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Panorama, Citta di Castello

Santuario della Madonna di Belvedere

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Castello di Podesta, Citta di Castello


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The Churches of Citta di Costello
Churches of Umbria

Local website:

Welcome to Citta di Castello
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 37,842 (2003)
Official website:
Citta di Castello
Wikipedia: Citta di Castello

Maps: MapQuest

Citta di Castello sits on the flood plain of the most northerly reaches of the Tiber River and so the Romans called it Tifernum Tiberinum, Tifernum on the Tiber.  The Ostrogoths under King Totila destroyed it, and when it was rebuilt it was named Castrum Felicitatus.  Later it became Civitas Castelli, which in Latin is close to its present Italian designation.

Citta di Castello, which probably had its genesis as a settlement of the Umbri people (though it may have been Etruscan) is surrounded by low, rounded hills, and enclosed by walls built in the 16th Century walls.  Unlike the buildings and walls of other Umbrian cities, the buildings and walls here are largely brick because the local sandstone is not durable.

Today, Citta di Castello, like the larger Umbrian City of Perugia is a busy, sophisticated city, that has expanded mostly toward the north beyond its walls, following the Tiber, where one finds most of its industrial activity (ceramics, furniture, farm machinery, textiles).

It is well worth a visit to soak in the urbane atmoshphere that exists within its medieval precincts, and to explore its many notable buildings and monuments.  More on those presently, but now, a little history:

During Roman times, when the City was a flourishing municipium of the Empire, Pliny the Younger, as superintendent of the Tiber River, constructed beautiful temples and public buildings, but alas, most were destroyed by Totila.

Like other cities in Umbria, the City fell under a succession of rulers, including the Longobards and the Holy Roman Empire. During the middle ages it became a great comune - or free city of the Guelph persuasion (supporters of the Papacy) that extended its power over a large area.  The comune, however, was essentially under the control of either Perugia, or Florence for most of this period in its history.

When the comune system started to degenerate into the Signori system, a number of powerful families contested for control, but by the end of the 15th Century, the Vitelli family prevailed.

During the 15th and 16th Century many of Citta di Castello's principal buildings were constructed, and many of its churches either refurbished or built.  Artisans and artists of the greatest reputation were commissioned to do work in the City, including Rafael, Signorelli and Vasari.

Ultimately, after the Florentine, Cesare Borgia, acting on behalf of the Pope, had the patriarch of the Vitelli family strangled, the City found itself within the Papal States, where it remained, except for a short time during the Napoleonic conquest, until the Unification of Italy in 1861.

Not much is left from Roman days.  But there are many outstanding medieval buildings including the Palazzo Comunale, built in the 14th Century in the Gothic style and the adjacent Torre Comunale.  The Cathedral, dedicated to two saints (Florido and Amanzio) has ancient origins (11th Century) but has been so re-worked that its appearance is a bit of a jumble.  The upper part of the facade is from the Renaissance, the lower from the Baroque period. The Gothic bell tower is from the 13th Century.

The Pinacoteca Comunale - Civic Museum - contains some important and fascinating Renaissance Art, including the "Canoscio Hoard", a set of silver tableware with Christian motifs.

On the Piazza Matteotti sits the Palazzo del Podesta, originally built in the Gothic style it now has a front along the Corso Cavour that was remodeled in the Baroque style in the 17th Century.

The Gothic Church San Domenico with an unfinished ogival portal and with a number of 15th Century frescoes inside, was also started in the late part of the 13th Century.  Yet  another Gothic church, Santa Maria Maggiore, was also given a Renaissance portal.

The other Gothic church in Citta di Castello, San Francesco, was erected between 1273 and 1291. The Vitelli chapel, designed by Vasari, and a magnificent choir stall were added in the 16th Century.  One of Raphael's masterpieces, Lo Sposalizio della Vergine, used to hang in the church but it has long since been moved to Milano.

The municipal picture gallery is housed in the Palazzo Vitelli Alla Cannoniera.  Vasari is responsible for some of its interior decoration.

Throughout the city, there are numerous cafes, restaurants, art galleries and high end shops, plus a smattering of night clubs for those who like to cut a rug.

Travelers and tourists, who are just now beginning to discover Umbria, are moving beyond its principal cities Perugia, Assisi and Spoleto, and are finding its smaller cities, including Citta di Castello.  They are finding places that for now are less hectic,  more comprehensible, and in many ways more enjoyable than their more famous conterparts.  Put a visit to Citta di Castello in your plans before the hordes of present day Barbarians find it.

by Vian Andrews, September 18th, 2005

Umbria Region



Car: North from Perugia (46 km) and South from Cesena (104 km)on the S3bis. A1 South from Florence (110 km) or North from Rome (271 km) to Arezzo then the SS73 to Citta di Castello.
Train/Bus: line from Perugia
Air: Florence or Rome Airports 




Night scene, Citta di Castello