Magical San Leo
As sunrise and sunset mark the day, an air of mystery shrouds the night. San Leo, once known as Montefeltro, is built on an enormous rocky mass in the Valmarecchia at about 600 metres above sea level and only 32 km from Rimini. Its name derives from its old evangelizer, Saint Leo, who regarded the area as ideal for the diffusion of Christianity. Its impregnable position permitted the development of a society in which public, military, religious and political order reigned. Some of its better known guests have included Dante (‘Vassi in San Leo…’) and Saint Francis of Assisi.
The rocca (fortress) is a distinguished testimony to the art of warfare, from where the gaze contemplates a landscape of woods, rocky peaks, villages and country houses from Mount Fumaiolo to the Adriatic sea. Giuseppe Balsamo, count of Cogliostro, doctor, alchemist and healer, was persecuted by the church for his activities and imprisoned in the rocca, where he died on 26 August 1795. Much has been written about this fascinating and controversial figure in the attempt to understand who he was and what he represented. In any case, according to local legend his spirit still wanders the rocca.
The medieval historical centre houses the monumental Pieve (parish church), the XII century roman-lombardian duomo (cathedral) dedicated to the city’s patron Saint Leo and the rocca where the count was imprisoned, which dominates the landscape unchallenged. Wandering through the narrow lanes of the centre visitors breathe the sacredness of its stones and the mystery of its past and the men and women it hosted, among wretchedness, wealth and extravagance.
Between Marche and Romagna, the panorama from San Leo is one of the most breathtaking in the area. This is an ideal excursion for the curious, laid back tourist, offering an atmosphere of serenity mixed with evocative beauty.