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San Leo, once known as Montefeltro, is located in the Marecchia Valley (main road SS. 258) on top of a huge rocky crag, surrounded on all sides by steep cliffs, 589 m above sea level, (639 m the fortress). Because of its impregnable position, the town has always been at the centre of numerous civil, military, religious and political events. In the 4th century, it was evangelized by St. Leo and after the fall of the Roman empire, it was fought over by the Goths, Greeks, Longobards and Franks, passing in the end to the Church. Between 962 and 964 AD, under Berengarius II, it became the capital of Italy and was the site of the hard-fought battle between Berengarius and the German Emperor, Otto I.
Subsequently, the town became a diocese, a county seat, a republic, a vicariate, and finally capital of the "Feretrana" province; today, it is simply a town in the province of Pesaro. It was in San Leo that, in 1155, Montefeltrano I founded the house of Montefeltro. Later, the town passed under the Malatestas before being won back in 1441 by the future Federico III of Montefeltro. In 1502-1503, it was captured by Cesare Borgia, in 1516 by Lorenzo de' Medici (who took it from Francesco Maria della Rovere, to whom it returned in 1527), and from 1631 to 1860 it was incorporated into the papal State (apart from the Napoleonic period and the riots of 1831). The town's most important monuments include: the Fortress (15th century), enlarged by Francesco di Giorgio Martini by order of Federico da Montefeltro, which the humanist Pietro Bembo called "the most beautiful and grand instrument of war in the area" (today it is the site of a museum and picture gallery); the Parish Church (9th-11th century); the Cathedral (1173); the Franciscan Convent of St. Igne (1244).
Among the many famous men to visit San Leo were Dante Alighieri, who mentioned it in his Divine Comedy, and St. Francis of Assisi, who held a sermon in the town and who was presented here with Mount Verna as a gift (1213). Cagliostro ended his days inside the fortress. The town also offers beautiful views of the surrounding countryside, into which it blends so discreetly.
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