History: A Capuchin Monastery Turned Art School
La Romita, situated on a hillside above the city of Terni, Italy, in the region of Umbria, was established in 1548 as a monastery by the Capuchin Order of Friars Minor. It remained an active monastery until the early 19th century. La Romita was considered a “poor” monastery because the Capuchins, like the Franciscans from whom they evolved, lived primarily from alms and charitable offerings of the communities they served. Church archives show that the Capuchin friars at La Romita at one time produced the coarse-woven woolen cloth used for the Order’s robes.
The grandparents of signora Amina Quargnali (the mother of school founders Enza and Paola Quargnali) purchased La Romita a few years after the monks left, and it was used for many years as the family’s summer home and farm, primarily for olive tree cultivation and olive oil production. Some of the olive trees at La Romita are over 300 years old!
La Romita School of Art first opened in 1966, under the guidance of Enza Quargnali, as the summer art program of Rockford College in Illinois. For over 50 years people have stayed at La Romita, painting the landscape, people, and towns in the beautiful Umbrian hill country, whose radiant golden light has charmed artists since the days of Perugino and his famous pupil, Rafael. Although there have been many modifications and revisions over the centuries, much of the original structure remains intact.
The participants sleep in two floors in rooms that open off a gallery aisle. Housing is dormitory style, with two people sharing each (large) room: a few single rooms are also available. Interestingly, when La Romita was an active monastery these rooms were most probably the library and guest rooms for visiting religious dignitaries: the cells where the monks slept no longer exist.