In The Hand of Glory, a humorous investigative point and click video game which nods at the great classics of the genre, the American detective Lazarus Bundy has lost his job because he was unable to solve a particularly intricate case. To rehabilitate his reputation and career, Lazarus (Lars to his friends) throws himself into a new investigation, the apparent kidnap of a young heiress. Assisted by his young intern Alice, Lars sets quickly to work discovering that the case is much more complicated than apparent, with a mysterious masked enemy known as the Doctor. From his home in Miami, Lars follows the culprits to Italy, passing through Rome and ending up in the village of San Leo in Romagna. To see clearly and solve the case, Lars must explore the village, talk to the locals and solve its mysteries. Following his investigation is an excellent way to discover and explore the old village, starting with some of the more distinctive places: Lars, you lead the way, we’re just behind you.Print itinerary
We walk into San Leo through the Porta di Sopra, Upper Gate, which opens, leading to the village’s only square, piazza Dante Alighieri. Just as Lars notices, crossing the threshold of the stone arch which dates to 1870 is like being catapulted into a different time period, one almost crystalized in the past. For those already testing their detective skills asking why the only square in the village is named after Dante Alighieri, the gate offers a response with an explanatory plaque: not only did Dante spend time in the village with his friend Ugoccione della Faggiola, but he also wrote about it in his Purgatory, focussing mostly on the difficulty of reaching San Leo because of the relentless slope (he writes “qui convien ch’om voli|here I had to fly”). The square is the beating heart of the village where everything can be seen: Palazzo della Rovere, the Bell Tower, Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta, Cathedral of St. Leo, and the Palazzo Mediceo (today a museum and polyfunctional theatre).
Wasting no time, Lars follows his instinct and is already in front of the Tower. We follow but first pass by the Cathedral, a building with a wealth of history standing as it does on a site where various divinities have been worshipped since prehistory. It looks imposing and ancient from the outside, with the ochre coloured sandstone rising from the Masso. Lars may not know this but Lupin came this way in Lupin III – the Italian Adventure.
The Bell or Civic (according to preference) Tower rises from the tip of Mount Guardia perched on a sheer overlook of the rocky spur of the Masso of San Leo where the village is situated. Its position to one side of the village gives it a certain hauteur, some say, although over time it has become a true symbol of the place. Unusually, despite the square layout outside there is an older circular structure within. It was also built entirely in ochre sandstone and shines over the plain below, particularly at night when it is artistically illuminated.
Then it’s time to head for a place that is undeniably fascinating, especially for lovers of investigations. Lars is already there. The Fortress of San Leo rises imposingly from the rock, adding to the apparently impenetrable look of the residential centre. Much more than a fortress, this is a real village, linked to the other. Its position and beauty made it long contested. Towards the end of the 1700s, the enigmatic alchemist Cagliostro was imprisoned here for about 6 years by the Church. Let’s hope that Lars doesn’t find the kidnapped heiress, Kathrin Mulzberg, in a similar terrible fortress cell. The fortress today conserves documentation, letters, instruments, and witness reports of the alchemist’s fervent activity, including his links to Masonry (watch out Lars!).
We’ll leave Lars to think, such evocative places will help him find the solution. We could head off for a walk in the surrounding area, and observe the Masso di San Leo from a distance. From the plain, the rocky spur with the village on its tip is exceedingly picturesque, displaying a continuity between the work of man and the natural world which can’t be found elsewhere – from the rocks of the Masso to the ochre walls of the fortifications. Nearby, leaving the road that leads to Porta di Sopra, are the Church and Canonical College of San Severino and the Convent of St. Igne. Places of worship full of history, where one is simultaneously immersed in surrounding nature and suspended in time. Unusually the oratory, with a Romanesque layout, faces East and not West. Interesting. Perhaps it would be an idea to tell Lars?