Gradara: the capital of the Middle Ages where Paolo and Francesca loved each other

There is a place in the Market where time seems to have stopped. IS Gradara, considered the capital of Middle Ages because of the importance assumed around the year 1000 and for having kept its ancient splendor almost unchanged. Although immersed in the green hills of the Marche, in the province of Pesaro and Urbino, the city and its castle stand out, however, not very far from the Adriatic sea.

Gradara rises on top of a hill, 142 meters above the sea level. Commercial crossroads and not only, the city was able to count in the dark ages on a double wall to protect its own castello. Particular note regarding the external walls, which extend for almost 800 meters. Also imposing is the Keep that stands out on the city fortress, about 30 meters high, from which the rulers have been able to dominate the valley for centuries.

Contrary to what one might think, it was the Mastio the first element of the castle to be built by the powerful De Griffo family around 1150. It will take about two centuries, between the 13th and 14th, for the fortress and the two walls to be built as well. To carry them out will be the Malatesta family, destined to reign over Gradara until 1463. To drive them out was Federico da Montefeltro, who had come in command of the militias of Pope Pius II.

As it is easy to guess, its role as a crossroads for the transit of goods and travelers has placed Gradara at the center of the aims of many aspiring conquerors. Over the centuries, several noblemen from the Marche and Romagna have fought in the shadow of the city fortress, but as mentioned also the Papal State itself. Families of the caliber of Borgia, of the Medici and the Della Rovere family.

Cuisine, the traditions of the Middle Ages

Gradara, however, is not only the charm and memory of distant centuries, but is also known for its food and wine heritage. It is noted as a typical dish of the city i “Tagliolini with the bomb“, a poor dish traditionally linked to peasant cuisine. The curious name derives from the cooking method, let’s see why. The pasta is only partially drained, leaving it a bit soupy.

As a final element, sautéed bacon and lard is added, complete with boiling oil. The effect of the oil on the broth generates a large and sudden amount of steam, hence the expression “with the bomb”. This and other dishes are among the protagonists of an event that is repeated every year in Gradara, entirely dedicated to cuisine of the Middle Ages.

Gradara and the love between Paolo and Francesca

Thanks above all to the famous Dante verses, “Love, who has loved nothing to love forgives“, the” convict “love between Paolo and Francesca has been able to withstand the passing of the centuries. A passion that seems to have been born in the Marche region, within the walls of the castle of Gradara.

Securing positions of power through alliances sanctioned with marriages of convenience was a rather normal practice at the time of the facts, that is around 1275. In that year two powerful families forged a similar bond, bringing Giovanni (called “The lame ”Or Giangiotto), son of the then lord of Gradara Malatesta da Verrucchio, and Francesca da Polenta, daughter of Guido Minore, who commanded Ravenna.

Giangiotto went to administer the nearby city of Pesaro as mayor. In compliance with the laws of the time he was unable to take his family with him, thus leaving his wife Francesca in Gradara. This lived in almost complete solitude, interrupted only by the visits of her brother-in-law (and brother of Giangiotto) Paolo. It is said that it was during one of these meetings that they read the story of Guinevere and Lancelot, an unfortunate couple overwhelmed by a forbidden passion.

As between the two characters of the Arthurian saga, a spark also took off between them and was soon destined to ignite in a shattering fire. Their luck ran out when they were surprised by John, who killed them by stabbing them with his sword. Thus was put an end to a love as unfortunate as it is pure and unconditional.

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