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San Leo and the elixir of long life

June 22nd 2011

The elixir of long life recipe may be hidden in one of the most picturesque and yet undiscovered towns of central Italy, just as the secret formula which made its inventor famous all over Europe.

An "undiscovered" site, the town of San Leo is located on the hills only a few kilometres from the crowded and lively Riviera of Emilia Romagna.

How this gem can be overlooked by the traditional tourist trails is maybe due to the proximity to other attractions such as San Marino, which conveys most of the attention due to its independent republic status. San Leo, however, has a unique charm which can be compared only to the most famous Tuscan towns of Pienza, San Giminiano or other towns in the Chianti region.

San Leo dominates the valley with its imposing fortress built on a rock with dramatic vertical drops at its back. For this reason San Leo has been in time a Roman site with a temple dedicated to Jupiter, a fortress in the Middle Ages, and a prison from XVII century.

The famous alchemist and adventurer Giuseppe Balsamo, also known as Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, was imprisoned there in 1791 where he died four years later. An enigmatic character, Cagliostro was famous in his time all across Europe, getting involved in all sorts of frauds and plots, such as the Affair of the Diamond Necklace at the court of Queen Antoinette of France. He was also a mystifier making people believe he could cure all types of diseases thanks to his potions, he also claimed he could transform lead into gold and finally that he knew the formula of the eternal life elixir.

His legend survives and San Leo remembers this eccentric figure with events and firework displays which take place every year on his death anniversary at the end of August. In addition to this, there is also a good production of recipies bearing his name and a famous “long life elixir” which is a rather nice and fruity liqueur!

San Leo hosts events of other type from spring till late autumn, with music and theatre shows, food and wine festivals, art exhibitions and medieval pageants.

Food and wine culture in Emilia Romagna are taken at their highest expression, a gourmet is spoilt for choice at the several restaurants and “trattorias” in San Leo: traditional homemade pasta, superb truffles, the typical “piadine”, without forgetting the mouth-watering “formaggio di fossa” cheese, a tasty and aromatic cheese produced locally. Wine connoisseurs won’t be disappointed by the local wines such as Sangiovese, with its mature and tannic taste (this is the grape variety which is at the basis of Chianti), or the whites such as Albana and Trebbiano, but maybe the most unusual is the “Pagadebit” very fruity and ideal with desserts!

In terms of things to do there are plenty of activities and interesting itineraries in the area where San Leo is situated, the Val Marecchia, a valley which connects Emilia Romagna to Tuscany. Other pretty towns and villages worth a visit are Verucchio, Torriana and Montebello with the so-called “Azzurrina” castle and its ghost. Cycling, trekking and horse riding are made very special by the unspoilt nature and the scenic beauty of the region.

The secret of long life might in the end lie in the tranquil lifestyle, the excellent food and the amazing location of this town. For those who want to find a retreat here or even run a small guest house activity we have the perfect property for sale:

View a video of San Leo:

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