Sunday, July 22, 2012 is about the only description I can use.

Last month we went to Pennabilli, a lovely town in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.  Each year it holds a festival of music and art.  There is music or performances spread around this lovely hillside town in the piazza's and gardens.  Some friends asked if we would like to go and we thought it would be a fun experience as well as a great way to see more of Italy.  It is only a 2 hour drive, but the difference in landscape is really quite remarkable.

We started our weekend with a trip to Urbino, a walled city in the region of Marche.  It is a beautiful city renowned for it's arts, especially renaissance art.  It is surrounded by rolling lush green hills.  We spent the afternoon their and toured the Duomo, the Palazzo Ducale and then went to see Raphael's house, (he wasn't home).  Casa Natale Raffaello is actually the home where he was born and now houses Accademia Raffaello, a collection of artworks some by Raffaello, some by artists of his time or those influenced by him.  It was wonderful to see this house and to be able to walk through the rooms, imagining what it must have been like in the late 15th Century.  There was a beautiful courtyard in the back, where Mieran accidentally dropped her necklace down the well.

Palazzo Ducale had a wonderful collection of art and was great to see.  It had a beautiful garden and some grand rooms.  One tiny room was all done in inlaid wood and there was an image of a flute that appeared to move as you walked by.  The Duomo was beautiful and we were able to see the beautiful 'Ultimo Cena' (Last Supper) by Federico Barocci.  As we stood admiring the duomo we noticed a crowd beginning to gather and realized there was a funeral about to begin so we quietly snuck out the door.

We drove a beautiful and windy road from Urbino, through the Riserva Naturale del Sasso di Simone, through Pennabilli to the country house we were staying in, near Sant'Agata.  Everything was so lush and green and fresh.  The views were amazing.

On Saturday morning Finn and I got up and went for a walk.  It was down a windy hill and we saw lots of cyclists.  It was a beautiful morning and we walked to a nearby castle in Petrella Guidi.  On our return, we were served breakfast by our host and he recommended seeing Sant'Agata (we found out later her was the Mayor) and San Leo.  We went to Sant'Agata later that morning and it was beautiful.  There is an amazing little theatre in the town that was like stepping into a jewelry box.  Teatro Angelo Mariani was built in 1605 and is the oldest theatre in Italy built completely of wood.  It has 3 rows of box seats that surround the main floor, with a total capacity of 90, the ceiling is ornately decorated and painted with images of patrons.  It was truly spectacular to view this beautiful building, and I would have loved to seen a performance of anything there.  The fortress was closed for refurbishment and when we visited one of the churches, it had had damage from the heavy snow fall in February.  Sant'Agata saw 3 metres of snow, the worst winter in 50 years.

We spent Saturday afternoon and evening at the festival and wandering around the town of Pennabilli, a beautiful hill side town.  The festival is well organized with activities and performances for all ages and interests.  We spent quite a bit of time in a sculpture garden with magical puzzles (the type that stump you at the Science Centre), while listening to music and the children worked on crafts.  Finn and his friend learned to weave while the girls made puppets.  It was a rather wonderful backdrop for music and arts and the weather
was warm and sunny with interspersed showers of rain.  Mark, Molly and Mieran headed back early for a dance performance and I stayed on with our friends and Finn and Pippa.

On Sunday morning, after breakfast and coffee, we packed up the children and headed to the town of San Leo, a town build atop a rocky out crop on the border of le Marche.  It is reached by a winding steep road and is noted as one of the most beautiful towns in Italy, it was used as a setting by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy.  At the very top is an old fortress with a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside.  It had been used as a papal prison.  The churches near the town centre date to 9th and 12th century.  We had lunch in the centre and then after a walk up to explore the fortress we returned for a gelato and coffee before beginning our drive home.  It was a lovely way to end a lovely weekend in such a beautiful area of Italy.

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