Tuesday, August 01, 2006

LA SCARZUOLA

Before Belinda left for Australia and Giacomo for Sicily, they asked us is we’d like to attend a concert at La Scarzuola. Although Belinda had previously mentioned this place in passing because it’s where they were married, I didn’t know anything about it. After living here for three years and visiting here for the two before that, I’d never read or heard anything about this place!

……….Then the Canadians arrived. Virgil and Jean, along with Rachel and girls went to La Scarzuola one day for the tour. They talked so enthusiastically about it that I decided I’d better find out more. As luck would have it, one day while driving to Montebaggione to check out a restaurant that Belinda had raved about, we passed the sign for La Scarzuola. At least now I knew where it was….after leaving San Venanzo, heading towards Orvieto, we had to turn onto the road for Pornello/Montegiove. La Scarzuola is about 20 kilometers from San Venanzo, just before Montegiove.

The concert we were going to see featured a chamber orchestra from Pittsburgh, and a tenor and soprano. We asked Virgil and Jean if they’d like to go with us, and they said yes. Tickets were a modest €5, and the concert started very early for an Italian event….at 6:00 p.m. I guess this was due to the fact that the venue, an outdoor amphitheater, had no lights.

Just as luck would have it, the afternoon of the concert was cloudy. We heard thunder off in the distance, and this usually means that someone else is getting the rain we need. The pessimist in me was worried.

We knew we’d have to return to La Scarzuola to take the full tour, but what we saw that night was enough to let us know that it would be worthwhile. What a strange and magical place! Just sitting in the amphitheater was a treat, and trying to figure out what everything represented was a mystery.

We were glad we’d arrived early, as the amphitheater filled up fast. Once the orchestra arrived, they began tuning up….but only after they’d rearranged the chairs. Someone had set up the chairs so that the musicians were facing away from the audience. What were they thinking???
Naturally the concert didn’t start on time. As we watched the dark clouds roll in we kept thinking “come on, come on, get started before it rains!” I guess it was about 6:40 be fore the program began, and then we still had to listen to the mayor and the person in charge of arranging the concert say a ‘few’ words.

The concert was arranged in two parts, separated by an intermission. The first half consisted of an original work by the orchestra director, then a piece featuring a guitar by a composer neither of us had heard of (Juaquin Rodrigo). The tenor sang to the first piece, and I have to say that I didn’t like his voice AT ALL…in my opinion it was thin, weak and unpleasant. We decided that listening to him was like listening to a radio show from the 1930’s.

Additionally, none of us really cared for this piece of music, written by the director. It was dark, moody and strange. The words were weird and it just didn’t work for me at all. 
The second piece, featuring a guitarist, was just okay. Maybe it was because I was waiting for the second half of the concert; maybe because I wasn’t familiar with the music, whatever the reason, this piece didn’t hold my attention at all either. And then it started to sprinkle!

As the second piece was nearing its end, musicians began covering their instruments. The kettle drums were covered, and one musician nodded to the director as he got up to seek shelter. Damn! I was afraid this would happen! We had even (optimistically) left our umbrellas in the car.

An intermission had been scheduled for this time, but the rain got harder, the thunder continued, and we wondered if the musicians would return after the break. Eventually we made the decision to leave. We all decided that the chances of rain were just too great, and that the musicians wouldn’t take a chance with their valuable instruments.

We walked back down to the entrance were a van transported us back to our car. Once we left the area we didn’t see any more rain, and in San Venanzo we didn’t even have enough rain to wet the streets. I have no idea what happened at La Scarzuola, but we know we’ll be going back.

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While visiting Ceil, the director of the dig just outside of San Venanzo, we spotted a bunch of brochures in the museum office. It’s so difficult to find out what’s going on in the area. Had it not been for Belinda and Giacomo we never would have known about the concert, yet the place was packed….how did all those people find out about the concert?

One of the brochures I found was about
park festivals. We discovered that we’d missed several free events in our area, but that several more were scheduled for the coming weekend, including a free tour of La Scarzuola!

Since I’ve been writing so much about his place, and since I mentioned that I’d never even heard of this place, I did a search on the internet. La Scarzuola doesn’t have it’s own website, and most information is mentioned in passing on tourist info sites, or on agriturismo sites that include local sites. I was able to find out this from scouring several sites…..

La Scarzuola is a beautiful Franciscan monastery, established by St. Francis in 1218, tucked away in the green woods of Montegiove. In the church you will find one of the first fresco portraits of Saint Francis of Assisi, painted by an artist who had met Francis in person.

In 1956 famous Architect Tommaso Buzzi started restoration of the monastery, building along its walls the ideal city, an architectural symbolic and scenographic complex. From the sacred city you walk through gardens and water streams to the secular city.

The garden is a theater full of archetypical reminiscences, terminated by an Acropolis. A sequence of stages and visions are meant to evocate the quest for spiritual harmony.


On Saturday afternoon we arrived at La Scarzuola. Once again we had dark skies, rumbling thunder and spitting rain. We grabbed our umbrellas as we got out of the car.

A few others were already waiting for the door to open, and we discovered that instead of being free, as our brochure said, the cost was €5, as listed in the “new” brochure. We decided to go in anyway….it would be nice to look around, and the money would be helping to support the place.

Quite a large group eventually gathered in the large open area in front of the church. Eventually a man came to lead the tour. He was quite charming and entertaining, even though we didn’t understand much of what he said (in Italian).

The tour lasted a good two hours, during which time we had rain on and off. Luckily there was enough room for everyone to spread out, and since I couldn’t understand the story anyway, I wandered a bit. We’ll definitely have to return for the English language tour.

For those who might wish to visit La Scarzuola, you need to call in advance for reservations. I think there's a numimum of eight people, but I'm betting that if a smaller group called, they still might do the tour. The cost is €10 per person. The phone number is 076 383 7463. English is spoken.

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1 Comments :

At 8/01/2006 03:17:00 PM , Anonymous Annie M said...

What an intriguing looking building! It is beautiful. I'll have to remember to seek it out next time we're in the area.

Barb, I love reading about your life in Italy. Thanks for sharing it with us!

 

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