SPOLETO (the historical information extrapolated from the official tourist guide) :
The famous city of Spoleto is perfectly positioned on a hill and surrounded by mountains so there are plenty of outdoors activities available…horse-riding, rambling, cycling, white water-rafting, swimming, bird-watching, sky-gliding, hiking, flying and tennis. Then, of course, you can go olive oil tasting, wine tasting, truffle hunting. Or, you can learn to cook AT ANY LEVEL, like an authentic Italian chef.
You can drive to the Adriatic in 2 hours. The drive there is spectacular. Along the Valnerina, you pass Norcia and then on to San Benedetto Del Tronto, a truly Italian beach resort. Along the way, you can take a 20 minute detour just after Norcia and visit the Gran Piano….a place that is a must to visit – it is truly magical. And, here you find white truffle served in the restaurants as well as the famous Faro…..the food round here is delicious and wonderfully characteristic of the area.
Spoleto is close to Assisi, Foligno, Trevi, Bevagna, Perugia, Todi, Orvieto, San Gemini, Gubbio and Lake Piediluco, all between 20 mins to 1 hour, all spectacular drives. It is about 1 1/2 – 2 hours to Lake Bolsena and Lake Trasimeno. It is about 1 1/2 hours to Rome, 5 hours to Venice, 4 hours to Naples, 3 hours to Pisa and about 2-3 hours to Florence.
Spoleto resembles an illustration from one of those classic fairy-tale books. Walking through its cobbled, arched streets is like walking in a dream. It is the kind of place where fantasy meets reality and you believe that anything could happen !
The three most popular places to live in Italy for an Italian are : Spoleto, Venice and Florence, all of these cities priding themselves of their truly Italian heritages, having the most prestigious of histories of anywhere in Italy. However, whereas, Venice has the water + billions of tourists, Florence has the Uffici + billions of tourists, Spoleto has the mountains and a mere handful of tourists because, unlike its famous neighbours, Spoleto only “opened itself up” year round, a few years ago.
Until 15 years ago, the Spoletini were completely disinterested in inviting strangers into their midst, (except for its once a year famous festival that lasted 3 weeks with the likes of Andy Warhole, Brigitte Bardot and Pavarotti) and existed in a private colonial-style private splendour with 2 bars, 2 shops and 2 restaurants, all ludicrously expensive. All this changed with the influx of Italians from outside, who have opened bars, restaurants and shops on every corner.
Now, Spoleto is a vibrant place. But, because Spoleto is still a quintessentially Italian place, the prices are LOCAL prices and have been unaffected by the beginning of tourism.
Spoleto has very ancient Umbrian origins. It became a Latin colony and Roman community and life in Spoleto flourished. Many splendid monuments were built. Then, at the end of the 6C, Spoleto became the residence of one of the most important Dukes of Longobard. And, the town that centuries ago had heroically driven back Hannibal became self-governed. Later, it was invaded by the Barbarians.
Importantly, both these battles took place on the door-step of La Rocca dei Perugini, the building that houses several of our rental apartments (that can be booked together for larger parties, at a discounted rate), the latter battle of which caused La Rocca dei Perugini to be built in order that the Perugini could keep a watch on the conquered Spoletini. But, the Spoletini fought back, pouring hot burning oil upon the heads of the unfortunate Perugini, killing them outright.
This famous battle took place just a few metres up the road from the Rocca dei Perugini at the Torre Del’Olio. And, after two years of blood-shed, the Spoletini regained Spoleto.
Perugia and Spoleto are now on friendly terms with one another, even though we all know that Spoleto should have been the capital of Umbria. Spoleto is better suited for the role, given its supreme hill-top location in the centre of Umbria and, its outstanding beauty !
Fortunately, these atrocities didn’t adversely affect the cultural growth of Spoleto much. From that period onwards, many magnificent monuments and works of Art were added to those that survived the atrocities :
inside and outside the city walls of Spoleto, there are significant remains of the Umbrian polygonal kind and the Mediaeval Roman type. And, both mediaeval and “modern” monuments amalgamate with Roman ones. For instance, the Cathedral was constructed in 1067 on top of a church built in the 9C, which in its turn had been constructed on an even more ancient and classic building; S. Salvatore was constructed at the end of the 4C with building materials taken from a Roman structure nearby; S. Eufemia was constructed in the 12C on the site of an “island”, where there are walls and mosaic remains; the crypt of S. Isacco, near S. Ansano, originated in the temple of the Forum near the “Arco Del Druso”; and, the church and monastery of S. Agata was constructed on top of the Roman Theatre; the outstandingly beautiful church of S. Pietro was erected on a pagan site that had evolved into a Christian necropolis; the fortress of Totila was built over an amphitheatre; the Ponte delle Torri was built on top of Roman remains; and, the Rocca was built on an ancient Acropolis.
Strolling secretagogue hgh within the walls of this tiny, exquisitely pretty city, one can see monuments, churches, towers and all kinds of other buildings of historical interest as well as works of Art galore. Spoleto boasts numerous world famous institutions such as The Italian Centre for Studies on the Early Middle Ages, the Festival of Two Worlds (colloquially known as the Spoleto Festival) and The Experimental Opera Theatre. And, if you walk for a few minutes up to the Cathedral (the Duomo), you will see an example of what is, arguably, the most beautiful piazza in the whole of Italy – the very piazza that was featured in one of Brigitte Bardot’s early films and where her character lived and died, a place to sit in hallowed contemplation.
However, it is not essential to be steeped in history to be able to appreciate the spirituality and awesome beauty of Spoleto. The spirit of its fascinating past is immersed in every stone and cobble. Within this mediaeval setting, you can also enjoy the finest wines, the best truffles and the most mouth-watering olive-oils in Italy in the myriad of bars and restaurants scattered in and around the tiny, arched streets. You can literally savour some of the best cooking in the world here. You can sit for hours in the piazzas, sipping real cappuccino and enjoying ice-creams to die for. And, for the really irreverent among you, there are always the shops and, not-to-be missed by any self-repecting Italian, that most famous of all Italian activities, the passagiata that takes place between 5.30pm and 7.30pm, come rain or shine !!!
Of particular interest to our guests who have children is the fact that there are several pools around here, all within easy reach. And, for those people without a car, the nearest pool is very large with picnic areas and a bar; and, there is a bus that takes you directly to this pool, which takes about 10 minutes. It stops at various points throughout Spoleto so that wherever you are staying, there will be a bus-stop conveniently placed for you.
For the more sporty amongst you, there is also a flash tennis club that you can use, which is within walking distance of almost anywhere you are staying – or, it is a short bus-ride from Piazza Garibaldi (otherwise, a 15 minute walk). And, there is pony trekking that takes place just outside of Spoleto. The stables are placed in a exquisite environment and, you can either go on long treks into the mountains or just do an hour or so in the nearby woods – all supervised, the level of supervision depending on your level of expertise.
Other activities available are swimming, fishing, cycling, walking……these and many more activities such as wine-tasting and truffle-trails can be investigated at the tourist office in Piazza Liberta in central Spoleto (0039) 0743 238 920/1 – the persons to speak to are Max or Cyncia, both of whom speak perfect English and who are very helpful – Max, in particular. Here there are also maps with places of special interest marked on trails (including the Rocca dei Perugini) as well as many more walking trails in the hills round about.
It is, also, very easy to reach Assisi, Perugia, Bevagna, Orvieto, Trevi, Norcia, Todi, the Gran Piano and Castellucio – all between 10 – 50 minutes drive. Or, there are the trains and the busses. And, our nearest lake is Bracciano, a small town with a castle, where the wedding took place of Tom Cruise and Katy Holmes – about a 50 minute drive.
However, while all these other Umbrian towns and cities are worth a visit, Spoleto is the one to actually stay a while because it has everything ! Of all the Italian cities, Spoleto is arguably the most beautiful and one of the most diverse in what it has to offer the world traveller. Very much a town and country experience, you can lounge in bars, gelaterie and restaurants, meander up and down the cobbled arched streets or, you can don your walking kit and set off into the hills, treading the very same foot-paths of the millions of pilgrims who have trod this path since time immemorial. Walk for a maximum of 15 minutes in any direction from anywhere in Spoleto and you can be in the mountains, immersed in the most spectacular scenery…….bright green valleys, hills covered with olive groves, thick woodland, monasteries, castles and tiny villages dotted here and there – a truly magical environment ! Particularly, if you start your walk from across the aquaduct.
Glamour and style….. Or, walking boots and a stick ! The choice is yours……………..
So, you can choose between, town, village, country or mountains or pick’n mix – we have apartments in almost everywhere. And, should you choose Spoleto, you have easy access to it all – just step out of your door, go in any direction and, it’s all there for the taking.
Spoleto is a tiny city and a buzzy little place ! It has even been quoted as being Prince Charles’ favourite city – indeed, he has a place in the hills looking down on this mediaeval city. But, please, don’t let this put you off !! In any case, I love Spoleto, all our guests love it, Italians from all over Italy rave about it, it is SO beautiful……..what more can I say ! It is an experience not to be missed.