Written by artsnletters on 17 Dec, 2003
If you visit a popular hilltown in Tuscany or Umbria, such as San Gimignano, Siena, or Assisi, you'll have a list of important sights to check out. You won't want to miss the famous museums and churches. You'll want to take pictures of…Read More
If you visit a popular hilltown in Tuscany or Umbria, such as San Gimignano, Siena, or Assisi, you'll have a list of important sights to check out. You won't want to miss the famous museums and churches. You'll want to take pictures of those same views you see on postcards and in guidebooks. You'll walk through the piazzas shoulder-to-shoulder with other tourists, your eyes craned up at the towers or trained through the glass windows of souvenir shops. Don't get me wrong--these are all great places, and for good reason, and when I visit them I see and do the same things. But if you want to see a hilltown up close and personal, Civita will give you an entirely different experience.
Civita is tiny, perhaps two city blocks wide by three blocks deep. Walking briskly, you can cover it all in ten or fifteen minutes. Paradoxically, this means you must slow down to enjoy its special delights. There are no great museums or renowned cathedrals you must check off your to-do list, but this doesn't mean that there is nothing to see. Instead, saunter, dawdle, meander, look up and down and over gates and walls, and see what you can discover of the little things which mark out the slow life this place has known for centuries. The details of this town are worthy of your notice, and it's also easier to look at the little things here than in one of those bigger, busier hilltowns.
See if you can find the items pictured below (remember--it's a really small town!). Or see if you can find some modest treasures of your own. Tucked away in one corner of Civita is a house where St. Bonaventura spent some time. There's an ancient olive oil press. There’s a pair of wheels to a cart or wagon which has long since vanished. There’s a handprint in the cement of some child who is bones under the rock by now. Where is the most interesting door? The prettiest window? Who has the best garden? Find your own unforgettable view of Civita.
Written by artsnletters on 12 Dec, 2003
The Church of San Donato is the only "sight" in Civita, if it can be called that. Located according to tradition on the Main Piazza, it isn't elegant or ornate. It boasts no great art, famous relics, or fabulous stained glass, and it's…Read More
The Church of San Donato is the only "sight" in Civita, if it can be called that. Located according to tradition on the Main Piazza, it isn't elegant or ornate. It boasts no great art, famous relics, or fabulous stained glass, and it's on no one's list of significant architectural achievements. It resembles in architectural style many of the Renaissance churches of Florence, but it is utterly stark and unadorned. Inside it's dim and simple, with a faint damp and chalky smell. Nonetheless, it's a very old building, and it's a heartfelt place. There is a leisurely restoration project proceeding at the glacial pace of much Italian reconstruction, hindered in part by very limited funds.
We happened to be in Civita on San Donato's feast day, August 17. San Donato of Ripacandida was a Benedictine monk who died in 1198 at the age of 19. His feast day is celebrated in a tradition unique, so far as I know, to Umbria, the infiorata. This involves making elaborate designs with flower petals and leaves on the floor of the church. All the petals and leaves must be from native plants in their natural colors. Most of the dim aisles were filled with beautiful arrangements which, even when simple, must have taken quite a while to assemble. This is nowhere near as elaborate as a similar annual festival held in Spello in June. For Spello's infiorata, which draws crowds of tourists, designs are laid out over many of the town's streets in a competition; those judged winners are honored by being trod over as part of the holy procession to the church. Civita's much simpler festival, however, is for Civita alone.