Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Serendipitous Le Marche

It was just a single line in an obscure guide, innocuously recommending a visit to the piano nobile of the municipal building "if you have time." I'm glad I had time, although I questioned my use of it when the tourist lady said she'd need to go and get the keys from another office to get in, thinking as I was of the likely fruitless search for the right person, the rummaging around for the keys, the numerous tries in the lock from the bunch resembling a genius's puzzle, ... When the friend with whom she was lost in conversation when I made my request accompanied us, I raised the other eyebrow a little quizzically too.

But all misgivings evaporated when we found the right person immediately, located the appropriate key with equal speed, and was thrust into the most sumptuous of municipal hearing rooms I have ever been in. While the plush green upholstery was impressive, it was the walls and the ceilings that prompted my jaw to drop and my mouth to utter a monosyllabic grunt of awe - ornate, colourful frescoes invited me in, offering accounts of the town's history and depictions of Italy's four surrounding seas. The photos below don't begin to capture its all-round appeal.

I was thankful too for the presence of the friend, whose knowledge of the frescoes and the pictures in the next room was somewhat superior to the tourist lady's. The adjoining rooms were quite different, but in their own way just as engaging, with baroque furniture lounging idly in the corners, and a half-wall of vignettes giving life to Dante's Divine Comedy courtesy one Filippo Bigioli, an early nineteenth-century artist I hadn't heard of before. (Unfortunately the room was too dark to take pictures of his vignettes.)

And this after a highly rewarding visit to the town's small Pinacoteca Civica with its Crivelli brother masterpieces and other gems dating back to the beginning of the thirteenth century. I'm not an art buff, but the craftwork of the works on display by the Crivellis and other artists whose names were new to me can't but be admired. Outside, the elliptical main piazza is an attraction of its own, with its arched arcades and beckoning coffee shops. Tucked away in central Le Marche, this town deserves a visit for anyone with the time, and if you don't have it, make it.

Post a comment if you know the place I'm talking about.

(If you click on the picture, it will launch a full-size view of it.)

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