Spoleto in 1300 was chosen by the Spanish cardinal Gil Alvarez Carrillo de Albornoz as a diplomatic-strategic outpost for the reconquest of the territories lost by the Papal States and to restore peace and order to the surrounding places.
Spoleto: charm and beauty
As evidence of this, the mighty fortress with its many towers built on the top of Monte Sant’Elia by the master builder Matteo di Giovannello, known as Gattapone, still emerges throughout the village.
If then the city was chosen as the cornerstone of papal power during the exile of the popes in Avignon, six hundred years later, in the second half of the twentieth century, it was the Lombard composer Gian Carlo Menotti who chose Spoleto as the venue for an event of shows, exhibitions and big names.
This is the Festival dei Due Mondi, whose vital center became the Caio Melisso theater, the nineteenth-century jewel with 300 seats designed by Giovanni Montiroli that overlooks one of the most beautiful squares in the world, where the splendid facade of the Duomo is from the backdrop with the monumental bell tower of the XII century.
The construction of the Cathedral of the Assumption was begun around 1175 and finished in 1220, but the facade, illuminated by the large mosaic of the blessing Christ, is from the sixteenth century. Inside, the famous apse frescoed with scenes from the Life of Mary by Filippo Lippi and an interesting original 12th century geometric mosaic floor that covers most of the central nave.
We began our visit from Piazza della Libertà, which we reached via the mechanized pedestrian path after leaving the car at the Spoletosfera parking lot.
On the square overlooks the Palazzo Ancajani, seat of the Italian Center for Studies on the Early Middle Ages and, through a grating, you can admire the Roman Theater of the first century, on the scene of which the church of S. Agata and the palace of the Corvi family. In 1395 the Benedictine nuns settled in Palazzo Corvi and the theater, now underground, became the cloister of the monastery. It was explored for the first time in 1891 by the Spoleto archaeologist Giuseppe Sordini and brought to light with systematic excavations between 1954 and 1960.
Having taken Corso Mazzini, you can decide to continue on this road, the destination of the “walks” of the Spoleto people, or enter a maze of alleys such as via dello Sdrucciolo which leads to via dell’Arco di Druso e Germanico built in 23 AD in honor of their victories on the Rhine.
On the left is the lively Piazza del Mercato overlooked by the Fonte di Piazza, a public fountain built in 1746 by the architect Costantino Fiaschietti on behalf of the Municipality of Spoleto.
From here you can take via dei Duchi, flanked by medieval shops, while going up again on the left stands the Palazzo Comunale with the intact thirteenth-century tower and then you reach the tree-lined Piazza Campello, which acts as a link between the walled city and the Rocca and where the Fontana del Mascherone is located, which still collects the fresh and pure water that comes down from the mountain.
Going down, the scenic view of the Cathedral opens up with the road leading to the square on which the apses of Sant’Eufemia and the graffiti facade of the Renaissance Palazzo Racani-Arroni look out.
Continuing, look out into the courtyard of the Bishop’s Palace where the church of Sant’Eufemia is hidden, one of the most notable examples of Umbrian Romanesque.
The Rocca Albornoziana, with its eight towers, represents the highest point of the city and was built by Gattapone together with the Ponte delle Torri, 80 meters high and 230 meters long, which joins the banks of the chasm of the Tessino valley and connects the city to the Monteluco, with its ancient holm oak wood which has always been protected. From the top of its walls you can admire the panorama of the “low” Spoleto that extends along the Tessino stream and in which the Torre dell’Olio stands out, the highest in the town, so called because from here it flowed, to defensive purposes, boiling oil on enemies.
In addition to looking at the imposing 10 arches of the bridge from the top of the fortress, our suggestion is to admire them from the other side where there is the Fortilizio dei Mulini, garrison of the aqueduct where the waters fed two municipal mills before being conveyed along the bridge. On the road you pass in front of the church of San Pietro fuori le Mura, one of the most famous in Umbria: its bas-reliefs narrate legends from medieval encyclopedias and are considered masterpieces of the Umbrian Romanesque school.
We will certainly not be the first nor the last, but Spoleto has bewitched us! And we left the charming town already with the desire to come back soon to complete our visit by deepening it through the museum itinerary that includes the State Archaeological Museum housed in the former monastery of Sant’Agata with the Roman Theater adjoining, the Rocca Albornoziana which houses the National Museum of the Duchy of Spoleto, the Roman House found under the Town Hall, and Palazzo Collicola which, in addition to being the seat of the “Giovanni Carandente” Museum of Contemporary Art, is itself noteworthy both for the architecture similar to the contemporary Roman Baroque palaces and the furniture and splendid eighteenth-century tapestries, manufactured in Flanders, coming from the inheritance of Queen Christina of Sweden.
And finish with two goodies: find the Baciafemmine alley, one of the narrowest in Italy, just half a meter wide near the Duomo, and visit the Basilica of San Salvatore, of exceptional historical and artistic value so as to be included in 2011 among the Heritage UNESCO World Cup as part of the serial site The Lombards in Italy. The places of power (568-774 AD), which includes the most important Lombard monumental testimonies existing on the Italian territory.