it allows Rome to honor dedication? More interesting is that this see/parish is home to the notable cultivation of olives for olive oil. The church is a pair of building set off the side of the road with a U-shaped driveway.
Engaging a taxi for two hours, we drove out to St John the Baptist first, only to find it was closed. So after making use of the convenient driveway loop, we headed west to #Spello. Collegiata di Santa Maria Maggiore sui Gargano is an ex-cathedral. Here the church was open, so leaving the driver to his phone and cigarette, I took a quick visit.
The exterior is simple, with a bell/clock tower to the left; the single entry is a wooden double door between columns and carvings, with a statue in the tympanum, which is below a small window. Inside, the sides of the nave are baroque to the max, with stone and plaster statues, marble columns, and oil paintings. Apparently, some side chapels have been walled off, but the Chapel Baglioni is still a symphony of frescoes by #Pinturicchio. An intricately carved marble baldachin stands over the main altar.
My driver was caught up on his emails, and had found a coffee. He was flirting with a few of the local women, as this seems to be a quaint charming town to visit. We set off to the southwest, to #Bevagna and the Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo. It had been the first cathedral in the city, until abolished in 1248. It had seen a few renovations and restorations since then. It sits facing a large public plaza with a fountain. The church façade has three arched doorways, with the central having elaborate decoration and carvings. A large rose window is above this door. Over the right door rises a large square campanile.
The church proper has a simple nave with columns supporting arches leading to a raised presbytery with a marble table altar containing a tomb. To the right is a baroque chapel with a dome, which is Gothic in style. Below the chancel is a crypt. One interesting note, that Google Maps has some confusion with this church and the Church of St Sylvester also on the piazza.
While we were returning, we came upon the Chiesa Parrocchiale di San Paolo Apostolo as we slowed for the hospital zone. My time was up, so I asked the driver to leave me to see this church and I could walk back through Foligno.
St Paul is a very modern building. Appearing as a travertine marble block sitting at a street corner, the trapezoid glass panels are at different locations on the north and south walls. Entry is from below a solid wall to the west. I was stunned and awed; I really loved it.
It was about 4 and the walk back to the flat would be about 2km. Via del Roccolo eastbound ended at a bigger artery into the center city, so I walked it across the Topino. Not really much of a river, but bigger than the Rio Grande in El Paso when I crossed it.
Rather than following the ring road around to Porta Roma, I turned to walk through the city. Schools and businesses seemed to fill out this edge of the inner loop. Two blocks away, off my path, was a Romanian Orthodox church, so I veered over to check it out. Chiesa Ortodossa Romena Sant’Antimo di Iberia (heck, what do you do in a strange town on a Sunday?) is a small stone-faced church with a Romanian flag hanging out front.
As I was taking my pictures outside, an older woman (yeah, there are actually folks older than me) approached and asked why I was taking pictures (I think). In my very poor Italian, I explained I am from “America” and I visit churches. She asked me to come inside to take more pictures. Pulling out a key, she led me down the side street and we entered. Traditional orthodox on the inside, the iconostasis was closed, but covered in gilded icons of the eastern saints. No seating, more icons stood around the room with boxes of sand for candles. A small dome rose over the center containing the large icon of Christ, the Alpha and Omega.
Thanking her after making a donation, I left feeling elated. Walking down Via Palestro, most stores and restaurants were closed. At the next intersection I spotted Li Cuccugnai Birre Artigianali Umbre, a bar with “artisanal beer” in its name. The rest must have something to do with an owl.
What a find – they even had beer on tap and they had food. The brewery was in Perugini-Montefalco, which is Umbrian. Four options to select from, pouring in 20cl and 40cl glasses. Ever the optimist, I asked for 20cl pours of the bianca (white), bionda (blonde), rossa (red) and scura (dark). With no clue as to whether I’d find food later, I started by going carnivore with a board of cold cuts, ensuring I got pancetta, an Umbrian must try. And for some strange reason, I went with a double cheeseburger with cheese poppers. Heck, it had been over a month since I’d resorted to truly junk food. With my burger I had a 40cl of the rossa, and I enjoyed every morsel and drop. Plus I think I might have figured out most of the posted ten commandments of beer. (I really like #9: never by non-alcoholic beer. My nephew Rob would probably agree with #10: Never take just one beer.)
Rolling out the door, I got to the corner and had to make a decision. Maps presented me with two options, which would effectively box the cathedral and not duplicate much of what I’d seen back 6+ hours ago. Food wasn’t an immediate need, so I just strolled down Via Giuseppe Mazzini and window shopped. Most seemed to be clothing or accessories, and all were closed. Making a right turn on the Corso Conte I’d been on after passing through Porta Roma, besides attire, I spotted a bar/tabaccheria that would be open late, in case I wanted food/drink to bring back. And then there was a bar a block away from the flat. I was set.
Back at the flat I kicked back and started writing up my day in the journal. The B&B had left 2 bottles of water, so I began rehydrating. An hour of scribbling later, I started working on this posting. Maybe I could finish earlier than usual and head to the bar for a nightcap? So I have downloaded the camera, finished this posting, and will push it up. Then I’ll go get a drink and snacks. And then start planning tomorrow, when it’s probably going to rain.