The castles of the lower Metauro valley

Mondavio, Cartoceto and Saltara

The landscape of the Metauro Valley is characterized by the presence of numerous fortified villages spread across gentle hills that slope down towards the sea. One of the most evocative castles is that of Mondavio, nestled on a hill at 280 meters above sea level, between the valleys of the Metauro and Cesano rivers. It boasts one of the best-preserved historic centers of the Marche region. The interest for Mondavio’s medieval nucleus is due to its city walls, which keep one of the greatest expressions of fortified art of the early Renaissance: the Rocca Roveresca. It’s located below the majestic fortified tower, and it’s a great construction erected on the ruins of a previous medieval tower between 1482 and 1492 by Francesco di Giorgio Martini. The fortress, completely restored, is now hosting the Museum of Historical Re-enactment and Armoury, with mannequins in costume and weapons from the 15th to the 18th century. The Park of "war machines" by Francesco di Giorgio Martini was set up in the moat of the fortress, with faithful real-size reconstructions of catapults, trebuchets, bombards and other siege machines. In addition to the fortress, the historic center houses other important monuments, such as the Municipal Palace - which preserves, in the council room, the precious altarpiece of the "Madonna with Child and two patrons" by Carlo da Camerino from 1385 -, the Malatesta Palace, and the former convent of San Francesco, which houses the Civic Museum and contains interesting testimonies of art and history.

On the opposite side of the valley there are two nearby villages: Cartoceto, famous for being the home of a very high-quality DOP extra virgin olive oil, and Saltara, with its characteristic medieval historic center surrounded by ancient walls. Already inhabited in Roman times, in the late Middle Ages Cartoceto acquired such strategic importance that it was equipped with a fortress (1351), which was used until 1572, when it was destroyed by a violent earthquake. In the historic center of Cartoceto we can admire the suggestive Piazza Garibaldi, in which Palazzo del Popolo stands out (built during the 13th century and surmounted by the small clock tower). Inside the city walls stand out the 19th century Palazzo Marcolini and Piazzale Marconi, called "Turkey" by the inhabitants because, from here, the citizens of Cartoceto once spotted the landings of Saracen pirates. On this small square stands the Teatro Comunale del Trionfo, built between 1725 and 1730 in an ancient olive oil mill. Among the noteworthy sites of religious architecture are the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria della Misericordia, the convent of the Augustinian Fathers, the church of Santa Maria del Soccorso, and the parish church of Saints Peter and Paul. The nearby town of Saltara, which experienced its maximum splendor during the medieval period, has a compact layout, with narrow streets on a slope, and is still surrounded by the ancient city walls. Inside the historic center of the village there’s the Saltara Castle of medieval origin, accessible via a staircase made up of 106 steps and recently restored. Leaving the historic center and walking towards Via del Santuario, you’ll arrive at La Villa, a small group of houses with the church of Madonna della Villa, at whose main altar there is a "Madonna of the Rosary", a canvas by Sebastiano Ceccarini dating back to 1760. Going backwards towards Cartoceto, you’ll reach the famous Villa del Balì (loc. S.Martino) which houses the Interactive Science Museum and the Planetarium.

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