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 Urbino Project 2012 http://2012.inurbino.net Multimedia Journalism in Italy Sun, 30 Sep 2012 05:27:13 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.2 Restoring the Heart of History http://2012.inurbino.net/restoring-the-heart-of-history/ http://2012.inurbino.net/restoring-the-heart-of-history/#comments Fri, 10 Aug 2012 16:42:55 +0000 Mikayla Francese http://2012.inurbino.net/?p=1115 A heart-shaped book holds music, poems, a journal—
and a 500-year-old mystery

"J'ay Pris Amour," a handmade book from the 1500s.
(photo by Mikayla Francese)

The sign reads “Oliveriana Biblioteca.” Step by step, with a long line of stairs in front of us, we make our way into the hall of the ancient library in the center of modern Pesaro, Italy. As we look around, all we can see are books of various shapes and sizes behind glass doors that seem to scream, “Do not touch”.

The librarian, Maria Grazia Alberini, greets us with a smile as my interpreter explains who we are. She walks into a back room and returns a few minutes later. In her hands she holds the mysterious book.

“Here,” says the librarian as she passes it to me. “Hold it.”

In awe, I take the book. I slide the latch, creating the sound of an age-old story unfolding. Dust fills the air as the leather cover opens into the shape of a heart. My finger moves over the dry pages. They are more than five centuries old.

“It was found in this library,” says Alberini. “We asked Mr. Vincenzo Santoro to restore it—because he is the best.”

It was a week earlier in Santoro’s shop that I first heard about this unique book, and decided I had to see it, hold it, and feel its mystery. In the closet-sized workspace in Urbino, Santoro greeted me excitedly with outstretched arms, calling “Ciao! Ciao!” and looking as if he were welcoming a celebrity or an old friend. His wide eyes glistened through tiny glasses; his scruffy beard complemented his thick black hair with gray highlights. The five-foot-tall restoration expert seemed twice that height with his joyful presence.

Book restorer Vincenzo Santoro works in his Urbino shop. (photo by Mikayla Francese)

The walls were covered with his successes, pictures of antique but now renewed books and paintings were framed and hung with pride. Santoro said that he started studying the art of restoration during high school and continued during college at the University of Urbino. He decided he wanted to teach the technique to younger students. Now a high school teacher in the city of Urbino, he runs a well-respected sideline in restoring books and works of art from all around Italy.

Books, he said, were his favorite. One in particular caught my attention as he explained that it was one of the most mysterious objects he had ever seen.

“J’ay Pris Amour,” he called it. Translated from old French, the title means “I have taken love.” He pointed to a picture on the wall. There it was—a book in the shape of a heart.

He said that the book had three parts: a section of written music, pages of poems, and a journal. “The author is unknown,” he added. “Based on the restoration process, I know that it was written in the 1500s. I think it might have belonged to Duke Guidobaldo’s wife, Elisabetta Gonzaga.”

Now, 20 miles from Urbino, I stand in Pesaro’s Oliveriana library with the open heart sitting in my hands. I see the words in front of me as I look at the first few pages of the book: “J’ay Pris Amour.” The words on these pages are the lyrics of a French chanson popular in the 1400s. The written music is the accompaniment that was to be played on the lute. I start to wonder about Santoro’s speculation: Might this book really have belonged to Elisabetta Gonzaga?

Might this book really have belonged to Elisabetta Gonzaga?

I can almost see her, the weight of Urbino on her shoulders, furthered burdened by worries of her husband’s health. As heir of the great Duke Federico da Montefeltro, Guidobaldo needs to keep the city of Urbino running prosperously and peacefully, but his body has failed him. I imagine her sitting on a chair next to his bed, managing interruptions from members of court and governmental subordinates who come to her with personal concerns, requests to consider, and legal matters to decide. Seeing the stress in her eyes, Guidobaldo thanks her for never leaving his side.

She smiles and gives a tiny giggle as if to say that even the thought of leaving him is absurd. She might then pick up her lute. Holding the neck of the instrument with one hand, she places the other ready to pluck the strings on its round, wooden frame. Then she reaches for her book, opens it to form the shape of a heart, and sings in a sweet, gentle voice, “I have taken love as my device…”

I flip past the pages holding the music of “J’ay Pris Amour” to reach the second part of the book, this one containing words just as deep: hand-written love poems. My imagination stirs again as I wonder whether this might be Elisabetta’s work—or do I see someone else now holding the book?

I envision a woman grasping an ancient pen, dipping it into the black liquid that sits in front of her, and then opening the heart and starting to write. The pen bleeds these words onto the paper… “Chi dice chio mi do poche pensiere” (Who says that I give to myself few thoughts.) She continues to write as she thinks of the man to whom she will present this unusual gift. “Alzare il capo e dir qual cosa fia” (To lift the head and to say that something will do.)

The last section of the book served as the diary of a wealthy family in San Lorenzo in Campo. (photo by Mikayla Francese)

I reach the last part of the manuscript, the section with the most clues to its history. Ink faintly shows the name Tempesta Blondi. Experts have identified him as a successful landowner who lived in San Lorenzo in Campo in the 1500s. Around the edges of the tarnished pages are notes describing Blondi’s his marriage as well as the death of his father. The title on the fly-leaf of the book reads “Miscellanea di Tempesta Blondi,” confirming that this final section served as a sort of diary.

Blondi was a wealthy man whose life was full of culture. He and other members of his family were patrons of and participants in the arts, particularly music and poetry. Looking over the diary, it’s easy for me to imagine a peaceful night in the life of the Blondis.

The gentle sounds of the lute fill the household; perhaps a few children dance to the beat. Outside, white flakes fall from the sky; inside, candles bathe the family in a warm light. Tempesta sits on the cushion of a love seat; his wife sits across from him knitting a child’s winter hat. He plucks the strings of the musical instrument that has shaped his past as it continues to bring joy to his present. His oldest comes into the room carrying the book. Tempesta takes the heart and writes out a few sentences to document the evening’s events, while planning on many more to come.

As I close the book and study its cover of dry, broken leather, I am pulled back into the present. It was just a couple of days ago that I asked Santoro to describe the process of how he restored such a delicate piece. He explained that long journey while demonstrating some of the techniques on a more recent restoration.

“Very carefully,” he said as he slowly took apart the sewn binding one strand at a time, and then removed the pages from the string. “I must scrape off the insect residue,” he explained as he cleaned each page—380 in all. Santoro wiped Gomma, a dry rubber powder, onto each sheaf and placed the newly fluffed paper into water. He removed the paper to then rub a thick, clear glue onto the soft pages—cautiously so as not to rip them. He opened a drawer in front of him. “My specially imported Japanese paper,” he said as he placed a piece on the table. He sandwiched each newly hardened page between the paper and a piece of gauze and waited for it to dry…

I hand the book back to the librarian and contemplate its history, the facts and the imagined possibilities. It is certain that Tempesta Blondi was the author of the journal that appears on its later pages. But who created the book? Who owned it and who wrote the music and poetry onto its pages before the book came into the possession of the Blondi family halfway through the 16th Century? At first, I found it too hard to accept how much is unknown. Now I realize that this is part of its beauty, and a measure of Santoro’s skill. This ancient book is still full of life, love, and mystery—and that is what makes it precious.

This article is from Urbino Now magazine’s Arte e Cultura section, which reports on the arts and culture of Urbino and the Le Marche region. Please view more magazine articles or order a complete printed copy of Urbino Now.

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In the Footsteps of Ancient Rome http://2012.inurbino.net/in-the-footsteps-of-ancient-rome/ http://2012.inurbino.net/in-the-footsteps-of-ancient-rome/#comments Fri, 10 Aug 2012 16:40:18 +0000 Megan Northcote http://2012.inurbino.net/?p=1113 Archaeologists uncover the life—and deaths—along the Via Flaminia

With the June sun beating down on their backs, University of Urbino student archaeologists Laura Invernizzi (left) and Lara Pollidori (right) come face to face with one of 44 ancient Roman skeletons unearthed at the Archaeological Park of Forum Sempronii. (photo by Megan Northcote)

A soft whirring of propeller blades breaks the silence of the sunny, late May afternoon in the Italian Marche countryside. Archaeologist Oscar Mei, hovering in a helicopter, peers down to observe the Archaeological Park of Forum Sempronii, the site of a partially excavated ancient Roman colony. At first glance, the land appears a vast 60- to 70-acre sea of green wheat. Only the Strada Statale 3, a modern day highway, is clearly visible, bisecting the town along the same route the Via Flaminia followed more than 2,000 years ago from Rome to Rimini on its way to the Adriatic Sea.

Mei holds out his camera, snaps a photo of the town’s southeastern quadrant, and reviews the image. The camera screen appears entirely green. But then he zooms in. In the midst of the green field emerges a clearly defined, yellow ochre semi-circle. Instantly, he has a hunch about what lurks beneath the wheat at this unexcavated section of town—a Roman amphitheatre. Turns out, he was right.

Mei joined the ranks of students working at Forum Sempronii in 1994, adding to 20 years of ancient Roman ruin discoveries made by archaeologists-in-training. Every summer since 1974, Mario Luni, director of excavations at the site and classical archaeology professor at the University of Urbino, has instructed students like Mei in 40-day field schools. Forum Sempronii is located 15 miles southeast of Urbino, within the present day town of Fossombrone.

Under Luni’s meticulous guidance, Mei worked (or dug) his way up the excavation ladder, also becoming a professor of archaeology and now serving as Luni’s assistant director of excavations. “Mario Luni gave me the opportunity to work to the highest level of archaeology,” Mei said. “He taught me you have to work with an open mind and without preconceptions.”

For instance, Mei’s assumption that the semi-circular pattern in the photo represented a Roman amphitheatre wasn’t enough to please Luni. They had to dig before deciding if Mei’s hypothesis held true. It did. Last year, Luni and Mei assisted students in excavating the entrance of the amphitheatre, uncovering cobblestone walls approximately a yard high as well as part of the original floor.

Archaeologist Oscar Mei brushes off dirt and pebbles covering a Roman skeleton found near the Via Flaminia. (photo by Megan Northcote)

How do Mei’s aerial photos enable archaeologists to see beneath the soil and detect where Roman ruins are hidden? It’s not magic. As Mei explains, every year between late May and early June when the wheat is in full bloom, archaeologists have about 10 days (before the entire field turns brown) to detect the yellow ochre lines caused by the ancient structures hidden beneath the soil. These structures prevent ample nutrients from reaching the plants directly above, killing that wheat a few days earlier than the rest of the field.

But you don’t always need a camera to uncover the past. Sometimes a bit of luck and modern day construction will do the trick. The entire ancient town was discovered in 1974 when construction workers, planning to lay the foundation for a new industrial city, accidentally dug into the settlement’s crumbling walls.

Forum Sempronii was founded by Gaius Sempronius Gracchus in 133 BC. For over 700 years, between 200 BC and 500 AD, this small town teemed with life, boasting between 3,000 and 5,000 inhabitants, primarily farmers. Other residents, Luni said, worked as soldiers, magistrates, and merchants, who traveled up and down the Via Flaminia trying to eke out a living.

Constructed between 223 and 220 BC under Roman Consul Caius Flaminius, the Via Flaminia both increased trade among roadside towns and served as a military thoroughfare down which Roman soldiers marched into battle. As the first main Roman road running through Italy, the Via Flaminia greatly expanded the empire.

“Just as Americans settled their country from east to west, the Romans moved from west to east, toward the Adriatic Sea. Before the Romans, the land along the Via Flaminia was wild, without agriculture. The Romans reclaimed the fields,” Luni explained. Gracchus founded Forum Sempronii in the Metauro River Valley after the passage of lex Sempronia, an agricultural law, which mandated equitable distribution of land to farmers.

Thanks to Mei, every finding excavated at Forum Sempronii by the university, from the smallest pottery shard to the longest ancient wall, has been meticulously described, measured, photographed and documented in his excavation diary. Among these are several large structures, all within two-and-a-half acres, including: small, private thermal baths; larger, public baths; a 200-meter-long cobblestone stretch of the Via Flaminia intersected by parts of smaller side roads; and a domus or Roman house.

The first structure the Romans constructed was not the forum, basilica, or temple, but the baths.

Working with their students, Luni and Mei have gleaned much information about daily Roman life through careful examination of these findings. The presence of not just one, but two Roman baths in such a small town suggests the importance these baths held as a means of bringing the community together, especially since the baths were often free or cost very little. “Roman baths are a symbol of Roman life,” Mei said. “For example, in many colonies in the Mediterranean, in Africa, in eastern Turkey, and in Roman colonies, the first structure the Romans constructed was not the forum, basilica, or the temple, but the baths. If I go into the baths, I am a Roman citizen. That was the mentality of this period.”

Yet some sections of Forum Sempronii were more socially stratified. Two mosaics, for example, were found on the dining room and bedroom floor when excavating the domus close to the Via Flaminia, suggesting that most people who lived inside the city were wealthier than those who lived further outside. “Romans decorated their homes with mosaics of exotic animals like giraffes and tigers to show off their wealth and to welcome guests to their home,” Luni said.

Even smaller objects found in the ditches used for dumping trash outside the domus reveal much about the Romans’ daily activities and diet. Among the lucky finds: gold jewelry, Roman coins, rusty keys, a game die, mussel and clam shells, chicken bones, and even the residue of a kind of Roman cocktail sauce called garum lining the walls of a ceramic pot. To make garum, Mei said, the Romans would pour a mixture of oil, lemon, and vinegar over fish intestines placed inside a bowl and allow it to sit for three months. It was used for flavoring fish and meats.

But it’s not just material culture that’s being excavated and documented; ancient Romans are, too. About 15 years ago, with the help of aerial photography (of course!), Mei and Luni’s team stumbled upon a skeleton buried along the Decamanus minor, a side road intersecting the Via Flaminia in the center of town. Over the years, one by one, more and more skeletons were discovered, all buried inside the walls of Roman shops along this side road. In recent years, the archaeological team has mapped a total of 44 skeletons, all of which, laboratory tests reveal, fell victim to the Black Death, a plague that killed many people in Italy around the 5th century AD, roughly corresponding the abandonment of Forum Sempronii.

During the most recent archaeological work, in the summer of 2012, students re-excavated some of these same bodies, removing bones for further laboratory analysis to determine their gender and age. Nearby, another group continued to unearth more interior sections of the domus and the baths. In addition, students pursued further excavations of the amphitheatre that Mei originally spotted from his perch in the helicopter. Equipped with small trowels called scopettas, cameras, and sketch pads, these archaeologists-in-training will continue to explore Roman ruins that lie beneath those short-lived, yellow ochre patterns in the field.

Archaeological Park of Forum Sempronii
Via San Martino del Piano
Fossombrone, Italy
Open in July, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. by appointment (e-mail oscar.mei@uniurb.it)
During off-hours, site is viewable from behind fences

Archaeological Museum “A. Vernarecci”
Palazzo Ducale Corte Alta, Via del Verziere
Fossombrone, Italy
072 171 4645
Summer: 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 4 p.m.-7 p.m. (closed Monday)
Winter: Saturday 3:30-6:30 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 3:30-6:30 p.m.

This article is from Urbino Now magazine’s Arte e Cultura section, which reports on the arts and culture of Urbino and the Le Marche region. Please view more magazine articles or order a complete printed copy of Urbino Now.

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Behind the Mask http://2012.inurbino.net/behind-the-mask-2/ http://2012.inurbino.net/behind-the-mask-2/#comments Fri, 10 Aug 2012 14:18:23 +0000 Allison Butler http://2012.inurbino.net/?p=1991 Commedia Dell’Arte.]]> Handmade masks keep alive a 500-year-old theatrical tradition

Mask-makers Alessandra Ceccarelli and Federico Gargagliano, along with their daughter. (all photos by Allison Butler)

Dark unkempt hair tucked underneath a cream fedora, billowing linen shirt revealing only a pinch of chest hair, and loose khaki-colored pants. He arrives at our table, having successfully completed the obstacle course through the rows of tables and chairs that line the café.

Leaning strongly to one side, he swings an arm forward to reveal a trunk. Tattered, jade green, complete with camel-colored buckles, the trunk finds its resting place on the table in front of us.

We sit like children waiting for a magic show to begin. It creaks open, and one by one he reveals his treasures: masks of Italy’s traditional Commedia Dell’Arte. Pulling out one after the other, he lays his shiny creations down as if they were eggs about to break, smiling proudly. The room fills with the scent of fresh leather.

A man of many talents, Federico Gargagliano does much more than show and tell. He is a master leather mask maker in the Commedia Dell’Arte art form. Gargagliano and his partner, Alessandra Ceccarelli, produce one-of-a-kind, hand-made leather masks under their company name, Fa Maschere. They also put the masks to good use, acting in their own theater troupe, Circa Teatro.

Arlecchino: From Bergamo. Speaks in Venetian dialect. The evil spirit of a deceased child, son of a witch, who came back as Arlecchino. Big mouth and flat cheeks signal he is poor and always looking for food. Gargagliano’s take: “Hungry, terrible, sly.”

Before his self-made success, Gargagliano was a street performer but wanted more. His journey to becoming a mask-maker took off while he was attending the University of Urbino. He met and began working under Georgio Di Marchi in 2003 during his studies. He graduated in 2004 with a degree in preserving art and began working full time as an apprentice for Di Marchi making leather masks.

Fortunate enough to travel around the world with his master, Gargagliano learned enough to take off on his own. In 2009 he started his company with Ceccarelli, who is also his girlfriend.

Ceccarelli focuses more on the delicate and detailed elements of the company. She makes all of the hats for the masks as well as creating artistic touches on the faces such as colorful paint and facial hair. When crafting the masks, Gargagliano uses hand-made bone and wood tools, compliments of Ceccarelli. Jacks of many trades, these two also perform in their theater troupe in the roles of Arlecchino and a servant named Cincilla.

Il Doctorre: From Bologna. A comic character that makes fun of the professors at the university in Bologna. Mask covers only the forehead and nose, allowing the actor to have reddened cheeks to show his fondness for alcohol. Gargagliano’s take: “Pedantic, ridiculous, forgetful.”

Projecting a mysterious, dark, puzzling aura, Gargagliano fits right in with the devilish personality of Arlecchino. Translating in other languages as “Harlequin,” Arlecchino is known for his exaggerated tricks, violent movements, and outrageous transgressions. He is the most well-known stock character in the Commedia Dell’Arte, but there are many others.

Beginning in the early 1500s, this improvisational, interpretive art form brought relief to the public, allowing them to temporarily escape often difficult daily lives. Because the stories were told through gesture and universally understood expressions, they were accessible to everyone. Shows at this time were performed at open-air theaters. The actors were equipped with costumes and masks, transforming them into the characters that have existed since the 1500s and continue to exist today.

A common theme of the art form is love. The young people are often searching for the meaning of it, asking everyone in town. The servants play an important role, being the messengers for the rich as well as the brains behind most of the schemes. In the end, the older people are the only ones with real knowledge, educating the young.

Pulcinella: From Naples. Poor worker who is often married but rarely in love. Dark mask filled with wrinkles and a wart, showing age. Gargagliano’s take: “Ancient, friendly.”

The style evolved from the improvisation style of the 1500s to a more pantomime style, with fewer words in the 1700s. Vastly popular during these 200 years, the art form was then forbidden in Italy under Napoleonic law in the 1800s. The only traces of the style could be found in puppets and in the red nose of a clown. The nose was a key component of the Commedia Dell’Arte stock character Pierrot, and it symbolized its survival.

Long after the Commedia’s sudden disappearance, Italy was faced with the difficulties of World War II. Having been effectively split into two, the country was seeking reunification. A group of artists contacted Amleto Sartori, who was famous for his work with leather theatrical masks, and asked him to revive the lost art. In 1953 Sartori made a set of classic Commedia Dell’Arte masks for a theater company in Venice, and the art form was alive again. People from all over Italy attended the shows.

The masks are the glue within the plays. Each element of the mask is carefully chosen, representing a different expression or gesture for the actor.

Il Capitano: Spanish Captain, introduced after the birth of the Commedia Dell’Arte. Represents foreign domination, a bold soldier. Large, meant to attract women and intimidate men. Gargagliano’s take: “Vainglorious, fresh, scared.”

Both Gargagliano and Ceccarelli enjoy the process of making these unique leather masks. It takes between four and five days and begins with the selection of leather. They use only one hundred percent natural leather from Tuscany, which is known for its high quality. Once the leather is selected, the shaping process begins.

On the first day the leather is wet down with warm water, molded by hand over a form with facial features carved into it, then nailed down to hold its shape. On the second day, when the leather is half dry, they use their hand-made tools to smooth it, allowing it to dry completely. On the third day the nose is the main focus. They begin by making a four-millimeter seam down the center of the nose, wetting the leather again to make it pliable, and finally sealing it in place with fish glue.

On the fourth day colors are added as well as wax to protect the mask against water damage, sweat, and daily wear and tear. During the fifth and final days they coat both sides of the mask with fish glue and oil. “What is well done remains,” says Gargagliano about the lengthy, manual process.

Pantalone Di Bisognosi: From Venice. Uses Venetian dialect. Top of the pecking order of stock characters; what he says goes. Mask adorned with a mustache and other white facial hair, symbolizing knowledge. Gargagliano’s take: “Kind, cheap.”

With all steps complete, it’s time to send the mask to its new owner. Gargagliano looks proud yet sad as he gingerly places a freshly finished mask into a shipping box. Having spent countless intensive hours on this piece of art, he is understandably attached. Ceccarelli looks on fondly, and explains, “Masks are like orphans, they need a body. When they find a body we are happy for them,” she says. Gargagliano smiles and closes the box, knowing it’s going to a good home.

Fa Maschere
329 934 3372

This article is from Urbino Now magazine’s Arte e Cultura section, which reports on the arts and culture of Urbino and the Le Marche region. Please view more magazine articles or order a complete printed copy of Urbino Now.

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Santoro’s Books http://2012.inurbino.net/santoros-books/ http://2012.inurbino.net/santoros-books/#comments Fri, 10 Aug 2012 13:33:54 +0000 Mikayla Francese http://2012.inurbino.net/?p=1723 Where to see more restored works

Vincenzo Santoro cleans the page of an ancient manuscript. (photo by Mikayla Francese)

Aside from the mysterious heart-shaped manuscript known as “J’ay Pris Amour,” Vincenzo Santoro has over the years restored many books and paintings that now reside throughout Italy. Below are some of the pieces in collections near Urbino; these institutions also house other ancient works that can be viewed.

  • “Statuto di Fano,” a book of norms (laws) of Fano, located in the “Federiciana Bibloteca” (Via Castracane 1, 61032 Fano)
  • “Collectione Ubaldini,” a collection of 800 paintings made between the years 1400 and 1600, located in Urbania’s “Palazzo Ducale” (Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 2, 61049 Urbania)

This article is from Urbino Now magazine’s Arte e Cultura section, which reports on the arts and culture of Urbino and the Le Marche region. Please view more magazine articles or order a complete printed copy of Urbino Now.

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Sea By Cycle http://2012.inurbino.net/sea-by-cycle/ http://2012.inurbino.net/sea-by-cycle/#comments Thu, 02 Aug 2012 18:03:22 +0000 Pachia Lee http://2012.inurbino.net/?p=1131 On the beach-side bike trail from Pesaro to Fano.

Brightly colored cabanas line the Pesaro-Fano bike trail. (photo by Pachia Lee)

Visitors to Italy typically think art, wine, cheese, and, of course, pizza. Few imagine cycling alongside a sandy beach. But if you’re based in Urbino and want to explore a different side of Le Marche, take a daytrip to Pesaro—from which you can set out on a bike trail offering stunning views of the Adriatic Sea.

If you’re not already traveling with a bike, you have two options. I found a few commercial rental outlets near the beach, but riding their tattered bikes would not have been fun or comfortable. Instead, use the city of Pesaro’s bike-sharing program, “C’entro in Bici.” Visit the “Sportella Informa & Servizi” office behind Piazza del Popolo to pay your 10 euros and fill out a form; make sure you have an identification card or passport. You’ll get a key that allows you to unlock one of the program’s orange bikes at any of six locations throughout town. These bikes have no extra gears and are not the smoothest riding, but they will get you through a few hours along the beach.

I began my excursion at the Palla di Arnaldo Pomodoro, a shiny spherical landmark in the center of Piazzale della Libertà. I took a moment to appreciate the calm blue Adriatic Sea and the clear sky filled with frolicking birds. Then I inhaled the fresh aroma of the ocean and began to pedal.

As I rode away from Pesaro in the direction of Fano, the large seaside city at the other end of this eight-mile trail, I passed pastel-colored hotels and restaurants as well as neat rows of yellow and green umbrellas. Farther along, the scene was less crowded, though there were still plenty of beach-crazed people. White sailboats moved slowly along the horizon. The large hotels and restaurants were now replaced by compact beachfront bars, each with a unique logo and color combination.

Take a break from riding at any of the bars along the way.

You can take a break from riding at any of these bars. Just secure your bike along a trailside wall or fence. The bars have their own seating and eating areas, with background music ranging from American rock (I heard Lady Gaga and Katy Perry) and jazzy love songs (Frank Sinatra) to Italian pop. After a snack, you can rent an umbrella and chair on the beach—and it’s off to swimming you go.

I stopped for a cool drink at Bagni Due Palme. The bar sits on a balcony overlooking the bike path, giving great views of the beach and sea. Stretching alongside the trail were shower houses of vibrant red, blue, yellow, pink, and green. Tanned, young, muscled men were playing two-on-two volleyball. Teenagers played cards and ate pizza. Laughter and conversation came from all directions.

Once back on the bike path, I heard “Ding, ding, ding!” From behind me, three middle-aged men zoomed by. “Scusi, scusi,” I screamed. Thinking this was my chance to meet some fellow cyclists, I quickly added, “Ciao! Do you guys speak English?”

“So-so,” replied one of the three, as they pulled over to the side to talk. I learned from one of them, Delfino Lugiano, that they are all firemen and that they ride the entire trail from Pesaro to Fano three times a week to stay fit.

“We like to bike this trail because it connects the cities,” Lugiano added, “and it is a point of conjunction for people.”

I was soon back on the bike, hoping to find “Camping Norina,” a private area farther along the trail. I had heard that Norina was a place where families and friends can stay for a few days in rented bungalows. But somehow I had come to a dead end. I stopped and looked at my map, flabbergasted.

“Do you need help?” asked a fellow rider, only a few footsteps away.
“Uh, yes, please, I’m lost,” I said, feeling a little ridiculous. “Would you know how to get to Fano from here?” (The main trail was supposed to go straight to Fano; I had no idea how I had gotten thrown off.)

“Yes, you have missed the turn,” said this helpful man in a strong Italian accent. “Follow me and I will show you the way.” He led me under a bridge and onto a straight-away. Then Pesaro native Stefano Terenzi and I exchanged contact information—just in case I got lost again.

Finally, I saw the words “Camping Norina” on the side of a bungalow. I stopped to catch my breath, take a sip of water, and gaze into the distance. The bungalows were lined up like dominos along the quiet beach. The bike trial beyond seemed never-ending.

But it was time for me to return to Pesaro, and then back to Urbino. Next time I cycle this trail, I thought, maybe I’ll reach the pebbly beaches of Fano. Maybe you will too.

C’Entro in Bici (municipal bike-sharing)
Sportello Informa & Servizi (Public Relations Office)
Largo Mamiani, 11 (for sign-up and key)
Pesaro, Italy
10 euro fee

This article is from Urbino Now magazine’s Escursione section, which recommends day trips and activities within an hour or so of Urbino. Please view more magazine articles or order a complete printed copy of Urbino Now.

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Sempre Famiglia http://2012.inurbino.net/sempre-famiglia/ http://2012.inurbino.net/sempre-famiglia/#comments Fri, 27 Jul 2012 22:40:43 +0000 Nandi Alexander http://2012.inurbino.net/?p=1596 Ciao!” says the short, elderly woman standing behind the counter. This is Elide Beltrami, wife of Vittorio Beltrami, a man who has been ordained the “Einstein of cheese” by famous chef Lidia Matticchio Bastianich...]]> For the Beltramis, making olive oil and cheese is a family affair

In the Rusticucci Palace, once owned by a 15th century cardinal and now the Beltrami family’s olive oil factory, Cristiana Beltrami explains the process of making the oil. The family is also known for its cheese: Italian-American chef Lidia Bastianich has called Cristiana's father, Vittorio, the “Einstein of Cheese.” (photo by Elizabeth Zabel)

Ciao!” says the short, elderly woman standing behind the counter. On her apron are the words “Gastronomia Beltrami, Cartoceto, Italy.” This is Elide Beltrami, wife of Vittorio Beltrami, a man who has been ordained the “Einstein of cheese” by famous chef Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. With a wide, warm smile, Elide makes me feel as welcome as if I were walking into my local corner store.

However, Gastronomia Beltrami is not just your average corner store. Inside the front glass case are piles of pecorino cheese, made from the milk of the Beltramis’ sheep. To the left, stacked on wooden shelves, are jars of fig and other fruit jams, made by Elide and her family and wrapped in brown paper and ribbon. Lastly, on a wide oak cupboard are bottles of glistening green olive oil—a product that brought this family name much praise in the early 1900s—harvested from the Beltramis’ groves and pressed in a 500-year-old palace.

A petite woman in her mid-thirties with short dark-brown hair comes from the back and flashes a smile. This is Cristiana Beltrami, the daughter of Vittorio and Elide Beltrami. “Let’s go on a tour,” she says and I follow her to her car. As she drives, Cristiana explains that she has worked at the shop for 15 years, since graduating with a degree in economics from the University of Urbino.

Our history is in the job that we do, we have roots; a culture.
Our first stop overlooks the town; the view is filled with olive trees, churches, hills, and fields. Cartoceto is located in the Marche region and is a municipality in the province of Pesaro and Urbino. Cristiana explains that Cartoceto is part of an association called “Città Dell’Olio”—City of Oil—because of the town’s large production of olive oil. The Marche region, she explains, was a church territory in the 1500s, with a lot of priests, churches, and monasteries. “The olive oil produced in this area would all go to Rome.”

The Beltramis have been among the region’s olive growers since 1870. In the 1960s, Vittorio’s father, Quindi, opened a tabacchi store that sold everything including the family-made olive oil. Vittorio and Elide took over the business in 1980 and named it Gastronomia Beltrami, adding cheese and jams. These days, the family grows 20 different varieties of olives in a secluded area called “Covo dei Briganti”—hideout of bandits—where men once took refuge to avoid joining the military. Once a week, the olives are picked by hand. These olives are then taken back to town to be pressed in the old Rusticucci Palace, originally owned by a cardinal in the 1500s, to create the final product, extra virgin olive oil.

Every year, the Beltramis hold a celebration to unveil their new formaggio di fossa. (photo by Elizabeth Zabel)

Fast forward to 1980, when Vittorio Beltrami brought in something else: formaggio di fossa; in English, “pit cheese.” This form of making cheese has its roots in the Marche. According to Ashley Bartner, a food expert living in the region, in the 1400s farmers stashed their cheese in caves to hide it from raiding soldiers. After the soldiers left, the farmers retrieved their hidden cheese only to find it not only edible but delicious because of the constant temperature. It has a musty smell, a sharp taste, and a crumbly texture. The Beltramis’ version of this cheese has been featured in festivals such as Slow Food International and Milano Food. Lidia Bastianich, American chef, restaurateur, and author specializing in Italian food, even did a segment on Vittorio Beltrami on her PBS show, “Lidia’s Italy.”

We stop at the “Covo dei Briganti,” where the Beltramis’ goats and sheep roam the countryside, eating the grass, and living “completely in symbiosis with nature,” Cristiana explains. Vittorio hand-picks the sheep and goats, she says, to assure the best cheese. He travels all over Italy to find the animals, brings them back to the pasture, and names each one. Cristiana points to some of the goats nearby, reciting their names: Mansueto, Bianchina, and Bella. Eric LeMay, professor at Ohio University and author of the book Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese, describes Vittorio Beltrami as a man who “has a true investment in the land, the animals, and co-workers, and he’s not afraid to stand up for tradition and against those who would compromise it.”

Our next stop is the Rusticucci Palace, where Cristiana describes the process of making the formaggio di fossa. Each August, Vittorio puts the formaggio di fossa into cloth bags filled with herbs and stores it in a dark, cold cave beneath the Rusticucci Palace, leaving it to mature until November. After three months, the Beltramis unveil the buried cheese in an annual ceremony. Visitors come from all over Italy to see and taste the new cheese.

Driving back to the store, Cristiana says, “For me, my family is very important and this was a choice of life.” The family uses the word retroinnovazione to sum up what they do. This term means remembering the past and never forgetting it. However, it also means using the principles of the past in the present and the future. “Our history is in the job that we do, we have roots; a culture. Here we run a real economy because we make the products from start to finish,” Cristiana says.

Back at the store, Cristiana and Elide bring out a platter of two types of formaggio di fossa, white wine, and focaccia bread. One “fossa” is older and tastes strong. The other, a young fossa, is fresh and light. The savory tastes of the cheese and foccacia fit perfectly with the sweet taste of the wine. Next Elide serves fresh yogurt with berry jam in a small cup. I savor every bite. Elide asks, “Ti piace?” “Do you like it?”

Si, buonissimo!”

Gastronomia Beltrami
Via Umberto I, 21-23
61030 Cartoceto, Italy
0721 893 006

Open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4:30-7:30 p.m.
Open Sunday and Monday by appointment only.

This article is from Urbino Now magazine’s Mangia Bene section, which explores the ingredients, cuisine, and food traditions that distinguish Urbino and the Le Marche region. Please view more magazine articles or order a complete printed copy of Urbino Now.

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Healing the Cracks http://2012.inurbino.net/healing-the-cracks/ http://2012.inurbino.net/healing-the-cracks/#comments Fri, 27 Jul 2012 22:14:00 +0000 Sofia Lugo http://2012.inurbino.net/?p=1512 Art restoration students save works damaged in a 2009 earthquake—and help heal lives at the same time
Restoration Lab

An art restoration student works by the painting The Massacre of the Innocents by an unknown artist. This 17th-century painting comes from Navelli, and it was damaged in a 2009 earthquake there. (photo by Timothy Reuter)

The smell of paint fills the quiet, wide room. This is the art restoration lab of the University of Urbino, where professor Michele Papi teaches. Religious paintings, taller than the people who walk past, recline against the walls with sculptures of saints standing close by. On the floor near each piece of art is a slip of paper that describes the work and says where it’s from: One slip says, “Castel del Monte. Mary shows the insignia of San Domenico.”

Seated before some of the paintings are people wearing white overcoats who meticulously mix colors on a palette and delicately daub the artwork in front of them. Their eyes move only between the paintings and the palette, and not to the visitors nearby, as this is a skill that requires a great level of concentration. These are Papi’s students, completing the five years required for an art restoration degree. The lab where they work—three well-lighted rooms near the entrance to the Ducal Palace—is always open to the public to display the latest restoration project.

For many of these students, the latest project is special. The art pieces they are working on were damaged by an April 6, 2009, earthquake that devastated the province of L’Aquila, located in the Abruzzo region just south of Le Marche. The paintings and sculptures aren’t all that significant artistically, but they have a different kind of value.

“They have more of an emotional value than they have actual value because they belong to small communities, so they were more special that way,” says Daniele Costantini, a student who participated in the project.

Lucia Arbace, superintendent of art history for the Abruzzo province, agrees. All are worth restoring, she says, because each piece comes from a different church, so each has something unique. “The ecclesiastical heritage is very diverse and heterogeneous,” she says.

Now, after almost two years, the art restorers have finished their work.
The L’Aquila earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.3, was the worst to strike Italy in more than three decades. More than 300 people died and more than 40,000 were left homeless. About 10,000 structures totally or partially collapsed; at least 400 of those were from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. By contrast, the earthquakes in May 2012 in the region of Emilia-Romagna left an estimated 17 dead.

“I was really afraid for my family and for my friends,” says Stefania Paolini, another of Papi’s students, who was born in Castelvecchio Subequo, a village in the L’Aquila province. “One of my friends died.”

The reaction to the earthquake was immediate. Within days, the University of Urbino offered its help to restore some of the damaged art. The Marche Regional Association of Municipalities financed the process, “adopting” one or two paintings from each of several affected villages. The total of chosen pieces came to 17 and included paintings and sculptures. Arbace says, “There was great interest in saving L’Aquila’s artistic heritage.” And now, after almost two years of work, Papi, his coworkers, and their 70 students have finished their task.

“It is beautiful for L’Aquila,” Paolini says.

Michele Papi

Restoration requires an intense level of concentration. (photo by Timothy Reuter)

Costantini and three other students restored one of the works damaged in the earthquake. It is from the town of Popoli, and it is a triptych by an unknown artist depicting Christ, the Madonna with Christ, and Joseph with Christ. Costantini says the steps for restoring a piece of art are always similar, but the process itself depends on the piece. For this painting, he started out by working on the back, the support of the painting. To fix fractures in the support, the restorers dug out the damage and filled the holes with small wooden triangles and sap-like glue. Next the restorers turned to the front of the painting. First, they cleaned it with organic solvents. Then, they filled blank spots with a mixture of glue and chalk. After smoothing these spots with sandpaper, the students restored the image with watercolors and paint. Finally, Costantini brushed a clear synthetic liquid over the surface to preserve the colors.

Though these paintings are from many places and by many artists, Papi says he gives them all the same care. “All paintings are valuable, whether they come from Abruzzo or elsewhere,” he says, “because paintings are the historical memory of our country.”

Papi has restored art for more than 25 years. He studied first at the Istituto Statale d’Arte in Urbino and later at the Accademia di Belle Arti, also in Urbino. Though he specialized in chalcography (copper and zinc engraving), he says restoration is his passion. “One day in 1982 I met a restorer from Florence who was teaching restoration,” he says. “Ever since then I’ve never stopped doing it.”

He sounds confident as he says that the Abruzzo paintings didn’t present any specific challenges. These paintings were damaged and needed restoration, which is something he and his team deal with all the time.

“The real challenge is giving them back to the population,” he says, because of the emotional connection. He will face this challenge at the beginning of July, when, after almost two years of work, the team will return the pieces to Abruzzo. An exhibit of the restored works in L’Aquila will allow people to appreciate the art and the work that was done.

Says Papi, “For them, seeing the paintings they love is a way to go back to go normality.”

This article is from Urbino Now magazine’s Urbino Centro section, which offers an in-depth look at the daily life of Urbino. Please view more magazine articles or order a complete printed copy of Urbino Now.

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A Foodie’s Guide to Cartoceto http://2012.inurbino.net/foodies-guide/ http://2012.inurbino.net/foodies-guide/#comments Thu, 26 Jul 2012 22:45:34 +0000 Nandi Alexander http://2012.inurbino.net/?p=1613 Tasty stops around Cartoceto

Known for olive oil, cheese, and other products, the area around Cartoceto is a destination for foodies. (photo by Elizabeth Zabel)

Cartoceto and the surrounding area is a food lover’s paradise. Every summer, foodies flock to events such as the Festa dei Piatti Tipici (festival of typical cuisine) and Sagra dei Vincisgrassi (feast of vincisgrassi, a regional version of lasagna) to sample local foods. Visit prolococartoceto.com for more information about these events. And if your mouth is watering for more savory and sweet tastes that Cartoceto has to offer, check out these local stops:

Azienda Agricola Roberto Lucarelli
Via Piana, 20
Ripalta-Cartoceto, Italy
335 520 6458
In this lavish vineyard 1.5 miles north of Cartoceto, Roberto Lucarelli produces two types of wines for you to sample: Bianchello of Metauro and Sangiovese. Try the Colli Pessaresi Sangiovese, which is suitable for all palates, and the Spumante Esther (named after Roberto’s wife), which is filled with hints of apple and banana fruitiness. In addition, the extra virgin olive oil called “La Ripe” is made here. Their best olive oil is made from the olive raggiola. These olives are hand-picked and processed within 24 hours of harvest.

Agli Olivi
Via Bottaccio, 4
Cartoceto, Italy
0721 898 144
Since 1984, this restaurant has served the cuisine of the Le Marche region. They make sure the recipes reflect the region in a genuine way: You can taste local dishes such as dumplings, roast rabbit, and pheasant, all cooked in a wood oven. You can also enjoy formaggio di fossa, a Le Marche specialty cheese that gets its musty smell from being cured underground for three months. Visit the website to request a reservation.

Via Alberone, 16
61030 Cartoceto, Italy
0721 899 592
After 30 years, the dishes in this restaurant still highlight the local traditions of the Marche region. Try the bruschetta and prosciutto; cappelletti with cream, ham, and mushrooms; gnocchi with duck; lamb chops; and panna cotta. On their website the restaurateurs point with pride to “the quality of our cuisine, the professionalism of the staff and the expertise of those who are asked to advise and assist customers.”

This is a “Website Extra” article for Urbino Now‘s Mangia Bene section, which explores the ingredients, cuisine, and food traditions that distinguish Urbino and the Le Marche region. Please view more magazine articles or order a complete printed copy of Urbino Now.

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Restoring Urbino http://2012.inurbino.net/restoring-urbino/ http://2012.inurbino.net/restoring-urbino/#comments Thu, 26 Jul 2012 22:19:44 +0000 Sofia Lugo http://2012.inurbino.net/?p=1574 Where to see renewed art around town

Michele Papi and his team have restored many of Urbino's art treasures (photo by Timothy Reuter)

Michele Papi and his sister, Federica Papi, established their own restoration business, Il Compasso, in 1983. Along with the rest of the Il Compasso team—graduates from the University of Urbino’s restoration program—they have gained multiple clients, including museums, churches, and theatres, mostly across the Marche. In Urbino, art pieces that have been carefully restored by this team include:

  • Raphael’s Monument: This sculptural work was created between 1894 and 1897 by Luigi Belli of Turin. Until 1947, the monument was located in the Piazza Duca Federico, between the Palazzo Ducale and the cathedral. Currently, it stands in Piazzale Roma, at the top of Via Raffaello. It was restored in 2000.
  • Pope Orsini fountain, Pope Alessandro VIII statue, and Pope Clement XI Obelisk: All three of these stand one after the other in Largo Clemente XI, by the Palazzo Albani. They were restored in 1999.
  • Madonna of the Rosary: This 1727 painting by Giovanni Conca is in the church of San Domenico, which is located in the street with the same name, nearly opposite the entrance to the Palazzo Ducale. It was restored in 1999.

This is a “Website Extra” article for Urbino Now‘s Urbino Centro section, which offers an in-depth look at the daily life of Urbino. Please view more magazine articles or order a complete printed copy of Urbino Now.

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Paradise Lost http://2012.inurbino.net/paradise-lost/ http://2012.inurbino.net/paradise-lost/#comments Thu, 26 Jul 2012 21:51:06 +0000 Erica Demson http://2012.inurbino.net/?p=1640 A glimpse of Federico’s ideal city

The Honor Court at Urbino's Ducal Palace, where artists, scientists, and mathematicians mingled.

The palace doesn’t seem that big from the courtyard.

It is only when I go underground to the cavernous kitchens and storerooms, where the air gets at least 10 degrees cooler, and when I walk up the wide, grand staircases that I truly understand this palace is enormous. Just when I think there can’t be any more hallways, there is always another around the corner, filled with golden Byzantine altarpieces or collections of delicately painted ceramics. The typical boulder-and-dungeon atmosphere of a 15th-century castle is absent in Urbino’s Palazzo Ducale. It is surprisingly light. Stone corridors are lined with unexpected windows, allowing light to pour in. I peer out every window to find different courtyards; some filled with green shrubbery and blooming flowers while others are simply paved with stone.

These now-barren courtyards once bustled with people. Federico da Montefeltro, soldier, scholar, and the duke of these lands from 1444 to 1482, initiated the flow of great minds to Urbino. The mathematician-artist Leon Battista Alberti, who brought back the ideals of classical architecture, and Piero della Francesca, who was a pioneer in the usage of perspective, were some of the notable individuals in the city. Urbino became the home of a movement now known as the mathematical renaissance, which was born out of the marriage between the arts and sciences.

For Federico, this was the perfect society. It was a society where people of different disciplines shared ideas and lived in harmony, a society unique for its time. “While the city of Florence had mathematicians and artists, they didn’t live together as they did in Urbino,” says Maria Rosaria Valazzi, director of the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, which is housed in the Palazzo Ducale. “Federico tried to create a perfect society and a perfect kind of art, also a perfect palace.”

Sadly, this “perfect society” was short-lived. Everything Federico accomplished in his reign was lost soon after his death in 1482. Luckily for us, though, the palace still offers a window into Federico’s ideal city—granted, of course, you know who to ask to decipher the symbols.

Take, for example, the palace piazza, the space that stretches between the palace and the duomo. “Anyone walking up to the palace at that time would have been impressed,” says Valazzi. In contrast to many fortress-like palaces of the time, she explains, the Ducal Palace appears to welcome people in. The wide, spacious piazza and its light and airy quality seemed to aid in the free flow of ideas. It was there in the piazza that the mathematical renaissance grew and thrived.

Urbino became the home of a movement now known as the mathematical renaissance, which was born out of the marriage between the arts and sciences.
The Palazzo Ducale, says Valazzi, was “a city in form of a palace.” At its height it was home to over 400 people including the architect Melozzo da Forli, the mathematician Luca Pacioli, and the artist Pedro Berruguete. Federico used his military wealth and success to attract and hire local artisans for his architectural projects, and he alleviated taxes on his subjects, all of which made him a well-loved ruler. Artists and thinkers flocked to Urbino to take part in the new cultural revolution initiated by Federico.

If the palace is a city, Federico’s studiolo, or study, is the city’s heart. The study, located on the second floor of the palace, is filled with symbols and hidden meanings, say Valazzi and museum curator Alessandro Marchi, most of which refer to the ideals of Federico’s perfect society.

Though only the size of today’s typical closet, the deep and warm colors of the intricately inlaid wood panels make this room one of the most memorable of the palace. The top halves of the walls are lined with portraits of men. These men were people of the duke’s past and his present, including the poet Homer, philosophers Plato and Aristotle, and religious figures Solomon and Moses, all looming over Federico as if to send down inspiration as he worked.

Just below the portraits begins the woodwork. A hodgepodge of books and sheet music appear to be stacked on shelves while a knight’s armor and spear seem to be strewn on benches. The intarsia technique, or inlaid wood, allows panels to take on perspective and depth, an impressive feat during that time. The four walls are lined with tricks and illusions of trompe l’oeil that make your eyes believe that the objects face you no matter where you stand in the room.

On one wall a lute appears to lie next to a spear. The placement is not accidental, says Valazzi. The instrument represents the perfection of music, the unflawed relationship between math and sound. It was this harmonious blending of disciplines that Federico so admired. But the military weapon has its purpose too. It symbolizes the idea that a perfect society has many elements, including a strong military force. Scientific instruments such as a compass and an hourglass also find their homes among the trompe l’oeil shelves, reminding the viewer that it takes the balance and accord of many subjects to achieve an ideal society.

One of the most distinctive features of the studiolo, says Marchi, is the small squirrel settled on a receding stone background framed by Grecian columns and arches. Marchi explains that just as a squirrel takes acorns and saves them for the winter, Federico would take many ideas and readings and save them. “It is a symbol of how you take culture and store it, and then later in life it will become valuable to you,” says Marchi. Federico’s wide range of interests helped create a rare kind of utopia where harmony and justice were the center: Urbino.

Federico’s ideals lasted only as long as the reign of his son Guidobaldo, then disappeared. By the late 15th century, after Guidobaldo and his wife Elisabetta had passed away, the architects and philosophers had fled the city, leaving it in a standstill. The changing worldviews at the end of the 15th century overtook what Federico had created and no more attempts were made to recreate his utopia.

Valazzi, however, has a hope for what people might take away when they visit modern Urbino, a hope Federico himself might have approved of: “That the world can be harmonious. That the world can find an idea of justice and harmony.”

Palazzo Ducale
Piazza Rinascimento, 13
61029 Urbino, Italy

Open Monday 8:30 a.m.-2p.m. and Tuesday through Sunday 8:30 a.m-7:15 p.m.

This article is from Urbino Now magazine’s Urbino Centro section, which offers an in-depth look at the daily life of Urbino. Please view more magazine articles or order a complete printed copy of Urbino Now.

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