History of Pietralunga, Italy

See Pietralunga guide for highlights and historic monuments

Pietralunga in antiquity - Forum Iulii Concubiense

We have certain evidence about the historical antiquity of Pietralunga, as demonstrated by the archaeological remains of Roman times:

"Remains of Roman tombs were discovered near San Felice, along the course of an interesting ‘diverticulum’ of the Via Flaminia, whose remains are visible for about 300 meters between the towns of San Felice and Casalecchio" [1].

In particular, the excavations have uncovered remains of ancient structures of some rooms, including a ‘caldarium’, which has ceramic mosaic tile floors with white limestone, and a frigidarium with the piscina (cold water tank) [2].

However, the historic tradition has also handed down some questionable historical data, like the situation of the ancient "Forum Iulii Concubienses" referred to by Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), when he mentioned some of the ancient Umbrian tribes, among which "Forum Iulii Concubienses", which some historians identify as the original site of Pietralunga:

"Pliny the Elder often mentioned some People having a nickname (...) like the Umbrians Dolates, surnamed ‘Salentini' and the ‘Foroiulienses Concubienses' " [2].

The first to suggest that the ancient city of Pietralunga was called "Forum Iulii Concubiense" was B. Borghi:

"The name 'Forum' was often given to those places and cities that were located along the main lines of communication; so, as there was along the Tiber, between Perugia and Città di Castello, a road that was in communication with the Via Flaminia, we think that here was presumably located 'Forum Julii Concubiense', that is the place where now there is Pietralunga, especially since the name 'Concuvium' is foreshadowed in the Eugugubine Tables" [3].

Borghi’s allusion to "Concuvium", mentioned in the "Tabulae Iguvinae", later led some local scholars to fantasize about a former "Tufi" [or “Tofia”] of Etruscan origin, but about this hypothesis we lack adequate scientific references (for more about Tofia see below). Even identifying Pietralunga with "Forum Iulii Concubiense" leaves unanswered questions because the documents (codes) quoted several different names.

More recently, A. Marzano, while recognizing the strategic importance of the site of Pietralunga, wrote:

“Pietralunga, once in the territory of Tifernum Tiberinum [Città di Castello] or of Iguvium was connected to the Via Flaminia by a road following the route Monte Castellaccio-Pianello-Secchiano (...) part of the road, paved with large stones, was discovered 2 km north of Pietralunga (...) in the 1800s, Pietralunga was identified  with the town of the 'Foroiulenses cognomine Concupenses' mentioned by Pliny, but no secure evidence can confirm this attribution” [4].

Medieval history of Pietralunga

The Parish Church of Pietralunga was established in 1279 or shortly before, according to the inscription on the façade of the Church. The castle was presumably built in Lombard times, "of which remains the pentagonal tower" [5].

During the development of Feudalism, walls and a tower were built at the end of the 13th century. In these same years, the city reached a certain degree of prosperity, as many noble families, such as the Bonori and Fucci, moved here between 1280 and 1287. The most influential members of noble families exercised important roles in Città di Castello and they obtained the title of Barons of Pietralunga.

In fact, the Priors of Citta di Castello, wishing to bring to their city the most eminent men in science and teaching, gave citizenship to Duccio di Ser Ioanelli, a native of 'Petralonga', a jurist known for his knowledge and experience [8].

A. Reggiani added that Pietralunga in the Middle Ages, despite the difficulties, managed to govern itself as a free town and according to its own laws, but the insecurity of the times led the small town to submit to Città di Castello, with which it was included from 1271 in the county of “Porta Santa Maria” [5].

Despite the protection of Città di Castello, Pietralunga was subject to ambitions of the great lords and most powerful cities of the time. In fact, in 1343 the Ubaldini tried in vain to conquer the town and King Ladislas of Naples (1377-1414) was obliged to give up any attempt.

A century later, the Bracceschi and the leader of a troop of mercenaries called Nicholas Stella conquered the city.

Because of the political turmoil and the decline of the city, the Benedictine Sisters moved their convent to Città di Castello. Even the Augustinians Friars moved with their archives to Cantiano, and also the ancient hospital was closed [12].

From 1540 Pietralunga passed to the State of the Church, under whose rule it remained until the Unification of Italy in 1861.

Origins of the name Tofia and the adoption of the name Pietralunga

According to the traditional data, the name was changed from “Forum Iulii Concubiense” to “Tofia”, which, from the etymological point of view, means "hill of tufa."

“We know very little about the ancient Umbrian, Etruscan and Roman Pietralunga. With regard to Roman times, the city was identified with "Forum Iulii Concubiense", located along the road between Perugia and Citta di Castello (...) In the Middle Ages the population of the ancient "Forum Iulii Concubiense" felt the need to move their homes from the valley to a higher position to save themselves from destruction by the Barbarians. From this event, the name "Forum Iulii Concubiense" changed to 'Tofia', meaning 'hill of tufa' " [5].

Towards the middle of the 11th century Pietralunga was also called "Petralonga", or "Castrum Pratalongae"; so "Petralonga" and "Pratalonga" alternated in medieval documents. For example, in some documents of 1348, Buccium Ser Joanelli de 'Petralonga'" was cited.

Over the centuries, Pietralunga changed its name several times. With regard to "Tofia", cited by Reggiani, around 1126 it is cited in the documents as a place called "Toffiae" [with two 'f']. Among the properties with which Bishop Ranieri was invested in 1126, we read the names of various locations, among which "Toffia":

“The Parish of San Gregorio and Valliana, the church of San Savinio and 'Toffia'-Pietralungaé [6].

Therefore, already at the beginning of the 12th century Toffia-Pietralunga was called "Plebs" [= Parish]. In fact, A. Reggiani had rightly pointed out that just at the time of the change of name from "Forum Iulii Concubiense" to "Tofia", "the Parish of Pietralunga was established."

Around 1269 the small town, however, was already mentioned in legal documents drafted by the notary Petrus de Canusa as "Pratalonga" or "Pratelonge" [Pratalong-ae=genitive]:

“In the Year of the Lord 1269, during the twelfth indiction, being vacant the papal throne, in the 15th day of the month of October, Bishop Nicholas took possession of the place in which until recently there were the Friars Minor, and which is near the castle called Pratalonge" [7].

Rightly A. Reggiani said that, from the etymological point of view, "Pratalonga" was so-called because the name probably refers to the rich meadows and pastures in the area [from Latin "prata" = pasture and "long" = large].

The modern place name "Pietralunga" seems only to be first attested in the Gregorian Cadastre of the 19th century [9]. However, in a document dating back to 1334 the modern place name [Pietralunga] is mentioned as the "Castrum de Petra Longa":

"This is the great miracle which manifested itself in the territory of Tuscia, in the Diocese Castellana, in the territory of the castle of Petra Longa [10]

We finally remark that the transition from "Prata-Longa" to "Pietra-Lunga" was certainly due to the excessive presence of Latinisms in the first place-name ["Prata" = grass, pasture and "Longa" = Italian "Lunga"]. In the popular pronunciation it was much easier to transform the Latin term "Prata" with the simplest "Pietra" [stone], or, in some cases, even into "Preta" (with reference to the Italian term "Prete" [=Priest] and "Longa" in the normal Italian popular term "Longa."

It is clear that the meaning of "Prata" is very different from “Pietra” [= stone], or "Preta" [Italian “Prete”] , but this did not matter - people’s accents tended to the simplification of terms.

Therefore, A. Zaccagni-Orlandini  was right when he observed that "'Pietralunga' is an 'alteration' of 'Pratalonga', a name common to the grasslands of the Carpino stream" [11].

See the Pietralunga guide for travel information.


1. See M. Gaggiotti," Umbria, Marche, " Laterza, 1980 p. 3

2. See“Ministero per i Beni culturali e ambientali, Soprintendenza Archeologica per l'Umbria, Ville e insediamenti rustici di età romana in Umbria”,  1983. 49 ff.

3. See B. Borghi, “Saggi di dissertazioni accademiche”, 1791, Volume IX, p. 392

4. See “Roman Villas in Central Italy”, edited by A. Marzano, Brill, 2007, p. 729

5. See A. Reggiani, “Notizie storiche di Pietralunga”,  Citta di Castello, 1959, pp. 87 ff.

6. See G. Muzi, “Memorie ecclesiatiche di Città di Castello”, 1842, Vol. II,  pp. 46-47

7. See G. Casagrande, “Gli archivi ecclesiastici di Città di Castello”,  1989, p. 27

8. [“Priores Populi … Civitatis Castelli desiderantes civitatem pradictam repleri personis et hominihus virtuosis et desiderantes prudentem virum D Buccium Ser Ioannelli de 'Petralonga' jurisperitum propter ipsius scientiam experientiam et virtutem Universitati Castellanorum Civium aggregari”] (See G. Muzi, “Memorie ecclesiatiche di Città di Castello”,  1842, Vol II, p. 216).

9. "Registers. 44, (1830-1859). List. [Vol. III, p.. 526] ‘Pietralunga’, 1830-1859. Register 5: rural and urban” (See“ Archivio di Stato di Perugia”, in “Guida agli archivi di Stato”, 1986, p. 526, and Various Authors, “L'Evoluzione della montagna italiana fra tradizione e modernità”, Patron, 1994, p . 72: "The name is given only in the Gregorian Cadastre, but it is not quoted  by the Military Geographic Institute").

10. Lord of the Castle 'Pietralunga'] (See “Codices reginenses latini” [seventeenth century], "Bibliotheca Vatican", 1945, Vol II, p. 678

11. See A. Zaccagni-Orlandini, “Corografia fisica, storica e statistica dell'Italia”, Firenze,  1845, Supplement to Vol. X, p. 49

12. A. Zaccagni-Orlandini, p. 49