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Saludecio

A few kilometres away from the coast, following the Conca Valley, the town of  Saludecio can be seen on the skyline, with its towers and fortified walls. Entrance to this picturesque township built on a hilltop is gained by an ancient gate that faces the sea, and once inside, the harmony of the stately mansions and the streets and alleys can easily be noticed. The elegant lines of the churches and noble residences enhance this leisurely community that has been able to preserve its past and integrate itself fully with the world around it. Saludecio is worth dedicating time to, as it is one of the liveliesttowns of Romagna, withan exciting programme of entertainment and cultural events.

History

There are several theories concerning the origin of the name of  Saludecio. One is that it derives from salus or saltus Decii, from the Roman emperor Trajan Decius who took refuge in these hills and later built a villa. However, it seems more probable that it is linked with St Laodicius, a Christian martyr, to whom the ancient church was dedicated. The origins of the town itself are just as uncertain. It is presumed that some kind of agricultural colony was established bere by the Romans, but the first documentary mention of  Saludecio was made in 1040, when we leam that the church of Sanctii Lauditii was under the authority of the diocese of Rimini.

Famous citizens include the Blessed Amato Ronconi, a 13th-century Franciscan monk who founded the Santa Maria Hospital at Mount Orciale, to provide shelter for the many pilgrims who passed through Saludecio of their way to Rome, by no means an easy journey in those times. Between the 13th and 15th centuries, Saludecio was hotly disputed by the rival factions of Malatesta and Montefeltro, frequently changing hands, until it was occupied first by Cesare Borgia and then by the Della Rovere farnily, the heirs of the Dukes of Montefeltro.

It was later ruled briefty by the Venetians until it finally came under the domination of the Papal States in 1524, a situation that remained unchanged until 1859, except far the short interval of the Napoleonic occupation from 1797 to 1815, when the town formed part of the Cisalpine Republic. Saludecio has been the home of many writers on literary and political subjects, and far a long lime it was considered to be the principal seat of learning far the whole Conca Valley. Local humanist scholars included Publio Francesco Modesti and Sebastiano Serico. The 19th century was a time of great urban development. The medieval town centre was skilfully restored, and new public buildings and services were provided, including a magistrate’ s office and a prison, a post office, the Civic Residence and the Condomini Theatre.

Saludecio is now one of the leading agricultural centres of the Rimini area, and other activities include craftwork (pottery, fabrics and wrought iron), manufacturing (footwear, joinery and machinery) and tourism.

Places and events

In the 1980’s, the unspoilt countryside around Saludecio proved ideal for a project involving the cultivation of medicinaì plants. This has led to the creation of a Herb Garden with ahundred different species, and an interesting collection of dried herbs. A library, scientific institute and museum on herbal medicine and natural foods is to be opened shortl, housed in the Civic Residence itself, making Saludecio an important centre for the study of these subjects. A fair by the name of Salus Erbe is held every year around 25th April, with seminars, lectures, exhibitions and a market dedicated to herbal medicine, biological agriculture and the environment in generai, and the restaurants of the town serve delicious local specialities for the occasion.

A weekly market is also held every Saturday evening from June to August, where natural products and country produce are sold. Another important annuall appointment is the Ottocento Festival, held in the first week of August, with music, drama, dance performances, exhibitions and an open air market that recreate the atmosphere of 19th-century lire in the streets of Saludecio.

However, the ancient town centre can be profitably visited at any other time of the year. It has the elongated form typical of many other medieval communities situated on a ridge, and the principal gate, Porta Marina, is set into the sturdy defensive walls which encircle the town. At the other end of the centre, the 14th-century Porta Montanara, recently restored, marks the limit of the originai settlement. The walls round the town date back to the 15th and 16th centuries, as can be seen from their varying architectural styles, and the Watch-tower, with the civic coat of arrns, is from the 14th century.

During the Renaissance several noble mansions were built at Saludecio, and two of these are the 16th-century Palazzo Albini (formerly Palazzo della Rovere), with its colonnaded courtyard reminiscent of the Ducal Palace at Urbino, and Palazzo Riminucci, from the same peri od, with an original stalle staircase with two flights of steps. The San Biagio Church, near Porta Marina, was designed by the Cesena architect Achilli, and it also incorporates the Sanctuary of the Blessed Amato Ronconi. The church is one of the most beautiful examples of 18th-century architecture in the Rimini area, and contains valuable pictures by Centino, Cagnacci and other painters of the region. The Museum of Religious Art, also housed in the Church, has collection of votive offerings, candelabras, lamps, relics, banners vestments and other objects donated over the centuries by followers of the Blessed Amato Ronconi, whose body is preserved in the Sanctuary in a crystal urn. In the square facing the Sanctuary, there is the Olmo Chapel, where there is a magnificent elm that is said to bave sprung up miraculously on the spot where Ronconi planted bis stick in the ground.

In the upper part of the centre there is another important group of religious buildings, the Church and Monastery of San Girolamo. Founded in 1640, it has many paintings from the 18th century as well as a particularly interesting fresco in the cloister, which depicts all the abbots who have led the monastery since its establishment. A visit to the places associated with the Blessed Amato Ronconi must also include the Santa Maria Hospital at Mount Orciale, on the outskirts of the town, which is now a home for senior citizens. With all these things mentioned above, it is obvious that Saludecio offers its guests a great deal to do and see, and a further attraction is the Astronomical Observatory, situated in the Santa Maria del Monte area and equipped with a powerful telescope, open to visitors on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. In the nearby villages of Cerreto and Meleto, the ruins of two medieval castles can be seen.

Useful information

Area: 33.34 sq. kilometres
Height: 348 metres above sea level
Population: 2600
Dialling code: 0541
Postcode: 47040
Town Council: 1 Piazza Beato Amato – Tel. 981621
Tourist lnformation: Piazza Beato Amato – Tel. 981240
Civic Centre (theatre, library, exhibitions): 1 Piazza Beato Amato – Tel. 981621
Astronomical Observatory: Santa Maria del Monte – Tel. 857026 (open to public on
Wednesday and Saturday evenings)
Post Office: 15 Via Roma – Tel. 981617
Public Telephone Service: Bar Centrale – 8 Via Roma – Tel. 981417
Municipal Police: 1 Piazza Beato Amato – Tel. 981621
Police: 1 Via Fuori Porta Marina – Tel. 981612
Market: Sunday

Sources
A Guide to Rimini Countryside 1992
Published by
Rimini Area Tourist Authority