Camerino and the birth of the da Varano family
Relations between the pro-papal Camerino and the Swabians were never peaceful and faction struggles between empire and papal states climaxed with Enzo's defeat during the commune's siege.
Frederick II, to bring as many communes as possible to his side, signed, in August 1242, a document in favour of Camerino where he forgave the offenses caused to his son Enzo and confirmed all the rebel town's possessions and customs.
Back under the Pope's wing after the death of Frederick II, Camerino had to face his son Manfred, who appointed Perceval Doria as his vicar in the Marches. San Severino, Matelica, Macerata and many other towns defected to the empire, but Camerino stood firm in favour of the Pope.
There were two families leading the town factions: Raniero de' Baschi, leader of the pro-Imperialists, and Crescenzo Monaldi, leader of the supporters of the Pope. Doria's diplomacy failed to produce the desired effects and the loyal Raniero de' Baschi played a key role in one of Camerino's most difficult affairs.
The night of 12 August 1259, Baschi opened one of the gates to the city, allowing Doria's army to make a sudden and violent assault. The town was set on fire and the pro-papal nobility was forced to flee, leaving it in the hands of the pro-Imperialists.
Camerino patron saint Venantius' remains were even stolen and donated to Manfred as a symbol of his victory.
One of the castles where Camerino's survivors took shelter was Sefro, where Gentile da Varano managed to gather an army and reconquered Camerino. With this victory, Gentile laid the foundations of the powerful da Varano house, that over the course of three centuries brought the city to its maximum economic and artistic splendour, as evidenced by Camerino painting school's wealth of production.
St. Venantius' remains even returned to the town in 1268, the year the Swabian house disappeared in Italy, thanks to Pope Clement IV's mediation.
Important. The town's historical centre, monuments and museums are partially accessible.
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A journey through Camerino’s history and art
St. Dominic's convent was founded in the second half of the thirteenth century, but was expanded with its stunning cloister only two centuries later. Crivelli's polyptych was made for his church, which is now in the Pinacoteca di Brera due to Napoleon's commissioners removing it.
In early 1900s the church, already deconsecrated when the Kingdom of Italy introduced the laws subverting the church's orders and heritage, was repurposed into a tram station. The complex was restored and turned into a town museum centre in the last decade of the last century. The prestigious Art Gallery collects artworks from Camerino's fourteenth-fifteenth century, its most prosperous artistic period: the panel with the Annunciazione (Annunciation) and Cristo in Pietà (Christ in Pity), painted by Giovanni Angelo di Antonio in 1456, is a superb example. The convent also houses the University of Camerino's Natural Science Museum, with a very solid educational and informative vocation.
The Diocesan Museum contains splendid works by Renaissance Camerino artists and great Italian painters from the 16th to 18th centuries. The Ducal Palace was built between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries by the da Varano and includes Gentile I's houses (the oldest, around 1263), where Venanzio added his own palace (in 1355) and Giulio Cesare's new houses, arranged around the spectacular great loggia, certainly designed by Baccio Pontelli around 1490. The town centre is home to Andrea Vici's large neoclassical cathedral, which replaced the previous Gothic one and houses the remains of his co-patron St. Ansovinus, bishop of Camerino in the 9th century. The Basilica of St. Venantius, martyr beheaded in Camerino in 253, has an extraordinarily elegant late Gothic portal. St. Philip's baroque church housed Gianbattista Tiepolo's large altarpiece with The Virgin Appearing to St. Philip Neri, currently displayed in the Seminary Church in Via Macario Muzio along with Giovanni Angelo d'Antonio's Annunciazione.
The priory of Santa Maria in via holds an admirable Byzantine-style icon with the Virgin and Child, formerly attributed to an unknown Camerino master of the second half of the thirteenth century, now attributed to Pietro da Spoleto, who worked in the first half of the century. It is said that the icon followed the thousand Camerino townspeople in the East, led by Rodolfo II da Varano during the 1345 Smyrna crusade. The Renacavata Convent, wanted by Caterina Cybo Duchess of Camerino, was founded around 153 and is the first settlement of the Capuchins, who were famously born in Camerino; some of the rooms, all designed with extreme simplicity in mind, house the order's historical Museum. The da Varano also wanted the Fortress of the same name, built on a high and steep spur near the place where St. Luke's River flows into the Chienti. The fortress enabled the owners to impose tolls and unfair taxes respectively on people and goods in transit between Rome and the Adriatic coast. The Fortress, ordered by Pope Alexander VI Borgia and his son Cesare, which included the Observant convent, was built on Camerino's south-west border in 1503. Formerly attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, it was actually designed by Lodovico Clodio.
The IME - The Marches Food and Wine Institute recommends:
There are about ten species of edible truffles in Camerino's area, including the black truffle, which lives in symbiosis with some hardwoods, such as oaks, hornbeams and hazelnuts, but also conifers (pines) sometimes. It prefers calcareous soils. Truffles are real black gold nuggets hidden in the Sibillini Mountains woods. They can release a unique and incomparable smell and taste. The step from the land to the plate is short, thanks to truffle hunters' expertise and their dogs. This way, truffles become the star of some of the tastiest recipes.
The Betacchi family, confectioners from Camerino, also called it Torrone Biondo (blond nougat). They gave Vittorio Emanuele III a very successful taste of it and received a brooch with his initials in exchange. It is a classic almond nougat that has been part of Camerino's tradition for centuries and an annual festival is dedicated to it. It is well known that nougat was created in Cremona, probably for Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti's wedding in 1441. Costanza Varano also attended this noble wedding banquet. She "figured out" the recipe for nougat and successfully introduced it into her own Camerino.