The journey resumes through places rich in history, on a path that allowed the mobility of people and herds towards the Potenza valley, between the two great rival dioceses of Camerino and San Severino. After passing the locality I Ponti, passing close to the magnificent places of worship of Renacavata and San Gregorio, climb up to Torre Beregna, following a panoramic road that sweeps up to the Sibillini Mountains. Take a cart track that crosses the Manfrica wood, known for its rich nature, and you reach San Severino Marche. The hiking route, in terms of distance and height difference, requires good training.
Porta Caterina Cybo, named after the duchess consort of Giovanni Maria Varano, later regent of Camerino from 1527 to 1535, allows you to enter the South-East part of the city and go into the heart of medieval political and economic power. Due to the results of the earthquake, the current path is short but significant: through Porta Caterina Cybo you go up, passing the city walls, along via Ugo Betti, a well-known poet and playwright from Camerino, to quickly reach the square overlooked by the Archbishopric, the Cathedral, the Doge’s Palace. The elegant late 15th-century four-sided portico is attributed to the Florentine architect Baccio Pontelli. In the same square merges the “merchant’s street“, full of warehouses where the best products of Camerino were gathered, such as paper, fabrics and saffron, and the precious Florentine, Veronese and Flemish fabrics, spices and carpets that confirm the dynamic face of a city-hinge in interregional traffic, in close relationship with the major markets of the time.
1 – BASILICA OF ST. VENANZIO: a peak into the Middle ages
Where the first stage of the route ends, the second begins. After the first 1.3 km, you arrive at the Basilica of St. Venanzio.
Three elements characterize this suggestive corner of the Middle Ages: the Church of St. Venanzio dedicated to the patron saint of the city and the Diocese, with its splendid portal; a ancient oven whose production was destined in large part to pilgrims in transit; porta de Filillo through which you entered the main road that allowed you to reach Torre di Beregna and, from there, to San Severino Marche, Recanati and Loreto, but not before visitng the Church of San Domenico, where Carlo Crivelli painted a polyptych with Madonna and Child and Saints in 1482, and having stayed in the adjacent Convent or in the Annunziata hospital. Place of rest and prayer for the many foreigners residing and in transit, and further confirmation of the interregional and international network in which the path was inserted, was the chapel of Saints Rocco and Sebastiano located in the Church of San Venanzio, owned by the “Society of Italian foreigners”.
2 – LOC. I PONTI: towards Renacavata and Loreto
After passing the basilica, walk 1.6 km to reach the locality of I Ponti.
The locality’s name seems to refer to the vast arches of a Roman aqueduct, according to a hypothesis by Bittarelli. It represented for centuries an important road junction, allowing the connection with various roads: the main one heads towards the Capuchin convent of Renacavata, cradle of the Capuchin Order, and Beregna, the border of the state and Duchy of Camerino in the direction of San Severino Marche. Defined by the city statutes as via magistra, here the “road of the Porta de Filillo” converged on the way of the tower of Beregnia, subject in the Middle Ages to particular care and “mactonata” for a long stretch. The remote presence of drinking troughs, taverns and stately homes confirms its strategic functionality along the ancient route between Rome and Loreto.
3 – CONVENT OF RENACAVATA: cradle of the Order of Capuchins
Then, after walking for 1.4 km, you can see the Convent of Renacavata.
On July 3, 1528, Pope Clement VII granted, through the intercession of the Duchess of Camerino Caterina Cybo Varano, the approval of the Capuchin reform: a few months later here stood the first Convent of the new Order, which would have rapidly spread widely in Italy and Europe. In the place where the Convent was built there was a chapel dedicated to the Madonna and a domus hospitalis for pilgrims and wayfarers (Furiasse 2016): elements that confirm its role as a pivot in the inter-regional and specifically religious road system towards Loreto. The structure of the building allows us to see the poverty of the first convent built by the friars. In the small adjoining church, a large polychrome majolica attributed to the Florentine Santi Buglioni is of particular interest and, preserved in the adjacent Historical Museum, refined artifacts documenting the industriousness of the Capuchin friars.
4 – CHURCH OF ST. GREGORIO IN DINAZZANO
1.3 km away, there is another place of worship: the Church of St. Gregorio in Dinazzano.
Immersed in the intense green of the chestnut groves, the Church of San Gregorio with what remains of the adjacent monastery was built around the year 1000 to house, over the centuries, female communities: Benedictine nuns and Poor Clares. A resting place for pilgrims in transit along the ancient Roman-Lauretan road, it preserves a 16th-century fresco of the Virgin Mary under a temple supported by angels, which according to ancient Camerte iconography represents the Madonna of Loreto. The church also contained a 15th-century altar frontal with a similar depiction of the Madonna of Loreto: a prelude to the final destination of the Loreto Sanctuary. A precious treasure chest of history, art and culture deserving of great attention and which needs recovery interventions to be returned to the community in all its integrity and beauty.
5 – TORRE BEREGNA: a doorway to the Adriatic Sea
Continue for 3.4 km before reaching Torre Beregna (Beregna Tower).
An ancient watchtower, a hospital for pilgrims and wayfarers and a very active customs house supported this wide plateau in the Middle Ages, where the view extends over the entire horizon: it was the hinge of the road and defensive system of the Municipality, State and Duchy of Camerino , and at one time the most vulnerable, as evidenced in 1259 by the passage of Manfred’s army for the conquest of the city. Built by Giovanni da Varano in 1381 and collapsed in 1973, Torre Beregna was for centuries the highest bulwark of a defensive barrier called the Intagliata which descended to Torre del Parco, continued to Lanciano and ended in Pioraco: a key element of a border consolidated, but also the natural gateway to the Adriatic, which leads to Villa d’Aria in the direction of the Manfrica Refuge.
6 – REFUGE MANFRICA: the Valle dei Grilli and the Abbey of St. Eustachio in Domora
Walking another 2.3 km before the last and longest stretch (8.9 km), you reach the Refuge Manfrica.
The path of the medieval road that connected Camerino to San Severino Marche unraveled through the Torrone area, the Beregna pass and the Valle dei Grilli (Valley of the crickets). Along this route, mostly immersed in unspoiled nature, there are the monastic settlement of San Gregorio in Dinazzano and the convent of the Capuchin minor fathers of Renacavata, cradle of the Order. Continuing towards San Severino we plunged into the forests of Mambrica in the direction of the Benedictine abbey of Sant’Eustachio – formerly the hermitage of San Michele in Domora, of clear Byzantine ancestry – built in the narrow valley where, since Roman times, the mining activity functional to the building activity of the nearby city center.
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