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Spello in Umbria, Italy - A Cultural and Travel Guide

Updated: Jun 5





A small town of little more than 8000 inhabitants in the Province of Perugia, Umbria, the heart of Italy, Spello saw its glory peak in Roman times and decline after the fall of the Empire. Then, after some turbulent but rich centuries, it is now an elegant, curated, flowery destination that you definitely cannot miss! Be ready to spend at least one day in town to get deep down into its history and stunning cultural sites, although it is also enjoyable in its medieval and Renaissance architecture in a 3/4 hours.


Spello has been listed among the "Borghi più belli d'Italia" (Most beautiful towns of Italy) and has been awarded the "Bandiera Arancione" (literally "Orange Flag") by Touring Club Italiano. Both are only given to culturally- and historically- significant destinations, so make sure to visit!


 

In this article:


Spello: When & What
Spello: To See
Spello: To Do & To Know
Spello: What's Next

 


Spello: When & What



HISPELLUM: SPELLO IN ROMAN TIMES


Spello is a nice little town located on the slope of Mount Subasio, in Valle Umbra, at 280m / 918ft above sea level.


This region is called Umbria, the name coming from an ancient Italic tribe, the Umbrians, who populated this area before the preponderant arrival of the Romans.


And it's from the Umbrians that our journey through the history of Spello begins: although its first known name is Hispellum and it's Roman, the area Spello covers today was most likely first occupied by the Italic tribe and used as a necropolis or a sanctuary starting from the 7th century BCE.


It then became known as Hispellum and showed signs of urbanization in the 3rd/2nd century BCE, thanks to the new Via Flaminia (part of the main road system that connected Rome with the Empire).


Julius Caesar (100-44 BCE) already laid eyes on Hispellum and called it Colonia Julia, but it was with Emperor Augustus (27 BCE-14 CE) that the colony (i.e. outpost) turned municipium (town) took a huge step forward: since Hispellum had supported the Emperor in war times, as a sign of gratitude Augustus granted it more territories and allowed the construction of strong city walls.


The Roman city walls - today mostly vanished - are proof of an expansion and prosperity that Spello would never reach again: the medieval and later perimeter of the town would always be much smaller.


Fortunes for Roman Hispellum were not finished yet: the Augustan concessions boosted its growth, and Emperor Constantine (306-337 CE) endowed the city with more privileges, allowed the erection of a temple and gave it a new name: Flavia Costante.


Constantine's actions are forever imprinted in history thanks to a marble inscription called the "Rescript of Constantine" (333-335 CE) - it was found in the city in 1733 and is a contemporary reproduction of the original. Today it is kept in Palazzo Comunale, Sala dell'Editto.


At that point, Roman times were almost over and a new dawn was near. Eras turned in violent ways and Attila (ruler of the Huns, a nomadic people from Eastern Europe) probably ransacked the town in 450, while Totila (king of the Ostrogoths, a Germanic people) devastated it on his way to Rome in 546. Old glories were gone and in 571 Hispellum fell into the hands of the Langobards (Germanic people who would rule in Northern and Central Italy for some time), who added it to their Duchy of Spoleto.


By then, the biggest fortune and curse of Spello was crystal clear: proximity to Rome would always influence the town's history and would never let it be fully free to choose its path. If the Romans were mostly kind to Hispellum, its later rulers (there would be many) would often focus on other cities and use Spello as their property, with a few exceptions.


We are now entering the Middle Ages, waving goodbye to Hispellum and meeting Spello.



WAR, POPES AND THE BAGLIONI: MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE SPELLO


As seen, the early Middle Ages was not exactly a fresh start for Spello: the continuous invasions transformed the once-prosperous center in a small town and most of the Roman buildings and city walls disappeared or were submerged.


There were however some timid signs of movement, and in 487 we find mentions of an archbishop in Spello: this means that somehow the centre managed to create a Christian community despite the turbulent times.


The Langobards also did their part, building fortresses and boosting some upswing. More generally, until the late 12th century the town remained under the control of Dukes and Emperors, its action range and resources limited. Other centers, such as Foligno and Spoleto, dominated the Umbrian scene.


At the turn of the 12th and 13th century (1198-1200), the Papal States subdued the town, which proximity to Rome proved again pivotal for its fate. A temporary void of power and related confusion gave way to the most chaotic period in Spello's history.



1198-1425: Chaos

When Spello passed into the hands of the Popes, it was used to centuries of silent domination: it had had rulers but they had been so distant or busy that the town was actually able to govern itself. This is why accepting a closer lord was hard and Spello declared itself a Comune (a technically free city).


However, Spello was too small and engulfed between stronger cities and powers to really make a difference or live in peace. In 1222-1228 and 1238 it was occupied and ransacked by Emperor Frederick II. Moreover, over the course of the 13th and 14th centuries, it would constantly fight against nearby cities such as Assisi, Foligno and Perugia or engage in civil wars.


From the second half of the 14th century Spello became a sought-after prey for war captains and mercenaries (who at the time were wandering across Italy in search of new commissions) and was often even contested. In the 1350s, it fell into the hands of Filippo D'Antella first and of Cardinal Gil Albornoz later. They left their mark on the town, building two fortresses: the Rocca del Albornoz and Rocca del Baglioni (this name was given to it later).


Between 1389 and 1425 Spello went through probably the most dreadful phase of its history: it was occupied several times and continued to fall into multiple hands until Pope Martin V (1417-1431) eventually regained it in 1425.



1426-1583: Baglioni's Rule

Just one year after getting it back, in 1426 Martin V assigned Spello to the Baglioni Family, a potent Umbrian house that was to rule over bigger cities such as Perugia as well.


Even though internal conflicts between the family members from time to time bloodied the streets, the rule of the Baglioni over Spello lasted for more than a century and partially brought some rest to the town.


During those decades Spello was given a Renaissance flair, was modernized and sometimes restored, new buildings popped up and, thanks to the prestige of the family, renowned artists came to town - just think of Pinturicchio!

Red Wedding (1500): An event that is worth mentioning here because its name will surely ring some bells to many is the unfortunate episode of the Red Wedding or Wedding of Blood, which took place in 1500 and involved the Baglioni family. The Baglionis were divided into branches and some were less important than others. This of course caused discontent and envy, which led to bloodshed on the night between 14 and 15 July 1500, in which several members from Perugia were assassinated in the city by other minor members (including those ruling over Spello) and their allies. They were there to attend a family wedding. Many were murdered (including the patriarch), some fled or resisted and in the end the conspirators were almost all killed. The episode is remembered as one of the bloodiest in medieval history.

In the 16th century, the Baglioni rule continued, but it was more tumultuous: after the tremendous Sack of Rome (1527) shook the area, the family had to defend their power over Spello against the Prince of Orange, sent by the Pope to regain effective control over the Umbrian territories. The Baglioni lost Perugia but kept Spello until 1583 when the last Baglioni of the branch ruling over Spello died and the town passed once again to the Popes.


FROM DECLINE TO RENASCENCE: SPELLO UNTIL TODAY


After 1583, Spello remained mostly silent - historically speaking -, caught up in the difficult and declining conditions of the Papal States, which from the 17th century saw their influence and power gradually decrease.


Not much happened here although, as we will see when exploring the town, some new monuments were built and some others were restored, religious life was still active and artists were still coming from time to time.


Even in this tranquil phase, Spello was not spared by some stormy events: in the years between 1798 and 1814 the town was intermittently controlled by the French - first the Revolutionaries and then Napoleon.


In 1860 the Piedmontese soldiers of Vittorio Emanuele II took it and added it to the newborn Kingdom of Italy - another era had begun.


During the late 19th and 20th century, Spello's most significant sights and monuments were restored and retouched and, reaching our days, the town has slowly turned into a beautiful gem with a medieval and Renaissance atmosphere, nicely curated and dominated by flowers, local shops and restaurants.



Spello


Spello: To See


Now that we have some context and we know how Spello got through the centuries, it is time to explore this stunning little town.


Spello covers a small area of only 61 square km / 23,50 square miles (Assisi is 165/63 and Spoleto is 348/134, and neither is considered big!), so everything can be definitely discovered by simply walking through the streets and piazzas. However, as we will see, some sites are located just outside the city walls and you may decide to reach them by car.


Here below are two themed itineraries, one through Hispellum and another that covers all medieval and Renaissance sites - just in case you have your preferences and may decide to walk and stop by only at specific places.

You will also find an overview of Spello's attractions, with a map to locate the spots.



AN OVERVIEW


Let's start with an overview of everything you can see in Spello - on the map here below you can find all sites we are going to explore in further detail: red is for Roman sites, blue is for medieval/Renaissance and yellow for everything else.




In this guide you will find information and details (history, artistic and architectural significance, timetables and more) for the following sites:





A TOUR OF ROMAN HISPELLUM


Hispellum, the Roman Spello, existed from ca. the 3rd century BCE until ca. 571 CE, when the Langobards finally conquered it and Middle Ages started to leave its sign. During these long eight centuries, Hispellum flourished and reached an expansion it would never know again.


Of course, centuries of devastations, restorations, new constructions and reuse damaged most of the ancient sites, but today Spello has still so much to offer to any visitors interested in getting a taste of Roman history.



Torri di Properzio e Porta Venere



Torri di Properzio and Porta Venere

  • Opening Hours: always open

  • Tickets: the towers can be visited but upon request only - 4€ full price, reduced 3€ or 2€

  • Location: Via Torri di Properzio, 37


Let's start our tour from Porta Venere and Torri di Properzio, which are maybe the most representative spot in Spello and located right at the heart of the town, a few steps from Via Centrale Umbra, the main road.


Porta Venere (Venus Gate) is one of the six Roman gates built in Hispellum, so-called as soon as the early 17th century for its proximity to a temple of Venus, which traces were being discovered in those years.


What we see today is not exactly how this complex should have appeared in the past: the structure originally comprised two triple-arched gates with an internal courtyard between them. However, only one arch survived, while several other buildings were erected over the centuries where the other arches used to be. Also, everything has been heavily restored in the 20th century in the example of Porta Consolare, another Roman gate we will soon explore.


The Torri di Properzio (Towers of Properzio) are two towers siding the Venus Gate, most likely of Roman origin but rebuilt in the 12th century. Their name comes from the Latin writer Properzio (47-16 BCE) and was given to them in modern times. They were built to monitor accesses and movements around the city's entrance and, until about a century ago, they were surrounded by medieval buildings, later destroyed (1910-20s) to renovate the area.

Properzio Dispute: the name "of Properzio" was given to the towers to highlight the claim of Spello to be the Latin writer's birthplace - a claim contested by other Umbrian cities such as Assisi. Being the hometown of the poet would bring prestige to the town, and this was especially true in the past.

The tower siding the city is said to have been a prison and to have hosted the hero Orlando, but this is of course a legend!


Both the gate and the towers are made of pink/white limestone, a material symbol of the Mount Subasio area and that we will find all around Spello.


In case you wish to visit the towers, remember to book an appointment by emailing info@vivispello.it a couple of days in advance! They can be accessed Fri-Sun 10AM-1PM and 3-7PM.



Porta Consolare in Spello
Porta Consolare | Image Source: Google

Porta Consolare


Let's move south and reach one of the main accesses to Spello since Roman times - the Porta Consolare (Consular Gate).


Built using again the local pink/white limestone, it was originally erected in Roman times, then included in the medieval city walls system and consistently used to monitor accesses.


The square tower siding the gate is medieval (14th century) and now is easily recognizable because it has a clock and trees on top!

The 3 statues you can spot on the gate come from the Roman Amphitheater and were made in the 1st century BCE.


Details of the mosaics at Villa dei Mosaici



Villa Dei Mosaici


Just outside Porta Consolare, we find Villa dei Mosaici (Mosaics Villa), the largest museum in town.


Do not get fooled by the modern appearance of this place - the building might look contemporary, but you are at an important archeological site dating back to both the Augustan and the Imperial Era (2 construction phases).


It was fortuitously discovered in 2005 during excavations for a parking lot! Luckily, the significance of this place was immediately recognized, works and research began and in 2018 the museum was ready and opened to the public.


The Villa used to be a luxurious residence of a wealthy citizen of Hispellum - maybe a winemaker, although there are no certainties around his identity, this is a supposition based on the mosaics found in the Villa. Similarly, we believe him to be wealthy due to the prominent location of the house and the quality of the mosaics.


After the fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent devastations, in the 5th century CE this place was largely destroyed and its foundations buried 4 m/13 ft below ground level - and this is also why traces of it were lost for so many centuries!


What we have today are of course these foundations, along with the breathtaking mosaics that still cover the floors. In total, 20 rooms were found, which should correspond to the central portion of the Villa (about 500sqm / 5381sqft). Of these, 10 rooms host mosaics, while the other might have been service rooms (and therefore no pricey mosaics!).


The mosaics show wild and fantastic animals, wine-pouring scenes, seasons, satyrs and more. The visit is enriched by technology and 3D reconstructions so that everyone can have a better sense of what the Villa should have looked like in its glorious days! They have also made an App, available for download on site and on their website, meant as a tool for your visit!


Arco Romano in Spello
Arco Romano

Arco Romano


We have now moved up north, on our way to the last stop of this itinerary, the Roman Amphitheater. Exiting the town we encounter a nice little arch, Arco Romano, from which we also have a perfect view of Spello and its countryside!


Its origins are remote - it was built before Augustus -, its structure is simple with just a single arch, and today it looks partially buried below the street level (ca. 1m / 3,28ft) and encircled between more recent buildings.


It is sometimes known as Porta dell'Arce for its proximity to a now ruined fortress, or Porta dei Cappuccini, for the nearby Capuchin Convent of San Severino.


Anfiteatro Romano in Spello
The current state of preservation of Anfiteatro Romano | Image source: Google

Anfiteatro Romano

  • Opening Hours: currently closed - can be seen from outside

  • Tickets: //

  • Location: Via Centrale Umbra

Let's explore the last stop of our itinerary through Roman Hispellum - the Amphitheater, which can be reached either from the Arco Romano (the stroll is slightly longer and outside the city walls) or directly from Porta Venere. While you are here, you may decide to also check Villa Fidelia and Chiesa di San Claudio, reachable in just 5 minutes on foot!


The Amphitheater today is sadly closed and looks rather abandoned - unfortunately, as often seen for large areas previously occupied by amphitheaters, this place was used for centuries as a fair center and hosted all kinds of gatherings including duels, which of course damaged the structures. Also, its materials were taken away and reused for other purposes (a very common practice in ancient Roman sites to cope with the lack/price of materials), so today very little remains of its original form.


The amphitheater was originally built in the 1st century CE (we found an inscription with a date) and could host up to 10.000 people! Its overall height should have been around 16m / 52,50ft and length ca. 60m / 197ft.


Today, only a lane of pink/white limestone pillars, some steps and a portion of the original flooring remains, but its impact is still strong and gives us an idea of the glorious days of Spello, so a quick visit is definitely recommended!


It is not to exclude that in the future this place will be open to the public: as of now, it is administered by the Sopraintendenza dell'Umbria (state institution taking care of cultural heritage) and they may decide to make it safe for visiting - although is not likely to happen anytime soon.



MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE ITINERARY


This itinerary, which is definitely the longest and richest since Spello is decisively medieval in its form, starts from Piazza della Repubblica, one of the main squares, and goes up north, then moves back and goes south. It later moves forward to the most distant spots of this tour, often outside the city walls.


It may sound like a lot of walking and a lot of time but do not forget that Spello is quite small, so everything can be reached quicklyone day is enough to see the whole town!



Palazzo Comunale, Spello
Palazzo Comunale

Palazzo Comunale

  • Opening Hours: Fri-Sat-Sun 10AM-1PM and 3:30-6:30PM (Museo delle Infiorate)

  • Tickets: free entry

  • Location: Piazza della Repubblica


We start our tour through medieval and Renaissance Spello from Piazza della Repubblica, one of the main squares. This piazza also hosts Palazzo Urbani-Acuti (or Cruciani) but we will talk about it later or you can check it here!


Palazzo Comunale (Civic Palace) was the heart of the civic power and looks beautiful and bright in its pink and white tones.


Probably built on the remains of an older construction, Palazzo Comunale was erected in its medieval form in 1270, designed by Mastro Prode as mentioned in a plaque on the façade. At the time, it included a rampant staircase, which was demolished. The beautiful loggia that we see today was walled up and closed for several centuries, from when it became the seat of the local Monte di Pietà (institution providing access to loans for the poor) from 1426 until 1939.


The Palazzo was later transformed and expanded by Master Battaglia di Pietro in 1567-1575, and these changes have left signs on the façade. The fountain was also built at the time. However, its current form is not just a mixture of 13th and 16th century, but is the fruit of the 1939 and 1997 restoration works (the second done after an earthquake hit the city)!


The atrium, which you may access, was turned into the current lapidary only in the 17th century to host Roman and medieval inscriptions and tombstones that were found during excavations.


As of today, Palazzo Comunale hosts the civic library, historical archives and the Museo delle Infiorate, a free-entry museum where you can learn more about the most popular event taking place in Spello every spring!


But we are not done yet: the Palazzo has 3 floors and circa 26 accessible rooms, and among those are worth a mention:

  • Sala delle Volte: formerly occupied by the Monte di Pietà and today exhibition hall.

  • Sala dell’Editto: this beautiful room is fully frescoed (18th-19th century works) and it is particularly important because it hosts a reproduction of the Rescript of Constantine (333-335 CE), a mainstay of Spello’s history. We have talked about it here.

  • Sala degli Zuccari: it formerly hosted the Rescript and today is a reading room for the civic library. Its name comes from who was believed to be the author of the frescoes here, dated 1589 – they are religious-themed and include views of ancient Spello.


Palazzo Baglioni, Spello
Palazzo Baglioni | Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Palazzo Baglioni


Let’s move onto a main road siding Piazza della Repubblica – it’s via Garibaldi and connects several sights of Spello, this is the heart of the medieval city and our first stop here is Palazzo Baglioni, a few meters from Palazzo Comunale. The importance of Palazzo Baglioni is highlighted by its position (close to the centers of power) and by its own name which links it directly to the family who ruled over Spello for more than a century.


However, the Baglionis were not the first owners of the palace, built in 1358 by the order of Filippo d’Antella, a captain who controlled the town for some time. Only later, in 1561-64, the Palazzo was expanded and transformed at the behest of Adriano Baglioni, the last member of the family to rule over Spello.


Upon his death in 1583 Spello was taken back by the Pope and the Palazzo was used as a residence for the apostolic governor (the person sent by the Pope to monitor the city), as a prison and a seminary. Lastly, after 1860 it was restored, then retouched again in the 1960s.


The exterior clearly shows traces of the remodeling but also of the 14th-16th centuries structures. The interior is unfortunately not accessible, but has been anyway heavily remodeled and little remains of the original traits. Interesting is the basement, which contains a 15th-century loggia and frescoes – it can be found in Via Seminario Vecchio.



Chiesa di San Lorenzo - Façade and interior with baldachin



Chiesa di San Lorenzo

  • Opening Hours: 9AM-6PM ca.

  • Tickets: free entry

  • Location: Largo Mazzini


Let’s continue on Via Garibaldi moving north until we find ourselves in a small square (Largo) siding the street – it's Largo Mazzini and in front of you there should be San Lorenzo Martire, a church which a façade you can hardly miss! What you are looking at is not a mistake or a job ended badly, it’s just a consequence of history. This church was much wanted by the citizens of Spello and initially built at their expense around 1120-27 and dedicated to San Lorenzo Martire. The people of Spello wished to show their gratitude to the saint for ending the siege of Emperor Henry IV on the city.


The church gained some popularity and in 1228 was even consecrated by Pope Gregory IX, however, it was severely damaged just a decade later by Emperor Frederick II’s army.


Over the centuries its structure was often retouched, since its prominent location called for an adequate building – in 1540 it was expanded with the addition of 2 more naves (it had only one), meaning that the façade was not appropriate anymore for such a larger church. As you can see today, this has been done a bit clumsily and the result is confusing! The facade shows clear signs of 2 overlapping stages of construction:

  • 12th /13th century: the trifora, still visible today, is the most evident trace of the original structure, together with the rose window, which has been bricked up but is still visible. The inscription can also be dated back to this time – the style is Romanesque.

  • 16th century: when two more naves were added, the church needed to keep up to the high standards of a collegiate church, and the façade was expanded, adding more entrances.


The interior of the church is rich and worth a visit. There are three naves divided by huge pillars, on the right side are three chapels. The Sacrament Chapel hosts a beautiful tabernacle by Flaminio Vacca (1587), while in the presbytery is a magnificent baldachin, designed in Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Baroque style and a wooden choir behind it (17th century).



San Martino in Spello
San Martino

Chiesa di San Martino

Continuing up north, Via Garibaldi turns into Via Torre Belvedere and soon we meet the tiny and simple church of San Martino.


Unfortunately, this small church is often closed, but do not miss the chance to admire it from the outside – it’s a nice example of “poor” Romanesque style.


San Martino was likely built in the 11th or 12th century and wanted by the inhabitants of the Posterula district, the area of the town you are exploring. However, we have no surviving record of it until 1333-34.


Its structure is clearly minimal (instead of a rose window there’s a bifora!) and, although keeping its Romanesque attire, it was actually retouched during the 14th century, when the roof was done anew, and heavily restored in modern times.


The interior is also quite sober – its walls used to be frescoed, but most of the decoration is now gone, except for some 15th-century fragments.



San Severino in Spello
San Severino

Chiesa di San Severino

  • Opening Hours: open at variable hours

  • Tickets: free entry

  • Location: Via Cappuccini


If you keep going up on Via del Belvedere you will soon be at a crossroads – turn right on via Cappuccini and look for a staircase with a church on top, it’s San Severino and this is the highest you can get in Spello!


Don’t take the yellow sign you will notice there too seriously – San Severino is one of the oldest buildings in town, its origin dating back to the 4th century CE. The sign refers to the current appearance of the church, which has been retouched during the 12th century when it was controlled by the San Silvestro Abbey in Collepino.


Much later, in 1662, the church was passed on to the Capuchins, who briefly turned it into an education center in Napoleon Era.


It is also clear that San Silvestro knew its best fortune during the Middle Ages: at this time, it must have been larger, with entrance on the opposite side. Today, its Romanesque façade is still visible and it presents us with a 4-pillar portico. The interior has been white-washed in modern times and it hosts 16th-18th centuries paintings.


It’s time to go back to Palazzo Comunale and move further south – before you leave, go check the nearby Torre di San Severino or dei Cappuccini (Tower of San Saverino or of the Capuchins), built in 1457 and recently made safe for visiting! Also, don't forget that you are only at a few steps from Arco Romano.


Chiesa di Sant'Andrea - Façade and neo-gothic interior



Chiesa di Sant’Andrea

  • Opening Hours: open daily, 9AM-7PM

  • Tickets: free entry

  • Location: Via Cavour, 23


Now that you are back at Palazzo Comunale it is time to head south and discover some of the richest and most significant sites in Spello – we are approaching beautiful chapels and a few Pinturicchio’s masterpieces!


If you remember well, Palazzo Comunale’s Piazza della Repubblica is sided by via Garibaldi, which, if you move south, becomes Via Cavour. Continue straight and you will find the church of Sant’Andrea.


A church on this site is documented since 1025, at that time belonging to a community of Camaldolese monks (monastic order of Tuscan origin). However, in the 13th century it must have come under the rule of Spoleto’s bishops, who passed it to the newly-born Franciscans. This is when a convent to host the friars was built (around 1250s).


And in fact, the fortune of Sant’Andrea is indeed linked to the Franciscans, as the church rose in prestige after its association with the Blessed Andrea Caccioli (1194-1254), one of the first novices of St. Francis. He allegedly was the first to establish a community of Franciscan monks here, and his name did the rest.


Over the centuries, Sant’Andrea was often retouched and twice secularized: the first time in 1810, during the French occupation, and the second in 1860-66, when it became an orphanage. Restoration works took place in the 16th, 17th and 20th century.


Anyway, the church remained one of the most prestigious in town for a long time, and evidence of this is the number of masterpieces and the richness of artistic decoration that you may find inside!


As for the architecture, the façade still keeps its Romanesque portal, while it has lost its rose window in favor of a more 16th-century style construction.


The interior clearly conveys the long history of the church, showing various signs of the restorations, which left Sant’Andrea with a rather strange and complex structure: for example, the walls have been fully painted in gold, blue and red to give them a Gothic impression, but this has happened during the 20th century and has nothing to do with Middle Ages.


What is indeed medieval is the cycle of frescoes on the right side of the transept (the area set crosswise to the nave), coming from the 14th century.

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Probably the most attention-catching element in Sant’Andrea is the Battistero Chapel (on the left when entering): it should be dated ca. 1500 and was commissioned by the Baglioni family, a few years prior to the realization of the Cappella Baglioni in Santa Maria Maggiore. The patron in this case may have been Grifonetto Baglioni, a conspirator during the Red Wedding and therefore dead by 1500.


⚫ In the Battistero Chapel focus on the big painting Madonna in Trono tra Santi (Virgin with the Child Enthroned with Saints) by Pinturicchio, which is dated 1506-1508 and was commissioned a few after the chapel itself by a different member of the family, likely Gentile Baglioni, on behalf of the Franciscans.

Pinturicchio, Madonna in Trono tra Santi - Chiesa di Sant'Andrea, Spello
Pinturicchio, Madonna in Trono tra Santi - Chiesa di Sant'Andrea, Spello

Pinturicchio, as it was his custom, probably prepared the drawing in Siena and visited the church only briefly while the painting was in the making, the actual work had been done by his collaborators – not diminishing its value in any way! The focus of the painting is the Madonna with her Child, both sitting on a niche throne surrounded by grotesque elements and classical architecture. Around the throne is an assembly of saints, among whom is St. Francis. → Let’s focus for a second on the figure and the stool with letters at the center of the scene: these were probably painted by Pinturicchio himself, who thought of apologizing for his absence and lack of active work on the painting. The letters are addressed to the painter himself and the open one, which we can read, is written by Gentile Baglioni, fetching Pinturicchio elsewhere and far from Spello, giving the artist an alibi for his actions.

​Bernardino di Betto, known as Pinturicchio (1454-1513) was an Italian painter from Perugia and one of the protagonists of the Renaissance. His works now exhibited in museums all around the world, he is particularly known for his contributions at Libreria Piccolomini and Duomo in Siena, Santa Maria del Popolo and Musei Vaticani in Rome, and for the immense added value given to Perugia and Umbria. Since his masters belonged to a previous generation of artists, his style was caught in between tradition and innovation, embracing the new waves but not ready yet to break free from the mathematical and rational view of the world that took over during the 15th century.


Collegiata di Santa Maria Maggiore, Spello
Collegiata di Santa Maria Maggiore | Image credits: Google


Collegiata di Santa Maria Maggiore

  • Opening Hours: open Tue-Sat, 9:30AM-12:30PM & 3:30-5PM

  • Tickets: free entry – 3€ ticket for the Baglioni Chapel

  • Location: Piazza Matteotti, 18


Exit Sant’Andrea and proceed south on via Cavour, the street will soon open on a square: it’s piazza Matteotti and this is your next stop – here you will find Santa Maria Maggiore and the Pinacoteca Civica.


Santa Maria Maggiore is easily the most important (artistically speaking!) site in our tour through medieval and Renaissance Spello and also the first church in town. However, it hasn’t always been like this: Santa Maria Maggiore is locally famous for its beef with San Lorenzo, which used to have primacy – but let’s start from the beginning.


Santa Maria Maggiore is a collegiate church, meaning that it is administered by a community, similar to a monastery or a convent, but instead of monks or friars here we have canons, so clergymen. Normally, collegiates are also given properties and sometimes land, privileges and more, making them an important if not the most important center of a town/district.


As for Santa Maria Maggiore, the original structure was likely erected on the ruins of a Roman temple in the 12th century – it is first documented in 1159 – and soon given substantial properties. In 1187, Emperor Henry VI placed it under his direct protection, freeing it from any other interference and therefore giving it a solid base for its later fortune. By the 13th century it already was the richest church in town and second in importance after San Lorenzo, with which there had been rivalry.


During the turbulent 14th century and early 15th, due to its affiliation with higher powers, Santa Maria Maggiore knew a period of decline, but in the second half of the 15th century it was flourishing already and a long prosperity began, leading to expansion and works.


As a collegiate it used to be part of a larger complex: the building on its right was the priory (hosting the canons) and that on the left the Palazzo dei Canonici (Canons’ Palace), today the seat of the Pinacoteca Civica. When it was suppressed as a collegiate in 1860s the buildings were used for other purposes and the church went on by itself.


The architecture shows signs of time and expansions: the façade was advanced by 6m / 20ft in 1644 to enlarge the church, and therefore it was redone reusing the same stone and adding a large window. The ancient Romanesque portal remains. The bell tower is still medieval.


The interior today looks Baroque, Latin-cross shaped with a single nave. There used to be several chapels on the sides, but they have been mostly closed and walled up over the centuries and substituted with altars with paintings.


Right at the entrance you can spot a Roman altar (1st century BCE) used as a stoup, as well as the flooring, which is a 16th-century majolica made in Deruta!


As for the remaining chapels, two are especially worth noticing:

  • Cappella del Sacramento: today it hosts several artworks, including a Madonna col Bambino (Virgin with Child), dated ca. 1500-1501 and attributed to Pinturicchio or his school. His style is clearly recognizable.

Details of Cappella Baglioni



Cappella Baglioni (3€ ticket): this is probably the highest artistic point ever reached in Spello. This quadrangular, cross-vaulted chapel covered with 16th-century majolica flooring was commissioned by Troilo Baglioni and fully painted by Pinturicchio, the last big endeavor of the artist in Umbria. The creation process was quick and involved his collaborators as usual: he prepared the drawings, then most of the on-site work was made by his entourage. The theme is Virgin Mary and the childhood of Jesus, declined in three lunette-shaped scenes: - Annunciation: set in a Renaissance loggia with a strong use of perspective. Look at the window with a grid on the right: below it is a self-portrait of Pinturicchio! - Adoration of the Shepherds: the scene is dominated by a rich landscape and shows the influence of Flemish art on the painter. - Dispute with the Doctors: large dome in background, a clear reference to Perugino’s work. In this scene, some of the characters are portraits of real people, including commissioner Troilo Baglioni.



Cappella Tega - the second picture (credits: iluoghidelsilenzio.it) shows a witch burned at the stake



Cappella Tega (Cappella di Sant’Anna)


Going further on Via Cavour we meet a crossroads and we can either go left on via Consolare or straight/right on via Sant’Angelo – let’s take this latter, we should soon find a glassed arch with a sculpture with an olive tree on it, we have reached Cappella Tega!


Cappella Tega is actually a deconsecrated church – it was initially built as the seat of the Confraternity of the Disciplinati di Sant’Anna as part of a larger complex which records date back to 1362.


After being fully frescoed in 1461, the chapel was suppressed along with the entire complex in 1571, when the Disciplinati stopped their activities. The resources here were found too limited to justify a continuity of use for other communities, and this place fell in disuse for a long time, finally covered with layers of plaster that fully hid the frescoes from sight.


It was only in 1911 that the chapel with its frescoes was rediscovered by Pietro Tega, a tailor from Spello to whom the chapel takes its most recent name. This happened because the place was used from 1895 to the 1920s as a shop, and therefore Pietro was working here at the time, in what was a plastered chapel.


Cappella Tega, now a civic property, was later restored and part of its frescoes could be brought to light again: this happened in 1970 and 2017.


Today the chapel is unfortunately often closed, but its single-room, cross-vaulted structure can be seen from the outside thanks to the glassed arch.


The frescoes, as said, were made in the 1460s by at least 2 different painters: an anonymous hand and Nicolò di Liberatore detto l’Alunno, who was even mentioned by the great artist and art historian Giorgio Vasari as one of the brightest painters of the Umbria region.


Inside the chapel, the frescoes show themes that were very common for the period. Siding the entrance door there is a depiction of Purgatory and Hell, and in Hell there is a witch burned at the stake, a rarity for Italy, especially at that time. On the right, although the frescoes are almost fully lost, we can recognize St. Anne and the Virgin with the Child, on the left several figures of saints, and then the Agnus Dei, the Evangelists and more. Finally, on the front there a Crucifixion dated 1461 and made by l’Alunno.



Chiesa di San Ventura | Picture of the façade (source: Google) and the interior (source: iluoghidelsilenzio.it)



Chiesa di San Ventura


At this point, from Cappella Tega we shall move forward on Via Sant’Angelo, take via Consolare and keep right until it meets via Sant’Anna. From here, we go right on Via Roma and stay there until the road ends in Via Centrale Umbra, where we shall find Chiesa di San Ventura!


The history of this rather small church was not always gifted with luck – and its new façade somehow foretells it. But first, we should notice that its location corresponds to that of the ancient Augustan walls, although it is placed slightly outside them.


San Ventura was built during the late 12th century at the request of Ventura Spellucci, a member of a wealthy Spello family, a few years before his death. He was then proclaimed saint and buried in the church in 1264, attracting a huge number of pilgrims who claimed he was performing miracles.


Unfortunately, despite its religious value, San Ventura was severely damaged and its convent and hospital were destroyed by an army of soldiers ransacking Spello in the turbulent 16th century. The church was restored decades later (1625) but this period caused some decline in its importance and it came out from the renovations quite resized (for example, the tympanum, a decorative surface over a door or a portal, was demolished).


A few years later, in 1656, the Order of the Cruciferi (a minor religious order then absorbed by the Franciscans) was suppressed and therefore San Ventura, which was administered by them for Ventura Spellucci was himself a member, passed on to the Franciscans. This caused its importance to decrease even more.


Finally, during Second World War it was even used as temporary storage for cereals, which clearly damaged its features, so in the 1960s a major renovation was necessary – this was radical, with the façade being completely rebuilt both externally and internally.


The interior today looks quite simple and hosts frescoes from the 13th, 14th and 18th century.



Chiesa di San Claudio, Spello
Chiesa di San Claudio | Image source: iluoghidelsilenzio.it

Chiesa di San Claudio

  • Opening Hours: open on appointment

  • Tickets: 4€ full price, reduced 3€ or 2€

  • Location: Via Centrale Umbra


We are now done with our medieval and Renaissance tour within the city walls and we are ready to explore the last stops of this itinerary - from here, since some places can be quite distant from the city center, you may decide to continue on foot or go by car.


Moving past San Ventura, let's stay on via Centrale Umbra for 1km / 0,62mi so that we may reach San Claudio!


As you will see, San Claudio is located outside the city walls and was originally built on an early Christian cemeterial area. Also, if you are here you may want to check Villa Fidelia and the Anfiteatro Romano, which you can reach in 5 minutes.


First documented in 1178, by the end of the 14th century San Claudio had become a fair center and a stop for pilgrims going to Assisi, being it on the way to St. Francis city. Consequently, to host the crowds of people porticoes on each side were built in 1473-1490 - today, they do not exist anymore.


As usual, over the centuries the church was damaged and restored: in 1832 an earthquake destroyed the rose windows, on the façade which was later rebuilt (however, as you can see, it's not perfectly in axis with the 2 bifores!). The church was restored again during the 20th century and then in 2001-2004.


Today, what we see is a three-naved church with 3 portals on the facade and therefore 3 entrances, of which only one is open. The interior contains a cycle of frescoes with stories of St. Claudius (1393) and other saints, while the apse area (semicircular area, normally in the form of a vault or semi-dome and placed behind the high altar) was identified as the host of the ancient early medieval necropolis (5-6th century CE) containing circa 25 tombs.


In case you wish to visit its interior, remember to book an appointment by emailing info@vivispello.it a couple of days in advance!



Torre Santa Margherita, Spello
Torre Santa Margherita

Torre Santa Margherita


Torre Santa Margherita is located just outside the city walls and yet we find it after a just 5-minute stroll from Palazzo Comunale (so no need to take your car!), near piazza Belvedere.


This Torre is actually the only remaining part of an entire monastery, the Santi Giacomo e Margherita, first mentioned in 1263. Unfortunately, the location just slightly outside the walls made it very dangerous in a time of constant sieges and attacks, and in 1463 the nuns living there had to abandon it and move into another one in-walls. After that moment the old monastery rapidly declined and had to be almost completely destroyed.


Today, while nothing remains of the monastery except for some signs on the tower's walls, the Torre has been recently restored and hosts the art collection of Fondazione Sinisca, which can be visited by appointment only.


Complesso San Girolamo in Spello
Complesso di San Girolamo

Complesso di San Girolamo

  • Opening Hours: open on appointment

  • Tickets: 4€ full price, reduced 3€ or 2€

  • Location: Via San Girolamo, 1


It is now time to move farther away from the city center and toward Mount Subasio - with just a 13-minute stroll from Palazzo Comunale we can reach the Complex of San Girolamo and enjoy a breath-taking view of Spello right from the woods encircling this place!


Today San Girolamo, located right at the entrance of the civic cemetery, is administered by Azione Cattolica and people are living or staying for a few nights there. Therefore, visits are limited and in case you wish to access it, do not forget to book an appointment by emailing info@vivispello.it a couple of days in advance!


As we said and can see, San Girolamo is a complex, so it's made of a few separate elements: the church itself, the portico and the cemetery, these last two built later.


The church was initially founded by Braccio II Baglioni and given to the Franciscans - constructions took place around 1472-78. Then, as usual, since no building can resist the passing of centuries intact, San Girolamo was damaged, occupied, suppressed and even secularized several times, its location outside the walls making it particularly fragile. Given back to the Franciscans in ca. 1850, it was suppressed again in 1866 and then recently passed on to Azione Cattolica.


In case you are here to visit, pay special attention to the portico, which is also an access to the cemetery: it is orned with 16th-century frescoes depicting saints and hosts some interesting chapels. One of them contains a Natività (Nativity) (late 15th century) which has been recently attributed to Pinturicchio himself, who would have painted it as commissioned by Braccio Baglioni.



Monastero di Vallegloria Vecchio (right) and Nuovo (left)



Monastero di Vallegloria (Vecchio & Nuovo)

  • Opening Hours: not accessible (Vecchio) & 9AM-12PM / 3-6PM (Nuovo)

  • Tickets: free entry

  • Location: Via Subasio (Vecchio) & Piazza Vallegloria (Nuovo)


We finish our itinerary with a last (double) destination which story I believe summarizes perfectly that of Spello - it's the Monastery of Vallegloria, both the Vecchio (Old) and the Nuovo (New). The Vecchio is located outside the city walls, 2km / 1,25mi from Spello (nearby Collepino), while the Nuovo is in town.


To retrace the story of Vallegloria we must go back in time and reach no less than the 6th century CE, when a monastery is said to have been founded by the Benedictines right where the Vallegloria Vecchio stands now - it was later passed to a community of nuns.


By looking at the poor ruins of Vallegloria Vecchio, it may be hard to imagine a glorious past, but in fact St. Francis himself may have preached here in the 12th century and a nephew of St. Chiara (follower of St. Francis and founder of the female branch of the Franciscans, the Poor Clares), Balbina, lived in this place and turned it into one of the first centers of the Clarisse (Poor Clares) in 1236.


Unfortunately, as seen for Santa Margherita, the position outside the city walls made this place so dangerous and vulnerable to attacks that in 1320 the nuns had to move elsewhere, in what will become the Vallegloria Nuovo. This happened especially because of the conflicts between Spello, Assis and Perugia.


Vallegloria Nuovo still holds the 14th-century façade and, despite the renovations, is definitely worth a visit. After decades of absence due to the 19th-century suppressions of religious orders, the Poor Clares today inhabit it once again and the church has been brought back to life.


Unfortunately, the same is not true for Vallegloria Vecchio: abandonment, wars and nature have damaged the place to a point where today it threatens to collapse and may do it in the next few years. The monastery has been even used as a farmhouse and shelter for animals in the past, and despite a few decades of renascence in the 20th century when it was occupied by a religious community, an earthquake has definitely stopped any activities and turned it into a ruin.


If in Spello and on your way to Collepino (which is a tiny, beautiful village on Mount Subasio, a perfect place to escape the summer heat or simply admire a stunning view of Spello and the Valle Umbra from above), I would definitely recommend visiting both monasteries - ruins and wrecks have always so much to tell and is where history is even more tangible!


If heading to Vallegloria Vecchio, please remember to look at it from a distance - its ruined state do not allow visits and it can be quite dangerous to get too close!



MORE TO SEE IN SPELLO


Palazzo Cruciani, Spello
Palazzo Cruciani and its wooden balcony

Palazzo Urbani-Acuti (Cruciani)


This is a beautiful palace built in the early 17th century (1602) by the Urbani-Acuti family in Piazza della Repubblica, which also hosts Palazzo Comunale. The Palazzo, the major private building in town until the 19th century, is today also called Cruciani, from the family who actually acquired it in 1789 and has been its longest-lasting owner. In 1972 it eventually became the seat of the civic administration and was restored before assigning it to its new role.


Its 4-storey structure is complex and reveals the passages of owners and epochs, but the highlight here is definitely the courtyard with its portico and the magnificent wooden balcony.


The portico and balcony, which are frescoed (some 17th-century works), can be visited during the Giornate FAI, a cultural event taking place across Italy twice a year, one weekend in spring and one in fall. Nevertheless, the courtyard is still a little gem that is worth your time, and considering its position this will not take you more than 10 minutes!


Villa Fidelia and its gardens | Images source: Wikimedia Commons


Villa Fidelia

  • Opening Hours: open daily 9AM-7:30PM (Gardens)

  • Tickets: free entry

  • Location: Via Centrale Umbra


We are back in via Centrale Umbra, quite far from the city center (ca. 20 minutes on foot) but extremely close to Chiesa di San Claudio and Anfiteatro Romano, in case you wish to see them all!


Villa Fidelia, also known as Villa Costanzi, is a rare example of non-medieval or Renaissance-styled palace in Spello. It was actually first conceived as one, as the first version was built in the 16th century by the Urbani-Acuti family, but the Villa was later fully rebuilt in a more Baroque style at the behest of Donna Teresa Pamphili Grillo during the 17th century.


The Villa was built on the remains of a Roman sanctuary, a late construction (4th century CE) and a probable consequence of the Rescript of Costantine. This influenced its appearance: a natural slope of the area and the pre-existing base limited the space and its engineering, as it is a 5-storey palace but only 3 floors are located above ground level.


However, the Villa has always been much appreciated and its gardens, the only accessible part of the complex except for some special occasions, are still much loved by visitors today. In 1930 the entire Villa was chosen by King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy to host the reception of his daughter's wedding and today its gardens are a favorite destination for many locals and more.


The Villa did not retain anything of its original 16th-century form, except for some traces of the walls. The interior of the current Baroque palace, if accessible, would offer an imposing staircase and an elegant entrance, but the gardens are the protagonists and much of the focus has always been on them. They include the Italian Garden, the Magnolia Meadow, the riding track, the Vesuvius Garden with its ancient statues, the Fountain of Diana, the Palazzina, and more.


Definitely a must-stop if wishing to relax in the Gardens, far from the hot and dry summery countryside, and have a nice stroll in-between nature, art and history.



Pinacoteca Civica

  • Opening Hours: Fri-Sun 10:30AM-5PM

  • Tickets: Full 7€, reduced 6/40€, options for cumulative tickets

  • Location: Via Cavour (opens on Piazza Matteotti)


We have now reached the very last destination in Spello, the Pinacoteca, which is basically a journey through Spello in 76 artworks and 7 rooms.


In case you have missed it, in piazza Matteotti don't forget to visit the Collegiata di Santa Maria Maggiore - since 1994 the Pinacoteca Civica is actually hosted in the former Palazzo dei Canonici, a 16th-century building that used to be part of the Santa Maria Maggiore complex.


The Pinacoteca was thought to accompany the visitor through Spello and its relationship with Umbria, using a 76-piece art collection covering the centuries 13th-18th and with a focus on the 14-16th, when the town was more culturally active and attracted artists such as Pinturicchio.


The opening hours are a bit tight, but if you happened to be in Spello during a weekend or on a Friday and can dedicate a good 1 hour of your time to art, do not miss the Pinacoteca! Here is an overview of the highlights:


Highlights of the Pinacoteca Civica (images follow the below list's order) | Sources: Wikimedia Commons and iluoghidelsilenzio.it


  • ROOM 1 - Madonna in Trono con Bambino (13/14th century): this is one of the oldest works in the collection and comes from Santa Maria Maggiore, and Wooden Statue of Enthroned Madonna with Child (13th century), previously stolen from the Pinacoteca, this is a rare example of well preserved wooden statue.

  • ROOM 1 - Two Crosses (ca. 1390-98): these two Crosses come from Santa Maria Maggiore and San Lorenzo. That of Santa Maria Maggiore was created a few years after San Lorenzo's on the occasion of a dispute between the two churches for who should have the primacy over Spello. We have talked about this here.

  • ROOM 2 - Several Madonna con il Bambino (late 15th-early 16th century): although not made by the artist himself, this room presents a collection of Madonnas by the School of Pinturicchio. A perfect representation of the state of art in Umbria and in Spello in the late 15th century. Check San Andrea and the Cappella Baglioni for the artist's works.

  • ROOM 2 - Trittico del Maestro dell'Assunta (late 15th century): for years this tryptic was attributed to Pinturicchio, but it was later found to be of another hand. However, here we are focusing on a sad story around this artwork, which resulted in what you actually see placed in front of it. The photograph in the middle of the tryptic is meant to show the original appearance of the central painting, while the painting is placed in front of it and it is clearly damaged. This happened after it was stolen in 1970 and found severely deteriorated in the early 2000s, as a result of the thief's attempt to conceal it.


 


Spello: To Do & To Know



HOW TO REACH SPELLO


Spello is a small town in Umbria, in the Province of Perugia, and has good connections with the other cities in the region and with some other major Italian cities such as Rome and Florence. Let's explore the various options:


By Car

Umbria is a small region with mounts and hills scattered all around, so motorways are rare but every city is well connected with each other and so is Spello.


Options for a one-day trip:

  • From Assisi: 11.5km / 7mi - 16 min drive on highway (no tolls)

  • From Perugia: 32km / 20mi - 32 min drive on highway (no tolls)

  • From Foligno: 6,5km / 4mi - 11 min drive on highway (no tolls)

  • From Spoleto: 35km / 22mi - 26 min drive on highway (no tolls)

More-days options:

  • From Urbino: 115km / 72mi - 1h45min drive on highway (no tolls)

  • From Rome: 163km / 101mi - 2h10min drive on highway and motorway (with tolls)

  • From Florence: 177km / 110mi - 2h5min drive on highway and motorway (with tolls)


By Train

Spello has a railway station served by Trenitalia regional trains (no high speed), you can find it on the map here.


Once at the station, reaching the main sights will take you around 15 minutes - Palazzo Comunale is 13 minutes away on foot from the railway station.


In case you are visiting Spello and Umbria by train, you can reach the town from all the main Umbrian cities (including Assisi, Foligno, Spoleto, Perugia, Narni) and from Rome and Florence. You can check prices and timetables here. A few examples:

  • From Assisi: 10 min - 2,30€

  • From Perugia: 30/40 min - 4,35€

  • From Rome: ca. 2h - 12,15€

  • From Florence: ca. 2h30min - 16,50€



USEFUL INFOS & WEBSITES



When should you visit Spello? The best time to visit Spello would be spring or early fall, and I would suggest the same for most of North and Central Italy, and certainly for Umbria - spring in Spello means flowers and the Infiorata!


Winters are not too cold here, but the landscapes might be less spectacular with no grass and no leaves on the trees - also, fog and rain! Summer hits hard and temperatures are high: when I visited Spello it was August and temperatures peaked up to 43°C / 110°F but that was extreme. You should expect 30 to 35°C / 86 to 95°F in August/July - still a lot but manageable if you plan your trip well!


How much time should you spend in Spello? Definitely one day if you plan to see it all. Even if you don't wish to check out every site, I suggest staying at least half a day, otherwise it would be hard to grasp the best of Spello's beauty!


How should you visit Spello? The best way to travel in Umbria, and therefore to Spello, is probably by car. Trains are still ok, but not the best option if planning more than one stop in a day.


Spello itself can be visited on foot - there is really no need to take the car unless you wish to see what is outside the ancient city walls (including Vallegloria and Villa Fidelia)!



Useful Websites

  • Official webpage of Spello (Italian): here

  • Spello railway station: here

  • ProLoco Spello - local association organizing events and cultural activities (Italian): here

  • Official webpage of the Infiorate di Spello (Italian): here

  • UmbriaTourism - portal for all kinds of information regarding tourism and holidays in Umbria: here


WHAT TO EAT IN SPELLO AND LOCAL TRADITIONS


Like every other region in Italy, Umbria is renewed for a few local specialties and products based on what the territory has to offer.


In this case, since Umbria is not bathed by the sea, everything is dependent on the products of the land and on animal-derived creations. Samely, traditions and festivals celebrate cultivation and the natural landscape of this beautiful little region.


Also, Spello is part of the Strada dei Vini del Cantico, a wine route touching cities like Assisi, Perugia, Todi, Deruta and many more. Since 2002, a local association organizes tours, tastings, and activities to let visitors discover and get down deep into the roots and traditions of this area.



Local Products and Cuisine - What to Eat

Prepare yourself (and your stomach) for some hearty meals, as legumes, lard, bacon, cured meat, cheese, and game are the protagonists here.


Also, the Spello area (and, more generally, that of Mount Subasio) is all focused on olive trees, truffles harvesting and vineyards, resulting in high-quality olive oil, some interesting truffle-based recipes and good wine.


Spello is a small town but full of restaurants and trattorie that offer a wide selection of local cuisine, shops where you can buy products and bring them home with you, bakeries and ovens to have some fresh bites, and wineries for some quality refreshment - here are a few examples of what you should look for if interested in tasting some specialties:


  • Tartufo Nero di Norcia & Tartufo Bianco della Val del Tevere: the certified and best-quality truffle in the region! It is used lavishly on dishes throughout the year, with a peak in season, of course.

  • Olio Extravergine d'Oliva Umbro DOP: the olive oil that is being produced right in the valley surrounding Spello, Assisi and in many other spots around the region - certified good quality!

  • Pecorino al Tartufo: originally from Norcia (a town you should definitely check, its cuisine is super rich!), this is a truffled declination of a very popular Italian cheese, the pecorino (which is also commonly found in Rome).

  • Torgiano Riserva DOCG: a bright-red fruity wine originally from Torgiano, a small town nearby Spello. A still wine.

  • Assisi DOC: a wine from the Assisi area (very close to Spello) that can be either white or wine depending on the grape. A still wine.

  • Grechetto: this type of grape that gives a white wine is typical of central Italy and Umbria - make sure to taste it (the Assisi DOC includes Grechetto among its grapes)!

  • Torta al Testo (or Crescia): is a type of bread that may accompany your tagliere (charcuterie board of cheese and cold cuts) or come already filled.

  • Impastolata: hearty dish with maize porridge and beans, enriched with lard or bacon.

  • Strangozzi: the strangozzi are a type of pasta similar to spaghetti, then mixed with sauces to form local dishes. Strangozzi alla Norcina includes sausages and cream, alla Spoletina tomatoes and pepper.

  • Bruschetta all'Olio di Spello: as simply as it gets - bread and olive oil! Since Spello is renewed for its quality oil, it's definitely a good idea to taste it in purity -this is an appetizer.

  • Ciaramicola: time for some sweets! Originally, people ate ciaramicola at Easter, but now it can be found in bakeries throughout the whole year. It's a soft, red-colored cake topped with meringue and candies.

  • Torciglione Umbro: this sort of funny-shaped giant cookie can be found in bakeries and ovens and is filled with nuts and raisins.



Festivals in Spello

Italy is a land of festivals and sagre - they can be religious-themed or a celebration of some local delicacy. As for Spello, people here focus their attention on their exquisite oil and on the impressive availability of natural resources such as flowers and herbs on the nearby Mount Subasio and its Valley.


  • L'Oro di Spello - Festa dell'Olio e dell'Ulivo


L'Oro di Spello, the Gold of Spello, the oil produced in this area, is celebrated every November with a 3-day festival that takes place all around the city.


If in Spello in late fall you will find the city crowded with stands, carts, musicians and more, and you will have the chance to taste the locally-produced oil and many delicacies made with it. Unfortunately, there is no official website for the festival, but if going in November you may check the ProLoco Spello website (in Italian) for more information.


  • Giorni delle Rose


May and June are the Infiorata months, but Spello is constantly coming up with new celebrations of its immense love for flowers and greenery.


In late May, Villa Fidelia becomes the protagonist of the Giorni delle Rose (Roses' Days), when for 3 days its gardens turn into an exhibition and present all kinds of roses and a journey across the history and traditions linked to this romantic flower with performances, workshops and much more.


Here is the official website, where you can check schedules, timetables and more: i Giorni delle Rose (in Italian). This is also your perfect chance to explore Villa Fidelia and its gardens, we have talked about this 17th-century residence here.