I’ve been silent for some time because my family was keeping me busy. I am freer now, and looking forward to sharing more about life in Le Marche.
Offagna is a good place to visit if you have just been to IKEA and want to enjoy somewhere uniquely Marchigiano. Or if you are touring it’s convenient for Ancona, but a different world.
We drove along winding hilly roads with breathtaking views on either side, and adopted our usual technique of not studying the map but parking just under the walls – there’s always somewhere – going through the gate, and walking up towards the Rocca, or castle. Most hill towns have them and when we took our girls round them, we tended to grade them according to the size of the Rocca. Corinaldo hasn’t got one at all, Mondavio’s is one of the best, and Offagna’s is impressive too.
The walk up is delightful, but that day it was very hot. After this August I have got a lot less militant about opening times. It was too hot to visit anywhere between 12.30 and 5. Those long lunchtime closures are trying to tell you something. So our shopping trip to IKEA had had a Nordic effect and caused us to think “Fine, done our shopping, had lunch, off we go.” No. After lunch you need to be somewhere not too hot for a few hours. Next time we’ll aim to leave IKEA at 4 pm if we want to do something afterwards.
We saw this olive-press just inside the gate.
I was fascinated by the hole cut in the top of this door. I’ve never seen anything like it. What is it for?
Andrea Vici, an eighteenth-century architect whose brother was a local priest, remodelled the sacristy of this church.
A couple of glimpses on the road up. These Vendesi (For Sale) notices are ubiquitous, mostly faded by years of exposure to sunshine. You can buy them in your local Ferramenta, or ironmonger. The bottom has fallen out of the Marchigiano housing market and people don’t want to spend money on agents’ fees.
One of the best things about the walk up to Offagna’s Rocca is the way the views get more spectacular as you climb up. I arrived at a little piazza below the Rocca
and thought this was as good as it got. How wrong I was.
This is the sort of little house that children always say they would like to live in. There is a fairy-tale quality about it.
Having left the piazza, I continued on my winding way upwards and came this little garden.
The war memorial is just nearby.
We walked all the way round the memorial, and as usual, were saddened, though not surprised, to see how many people this small town lost in the First World War. Many soldiers died in the north-east, fighting Austria. And in the Second World War, many civilian dead are listed, as usual. Victims of bombing in Ancona, or reprisals? In this case we didn’t know.
I had to wait till 4.30 for the fifteenth-century Rocca to open – no chance of a drink; any nearby bars were closed. However, it was worth the wait. Apparently, according to the Blue Guide, it is a good example of a transitional fortress, built when the use of gunpowder was changing defensive requirements. There were underground passages, arrow-slits
and battlements aplenty.
The underground passages lead to what is either a corpse or a realistic model of a corpse. It is gruesome in the extreme and something I could have done without. I have not photographed it.
There were also some interesting displays. The collection of arms and armour didn’t appeal – it is not all ancient by the way, whatever the Internet guides may say; there is a collection of guns from the American West. But as I slowly climbed right up to the top of the central mastio, or tower, I quite unexpectedly came across these displays of Apulian ware.
The bell on top of the tower was highly evocative, or suggestiva as the Italians would say (beware false friends!). It put me straight into Rosemary Sutcliffe or Charlotte Yonge mode. That is to say, I was immediately transported to a historical novel in which we brave defenders of Offagna were ringing the bell to warn of the approach of the hated Osimani (the people of nearby Osimo). Of course we could see them from leagues away, thanks to the position of our Rocca.
The inscription on the bell reads, as best as I could make it out: MCCCCLXXVII JACOBUS DE ISTRIO FECIT AVE MARIA. (1477 Jacobus of Istria made [it]. Hail Mary. )
I attempted to transcribe the rest of the inscription, but it reads a bit oddly and perhaps I missed something. It’s quite difficult to get round the back of the bell and peer up at the inscription. Anyway here it is: HONOREM DEO ET PATRIE LIBERATIONEM MENTEM SANTAM SPONTANEAM. (Honour to God and to the Fatherland liberation, a holy and willing mind.) Comments and corrections welcome.
Osimo also has what look like very good Feste Medioevali (yes, there’s more than one) in July.
This visit was really only a taster; next time we’ll look out for the work of Andrea Vici, the eighteenth-century architect, whom we discovered in Offagna but didn’t have time to follow up. He seems to have had some interesting problems due to arguments between local religious groups: watch this space!
Just one more photograph to leave you with.