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Cagli

 

This courtly little town set against a backdrop of some of the highest peaks in the northern Marches, has welcomed strangers for over two thousand years. Since the days, no less, when ancient Rome made it an important staging post on the Via Flaminia, one of the oldest and most important Roman roads in Europe.
Still today it retains its Roman grid plan, all roads leading to a proper central square with a florid fountain, a steely medieval town hall, and huddles of old men deep in gossip.
The hand of the great Quattrocento military architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini is unmistakable in the dramatic oval torrione or tower to the west of the piazza, all that remains of the citadel that Duke Federico da Montefeltro had built above Cagli towards the end of the 15thC.
Search out the pleasing fresco of the Madonna and Child with Saints by Giovanni Santi - the angel to the left of the picture is said to be a portrait of Santi's better known son, Raphael. You will find it in the church of San Domenico near the hospital.
Try to see inside the magnificently restored theatre behind the town hall, a perfect little 19thC opera house with all the trimmings.
You might well be just as happy wandering along the medieval streets looking out for some of the many aristocratic palazzi that abound or lazing away a morning at a table outside one of the pleasant bars on the main square - a good place to watch Italian daily life.
The beauty of Cagli as a town, however, is overshadowed by the natural splendour of its setting amidst some of the Marche's most uncontaminated countryside
A tortuous 10 km drive up from the town will take you to the windswept meadows 1108 m up on the summit of Monte Petrano, olympian views and a mass of wild daffodils in late spring (follow signs from near Torrione).
To the east of Cagli stand the twin peaks of Monte Catria (1700m) and Monte Acuto (1527m), an untouched wilderness with breathtaking views.
A road from the nearby village of Acquaviva winds up through meadows and beech woods to within a few hundred metres of each peak, before dropping back down towards Frontone, or to Cantiano, beneath the western slopes. The journey is especially rewarding in May and June when the alpine flora in the upland meadows is in full bloom.
Cagli's venerable history goes back to pre-Roman times when it was known as Cale. Notable archeological finds have shown that the Umbri, Etruscans and Celtic Galli Senoni all passed through before ancient Rome conquered the area in 295 BC at the battle of Sentino.
References to Cale Vicus and Mutatio ad Cale from ancient Roman sources bear witness to Cagli's establishment as a growing centre in the wake of the construction of the Via Flaminia, one of Rome's earliest and most important roads.

Cagli Rocca

Already by the 4thC Cagli was a bishopric under Greciano who took part in the Council of Rimini in 359. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the town fell first to the Goths then to the Lombards. As a strategic point in the corridor still under Byzantine influence, it was fought over for years by Byzantium and Lombards. The local population menwhile took refuge in the hill above the Via Flaminia known as the Bandirola; here they founded the Medieval city and enclosed it with sturdy walls.
At the close of the 12thC the town gained its status as a comune thanks to a pact between the Church and local nobility. The warring between Guelfs and Ghibellines that swept central Italy in Medieval times did not spare Cagli and in 1287, during a heated confrontation between the two factions, it was destroyed by fire.
Two years later in 1289, under orders of Pope Nicholas IV, it was re-sited and rebuilt on classical lines on the plain below where it stands today.
After a chequered history, the town came into the hands of the Dukes of Montefeltro in Urbino around 1376. In the course of the 16thC it then passed to the Della Rovere family. It remained with them until 1631 when it became part of the Papal States where it stayed until the Unification of Italy in 1860.

 

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