If you follow a curvy wooded road into the Valnerina from Spoleto and then up into the southern Umbria Sibilline mountains, you’ll come to tiny medieval hill town Preci (population: just over 600) – if the road is open and if you can get pass roadblocks: Preci, close to the epicenter of the October 30th earthquake, is now zona rossa (totally off-limits until buildings have been inspected, scaffolded).
I remember a note I wrote after my discovery of Preci a few years ago (describing a bit the gem of a hill town I visited that day):
Born as a medieval rural village near a Benedictine oratory – now the Abbey of Sant’Eutizio (NB damaged too on October 30th…) – time seems to have stood still in Preci.
The serenity of this picturesque mountain village of warm Mediterranean colors belies its bellicose past: in the thirteenth century, feudal overlords battled Papal authority for dominance. After decades of conflict, the town was sacked in the early sixteenth century by nearby Norcia and then later rebuilt by Pope Paul III. His mid-sixteenth century reign coincides with the diffusion of the fame of the medical skills of Preci doctors throughout Europe. Preci’s sought-after surgeons constructed noble palaces and the town soon became an elegant fortified village.
– and you can see the lyrical charm of Preci in the photos I took that day:
Lacerated by the earthquake, Preci now looks like this:
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the modulated yet forceful and high-reaching voice of the castrati – now wealthy and adored – enthused composers, musicians and music-lovers all over Europe. Many of the celebres castratores performed clandestine operations at the request of avaricious parents hoping to launch their sons into musical careers with la Cappella Sistina or with a great European court.
At the beginning of the 19th-century, a final chapter closed on this immoral use of medicine: one of the last of the famous castrati, Domenica Mustafa’, composer and musical director of la Cappella Sistina, was born in the Valnerina in 1829, just a few kilometers from Preci, town of famed surgeons… (Note: after Mustafa’s death in his hometown of Montefalco, he was buried in the Montefalco cemetery).
No lives were lost in the October earthquake but the flagellation of the artistic patrimony of Umbria and the Marches region has been devastating. May Preci soon be resurrected.
*****How to help restore the economy devastated by the late October earthquakes (epicenter, near Preci and Norcia)? There’s a PALATABLE way to help: buy – and eat! – Norcia prosciutto, capocollo, salami and pecorino. Nursia beer. Norcia dark chocolate. Saffron and roveja beans from Cascia.
Those IGP lentils of Castelluccio.
******I have added daily updates to my blog since the late October tremors. I will continue to put out daily updates: on the situation of the homeless, on quake-related events (“earth-shaking” and not!)
More on the damage to Norcia
News on San Pellegrino near Norcia, damaged in the August 24th, 2016 quake
Information on damage to Visso in the Marches
San Salvatore, near Norcia, lost: che tragedia
Peppa’s home had damage, too, though light damage