Spoleto is an important and popular historical town dating back to Roman times that is located in the southern part of the Umbria region of central Italy. The town contains numerous important monuments including a Roman theatre, an imposing fortress, a cathedral and several important churches.
A visit to Spoleto can start from the Piazza del Duomo, in the upper part of town and surrounded by Renaissance buildings, the Cathedral and Fortress.
Spoleto Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta
The Romanesque style Spoleto Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta was started around 1175. The present façade was completed in the early 13th century, while the tower dates from the 12th century and the “portico” was added in the late 15th / early 16th centuries. Several sculptures adorn the portico and the interior of Cathedral.
On the facade, in addition to the central rosette there are also remarkable Byzantine style mosaics with the "Blessing Christ enthroned between the Virgin and St. John the Evangelist."
Entering the cathedral, on the right, there is the “Eroli Chapel”, with a fresco by Pinturicchio (1454-1513), who painted some scenes of the 'Madonna and Child with Saints', on a background which features a typical Umbrian view. The interior of the church is of Baroque style, with floor mosaics in the central nave and an apse in the Romanesque style.
From the Piazza del Mercato in Spoleto you reach Corso Mazzini, where there is the Roman Theatre, built in the first century AD and now used for concerts and ballets.
Church of San Ansano
From the "Freedom Square" and going back towards the upper part of the city you can see the Church of San Ansano. The church interior has a nave with a series of frescoes, among which is the "Madonna and Child", a late work by Giovanni di Pietro (called the “Spagna” 1450-1528) and a pupil of Perugino (1450-1523).
Underneath the church is the crypt of St. Isaac. The crypt was built in the 11th and 12th centuries and has three naves with vaulted ceilings supported by columns and capitals from the 8th-9th centuries. On the walls and the apse there are important remains of 13th century frescoes with scenes from the life of St. Isaac.
Arch of Drusus and Germanicus
Outside the church some remains of a Roman Temple are visible, dating from the first century AD. Next to the church of St. Ansano is the Arch of Drusus and Germanicus. This was built in 23 AD in honour of Drusus Minor and Germanicus, the son of Tiberius (42 BC-37 AD), and consists of blocks of squared stone with some decorative elements.
Church of San Gregorio Maggiore
In the lower part of Spoleto in Piazza Garibaldi you can see the 11th century Romanesque Church of San Gregorio Maggiore. Admire the church facade then head inside to see the three naves and walls decorated with antique frescos. Some scenes from the life of 'Santa Abbondanza' are painted n the Chapel of the Innocents.
Above there are three arches of Romanesque style, and the remains of a fresco painted in the early 14th century and attributed to Giovanni di Corraduccio (1390-1437). The earliest paintings in the church date from the 12th century and show religious scenes, such as "Stories of Passion" and "St. Gregory and Saints".
Not far from the Church of Saint Gregory is the Roman Amphitheatre, used for public games in the 2nd century.
Spoleto city walls
It is also interesting to visit the Spoleto city walls - the oldest wall is located in the upper part of the city.
The lower layer of the wall consists of large polygonal blocks of limestone, dating from the 4th century BC (i.e. pre-Roman times) while the middle part of the walls is of square blocks and includes the remains of a watchtower, dating back to the foundation of the colony in 241 BC. The top layer, of smaller blocks, was added in the second half of the first century BC.
The medieval walls that surround the base of the hill of the city and are also well preserved.
Basilica of San Salvatore
Outside the medieval walls, the oldest church in Spoleto is the Basilica of San Salvatore, dating from the 4th century and the most important of the paleo-Christian monuments of Umbria and Italy.
The façade of the basilica has three richly decorated portals while the interior has three naves, divided by Doric columns. In the presbytery there are high Corinthian columns supporting a dome. The main apse is circular, flanked by two square side apses.
Church and Monastery of St. Ponziano and Church of Saint Peter
Also in this part of Spoleto you should visit the Church and Monastery of St. Ponziano, dedicated to the patron saint of town. The church, with three naves and three apses, was built in romanesque style in the 12th century.
Also to see is the Church of St. Peter, a building that dates from the 5th century and was extended from the 12th to 13th centuries. The façade with three portals and three rosettes is characterized by various panels carved with bas-reliefs in which various saints and events are represented, using medieval symbolism drawn from the Old and New Testaments.
On top are Saints Peter and Andrew next to two bulls (symbols of sacrifice); in the central rosette of the façade, four symbols of the Evangelists are shown (the eagle for St. John, angel for St. Matthew, bull for St. Luke and lion for St. Mark).
Ten stories from the New Testament are shown below, and the so-called "Medieval Bestiaries", in which the vices and virtues of man were exalted through allegorical stories (e.g. the "death of the righteous and the sinner", "the lion and the woodcutter", "the lion attacking the soldier," "vocation of Saints Peter and Andrew", “fake dead fox and crows”, "the wolf and the lamb" and, finally, the "lion fighting the dragon").
Traditional cuisine of Spoleto
All that history and exploring will have left you hungry so we suggest you finish your tour by sampling the local cuisine...
"Spoletium" as Spoleto was originally known is a city of ancient historical and cultural traditions, carried forwards in the culinary traditions today with a focus on authenticity and high quality local products. Thes include as the "bruschetta", crostini, toasted bread and flavoured with Umbrian olive oil with and black truffle of Spoleto.
The "Strangozzi" (homemade pasta), grilled meats and roasts, pork or chicken are the simplest dishes and popular throughout Umbria. We also suggest you try the famous “Crescionda”. The Umbrian cuisine is also famous for its wines such as the Sagrantino, the red of Montefalco and the Grechetto, among the best white wines of the area.
See also history of Spoleto
Selected places to visit near Spoleto, Italy
See the Umbria guide for more travel ideas...