We have visited Fossombrone twice before, and this time were pleasantly surprised. The first time, the whole of the centro storico, or historic centre, appeared to be dug up for drainage renovation, and we had to pick our way between sewer pipes. The second time, there was a large pile of dog mess in the middle of the deserted Corso – very unusual for Le Marche. We decided never to come back, but were drawn back by the announcement of an interesting exhibition,
of which more later. We were impressed and amazed by the change in Fossombrone. The Corso is now busy and full of smart shops.
However, it has to be said that like most Italian cities it has “too much” heritage, and the Corte Alta (1464), the Duke of Urbino’s summer palace, is a bit neglected, apart from the excellent museum which is situated there.
It was in this museum that the exhibition was taking place, centred on the Winged Victory
which was unearthed at Forum Sempronii, Fossombrone’s Roman predecessor, in 1660. Have a look at the Facebook page, where there is lots of information, in Italian, and some fascinating pictures. This statue ended up in the small German state of Hesse-Cassel in 1777, having been bought by its Landgrave, or Duke. Goethe admired it and had a copy of it, and in Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington’s London home, now a museum, there is a statue of Napoleon, the Duke’s defeated enemy, holding a smaller version of the Victory. It is a copy of the Greek gilded bronze Victory originally from Tarantum, moved by the Emperor Augustus to the interior of Rome’s Senate House, or Curia, in 29 BC. Some people consider that Gratian’s removal of the original from the Senate in 382 signified the end of classical antiquity, the age of Greece and Rome. Personally I’d put it much later, when Justinian closed the Neoplatonist School of Athens in 529 AD.
As often in Le Marche, looking at this artistic treasure made me feel sad. I thought of the Crivellis in the National Gallery, the Piero Madonna in Milan’s Brera, Duke Federigo Montefeltro’s manuscript collection in the Vatican, and his collection of paintings in the Uffizi in Florence. Still, at least the good folk of Hesse-Cassel lent the statue back to Fossombrone. The poverty of the region until the 20th century meant that it was a good hunting-ground for art collectors – witness the aforementioned Crivellis . I sometimes wonder that anything is left at all.
The Victory was by no means the only exhibit of interest. There was also this mosaic.
After leaving the museum, we wandered around the Corte Alta and its neighbourhood. You can see from the photos that its charm is a bit dilapidated.
This photo of the view from the top of town gives you an idea of Fossombrone’s beautiful situation.
On the way down we caught this characteristic glimpse of the urban landscape.
The Corso and the neighbouring streets are lined with fine houses,elegant doorways and smart caffè-bars.
But I was disappointed when I got to Fossombrone’s communal library, the Biblioteca Passionei, a fine collection founded by a local prelate, containing a number of early printed books, only to discover that it is closed for refurbishment.
We’ll be back, if only to do some shopping, but the remains of the Roman town should be worth a visit as well.