by Catherine Schofield Sezgin
Reconstruction of the current Porta Romana began in 1592 and took 47 years. However, the brick sentry box dates from the 14th century. The plaque above the arch honored Santa Maria Assunta in 1703 after a big earthquake left the historic center unharmed and devastated the surrounding area. The town's coat of arms is a blue shield embossed with the letters, APCA, topped by a royal crown, and followed by two braches of faro (also known as spelt). The ancient wood door is closed for a few minutes every August on a Saturday evening during a medieval procession of town members in wool costumes that commemorates the Statuti Amerini which turned this formerly free town into a papal city. Where a drawbridge used to defend the town during the Middle Ages, a ditch is now filled with dirt and plants. A drawing of the town in 1700 shows the drawbridge at the Porta Romana and all the other buildings seen today, including the walls of the garden of the Palazzo Farrattini. Outside the gate today is a round mirror set at an angle for car drivers and pedestrians to see around the corner to pass safely into town.
To the south, the Porta Romana opens onto the Piazza XXI Septembre, the busiest intersection in town with four roads leading to other parts of Umbria such as Orvieto, Terni and Narni, Orte, and as far as Roma. An apartment above the arch of the Porta Romana opens its windows north into the historic center onto the shops lining Via della Repubblica.
Tomorrow I will post my favorite photos of a few of the local men sitting on the wall adjacent to the Porta Romana. They sit in the sun, talk, and watch the world go by. And although they had never smiled at me all the day I ran in and out of the Porta Romana, they smiled for the camera when I asked and I am quite fond of the photo -- and of course, them.