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Bevagna is a village in the Umbria region of central Italy, close to Spello and in the Vale of Spoleto, that has been a settlement since at least the time of the Ancient Romans.
The highlight of your visit to the pretty village is the medieval square called Piazza Silvestri with its two ancient churches and other 13th century buildings, but there are other sites of interest in the town so be sure to explore.
Explore Bevagna: tourism and travel guide
Entering the town through Foligno Gate you immediately have a good view of the Roman and medieval walls, which are fairly well preserved and include towers of various shapes, mostly square but also round and polygonal.
Also in this area you can visit the Church of Saint Francis, built around the 13th century, together with its bell tower. The church interior was renovated in the 18th century but contains works dating back to earlier centuries.
In the Chapel of Holy Sacrament there is a "Pieta", signed by Ascensidonio Spacca (known as the “Fantino” of Bevagna [1557-1646]). Two frescoes on the Chapel vault ("Jesus Crucified" and “St Francis kneeling”) are attributed to Dono Doni (1505-1575).
In front of the church you can still see the 1st century Roman Theatre, which could hold, they say, about 10,000 spectators.
Continuing through Bevagna to the Piazza Garibaldi and Cannara Gate there is an ancient medieval church, now partly destroyed, called the Madonna of the Snow. This is located near an ancient temple (2nd century AD), dedicated to Saturn, or perhaps to Hercules.
Opposite is the Via di Porta Guelfa, beside which the Roman Thermae were found. In a room of these baths a mosaic floor is still visible - it is black and white, with scenes of life in the sea, with figures of tritons, seahorses, lobsters and squid.
Heading along Crescimbeni Street you reach the Corso Matteotti where the Palazzo Lepri stands. This palace was built in the late 17th century by Andrea Vici to a design by Giuseppe Valadier and now holds the Bevagna Town Hall and Museum.
Bevagna Town Hall and Museum
The museum has an archaeological section which holds various artefcts from the Archaic, Roman Imperial and Medieval periods.
The art gallery also has an extensive collection by artists who worked in Bevagna, such as Dono Doni (the "Madonna and Child"), Ascensidonio Spacca, Andrea Camassei (1602-1649), Corrado Giaquinto ("The Holy Family") [1703-1766], and Joseph Esperlin (1707-1775).
In three other rooms, landscapes, portraits and works of artists are exhibited, such as those of G.B. Pecetti (1693-1743) [for more works in Bevagna by this very Realist painter see the Cloister of San Domenico, where he painted over 20 works about the life of San Giacomo], G.B. Michelini (1604-1697), and Francesco Providoni (XVI century).
In the central square in Bevagna, the Church of San Domenico and Fra Giacomo was built in the late 13th century. It has a 14th century portal with a painted lunette. The interior has a nave, with three apses and in the center there are some 14th century frescoes (an "Annunciation" and some “Scenes from the Life of St. Dominic”), while to the side are some 13th century wooden sculptures of "Madonna and Child" and a Crucifix.
In Piazza Silvestri, surrounded on all sides by typical medieval architecture, you can see the most significant monuments of the city. Thes include the 13th century Palazzo dei Consoli, decorated with slabs of travertine. The façade has two orders of mullioned windows and a large-scale side leading to the first floor great hall, transformed into a theatre in the 19th century.
The fountain in the centre of the square also looks ancient but was actually added towards the end of the 19th century. There are two important churches in the square:
Basilica of Saint Sylvester
The most famous religious monument in Bevagna is the Basilica of Saint Sylvester, built in the 12th century by “Master Binello” and well preserved in its original structure.
The façade was built of blocks of travertine and red stone; it has a single door with a round arch and above three windows can be seen, corresponding to the three naves into which which the church is divided. Above them runs a continuous cornice.
The decoration of the Portal and façade has a strong symbolic value. For example, in the frieze of the door is a small mountain to symbolize Christ while the four streams symbolize the four Evangelists and the growing vine represents the Church or God himself.
In the cornice various animals are also depicted, such as a fox and deer, with a clear symbolic significance, as was typical of medieval sculptures. While it is difficult for us to understand these symbolic representations, medieval man, although illiterate, immediately sensed the message.
Church of San Michele Arcangelo
Next to San Silvestro is the 12th century Church of San Michele Arcangelo, also built by 'Master Binello' together with “Master Rodolfo”, both followers of the Umbrian school of marble. The interior has three naves joined by a series of arches.
The church suffered various modifications over the centuries, including the rose window added to the facade in the 19th century, and also damage due to landslides caused by earthquakes. Take a look at the lovely romanesque style portal and gargoyles then enter the church to see a crucifix by Providoni, a silver statue of Saint Vincent by Peter Ramoser (1785) and some frescoes by Andrea Camassei (1624-28).
Tradition and places to visit around Bevagna
Close to Bevagna you can visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace, erected in 1583 and with three naves which contains some paintings ascribed to “Fantino” of Bevagna.
Already famous in Roman times for the ceramics coming out of the “Popilius” shop, Bevagna has preserved over the centuries a strong tradition of craftsmanship in wrought iron and wicker.
Good examples of these Bevagna handicrafts are available in the so-called "Mercato delle Gaite" ("district markets") where you can find many different objects, such as the works of dyers, carpenters , tanners, glassblowers, and also local products, like cheese, meat, salt, lentils, honey, oil, precious stones, eggs, wine, glass, spices and silk.
See also history of Bevagna
You can find more local travel ideas in the Umbria guide.