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Aug 07 2013

Two Small Cities in Romagna with Interesting Pasts

During my recent trip to Romagna, I was amazed at the interesting history in this region of Italy,  of which I had no prior knowledge.  I love to be surprised like that when I travel.  In Romagna, there were two small cities, situated in the picturesque Marecchia Valley, that particularly caught my imagination: Verucchio and San Leo.


Verucchio at night

I find it hard to think of Verucchio as a city because it’s really small.  Nonetheless, as I have eluded to, it is very interesting, historically.  In fact, it is an important site for the Italian Iron Age.  This is because necropolises from an ancient civilisation, the Villanovians from 11th – 7th centuries BC, were discovered around Verucchio.

Municipal Archaeological Museum

Excavation of the tombs started in 1893 but were finally halted in 2009 due to a lack of resources.  Nonetheless, in that time, many well-preserved artifacts have been excavated and are displayed in the museum.  If you have the slightest bit of interest in history or ancient civilisations then you will love this museum.  I was amazed at the amount of artifacts that are in really good condition.  You can see just a few in the photograph below.

Villanovian Artifacts

In addition, the museum building itself is interesting because it is located in the 13th century monastery of the Augustinian Fathers.

Rocca Malatestiana


The story of Verucchio continues.  It used to be the stronghold of the Malatestas, one of two influential families vying for power in the area.  You can get a sense of this from the medieval Malatesta Fortress, also known as Castel del Sasso because of its position on a rocky spur (sasso).  After Sigismondo Malatesta lost in 1462, it was ruled by a branch of the Medici family from Florence and then the Pio Comneno family until the middle of the 16th century when it became part of the Papal State.  In the main hall is the Malatesta family tree (pictured above).

San Leo

San Leo
San Leo, which is built on a limestone cliff with steep sides, was originally called Montefeltro from Mons Feretrus.  The name is linked to an important Roman settlement built around a temple that was dedicated to Jupiter Feretrius.  The name changed to San Leo as a tribute to Leo, a Dalmatian stone-cutter, who founded a Christian community there just as did Marino in a place that later became known as San Marino.

What surprised me about San Leo is that this tiny city was once the capital of Italy.  It was only for a short time but still I think that’s a major achievement, don’t you?

San Leo Fortress
San Leo Fortress
San Leo was of strategic importance for a long time and also the centre of a long conflict.  Because of this, it is dominated by a fortress that has Roman origins.  The history of conflict continued as its rulers alternated between the two most powerful families in the area: the Malatestas (as mentioned above) and the Montefeltros.  San Leo was the Montefeltro family’s stronghold and their name actually came from the ancient name of San Leo.

Eventually, it became part of the Papal State and its use changed to a prison in 1631 and the military lodgings became cells.  It continued to be used as a prison until 1906 and, I have to say, it would have been pretty grim.  Just take a look at some of the instruments of torture in this photograph!

The prison cells in San Leo Fortress
Cathedral of San Leo

The Cathedral of San Leo

The original cathedral was built in 7th century and then renovated in 12th century.  It was built a few steps from the first church in the city (La Vergine Assunta).


If you love history and archaeology interests you then you have to visit these two small cities in Romagna.  They aren’t that difficult to get to either, even if you don’t have a car.  You can fly into Bologna and get a train to Rimini.  From there, you can catch a bus to either Verucchio or San Leo – simple!

This is where they are located…

Center map
Google MapsGet Directions

Have your say

Have you been to Verucchio or San Leo?


*  This was part of the #romagnadiffusa project. I would like to thank Silvia for giving me a comfortable place to rest my head during my stay at Le Case Antiche and to Alessandra from 21Grammy and Giancarlo from Albergo Diffuso who made the whole thing possible.

**  Please note that all the opinions and observations expressed in this post are purely my own

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