Saturday, 3 January 2009


Before high speed cars and trains towns like Narni would have been major halts along the route from Rome to Assisi, Perugia or the coast at Ancona. In roman and medieval times many of these towns owed their existence to the fact that they were strung a days walk along the major roadways and offered pilgrims a bed and relative safety for the night. Today of course they are all forty or fifty minutes apart along the autostrada and they are bypassed by tourists and commerce hurtling along to larger centres. This is a pity because towns like Narni have a rich heritage worthy of a visit. The Rough Guide is dismissive of Narni but the cathedral and the old town centre are rich in archeology and more importantly for those who have been to Tuscany in tourist season, devoid of crowds. The cathedral although not a masterpiece like Siena or Florence is interesting enough. It dates in current form from 1145 but incorporates much recycled roman era material. In its dark and mysterious interior it has a rare sixth century chapel containing the original tomb of Saint Giovenale who was buried there in 376. The overall impression is of a building with its medieval frescoes and cosmati pavement that has been much loved and added to by the townsfolk over the years. All of these small towns should be clubbing together to attract tourists but the sense of communal individuality that history has instilled in them prevents this.

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