NARNI claims to be the geographical centre of Italy, with a hilltop site jutting into the Nera Valley on a majestic spur and crowned by another of Cardinal Albornoz’s formidable papal fortresses. Commanding one end of a steep gorge (about ten minutes of fairly spectacular train travel), it was once the gateway into Umbria, the last post before the Tiber Valley and the undefended road to Rome. However, while the town retains a fine medieval character, the views from its heights are marred by steel and chemical works around Narni Scalo, the new town in the valley below.
The heart of the old town has all the standard fittings: the medieval piazzas, the warren of streets, a modest art gallery, the usual crop of Romanesque churches and a huge rocca, open for occasional events. There’s a Roman bridge on the outskirts, the subject of considerable local hype; when Goethe arrived in Narni in the middle of the night he was peeved not to have seen it but he was only missing a solitary arch in the middle of the river – just as easily viewed from the train.