This town was chosen about 3000 years ago by a group of men who saw in Verucchio an ideal place on which to found their city; the civilisation to which we refer is that of the ‘Villanovians’. Verucchio was one of the most important centres of this culture, and the sophistication of this city is evident in the many extraordinary objects found in some of the grave sites. Ancient civilisation, shrouded in mystery nonetheless. Later in the Middle Ages, its fortress became the centre of importance for both military and civil purposes. Dante, in his ‘Divine Comedy’ cites Mastin Vecchio, founder of the Malatesta family, and father of Giangiotto and Paolo, famous for the story of love and death of Francesca. An unresolved mystery, for which there is no evidence, tells that within the walls of the fortress the tragic story of the romantic tryst between Paolo and Francesca da Rimini unfolded. This story is disputed by several castles in the area, including those in Gradara and Rimini. He, handsome and clever; she, unhappily married to Giovanni lo Zoppo (‘Giovanni the Lame’), were struck by a sudden and wild love, recorded in a book. Dante tells us that ‘The matchmaker was the book, and the one who wrote it’.
Who knows if the pale figure, which some have imagined seeing on nights with a full moon, is really the ghostly outline of the tormented lady? It is impossible for us to know! Love, it seems, was stronger than the violence of death.
Verucchio boasts an ancient history linked twice over to the Signoria dei Malatesta. Long before the Middle Ages, however, in the Iron Age (between the 9th and 6th centuries BC), Verucchio was host to an important settlement of Villanovan culture, from which extraordinary finds are preserved to this day in the Civic Museum set in the old convent of St. Augustine. From the magnificent Malatesta Fortress, or Fortress of the Stone, you can admire a sensational panoramic view. A visit to the complex monument, built between the 12th and 16th centuries, gives us a sense of daily life at the time of the lords. Do not miss the spectacular evening visits in August from the 6th-11th and 17th-23rd of the month, at 9pm and 10pm.
Highly recommended is a visit to the Villa Verucchio, the Convent of the Franciscan Friars Minor (tel. 0541/6784179), with the centuries-old cypress which, according to tradition, was planted by the Holy One.