Last time we were in Corinaldo, in August, our friend Adolfo Giampaolo, ex-member of the Comune, kindly took the time and trouble (despite a bad shoulder) to introduce me to Dott. Paolo Pirani, Corinaldo Comune’s cultural officer. Although very busy preparing for tomorrow’s evening of entertainment, “Corinaldo Citta Palcoscenico” (Stage City), Dott. Paolo loaded me down with interesting books, took me on a tour of the communal art gallery and proved to be a mine of information about Corinaldo’s heritage and history.
I explained that I was a librarian with a particular interest in Le Marche‘s fine collections of rare and antiquarian books, and that Corinaldo’s librarian had shown me some of their early printed books. Dott. Pirani reminded me that the antiquarian books are kept in the communal archive, which adjoins the library,
and told me that the earliest document in the archive goes back to the eleventh century. It is part of a series, dated from 1081-1186 and existing as a fifteenth century copy, of documents relating to the rights and assets of the Abbey of Fonte Avellana , the then rich and powerful and owner of the lands around Sta Maria in Portuna, or Madonna del Piano, in the Cesano Valley (L’Archivio del Comune di Corinaldo, Regione Marche, 1998, p 45, Inventario sez.1,Diplomatico cartaceo, 66A 1081-1186). Dott. Pirani also told me that the archive includes a letter from Machiavelli, written in 1501.
Not content with taking time and trouble to acquaint me with Corinaldo’s treasures, he was generous enough to give me a copy of the catalogue of the archive. This is a splendid 715-page volume, which catalogues no less than 2,222 “archivistic and documentary units”, and which is illustrated with attractive photograph of the documents. Actually it’s clear from the catalogue that there are many more than 2,222 documents in the collection. This must be one of the last bound and printed archive catalogues, and it represents a tour de force by the cataloguer, Carlo Giacomini.
The archive also includes a letter from Duke Federigo of Urbino (p.40; sez. 1, 41, 1478 Apr 3) to his charissimi amici of Corinaldo, about sending horses to the Luogotenente della Marca.
Dott. Pirani also told me that Corinaldo is honeycombed with subterranean “underground passages”, including the one below the communal art gallery, into which Adolfo, he and I ventured with some difficulty (at least on my part), as the steeply sloping, stepped entrance is not easy to navigate.
It was designed for carts and trolleys, but they had to be pushed by people, and as usual I was left full of admiration for the nimbleness of the inhabitants of the hill-towns of the Marche, today and yesterday, and of the elegant, fit, elderly folk who negotiate hundreds of steep steps every day.
These tunnels are not ways of escape, though they may have been used as such during World War II. No, they are neviere, or snow-chambers, similar to our C18 icehouses, used for storing the winter snowfall and preserving food. One of our favourite restaurants, I Tigli, has a magnificient neviera which Signora Chiara, who owns and runs the restaurant with her sons, was kind enough to show us. It was used by the Benedictine nuns of the former convent where I Tigli is located. The temperature immediately drops when you enter the neviera, which consists of a passageway with arched chambers off it where the food was stored. There are similar storage areas in the Badia di Fiastra, a 12th-century Cistercian abbey in the province of Macerata.
After this rewarding tour, Edward and I returned to the present and had a drink in Scuretto’s, the bar at the top of the steps, whence there is a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside.