“San Leo, a fortress and two churches. The most beautiful town in Italy.” Not really a town, in fact – this municipalityin the Rimini hinterland has a population of less than 3,000. It’s not surprising, though, that the great writer Umberto Eco was fascinated by the beauty of this mediaeval locality.
The ancient name, Montefeltro,was also the name of the historical-geographical region that covered parts of what are now Marche, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany. It also gave its name to the ruling family of the Dukes of Urbino.
The historic centre stands 583 metres above sea level, perched high on an enormous rocky spur dominating the Valle del Marecchia. The village can only be reached along a single track carved into the rock, entered through a single gate.
Finally, we have the breathtaking Renaissance fortress, transformed during the reign of the Popes into a prison where the Count of Cagliostro was held captive until he died in 1795.
The civic pride felt by the citizens of San Leo is also justified by the fact they once played host to Dante Alighieri (the townis mentioned in his Purgatorio) and Saint Francis of Assisi, who was granted the sacred Mount Verna – an event commemorated by a plaque in the town square and in itsheraldic flag. Its strategic position means that San Leo was fought over for many centuries, and even became the capital of the kingdom of Italy for two years (962-964) under the Lombard monarch Berengar II.
Past and future
It is clear the town has been witness to an eventful history, and San Leo cast its spell over the author of The Name of the Rose, who had a house in nearby Monte Cerignone and was made an honorary citizen in 2011.
Soon the centuries-old San Leo, which Eco described as “The most beautiful town in Italy,” will be able to embrace an exciting future thanks to a plan implemented by Open Fiber involving the installation of 50 kilometres of fiber optic cables, half of which will take advantage of existing underground and aerial infrastructure. Work began in June and is due to conclude in early 2019, by which time 2,591 propertieswill be connected. San Leo will not be the only town inthe Valmarecchia areato be provided with a fiber optic network – work has already begun in Talamello, Casteldelci, Sant’Agata Feltria, Maiolo, Novafeltria and Pennabilli, with Montescudo, Montecolombo, Gemmano and San Clemente all set to benefit from similar networks in the near future.
“It was exciting when the Open Fiber infrastructure first arrived in the town,” says Mauro Guerra, mayor of San Leo since 2009. “For us, the arrival of ultrawideband is a watershed moment, as it means the end of the digital divide in a town with a very weak Wi-Fi network that doesn’t even work at all when the weather’s bad!”
More than 70,000 people visit the town every year. The Romanesque church and 12th century cathedral are two jewels of its cultural heritage. For many years San Leo has held the Italian Touring Club’s Bandiera Arancione award for excellence in tourism, and it belongs to the network of Italy’s most beautiful towns. The new fiber optic infrastructure will give a significantboost to the area’s tourist potential.
The Alta Valmarecchia is the ancient heart of Montefeltro and has maintained very close links to the local area. Take, for example, the many popular festivals held in the neighbouring towns, which also attract visitors from other regions, from the Cheese festival in Fossa and Chestnut festival in Talamello to Maiolo’s festival of Bread, the Antiques and Artist fair in the Piazza of Pennabilli and the Polenta festival in Perticara. The fortress of San Leo hosts events throughout the year, not only to recountthe mysterious exploitsof Cagliostro, an alchemist and healer celebrated by the royal courts of Europe, but also to commemorate Dante, the Montefeltro dynasty and the Renaissance struggles for the conquest of a stronghold deemed to be almost impregnable. It also has very close economic links with nearby San Marino.
“The arrivalof the fiber optic technologywill enable us to provide citizens with range of new services. There’s a lot of talk about dematerialisation but without the ultrafast Internet it’s not even possible to hold a videoconference,” adds mayor Guerra. “Even the post office here in the town square will benefit from the new connection, as will the town’s businesses.”