Art lovers, fans of the Renaissance, aesthetes, this itinerary is for you. Your destination is San Leo in the province of Rimini, where your eyes can peruse the scenery that inspired Piero della Francesca.
Two researchers have discovered that two of the panoramic views which inspired the backdrops of some of the illustrious Renaissance painter’s masterpieces are hidden amongst the hills of Montefeltro. This itinerary follows the maestro’s footsteps as seen in his paintings Portrait of Battista Sforza and Saint Jerome and a donor.
You can take up the journey towards the two Balconi di Piero [Piero’s Balconies] on foot, by bike or by car.
First stop: this balcony is set on Monte Gregorio in Varco Biforca-Tausano so as to offer the same backdrop as the Portrait of Battista Sforza, currently residing in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
The vanishing point in the picture is the craggy Rupe di Pietracuta, not far from San Leo. From the crag, Piero depicts an expanse of land stretching from the Marecchia River to the hilltops bordering Tuscany.
From the river basin, the countryside unfolds bristling with spires, rocky ridges, scaly clay, pointed peaks and bare mountainsides topped with castles and crenelated towers of spectacular beauty.
The modern parallels are surprising.
The second balcony lies beyond the crags of Monte Gregorio facing the sea. This panorama is the background of the painting Saint Jerome and a donor, hanging in the Accademia Gallery in Venice. This backdrop differs from that of Valmarecchia, as this valley land spreads from Monte Ceti to Montebello.
The vanishing point, like that in the Portrait of Battista Sforza, is at the back of Monte Gregorio. In this painting, however, the painter doesn’t use an aerial perspective, but a panoramic one.
Whilst the Battista backdrop extends towards upper-Marecchia and Tuscany, that of Saint Jerome moves down, fading off into the distant Adriatic Sea.
If you put the two backgrounds together, you could quite nearly reconstruct the entire Valmarecchia area.
Piero has a third balcony in Petrella Guidi di Sant’Agata Feltria, where you can enjoy almost the entire countryside depicted in The Baptism of Christ, on display in London’s National Gallery.
Actually, a more accurate viewpoint would be a bit lower down in the valley by the river. Unfortunately, due to the river’s unpredictability it’s impossible to build a balcony on the floodplain.
After following this interwoven path of art, history and nature, the time has come for you to visit San Leo to explore another landmark from Piero della Francesca’s time, the Forte Rinascimentale [Renaissance fortress], dominating the surrounding valley.
You can also visit the cell where Alessandro Cagliostro was imprisoned by the Inquisition until his death in 1795.
Before bringing your itinerary to an end, there’s just enough time for you to indulge in a gourmet stop. San Leo offers extraordinary cuisine and unforgettable specialities, like tortelloni pasta filled with chard and ricotta cheese, and rabbit with wild fennel.