In our Quick Guide to Spoleto, we bring you the highlights of this Umbrian town. Many ask whether it’s worth visiting Spoleto – the answer is a qualified yes.
And the main reason it is yes to visiting Spoleto is simple, there are layers of history in a town that now stands in the shadow of Perugia, but was once of far more import.
Goethe, who visited the city in 1786, said, “I climbed Spoleto, and was on the aqueduct, which is also a bridge from one mountain to another. Through all their centuries, the ten brick arches which reach across the valley have stood there so quietly, and the water still flows in every corner of Spoleto.”
From its early Roman remains through the medieval and Renaissance, Spoleto is a town quietly reveling in its past. And that’s another reason to visit, it is largely unspoiled by hordes of tourists and the inevitable haunts they attract. It’s one of the reasons the popular TV series Don Matteo is filmed there.
Roaming the old town is wondrous with centuries old buildings lining the, at times, rather steep streets. That said, there are some monuments that it would be a shame to miss.
What to see in Spoleto
Rocca Albornoziana – imposing fortress on Colle Sant’Elia, strategically placed to view across the whole Spoleto valley. Its construction started in 1359 and it belongs to a series of fortresses whose construction was ordered by Pope Innocent VI to re-affirm the papal authority in central Italy.
Ponte delle Torri – 80 m tall and 230 m long, it worked as aqueduct. Nowadays, it serves as a bridge between the city centre and Monteluco.
Piazza del Duomo and the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta – a beautiful square in Spoleto, interesting buildings, palaces, churches and places of culture fill the piazza. Descending the stairs, the cathedral (duomo) of Spoleto is head of you.
Roman Theatre and State Archaeological Museum – the 1st century Roman theatre is part of the archaeological museum complex. It still hosts performances.
Ponte Sanguinario – originally a Roman bridge that fell into disuse. It was uncovered and reinterred and is now accessed via a stairway as it is totally underground.
Basilica of San Salvatore – In 2011, UNESCO added the Basilica of San Salvatore to its World Heritage List as part of the serial site “The Longobards in Italy. Places Of Power (568-774 AD)”.
Palazzo Collicola – commissioned by cardinal Francis Collicola and built in the early 18th century, Palazzo Collicola is now a contemporary art gallery.
Roman House – dating to the first century AD, it still maintains the typical layout of patrician houses between the end of the Republican period and the beginning of the Empire. It also has beautiful floor mosaics.
A brief history of Spoleto
Spoleto dates back over 2500 years when the Huns founded it. Later, in 241 BC, Spoleto became a colony of the Roman empire. It was then it took the name ‘Spoletium’. The Roman theatre, as we mentioned above, dates from this period of the city’s history.
In the 4th century with S. Brizio, first bishop of Spoleto, the city became an episcopal seat. Many churches and monasteries date from this time.
During the Lombard rule and also under the Holy Roman Empire, the city became a duchy. It became a sought-after seat, with the Franks and the Church State battling over it. The Church State won out in 1240.
When the Papal States were annexed to France in 1809, Spoleto became capital of the new Trasimeno Department.