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Arch of Drusus,
Spoleto WP Thayer

Spoleto WP Thayer

View of the Rocca,


For more on Italian churches visit Bill Thayer's website
The Churches of Italy
Churches of Spoleto
Welcome to Spoleto
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 38,563 (2004)
Official website:
Maps: MapQuest

Spoleto, like Gubbio, Gualdo Tadino, Nocera Umbra and many other Umbrian towns and cities with whom it shares a common history, sits on the terraced slopes of the Appenines, at the end of a long, fertile valley.  Even up until Spoleto was incorporated into modern Italy in 1861, it's position was of strategic military importance to the successive "powers" who have ruled the City.

Now a city of about 38,000 people, Spoleto is known internationally as the host of the Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of the Two Worlds), which is held every year in June/July.  The festival, founded in 1958 by Gian Carlo Menotti, is perhaps the most important modern cultural event in Umbria, bringing together Italian and International artists of the highest stature.

It is not surprising that a visitor to Spoleto will find ruins, artifacts and architecture dating from the earliest bronze age period through Roman times and into the Gothic, Renaissance and modern periods.  To enjoy the city to its fullest, however, the visitor must be prepared to walk fairly steep cobbled streets.  Moreover, many of the important monuments, ruins and attractions are at some distance from the City center, so transport will be required.

Originally settled by tribal Umbrians, whose ancient city walls are still visible in some places, Spoleto came under Roman rule (though it passed from Roman hand to Roman hand during various internecine conflicts).

Spoleto was a major center on the eastern leg of the Via Flaminia, the main road from Rome to Ancona and Ravenna, and the main road used by  warring factions within the region,  and the many external armies who have invaded Italy since Roman times.

Hannibal attacked the city after his victorious battle over the Romans at Lake Trasimeno in 217 BC, but the Spoletans withstood.  So, the city remained in Roman hands until the Goths under Totila invaded in 545 AD, followed by the Longobards (Lombards) who swept down from the north and in due course established the Duchy of Spoleto (est. 570 AD) which exercised firm control over virtually all the territories east of the Tiber River.

After the passage of about 500 years of relatively stable rule, Spoleto ultimately came under the neglectful rule of the Papal States, and, with all the other lands and territories that comprised them, was made part of the modern country of Italy in 1861.  During this time the city fell into a state of decline from which it only started to extricate itself in the mid 1900s.

The attractions and monuments of Spoleto and its environs are too numerous to list, let alone describe here.  But, some of the major sites include:

  • The Duomo - constructed largely in the 12th century in the Romanesque style.  It has a rich interior, with the last fresco cycle painted by Filippo Lippi, a chapel decorated by Pinturicchio, and a porticoed facade featuring Byzantine mosaics.
  • The Arch of Drusus - built in about 23 AC as the gateway into the Roman Forum, located near the Romanesque Chiesa D'Ansano.
  • Chiesa Sant'Ansano - off the Piazza D'Ansano, rebuilt in the 18th century, featuring a Madonna and Child by Lo Spagna in the aisle-less interior.
  • Roman Theater - just off the Piazza della Liberta and accessible through the Archeological Museum, dating to the earliest days of the Roman empire.  It has "disappeared" at various times over the centuries, but has been excavated once again and made functional.
  • Piazza del Mercato - built on the site of the ancient Roman Forums.
  • Palazzo Comunale - uphill from the Piazza del Mercato.  Only the tower remains from the original 13th century building.  At the rear entrance you will find the Pinacoteca Comunale, the town's museum with many interesting artificacts and art works. Artists represented include di Cesi, Vincioli, L'Alunno, Lo Spagna and others.
  • Rocca (or Papal Fortress) - up the very steep road from the Piazza Comunale.  Built between 1359 and 1370 by Cardinal Albornoz as part of his ongoing efforts to exercise papal authority.  Architected by Matteo Gattapone.  Once used as a residence, it evolved into a barracks, then a prison.  It is being restored to its original condition.
  • Casa Romana (Roman House) - close to the Palazzo Comunale.  The floor plan remains, but various parts of the original house remain visible.
  • Archibishop's Palace and Chiesa Sant'Eufemia - Across the Pinocoteca.  The Church, built in the 12th Century, is done in the Romanesque style, and built on the Basilical plan.  Artists who have done work found in the church include Neri di Bici, Fillipo Lippi, de Cadarola and Beccafumi.
  • Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea - housed in the Palazzo Rosari-Spada. Artists represented include Italians such as Leonardi, Capograssi, Burri, Accardi and international artists such as Alexander Calder.  Calder's huge sculpture, Teodolapio, stands in the forecourt of the city's railway station.
  • Chiesa San Filippo Neri - said to be Umbria's finest Baroque style church.  Art works include works by Algardi, Conca and Lapis da Cagli.

There are many other churches,  public buildings and monuments within the city, but there are a few important sites outside as well.

  • Chiesa San Salvatore - an imposing preaching church done on the basilical plan, just to the north of the city.  It was probably built on the foundations of a paleochristian foundation dating as far back as the 4th century.  A large part of a Roman temple, including a dozen columns situated as they were in antiquity, is incorporated in the interior of the church.
  • The Ponte delle due Torri - a graceful and expansive bridge of 10 arches, 80 meters high above the Tessino River and 230 meters long.  Originally thought to be a Roman aqueduct, it is now thought to have been built in the 12th century to supply water to the Rocca.

By Vian Andrews, April 15th, 2006

Umbria Region

4244′N 1244′E



63km (39 miles) SE of Perugia; 212km (131 miles) SE of Florence; 126km (78 miles) N of Rome; 20 km (12 mi) S. of Trevi and 29 km (18 mi) N. of Terni.

396 m. above sea level
4244′ N 1244′ E



Ponte della due Torri

Sant'Eufemia, Spoleto