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Spoleto is a city that strikes you at first sight, with the majestic Rocca Albornoz and the Ponte delle Torri, clearly visible from the street. These are not the only symbols of this medieval city, which has a thousand-year history, having been an important center even in Roman times. Numerous monuments bear witness to this, such as the Roman Theater, the Roman House and the Arch of Drusus, in the lower area of the city.
The historic center has a considerable difference in height, like many Umbrian medieval centres, but the city offers numerous escalators that allow you to visit all the most important monuments with minimum effort. In order not to get lost among the various climbs, there are maps near each entrance to the area.
After taking the escalator that leads to the upper part of the city, it is possible to take a walk around the Rocca Albornoz or visit it. Instead, going down towards the urban part, you can immediately visit the Cathedral of Spoleto, walking down the famous staircase.
Just outside the center of Spoleto, the Church of San Ponziano and the Basilica of San Salvatore are also of historical interest, the latter of Lombard origin, dating back to the 4th-5th century AD and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Rocca Albornoz was the most important building wanted in 1359 by Pope Innocent VI to recover the territories of central Italy. The fortress took its name from the Spanish cardinal Egidio Albornoz, who, on behalf of the Pope, entrusted Matteo di Giovannello with the direction of the works.
The rectangular castle is defended by six towers, with two courtyards inside: the Cortile delle Armi and the Cortile d'Onore. However the Rocca was built not only as a defensive structure but also as a palace to welcome illustrious guests . Over the centuries it has been the residence of the rectors of the Duchy, of the governors of the city and of papal diplomats. The most famous guest of the fortress was Lucrezia Borgia, to whom the name of the Spiritata Tower seems to be dedicated.
Inside, the Hall of Honor stands out, the largest room in the Rocca which hosted ceremonies and banquets; also not to be missed is the “ Camera Pinta ”, with its characteristic frescoes. Today the Rocca houses the National Museum of the Duchy of Spoleto: both finds from the ducal period and sculptures and paintings from the Romanesque period to the Renaissance are distributed over the two floors.
The" Ponte delle Torri" connects the hill of Rocca Albornoz with Monteluco. It was originally a Roman aqueduct, then converted into a bridge in medieval times. About 80 meters high, 230 long and made of local stone, it immediately strikes the eye for its prodigious structure.
On both sides of the bridge, there are the Rocca Albornoz and the Fortilizio dei Mulini. This tower, now in ruins, was used to monitor the access to the bridge from the Monteluco side. Up until the beginning of the 19th century, there was also a mill here that exploited the water that arrived from two aqueducts. The water flowed in a channel dug above the wall that divides the bridge in two, also creating a pedestrian street.
The Cathedral of Spoleto is introduced by a magnificent staircase, which, from the upper part of the village, leads to the Piazza del Duomo. The cathedral consists of a Renaissance portico and a façade embellished with a superb mosaic of the Blessing Christ of Sexternal and embellished with two orders of rose windows. Alongside the church stands a tall bell tower, clearly visible from the upper part of the city. Inside the cathedral there are several frescoes, among which the most significant is the last work by Filippo Lippi, the"Stories of the Virgin" between 1467 and 1469. In the right aisle you can see the funeral monument of Filippo Lippi, work commissioned by Lorenzo de' Medici with an inscription by Angelo Poliziano.
With the Cathedral behind you, on the right is the Teatro di Caio Melisso, one of the most elegant in Italy, built in the 17th century and dedicated to the trusted librarian of the Emperor Augustus, Caio Melisso. Next to this we find the" Church of the Golden Manna" with an octagonal drum behind it, built in the 16th century, as thanksgiving for the victory over the Landsknechts who invaded Rome.
The Casa Romana was discovered by the archaeologist Giuseppe Sordini between 1885 and 1886. Dating back to the 1st century AD, it is believed to have belonged to Vespasia Polla, mother of Vespasiano, who was born in Norcia and owned many properties in the area of Spoleto. It has several rooms and beautiful mosaic floors, almost intact.
The Casa Romana is part of the Palazzo Comunale complex, which the 2007 restoration enriched with works of art from the former Municipal Art Gallery. The palace was built in medieval times, but was largely rebuilt in the eighteenth century due to the earthquake of 1703 which seriously damaged it. As evidence of its medieval origin, only the tower, dating back to the 13th century, is left.
Inside the palace, we recommend a visit to the Sala dei Duchi, with the portraits of the most important Longobard dukes of Spoleto on the ceiling, and to the Sala Caput Umbriae, for its decorations. The palace also has an internal chapel dedicated to San Ponziano, a saint who lived in the 2nd century and patron saint of Spoleto.
Continuing down the road from the Palazzo Comunale, one faces Piazza del Mercato, one of the most important squares in Spoleto, a meeting place of historical interest. Also called Piazza del Foro, there was a market here since Roman times. Testimony of the antiquity of the square is also the Arch of Drusus and Germanicus(or simply Arch of Drusus), dating back to the first century after Christ and clearly visible from the square along the main street. It is an arch in honor of Drusus Minor and Germanicus, sons of the emperor Tiberius.
Another monument that stands out is the Fontana di Piazza, dating back to the 18th century and also called the"Fountain with the clock" due to a characteristic clock above it. Previously the space was occupied by the long-abandoned Romanesque church of San Donato, of which today only the arches and bays remain in the adjacent Via dei Duchi, occupied by medieval-looking shops.
Built in the first century BC, the Roman Theater still has 27 staircases for spectators, the stage and the space reserved for the orchestra and choir with the floors still colored. The Roman Theater is still active and sometimes hosts the organized shows and concerts.
Over the centuries, the Monastery of Sant'Agata and the Palazzo Corvi were built on the scene. The first currently houses the National Archaeological Museum of Spoleto, mainly dedicated to archaeological finds from the Roman era up to the 4th century after Christ. The itinerary ends with a visit inside the Roman Theater.
The Church of San Ponzano is located in the lower part of Spoleto, just outside the historic centre, where it may be convenient to park to reach the escalator in the city centre.
Dedicated to San Ponziano, patron saint and martyr of the city, it is an important medieval church from the 12th century, which features a beautiful crypt with numerous valuable frescoes. However, being outside the city centre, it still does not enjoy much tourism.
Not far from the Church of San Ponziano, in the opposite direction from the city centre, is the Church of San Salvatore, a UNESCO heritage site for being one of the places of Longobard power in Italy, dating back to the 4th-5th century after Christ . Its origin is funerary, because it was built in honor of the martyr San Concordio, buried nearby. Subsequently, in 814, it acquired the name"San Salvatore", following a restructuring carried out on that date, a common denomination for the churches of that era. The church has three naves and is now stripped of everything except the stuccos on the counter-façade and some elements of the pictorial apparatus in the apse. This has not deprived it of the atmosphere that makes it extraordinarily beautiful and scenographic.