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Walls by the River, Foligno

Foligno, Palazzo Republica

San Feliciano, Duomo of Foligno


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Churches of Umbria
Welcome to Foligno
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 52,300 (2003)
Official website:
Wikipedia: Foligno

Maps: MapQuest

Foligno sits half way between Perugia to the north west and Spoleto to the south, at a point where the road forks in numerous directions. You can head north toward Gualdo-Tadino, Gubbio, and Ancona, or east toward Colfiorito in the mountains, or Civitanova Marche on the Adriatic coast.  In Umbria, Foligino has a reputation as a city of some elegance and flair, and is very worth taking the time to visit.

The city sits on the banks of the Topino River, where it emerges from the Appenine mountains into a broad and fertile plain.  Bevagna and Montefalco are nearby.  Like Bevagna, Foligno has a level landscape, and is an easy stroll for travelers.

Surrounding its ancient, but busy medieval heart, is a spreading, industrial city (timber, paper, printing, sugar refining, textiles, machinery, metallurgy).  It is, alas, spreading into the adjacent wetlands and into the agricultural area that would themselves still be malarial marshlands if it were not for the immense amount of drainage work that has been done on an intermittent basis since Roman times.

While Foligno does not have the touristic charm of many other Umbrian towns and cities, it is well worth a visit.  At its center you will find a great little shopping district, and a few good restaurants and cafes.  And, at the center of it all, you will find the Piazza della Republica and the adjacent Piazza Duomo.

The Palazzo Comunale, the city hall, built in the 13th century, sits at the junction of four streets, and so reveals itself almost completely to the onlooker.   The Duomo, built (like the city hall) between 1262 and 1265 in the Romanesque tradition, features an on enormous rose window over its main portal, flanked by two smaller rose window on either side of the portal.  The Duomo is named for San Feliciano, Foligno's patron saint.

Other interesting medieval buildings include the Pretorio Palace, Orfini Palace and the Trinci Palace, home of the Municipal Picture Gallery, Library and Archaeological Museum, all of which have deteriorated over the centuries, but all of which display fragments of their old majesty.

The Church of Santa Maria Infraportas, also done in the Romanesque style, has a stunning campanile (bell tower), a Gothic portico done in the 11th Century, and an interior featuring fine frescoes from the 15th and 16th Centuries.

Beyond the city, about 5 km to the east there is another place you might want to explore.  The Benedictine Abbey of Sassovivo, built in the 13th Century, is capable, for those with spiritual sensibilities, of arousing a sense of early Catholic mysticism and boasts a cloister consisting of over 125 slim and elegant columns. 

If you are an aficionado of Italian festivals, come to Foligno in early September for the elaborate and thrilling Tournament di Quintana, dating from the 14th century.  Bedecked in medieval costumes, cavaliers and horses representing ten local paesi, each carry a lance and charge the effigy of an ancient enemy trying to pick a small ring hanging from its outstretched arm.  As the tournament continues, the number of riders are reduced and the ring gets smaller, until a winner emerges.

The celebration continues into the evening with a parade of notables, also in costume, proceed to the Palazzo della Republica, closed off for the occasion, accompanied by period music and dancing.  The festival goers party long into the night, imbibing local wines (very good!), and partaking of the plentiful, robust and tasty Umbrian foods arrayed on groaning tables placed 'round the square.

The Quintana is not the only festival event in Foligno.  Come in January and you can participate in the Festival of Santa Feliciano Humorfest, a festival devoted to satire, runs through August into early September.  The Segni Barocchi, a music and theater festival, like the Quintana is also in September.

In historical and even in contemporary terms, the importance of the geographic location of Foligno should not be underestimated.

The city was original settled by Umbri tribes as long ago as 800 BC, but after the defeat of the Umbrians at Sentino in 295 BC, came under Roman domination. The Romans called the town Fulginae, after one of their cult goddesses, Fulginia, and in due course, the city gained status as a Roman municipium, and an important town along the Via Flaminia, the all important road leading from Rome to Ancona.

During the decline of Rome and for centuries later, its position on the ancient road put the city in the way of all advancing and retreating armies.  Among other outrages, it has been conquered, sacked, burned to the ground, and leveled by Saracens, Huns and Longobards, the latter of whom folded it into the Duchy of Spoleto.

During the 12th and 13th centuries, like many cities of in Umbria and Tuscany, Foligno got caught-up in the conflict between imperial and papal forces.  It was instinctively a Ghibelline (pro imperial) city, but as the conflict played itself out, found itself intermittently under the control of the Guelph (pro papal) faction.  Ultimately, it came under papal control within the Papal States, where it remained until the Unification of Italy in 1860.  It suffered during the Napoleonic conques, and suffered again during World War II, at the hands of the Nazis, and then the Allies.

If man-made mayhem were not enough, Foligno has also endured its share of natural disasters, including destruction by earthquake on several occasions.  But the Folignese are durable people, and time after time, the city, and its principal buildings, have been rebuilt.  Think of that, as you, the contemporary traveler, walk the streets of the city.

by Vian Andrews November 14th, 2005

Umbria Region



Car:  40 km (25 mi) south-east of Perugia, 10 km (6 mi) north-north-west of Trevi and 6 km (4 mi) south of Spello.  12 km north of Bevagna; 25 km north west of Montefalco.


The Madonna of Foligno, Raphael


Foligno has long been known as a center for the printing industry.    The first copy of the Poet Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy was printed on April 11th, 1472.


Tournament di Quintana