Monday, December 19, 2016

12/18 -- Spoleto and an Organic Farm

Today we visited Spoleto, and important city for many years. Originally ruled by the Umbri who were Indo-Europeans who took both sides of the Appenines, their land was bounded on the west by the Tiber River where the Etruscans controlled the area to the west of the river. The Umbri settled here five centuries before Christ.

The bus dropped us off at the bottom of this hill town and we took a series of escalators (vs walking 300+ steps) to a circular promenade just below the fortress at the very top. At one level of the escalator trip, there were exposed original walls that were uncovered during the construction process.
The covered areas are up and down escalators and steps.

The ancient wall  uncovered during construction

At the top, we walked over to look at what at first seemed to be a Roman aqueduct, but Eugenio pointed out that the arches were not the wide rounded type the Romans used but pointy ones.This is now a bridge and it doesn't look like there is much of anything over there, but the hill has had a very spiritual role for centuries. It is heavily wooded in oak and attracted druids and later hermits who ended up forming the Benedictine order.
The arches are  NOT the same width, the difference you see is
not a trick of perspective.
The tower complex at the other end of the bridge.
We moved on to a rock wall below the fortress that was built in two sections. The bottom section, using a dry stone technique and huge boulders, was built by the Umbri. It was later added to with much smaller stones by a subsequent culture.
The big stones are from the Umbri.The smaller stones at the
top are hard to see in this photo.

We continued on to the cathedral, which had 3 niches near the top, all intended for mosaics, but only one was completed. Inside, our focus was on the frescoes behind the altar, completed by Fra Filippo Lippi. This cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, and the bottom three panels, which were relatively drab, showed her conception by god, the nativity, and her death. The artist painted himself, an assistant or two, and his son into the middle panel as spectators on the right. The top panel is much more brilliantly colored, using lapis lazuli to create the deep blue to show the crowning of Mary in heaven.
Cathedral of the Assumption

Interior -- the frescoes are at the far end and
too dark to see in this photo.

Mary being crowned in heaven
The three biographical frescoes -- left is conception, middle is
death, right is nativity.
An elaborate side chapel
Several of our group decided to stay for the mass that was starting shortly and the rest of us accompanied Lodo to see a reconstructed Roman house underneath another structure. Quite a bit was original or recreated with original materials, especially the floor mosaics. Then we walked over to see what was left of the ancient Roman theater.
Fountain in the market square. The building used
to be a church, was converted to housing, and the
entrance became the fountain.

Levels of constructioins showing Umbri, Roman,
and later cultures.

Mosaic floor in the Roman House

The sunken area was for water catchment in the original house's

One of the reconstructed rooms

The triclinium, an elevated living room for special guests

The main living room with the triclinium in the background

Floor plan of the original house.
The original Roman theater. The stones closest to the foreground
are original. The ones further back are replacements.

A really mean looking fountain

Before lunch, I stopped to buy a pair of earrings that caught my eye, then it was off to lunch. Afterwards, we went to an organic farm that is raising olives and beef cattle. There is a villa on the property that the owners no longer live in. The farmers we met rent the property for farming from them. Part of the villa is used for housing farm workers and running the olive oil mill. The rest is available for rent: it will accommodate up to 14 people and comes with a maid and a cook for a mere 10,000 to 12,000 euros a week.

The beef cattle are a specific brand of white cow prized for their meat. It is a breeding herd which is maintained in 4 categories: breeding cows, who are active up to 13 years along with a cadre of wet nurse cows to assist when the birth mother can't; the male offspring which are sold as veal at around 8 months, but are totally free range, not caged; the meat cows who are not chosen for breeding and kept in a more confined area to be fatten and sold by the time they are 24 months old, which earns them a special high quality designation; and finally the bulls, which are bought from elsewhere to keep the bloodlines from becoming inbred.

Main winter quarters for the herd. In the summer, they free
range on the hills behind the farm.

Calves who may be destined to breed or be sold as veal.

Non-breeding cows who will be sold for meat within 24 months

They also had donkeys and we had the opportunity to ride them up to the villa. There were 5 donkeys and 12 of us, so we took turns except two (me and one other) who decided not to ride. I had great fun taking pictures of the riders and leaders. The rider had no control of the beast at all.  Instead, a leader got the lead and held it close to the donkey's head to better control it and keep it from continually snacking. This turned out to be quite a challenging role.

Saddled donkeys waiting for us to get our act together
Jim riding with John leading. Diane is in front of John.

At the villa, we were introduced to a less computerized olive oil making process, though it had a lot of similarity to the one we learned about in Tuscany. Here, the leaves and sticks are turned into fodder for the cattle and the crushed pits and separated and used or sold as fuel. This is a much smaller operation which focuses on the local market, though they do export to the Netherlands and sell some product in local stores. Most of their business comes from direct sales to people who buy a year's supply at a time and come back each year when the harvest completes. We were each given a small bottle of oil as we left. This is unfiltered but the sediment did not look bad at all, compared to the sediment we saw that had been filtered out at the other mill. This oil is bottled offsite and filtered at the time of bottling.

Destemming and crushing machines
Crushed pits ready to be used as fuel

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