Centro Risorse Territoriale di Pesaro e Urbino

Senigallia, a 1769 Guide

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Sinigaglia (Senigallia)

Sinigaglia has retained the name of the Senonese, settled in this part of ancient Umbria. Senonum de nomine Senon , says Silius Italicus . It belonged to the dukes of Urbino, who had sheltered it from the insults of Turks and pirates by some fortifications still subsisting. In 1758 its circuit was enlarging, in order to which its works on the west side were rased, and new ramparts built like the former, which the labour of pulling them down shewed to be of a very strong construction.

The enlargement of this city, on account of the vast concourse of people at the fair time, and the foreigners, whom the great business done at this fair might induce to settle here, had long been necessary, so that we must suppose there were some political reasons against it. The difference between Pope Benedict and Venice having diminished the weight of these reasons, the apostolic chamber made choice of that juncture to take the works in hand, and very briskly were they carrying on under Monsignor Merlini president of Urbino, who had signalized himself by an expedition against the smugglers; an expedition which had determined Pope Benedict to suppress the farming of tobacco in his dominions, and bring this article again into the common course of trade.

The air of the city, however, cannot boast of more salubrity than that of all this coast of the Adriatic. Boccace speaking of a young woman, che non mai era senza mal d'occhi, con un color verde e giallo , adds che pareva che non a Fiesole ma a Sinigaglia havesse fatta la state . Nov 4, giorn. 8. i.e. "Who was continually troubled with sore eyes, and her complexion green and yellow," adds, "that she looked as if she had spent the summer at Sinigaglia and not at Fiesole."

Sinigaglia affords nothing remarkable either in its public or private edifices. We indeed saw some paintings by Barrocci, and, in a small church in the high street, a picture quite new, which struck us extremely, by the exact resemblance of St. Charles, the person it represented, to a French prelate, whom we had heard preach at Paris before the assembly of the clergy.

We reached Sinigaglia time enough for the opening of the fair, which holds the eight last days of July. The shore, along which we had come from Fano, was lined with culverines, cannon, loop-holes, old arquebuses, all pointed towards the sea; likewise with parties of soldiers in barracks at regular distances, besides some ships of the pope lying in the offing. In short, nothing had the apostolic chamber omitted for the safety of the fair.

Mr. Merlini was there in person, and kept open house for the neighbouring nobility. All this nobility, men, women and children, for whom this fair is a party of pleasure, throws a pleasing variety and a kind of tranquillity amidst the perpetual bustle of crowds of people of all nations, eagerly looking out for one another, or hurried in removing goods from the harbour or road to the city, from the city to the harbour or road; in unpacking or packing up, in embarking or landing: not a single beast of carriage or draught is made use of for this business; the whole is done by fachini , or porters, who, with equal dexterity and strenght, carry the greatest burdens whether in weight or bulk. This sight puts one in mind of a fire, with multitudes got together, some quenching the flames and others cleaning the houses. The streets are all shaded by tents hung across, and wetted from time to time; and for the conveniency of carriage, the ground is boarded. Palaces, houses, the whole city is a warehouse; the harbour, the quays, the streets are one continued shop, and, in the midst of them, a thousand little ambulatory shops moving backwards and forwards. What sweating the heat of the dog-days, amidst such bustle and such a crowd, and in such a climate, must occasion, may easily be imagined. The ditches, the glacis, and the outworks of the city are covered with tents, huts, kitchens, and horses standing at pickets; and in every little cottage are stowed several families. The people of fashion shelter themselves in the coffee-houses, where abbes are always gallanting the ladies, and these tricked up in all their finery in the French mode.

The basis of this fair is formed by the islands and all the coasts of the Adriatic, Sicily, and a part of the Archipelago. The Albanians and Archipelago Greeks bring light jackets, waistcoats, shirts, caps, babouches or large puppets, wax, honey, &c. An Albanian vessel had a lading of tar in goat-skins, the greater part of which, whether ill made or rotten, burst in bringing them from the harbour to the road: so that this part of the fair was all over tar, and crowded with people scrambling for it.

Nigrior Illyrica tunc pice portus erat .

The Greeks speak Italian or make use of the Lingua Franca : a harsh compound of Greek, Italian, and Provençal, the three smoothest languages now in being. By their air and countenance they appear as good people as on would wish to deal with: every one lay dozing on the pavement, his body being a kind of fence to his little shop, and thus fold away without changing his situation. In all other dealers the national air might be distinguished at first sight. The Lombard, the Swiss, and the Lyonese, called to every one that passed by to see what they liked, eagerly displayed all his shop, exacted beyond all reason, but very complaisantly thanked the least customer. The Hollander was wholly taken up with the disposition of his shop, placing, and brushing and cleaning every piece. The Romanese and Sicilian, leaning with his belly against his counter, with his hat thrust down to his eyes, and his hands across in the sleeves of the opposite arm, was ruminating on his accounts. The fullen and haughty Englishman shewed what goods were asked him, at the same time naming the price, and, on any appearance of haggling, hastily put them up again, and took t'other turn in his shop.

I saw two Frenchmen there, one an abbe, taken up, like us, with viewing the fair; the other having bought a fillet of a pretty Grecian woman was for adding to it two small ribbons, and desired her to favour him so far as to sew them to the two ends of the large ribbon. These words were no sooner out of his mouth, than out came, over the Grecian beauty's shoulder, a brawny arm naked to the elbow, holding up to the abbe's nose a fist with the fore-finger erect, and at the same time accompanied with a fierce voice, Signor no , from her indignant husband, to whom that ugly arm belonged.

On the third day of the fair the Venetian commander of the Gulph appeared off Sinigaglia in his proper ship, accompanied with some smaller gallies. Every year he makes this appearance, under pretence of protecting the fair, but rather to recieve a settled fee paid him by the apostolic chamber, and which by Venice is looked on as an acknowledgment from the pope of its sovereignty over the Gulph. In a pretty keen expostulation about this fee, a pope asking the Venetian ambassador where were the republic's vouchers for the sovereignty of the Gulph; they are to be found, holy father, answered he, on the back of Constantine's grant. Formerly the commander of the Gulph came ashore at Sinigaglia with a numerous retinue, and spent two or three days there, during which the governor was to entertain him as a sovereign. By a new agreement, the governor goes aboard of the commander, and settles with him there: by this agreement every body is a gainer; the Venetians fit out but a very slight squadron, and it only shews itself at a distance; and the governor is rid of the incumbrance and expence of entertaining the commander and his train at Sinigaglia. If any are losers it is the mere spectators, this agreement having made a considerable diminution in the variety of the show.

We heard at the fair a smart saying of Benedict XIV. but to understand it rightly, it must be known that, in Italy, children are still taught their first lessons of politeness in a book of the famous Monsignor de la Casa, il Galatino ; and by way of reproaching any rudeness, the person is told that he has forgot his Galatino. Now Benedict had sent, by a prelate born at Sinigaglia, a set of child-bed linen, on which he had pronounced his benediction, for a new born prince in one of the first courts of Europe. This prelate, whether ignorant of the ceremonial, or from design perhaps suggested to him, had discharged his message without visiting the lord-almoner of that court, the very first person whom he ought to have visited. The almoner complained of such neglect to the king; the king wrote very earnestly about it to his ambassador at Rome; and the ambassador immediately demanded an audience, in which he did not spare the Sinigaglian prelate. Benedict, after using all the reasons which he could think of to excuse or palliate his messenger's blunder, and the ambassador still storming, he said to him, "But, my lord ambassador, be so good as to tell me, is the council of Trent admitted in France." The ambassador, conceiving the drift of this was to call another cause, and puzzle him about the object of his audience, endeavoured to shift it off; but the pope still sticking to the question, the ambassador at lenght told him, that the council of Trent, as he knew better than himself, was not admitted in France; "neither, my lord ambassador," returned the pope, "is the Galatino at Sinigaglia; Ne anche a Sinigaglia il Galatino ." This jest put an end to the difficulty, and the lord almoner, to whom it was reported, quite forgot the Italian prelate's folly, remembring only the witticism it had occasioned.

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