Scenes and stories from a small town in the hills of Italy's Le Marche region

Marquesa: A symbol of charity in Camerano


CAMERANO, Italy -- Every morning, the Marquesa Mancinforte walks to Mass at 7:30. She carries with her a small shopping bag that holds Bibles with photos tucked inside. Some of the photos have inscriptions on them recognizing and thanking her for her kindness. After 30 minutes of prayer, songs and Communion, she walks back toward her house and garden. Sometimes, she buys a newspaper in a store on the ground floor of what had been the family mansion or palazzo of her late husband, Marchese Giancarlo Mancinforte.

VIDEO: Life of the Marquesa in Camerano, Italy

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The Marquesa opens her window to the garden, All' Italiano. Photo by Melissa Masar

Fausta Maria Gaggiotti was born Nov. 20, 1927, in Ancona, the major city near Camerano. She met her husband, a descendant of a noble family, at her aunt’s house. They married a year later in 1951. She realized she had a great role to fill after the marriage, when she assumed the honorary title of Marquesa, honorary because Italy had abolished royalty, and nobility, after World War II.

Her husband’s family, the Manciforte, came from Ancona but moved to Camerano in the 19th century and owned much of the land and wielded great influence in the town. Her husband died earlier this year of Parkinson’s disease.

When asked about the Marquesa’s role in the community today, Camerano’s mayor, Carmine Di Giacomo, called her “a symbol of charity.” Informed of his comment, she replied, “With power comes responsibility.” When she committed to her husband in marriage, she said, she also took on a commitment to the community.

Inside the family mansion is an open and lush garden, surrounded by four buildings. The garden is All’ Italiano, reflecting the Italian Renaissance style. A statue of a woman stands in the center with paths leading to it from four sides. Sometimes concerts are held in the garden. Couples who are marrying often have wedding photos taken there, and the Marquesa sometimes takes advantage of the opportunity to speak to them about the importance of marriage.

The two buildings that run perpendicular to the main street of the piazza are older than the one in which the Marquesa now lives. While these buildings are beautiful, she noted that the property taxes on buildings are high, so she rents out some of the space.

The garden, All' Italiano, is closed in by four buildings including the home of the Marquesa. Photo by Melissa Masar

The part of the family mansion where she lives overlooks the piazza. Furniture and decorations from the 18th and 19th centuries, collected by her mother-in-law, adorn the rooms. The color scheme is dark and rich in gold, navy and dark red. The floor is elaborately designed and covered in white strips of material that act as a walkway. Inside the bedrooms are large beds with crucifixes hanging on the wall above. Everything remains in the same place her mother-in-law left it, she says.

The house also has two kitchens, one for summer and one for winter. In summer, the Marquesa makes lemonade from the lemon tree in the garden and graciously offers a glass to visitors. A coat of arms hangs in the stairwell. It is divided into four parts, one of which shows the dolphin, which represents her husband’s family.

Below, on the ground floor, is the office where she worked with her husband, who was a dentist. As they had no children, she specifically helped in the office to calm the fears of children.

Underneath the mansion are the caves and tunnels, or Le Grotte, of Camerano. When asked if she had been in them, the Marquesa says laughingly, that she’s claustrophobic and would go only once she’d died. She has her wedding ring on her right hand. Her father’s watch is wrapped around her left wrist. She wears only these two pieces of jewelry, reflecting her simplicity and attachment to her departed husband and father.

As the Marquesa sits in the garden, she talks about life with her late husband, charity and church. Photo by Melissa Masar

Throughout the home of the Marquesa, there are several doors that offer an entrance into the Italian Renaissance style garden. Photo by Melissa Masar

The Marquesa's 18th and 19th century
furniture and decorations have been
untouched since her mother-in-law's
decorating. Photo by Melissa Masar
The Marquesa heads out to the lush garden towards then end of the evening. Photo by Melissa Masar
The Marquesa talks about her husband
who passed away in February of
Parkinson's disease.
Photo by Melissa Masar

Story by: Katie Clayton, Photos by: Melissa Masar, Video by: Caroline Powers, Web Design by: Melissa Masar
Camerano 2006

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