San Leo


San Leo, whose ancient name is Montefeltro, is built on a huge rocky boulder in the Valmarecchia, about 600m above sea level. Because of its location in an impenetrable position, it bore witness to many civil, military, religious and political feats. Among the important historical and artistic vestiges are the Pre-Romantic parish church, (9th-11th century), with its splendid ciborium (882), the Romantic cathedral, whose style is specific to Lombardy (12th century) and the fort (15th century), which dominates the landscape unchallenged.
Right here, within the walls of this ancient castle, Giuseppe Balsamo, the Count of Cagliostro, was held in a small cell called ‘Il pozzetto’, ‘the little well’, and here by decree of the church he was declared a sorcerer and an alchemist and met his end on the 26th of August 1795. He was hated by many for being a swindler, an imposter, a traitor. Those who supported him did so because they considered him a genius, a martyr and a saint. Throughout his life, he wavered between abjuration and penitence.
Cagliostro was punished not just for what he had done, but also what he represented. He was a thorn in the side of the papacy, deviating from the ranks of the church, and he was a well-known sorcerer, celebrated by the princes and emperors. Extreme poverty, riches and extravagance, together with the mystery of his burial place makes his story one over which, to this day, much ink is spilled. His character is at once fascinating and highly controversial.
San Leo offers the attentive, unhurried tourist a setting which has produced some of the most stunning history and art in all of Italy.