Spello, Spoleto e Vallo di Nera – Umbria

SPELLO

Hill towns are not exactly thin on the ground in central Italy. But Spello is more of a hillside town, its interlocked stone houses striding up a spur of Saint Francis’s mountain, Monte Subasio. The splendidly intact town walls are draped around the centro storico like a necklace.

“Hispellum” was originally a Roman settlement – it lay on the Via Flaminia consular road, close to the strategic junction for Perugia. The most impressive remnant of this stage of the town’s history, apart from the walls themselves, is the Porta Venere, an Augustan-era gate flanked by two 12-sided towers, standing in magnificent isolation on the west side of town.

Most of the other sights are strung out along Via Cavour, the main street, beginning with Santa Maria Maggiore. This church has a finely sculpted medieval portal, but the real treat is inside: the Cappella Baglioni side-chapel is decorated by one of Pinturicchio‘s most joyous and colourful fresco cycles, painted in 1501 for the powerful Baglioni family and centred on the birth and childhood of Jesus. There, in the Disputation in the Temple, is the priore Troilo Baglioni himself, looking decidedly smug as he considers his 15 minutes of time-travel fame. Next to him is the church treasurer, holding a bulging money bag.

Nearby there’s a decent civic art gallery and a couple of other worthwhile churches, but Spello’s real pleasures, apart from its two standout sights, are the civilised pace of life of the town and the lovely Subasio marble from which it is built, which takes on a peach-pink hue around sunrise and sunset.

Do not miss the most representative event of Spello, the Infiorata, a Flower Festival of Corpus Christi held between May and June . Every year the streets of Spello turn into a wonderful , spectacular, huge carpet of flowers that exceeds 1.5 km. The downtown streets are decorated with paintings of sacred art made with flower petals, a unique event for the religious tourism that has turned Spello in the ” capital of the flowers”.

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SPOLETO

This former Roman municipium, later capital of a Lombard duchy, is an Umbrian town perched on a hillside crowned by the Popes’ fortress. Austere in appearance, Spoleto, a town dear to St Francis, is best explored on foot, where visitors can discover its winding alleys, palaces and medieval monuments. A dance, music and theatre festival is held here every summer.

Inhabited since prehistoric times, the lower parts of its wall are from the 6th century BC. The first Roman settlement, Spoletium, began in 241 BC and there are Roman remnants throughout the historic center. The town is built on a hillside with most of the sites in the compact upper town. Above the town is a medieval Rocca and spanning the deep gorge to one side of the Rocca is the most famous sight, Ponte delle Torri or Bridge of Towers.
Ponte delle Torri, Bridge of the Towers, is a 14th century bridge built over the foundation of a Roman aqueduct. The bridge is about 750 feet long and at the highest point it’s 262 feet above the gorge. Across the bridge is a small fortification tower. You can usually walk on the bridge for breath-taking views of the valley and gorge below.
Rocca Albornoziana, near the bridge, sits on the hilltop above Spoleto. Currently, you can visit only with a guided tour. Tours are given about once an hour and some English tours are scheduled daily, check at the ticket office. A shuttle bus takes you to the entrance where you’ll also have a nice view over the valley. Rocca Albornoziana was built on the foundation of the Roman acropolis in the 14th century and served as the seat for local pontifical governors. It has six towers, two large courtyards, and some beautiful frescoes. Inside there’s a museum and during summer there are often performances.

Piazza del Duomo and the Duomo are at the foot of a scenic stairway. Erected on the site of a primitive Christian temple, the original Duomo was built in the 12th century. It’s Romanesque facade was remodeled during the Renaissance and now has beautiful pink stone, 8 rose windows, and gold mosaics. Above the entrance is a Bernini bust of Pope Urban VIII and there are some good 15th century frescoes in the apse. The Teatro Caio Melisso, one of Italy’s first theaters, is on one side of the square.
Piazza del Mercato, one of Spoleto’s central squares, was once the site of the Roman Forum. There’s an interesting fountain built 1746-1748. Around the square you’ll find bars, gelato, and some restaurants. The Roman Arch of Drusus, built in 23AD was the entrance to the Roman Forum. Nearby is an ancient temple under what is now the Church of S. Ansano.
Casa Romana, the Roman house, is just above Piazza del Mercato. The Casa Romana is believed to have been the house of Vespasia Polla, mother of Emperor Vespasian who was responsible for building the Roman Colosseum. The house is built around an atrium and has mosaic floors and traces of frescoes.
The Roman Theater was built in the first century. Combined with the theater is the Archeology Museum with Bronze age, Iron age, and Roman exhibits. The theater is now used as a venue during the Festa dei Due Mondi.
San Salvatore Church, outside the city walls, dates from the 4th century and is part of theWorld Heritage site, Longobards in Italy.

VALLO DI NERA

The history of Vallo di Nera dates back to 1217, when the city of Spoleto granted the people of Vallo permission to construct a castle on the hill along the left side of the Nera river in order to defend the valley. To this day the fortress-village has preserved its medieval elliptic urban layout

The imposing town walls and the ancient towers embrace the light-colored stone houses, set along the steep alleyways, interrupted only by arches and underpasses. Two symmetrical gates, Portella and Portaranne, give access to the pedestrian fortress-village.

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One comment to Spello, Spoleto e Vallo di Nera – Umbria

  • Berenice  says:

    Grazie da Vallo di Nera!

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