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Following the Art Trails

Pauline Kenny

Following an Art Trail is a great excuse for touring the countryside in Italy. Pick an Italian artist and find the towns where you can see his work. The Piero della Francesca is well known and is well worth following. I have put together trails for two other artists: Perugino and Pintoricchio.

Piero della Francesca Trail

Piero della Francesca was a wonderful Renaissance painter from Sansepolcro. You will see his work in many of the major art galleries. It has become popular to do a day trip to see four of his major pieces (frescoes and paintings). This is referred to as the Piero della Francesca Trail. The book "Summer's Lease" by John Mortimer revolves around the main character doing the Piero della Francesca Trail. Frances Mayes also does part of the trail in her second book on Italy, "Bella Tuscany".

We saw the first three pieces in Arezzo, Monterchi and Sansepolcro on one trip and the last one in Urbino on another trip. The first three towns are in the Tuscany/Umbria border area and can easily be seen in one day. Urbino is further east in the Le Marche region. (Urbino also has some significant frescoes by someone else in a small church - don't miss them.)

  • Arezzo: "The Story of the True Cross" (also called "Legend of the Cross"); in the center of Arezzo, in the San Francesco Church. This fresco has been hidden from view during much of the 1990s for restoration. We tried to see it in 1997, but the entire fresco was covered. In 1999 we were able to join a small tour led by an art restorer and climb up the scaffolding to look at the left side. It was beautiful. The entire fresco has now been restored. The fresco is located at the end of the church, behind the alter and is from floor to ceiling on the back wall and on the two sides. The church is closed midday (from noon to 2pm). There is a great caffe across the street from the church.
    Parking: Arezzo is a larger town and has big parking lots at the edge of the historical center. You can park there or drive around the town and park on one of the main streets on the outside of the center area.
    Hours: Call to book ticket. 0575-900404

  • Monterchi: "The Pregnant Madonna" (Madonna del Parto). This was originally a fresco in a church, but it has been moved and restored. It is now in its own special building on the edge of town - the cemetery chapel on the SS221, west of Monterchi. Signs point the way. It is spectacular.
    Parking: There is parking nearby. Address is Via della Reglia 1
    Hours: 9am - 1pm, 2pm - 7pm, Tuesday - Sunday. CLOSED MONDAY

  • Sansepolcro: "The Resurrection"; in the Museo Civico in the town center (closed midday from 1pm to 2:30pm). Aldous Huxley called this the best small painting in the world.
    Parking: We ignored our own rule to never drive through the town walls and easily found parking on a main street.
    Hours: Museo Civico, 9:30am - 1pm, 2:30pm - 6pm daily. OPEN EVERY DAY

  • Urbino: "Flagellation"; in the art gallery in the Ducal Palace (Palazzo Ducale). A beautiful small painting. Also see "Madonna of Senigallia".
    Parking: You park outside the town walls and walk up a very steep road to the Ducal Palace which is at the very top of the town. I read something about an elevator, but we didn't see it.
    Hours: Palazzo Ducale, 8:30am - 12:15pm Monday; 8:30am - 6:15pm Tuesday - Sunday. HALF DAY MONDAY

In Perugia you can see "Polyptych of Sant' Antonio" in the Palazzo dei Priori. (Galleria Nazionale, 8:30am - 7:30pm daily. CLOSED FIRST MONDAY OF THE MONTH).

"The villa will appeal in particular to devotees of Italian painting. It makes a perfect center for the study of the Sienese school. More importantly, perhaps, the work of Piero della Francesca can be followed from the frescoes in Arezzo to the pregnant Madonna in the small chapel at Monterchi. Enthusiasts can take the trail to Sansepulcro and on, across the Mountains of the Moon, to see the sublime "Flagellation" in the Ducal Palace at Urbino, undoubtedly the greatest small picture in the world. Those making this journey should ensure that the stopcock is closed and all electrical appliances switched off before departure. The pleasures of art tend to be diminished by returning to a complete absence of hot bath water."
- - Summer's Lease by John Mortimer, 1988 - -

Resources

www.pierodellafrancesca.it: Piero della Francesca Web Site

www.eclectica.org/v1n9/stockdale.html: Hidden Treasures Along the Apennines. Read this great article about the trail by Bill Stockdale.

Perugino Trail

Perugino fresco, Citta della Pieve, September 2002

In one of Frances Mayes books, she says we should make art trails, like the Piero della Francesca Trail, for other artists. So I made the Perugino Trail and the Pintoricchio Trail. Each trail involves 4 or 5 paintings or frescoes that can be visited by car in one day. It is possible to have a last place in a large city that you might visit when arriving or leaving.

Here is my personal Perugino Trail. The artist known as Perugino is Pietro Vannucci, 1446-1523, born in Citta della Pieve, Umbria.

For this trail, you start near the Tuscany/Umbria border and go east. It ends in Rome, but I assume you would do that at the end of your trip, not as part of this drive. Sort of like Urbino at the end of the della Francesca trail. Of these we have not seen the frescoes in Citta della Pieve or Perugia or Rome, but will see them on our Fall 2001 trip. In Perugia we did go to the gallery, but missed the frescoes in Collegio del Cambio.

  • Citta della Pieve, Umbria. Adoration of the Magi. Oratorio Santa Maria dei Bianchi. Perugino was born in this town.
    Parking: There is a large lot outside the city walls, on your left as you approach from Chiusi.
  • Panicale, Umbria. Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian and the Eternal Blessing in a Mandorla. Church of San Sebastiano. Ask at tourist office for entry.
    Parking: Easy parking in several areas outside the town walls. This is a small town. Be sure to stop at Gallo's Bar for coffee!!
  • Perugia, Umbria. Frecoes in Collegio del Cambio. Also visit the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria in Perugia to see several of his paintings.
    Parking: It is a difficult drive through the modern section of Perugia, but just follow signs for "centro". There are large parking lots outside the historic center and you take elevators up to the old part of town.
  • Spello, Umbria. Madonna Enthroned between Saint Catherine of Alexandria and the Bishop Saint Blaise. Church of Santa Maria Maggiore (in a separate room to the left of the alter - also see the Pinturicchios in this church).
    Parking: Parking outside the town walls at the lower part of town or on the east side about the middle of town. Either of these will give good access to the church.
  • Rome, Lazio. Christ Giving the Keys to Saint Peter. Vatican, Sistine Chapel.

Pintoricchio Trail

This is my personal version of the Pintoricchio Trail. We have seen all of these. I would like to think of some other small towns with Pintoricchio - anyone have any suggestions?

  • Siena: Siena Cathedral, Piccolomini Library. A large room full of fabulous frescoes.
  • Spello: Santa Maria Maggiore, Baglioni Chapel.
  • Rome: Santa Maria del Popolo, Domenico Della Rovere Chapel and Basso Della Rovere Chapel

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