Mondaino is a place full of pleasant surprises, such as the attractive square, the castle with its panorama stretching away to the mountains and down to the sea, and mysterious tunnels beneath the town itself that are said to be haunted. Then there are picturesque streets and alleys, stately mansions, anda museum with afascinating display ofthefossilised remains of the animals that inhabited this territory millions of years ago. Other attractions include a botanical park with an interesting collection of Mediterranean plants and trees, and the local residents are experts at organising fairs, festivals and other lively events.
The name of Mondaino has evolved over the ages from ‘Mons Damarum’ to ‘Monte Daino’, and thence to its present form, probably referring to the fact that the surrounding forests were once populated with deer or ‘daini’. The town was perhaps first established by the Etruscans, who settled along the principal valleys of the Apennines after the Umbrians had been driven out. The Romans divided the countryside into small agricultural communities, and one of these, known as Vicus Dianensis, had a famous temple dedicated to Diana, the goddess of hunting. Mondaino has played an important part in the historical events of the area. In the Lombard period, a church was built in honour of St Apollinaris, showing that the town must have acquired a certain social and cultural status by this time. In 1069 the castle was owned by Pietro Bennone, a rich resident of nearby Rimini, who donated it to St Peter Damian.
Mondaino came under the influence of the Malatesta family in 1289, when, together with other fortified towns in the area, it took their side in the conflicts that accompanied their rise to power in Rimini. The commerce of salt, extracted from the nearby stream named ‘Rio Salsa’, encouraged the development of the local economy during the Middle Ages, and the town had many flourishing workshops and other commercial activities. Mondaino is mentioned in documents of the 14th and 15th centuries as a place where several important treaties were signed. In 1393, in the hall of the castle, Carlo Malatesta negotiated a peace agreement with his arch-enemy Antonio da Montefeltro. Some years later, in 1459, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta met Frederick II, Duke of Urbino, at the monastery founded on the nearby Mount Formosino by St Francis, for the same purpose. The peace treaty was signed, but obviously had little effect, for in 1462, after several attempts, Frederick II succeeded in conquering Mondaino Castle, and made a gift of it to the Papal States. A rather curious incident that occurred in this turbulent period is worthy of mention, as it was the origin of the ghost that is still said to haunt the castle of Mondaino. In 1516, the poet Giovanni Muzzarelli, a favourite of Guidubaldo da Montefeltro who enjoyed the protection of Bembo and Ariosto, was murdered whilst walking home by a jealous husband. The long rule of the Papal States over Mondaino was interrupted only twice, in 1523, when the castle and the rest of the town were ceded for a few months to the Medici family as security for the payment of a debt, and from 1797 to 1815, when it was occupied by the troops of Napoleon. During the struggles for the establishment of the Kingdom of Italy, there were uprisings in the whole of Romagna, and the citizens of Mondaino participated in the revolt of Rimini in 1845, to the cry of ‘Civil liberty, secular government and public order!’ Mondaino adhered to the Kingdom of Italy in 1860, the year in which the troops of Piedmont crossed the River Tavollo, which marked the frontier between the Papal States and the newly-formed Italian state.
Places and events
Seen from the valley, Mondaino Castle looms impressively over the town, with its rugged 14th-century architecture. A Papal Bull issued by Sixtus I indicates that the original structure was built by local lords, but the successive additions were made by the Malatesta family. Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta had 13 towers built, as well as the keep, the defensive walls and the maze ol tunnels beneath the castle, to be used as storage space in the case of a siege, or as a means of escape in the case of defeat. These tunnels, cut into the rocl< were only discovered in 1987. Inside the castle there is a 15th-century fresco of the Madonna del Latte, by Bernardino Dolci from Castel Durante, and i also houses the Paleontology Museum. Mondaino has one of Italy’s most important deposits of tripoli stone, a sedimentary rock formed on the seabed over millions of years by the
accumulation and fossilisation of microscopic life-forms. The result of this process is that the rocks of Mondaino are now full of precious fossils of the fish and plants that existed here some ten million years ago. Some 21 different species of fish have been discovered, and the tripoli stone has also yielded fossilised sharks’ teeth, sea urchins, shellfish and primitive plant forms.
There are also a number of Roman columils in the museum. Just outside the castle there is another architectural jewel of the town, its main square, piazza Maggiore, designed by Francesco Cosci. The circular form of its neoclassical porticoes inspired the rather irreverent name of Paese delia Padella for Mondaino, namely ‘frying-pan town’. However, this delightful square is a perfect setting for the annual Deer Festival, a medieval pageant held in the second half of August with tournaments, conferences, exhibitions and parades devoted to the past glories of the town. The Poor Clare Convent is also in the town centre, and has a carved wooden choir and crosses from the 17th century. According to ancient documents, the Parish Church of San Michele Arcangelo was built on the ~t’~ of the Roman temple dedicated to Diana. It has several interesting 15th-century paintings by G. Picchi, a 16th-century Deposition of C’hrist by Pomarancio and three splendid altar frontals decorated with flower and fruit designs, done in the 18th century. The Mediterranean Botanical Park, with a museum, greenhouses and restaurant facilities, is a magnificent oasis of greenery where over 2000 different species of plants and trees from the Mediterranean area can be seen. Mondaino is also famous for its production of musical instruments, a traditional craft that is now carried on by such experts as Signor Geri, who makes and repairs accordions. Music also plays a central role in the many festivals and other events organised in the summer at Mondaino. Around the town there are many other places of historical and artistic merit that are worth visiting. The ancient Sant’Apollinaire Church which dates back to the 6th century, is just outside the walls, and the Monastery of San Francesco, from the 13th century, is situated on Mount Formosino, with all the simple but profoundly relaxing atmosphere that such Franciscan institutions offer.
Area: 19.77 sq. kilometres
Height: Ranging from 400 to 420 metres above sea level
Dialling code: 0541
Town Council: I Piazza Maggiore – Tel. 981674/981661
Tourist Information: 75 Via Roma – Tel. 981672
Mondaino Castle: I Piazza Maggiore – Tel. 981674 (Council) (Summer opening:
Monday to Friday, 9am-l2pm; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, 9am-l2pin/4pm-7pin.
Winter opening. Monday to Saturday, 9am-l2pm, closed Sundays and holidays)
Civic Library: Piazza Maggiore – Tel. 981674/981661
Paleontology Museum: Piazza Maggiore – Tel. 981674 (Council) (Summer opening:
Monday to Friday, 9am-l2pm; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, 9am-l2pmJ4pm-7pm.
Winter opening; Monday to Saturday, 9am-l2pm, closed Sundays and holidays)
San Francesco Monastery: Mount Formosino
Poor Clare Convent: Via Rome
Palazzo Forlani: Via Roma – Visits by prior arrangement only
Post Office: 45 Via Roma – Tel. 981670
Public Telephone Service: Bar Sport – Piazza Maggiore – Tel. 981633
Municipal Police: 1 Piazza Maggiore – Tel. 981674/981661
A Guide to Rimini Countryside 1992
Rimini Area Tourist Authority