“Even in riper times the aureole did not fade quite away from San Leo, and the longing sometime to see it remained laid away in a mental corner, only awaiting the occasion to be brought forth and transmuted into a realization.”— from “Wayfarers in Italy” 1901 by Katharine HookerIn the Middle Ages San Leo became part of the fief of the powerful...more
“We reached the town of San Leo, where we came the other day to see the splendid old fortress, used for a time as a prison, but now kept only as a government monument. The room where the impostor, Cagliostro, was let down through a hole as the only entrance, and where he died in 1795, gave me the “creeps.” ”— from “Italian Castles and Country...more
“At last, round the shoulder of a hill, San Leo comes suddenly into sight: strange little wind-swept town, set high up in the eye of heaven, like Simon Stylites upon his column.”— from “Wayfarers in Italy” 1901 by Katharine HookerFrom the Middle Ages onwards the area surrounding the fortress was used for defensive purposes. Its current design dates...more
“To-day we did not stop at the rocky height of San Leo, but went on and up until it seemed to me we were climbing literally to the clouds. The road made such continual turns that it seemed again and again that we had at last reached the "jumping-off place," and must turn back the way we had come, but always on reaching the curve "Antonio" would...more
“Quite unexpectedly, on crossing a mountain ledge, one comes in sight of S. Leo, a tremendous rock with utterly perpendicular sides, forming the most impregnable fortress. The town is entered by a ledge in the rock and a tunnelled way.”— from “Cities of Northern and Central Italy” 1876 by Augustus John Cuthbert Hare (1834-1903)There is only one way...more
“During our imprisonment at San Leo there was an attempted flight, concerted with certain soldiers of the garrison. It was discovered. We were separated. Some of the soldiers were arrested, tried, and condemned to the gallies for a certain number of years.”— from “Memoirs and Adventures of Felice Orsini” 1857 by Felice Orsini (1819-1858)During the...more
“Then there is the bustle of horses being put to and the carriage made ready for the fleeting visitors’ return to the lower earth, though even this creates hardly an eddy in the serenity of San Leo. And so down and away again toward the sea, with new lights and shadows playing subtle changes upon the sweet landscape and the heart full of peace and...more
“One finds the little cathedral worthy of investigation and may certainly do worse than to sit for a while by the fountain, watching the stray citizens of San Leo who pause there and who appear to have learned the lesson of unhasting calm in their exalted niche overhanging the world.”— from “Wayfarers in Italy” 1901 by Katharine HookerFontana di...more
“Let us go up to that festival, for with God’s help we will gather some good spiritual fruit.”— St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)IN GOD’S SERVICE When St. Francis and Brother Leo, his traveling companion, reached the base of San Leo on the 8th of May 1213 they were told by villagers that a festival was in progress at the castle. Nobles had...more
“In the morning we were all four chained together and sent to Urbino. Ten days after, we were placed on horseback securely chained, and in two days arrived at the fortress of San Leo.”— from “Memoirs and Adventures of Felice Orsini” 1857 by Felice Orsini (1819-1858)The impregnable fortress served as a place of confinement for many people, the best...more
“In honor of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Mother of God, the Ever-Virgin Mary, Duke Orso I, a sinner, I do this work. I implore you readers to pray for me. Done in the days of Pope John and Emperor Charles III.”— An inscription by the Duke d’Orso in the Pieve di San LeoEntrance to the pieve is by a door in the side wall, topped by a...more
“S. Leo was the most important fortress of the Dukes of Urbino, and was three times besieged while in their hands, the last time in 1516, when, in the reign of Duke Guidobaldo, it was captured by the papal troops under Lorenzo de’ Medici.”— from “Cities of Northern and Central Italy” 1876 by Augustus John Cuthbert Hare (1834-1903)Backing onto the...more
“The little old Romanesque church that the sweetest, bright-eyed old peasant woman led us to see pleased me much better than the grim castle. The choir and main altar were raised after the manner of the early Christian church over a spacious crypt, where the silver sarcophagus of the patron saint, San Leo, is placed. A flight of steps on the left...more
“We stopped to gaze at it early the next day as we took our way toward San Leo. I do not know whether it was the invigoration of the limpid morning air or the exultation that pervades the heart in the achievement of a long desire, but as we advanced the feeling was of being swept along and upward, quite independent of such aids as carriage-wheels...more
Firmly anchored to the rock that supports it (see photo #5), the Cathedral of San Leo stands on a ridge, in a place that has been consecrated to the divine since prehistoric times.One of the best examples of medieval architecture preserved in the Montefeltro area, it is one of the most unique examples of the Romanesque-Lombard style. In 1173 it was...more
“There seemed a fitness in the fact that in the tenth century, that gloomiest period of her dark ages, the last king of Italy should take his stand upon the rock of San Leo, there to make his final and losing struggle against the German Otto.”— from “Wayfarers in Italy” 1901 by Katharine HookerAmong the miscellaneous items about the fortress at San...more
“Some search revealed that as far back as the Roman time its summit was chosen for a temple to Jupiter, the Subduer of Enemies, and that with the next era it became the abode of a most Christian hermit, around whose cell the first cluster of houses grew up and who was in the end sanctified by canonization. But these verities, naked of details,...more
“During our imprisonment at San Leo there was an attempted flight, concerted with certain soldiers of the garrison. It was discovered. We were separated. Some of the soldiers were arrested, tried, and condemned to the gallies for a certain number of years.”— from “Memoirs and Adventures of Felice Orsini” 1857 by Felice Orsini (1819-1858)A chapter...more
Now I would never describe myself as a gourmet, at least not when one wants to serve me frog legs or chicken feet or brain mousse.But Italy did teach me the art of food and dishes. This has not so much to do with the very complicated preparation of unusual food, but more with the reflection back to what food and dishes were originally and in a way...more
“The corrupting influence of tourists is seldom felt at San Leo, so guides and beggars are happily absent. But there is no lack of little boys who are quite ready to accept the remnants of the travelers’ luncheon; and it is well to consume that refection sitting on the outer boundary, where there lies a convenient grassy terrace and the eye can...more
Haha, this tip title is meant only for me and for each one who is a bit frightened when it comes to narrow streets. When I arrived in San Leo the second day of my trip, I was still a bit spacy, tangled, muddleheaded (like floating around on a cloud; I was in desperate need of holidays…). So when I saw that tiny road leading up to San Leo I freaked out and almost didn’t want to continue because of its narrowness. But sanity won, at least for a moment.
San Leo has tiny and narrow streets. Italians won’t mind, I did learn that they are used to go any road of any size. But if you are not used to these tiny roads, prepare yourself to drive through them. Eventually it works, that’s what I found out. But in my case it often went along with horror and a lot of sweat on my face….
There is a big parking lot with enough space for manoevring, past Trattoria delle Guardie and then left and downhill.
The fourth photo is a screenshot of GoogleMaps of the route I took coming from San Marino. San Leo isn’t signposted only until very close by.
Update, August 25, 2008:
thank you Don (@Nemorino) for reminding me to mention public access to San Leo.
There is no train anywhere nearby, so bus is the only option. As I didn't look or check this while I was in San Leo, I can only repeat what my guidebook says:
during the week there are 3-6 busses daily from Rimini (Autostazione), partly with changing at Pietracuta.
Palazzo Mediceo, the building right hand side on Piazza Dante, is location of San Leo’s tourist office. It is really a good idea to visit it, as it has many free of charge brochures, maps and other information material for visitors.
Upstairs is a museum, the Museo d’Arte Sacra, with sacral objects and paintings and a small archaeological part.
Also here, the cumune di San Leo made an excellent video of the museum. Take your time and watch it, it is only 5 minutes:
video of Museo d’Arte Sacra.
As I was in San Leo early April 2008, just some days after the manslaughter done by Chinese in Lhasa, I was very much moved to see the comune San Leo also participating in the “Flag for Tibet” movement around the world. Usually, the flag is put out on the municipalities of the participating countries on March 10, but this year, many municipalities have shown their sympathy with the Tibetans long past that date and had the Tibetan National Flag posted side by side with their own community and country flags.
Update, August 2009:
I had to add a new link for March 10, the other one was gone... Open to speculations of course...
If you're travelling with camping car (the one with the room and else inside) it's better not to go to San Leo with it. The reason - very narrow streets and the trip can be really very painful. While being there we saw a situation like this, it's better to use normal car.
“At last we arrived at San Leo. This castle of the ancient and powerful lords of Montefeltro was erected before the tenth century or thereabouts. It is seated on the top of a very elevated cone like the rock of the Appenines, and dominates all the neighbouring castles, opposite the hill on which is seated the ancient town and republic of San...more
“The Italians practically live out of doors, and the fresh air and their naturally wholesome diet is their salvation. In the mountain districts they are bright, sturdy and strong, and though people at home do not generally realize it, our immigrants come mostly from these mountainous sections; for there are mountains in almost every part of Italy....more
“San Leo was not disappointing.”— from “Wayfarers in Italy” 1901 by Katharine HookerIt is a truth that even the smallest villages in Europe have its own coat-of-arms. I love these ‘logos,’ usually created from historic events taking place within, or nearby to, the village; or the town has adopted and adapted the coat-of-arms of a prominent noble...more
…. all were here at a point in time.Leone and Marinius, two Dalmatian stonemansons of Christian belief, came to this region after being haunted by emperor Diocletianus, whom I happened to meet today in Leyle’s Split account. They found work here and helped to rebuild the destroyed Ariminium (Rimini today – yes yet another resort which was famous...more
If you want to visit San Leo, please try and approach it during the day. The landscape is breathtaking!! I cannot comment the approach from the west, as I came from San Marino and I enjoyed every minute of it. On my further way south I took the small winding roads via Urbino. As you can see in my photos, the landscape is very hilly, the streets are...more