Interested in visiting Umbria, but not sure where to start? Spoleto is one of Umbria’s jewels. A small ancient hilltop town in the south of Umbria, perfect for your first taste of Umbria.
An easy escape from the crowds of Rome. Spoleto is an Umbrian hilltop town worth exploring. It’s full of Roman and Medieval architecture and is surrounded by green hills.
And just an hour and a half north of Rome by train or two and a half hours from Florence.
At its core Spoleto is a medieval town full of Roman monuments. The Cathedral, or Duomo, of Spoleto is in my top 3 duomo’s in Umbria. Assisi being the first and Orvieto and Spoleto battling for second. The piazza, or square, is worth the visit alone.
It was even where the wealthy ancient Romans went to escape the summer heat.
Still need a reason to visit Spoleto?
Spoleto is blessed with the only Unesco heritage sites in Umbria, celebrates with an international arts festival in July and is overflowing with wonderful restaurants serving local olive oil, truffles and cured meats.
Herman Hesse is quoted saying that: “Spoleto is the most beautiful discovery I made in Italy […], there is such a wealth of beauty almost unknown, mountains, valleys, forests of oaks, monasteries, waterfalls! “
There are many reasons to visit Spoleto. I recommend spending a night so that you can take more of what Spoleto has to offer.
Where is Spoleto in Italy?
An hour and a half north of Rome by train, it’s in the south east corner of Umbria.
The Apennine mountain range rises behind Spoleto. And via Flaminia, an ancient Roman road, cuts through the valley to bring the Romans up to escape the summer heat.
Spoleto is an easy day trip by train from Rome, Florence or Perugia. But if you have the time consider spending the night.
Driving in Italy? Rent a villa just outside and use Spoleto for a base to explore the surrounding area.
Smaller towns nearby like Trevi and Scheggino, 20 minutes and 15 minutes away respectively. The refreshing waterfalls of Marmore are a 35 minutes drive, or visit Castelluccio and Norcia in the Apennine mountains, about 50 minutes by car.
Spoleto on a map
Spoleto is in the blue circle. Much closer to Rome then to Florence, but luckily it’s on a train line.
How do you get to Spoleto?
Spoleto is one of the easiest towns to get to with public transit in Umbria.
Yes, it’s at the bottom of the hill and you’ll want to stay up in the historic center. But it’s an easy walk because there are escolaters that are both under and over ground to take you up.
Looking to taking the train in Italy and Umbria? Here’s a post all about the best towns to visit by train.
A Short History of Spoleto
- First settled by the Umbrii
- Became a Roman municipium in 90BC
- Was taken by the Byzantines at the fall of the Roman Empire and rebuilt.
- Changed hands several times in the middle ages until 1354 when it was taken by Cardinal Albornoz (you’ll recognize the name from the fortress). From then on it was part of the Papal states in Italy.
- Except when Napoleon claimed it for a brief time.
What to see in Spoleto
The Duomo or the Cathedral of Spoleto
The Duomo is found in the Piazza del Duomo. The exterior is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture. Inside there are frescoes by Pietro Perugino (1454-1513) and Filippo Lippi (1406-1469), who died in Spoleto before finishing his paintings on the life of the virgin Mary.
But the most important thing to do is to look down. The floor of the Cathedral is a wonderful patchwork quilt of stones and designs, I don’t think I’ve seen a more beautiful one.
The Fortress: Rocca Albornoz
Called the Rocca Albornoz, the fortress sits on top of Spoleto, giving a birds eye view for miles around. And it’s the symbol of Spoleto.
This Rocca, meaning fortress, has hosted Popes and Governors over the centuries.
Enclosed by walls and 6 towers, it’s an impressive sight from below.
It’s divided into two distinct areas. First is the main courtyard, with the National Museum of the Duchy and a multipurpose space for exhibitions, concerts and conferences. And the other is the Courtyard of arms, with an outdoor theater.
Hours: Closed Monday to Wednesday. Thursday till Sunday 10.00-19.00
Cost: 7.50 or 2 for those 18-25. Free for under 18s. Or get the Spoleto card for 9.50 (find out more here)
Would I suggest going in? Yes. Especially if you’re thinking of getting the Spoleto card for seeing the Clitunno Temple, a UNESCO Heritage site or the Roman House.
The Bridge or Ponte delle Torri of Spoleto
Don’t worry, like La Rocca, you just can’t miss it!
Traditionally a popular spot for wedding photos, but since the earthquakes in 2017 you can’t access or cross the bridge. But you can still enjoy it from the path around the outside of the fortress.
It was built, perhaps on an Roman aqueduct, to connect the fortress to the mountains on the other side of the valley, Monteluco.
This bridge is both impressive and unique. 230 meters long and 82 high and it seems to have been built between the thirteenth and fourteenth century, after the sacking of Spoleto (1155) by Barbarossa.
Basilica of San Salvatore
While the duomo is worth a hike up to the top of the town, don’t miss the church near the train station. It’s one of the first churches ever built.
Sadly you can’t enter the church at the moment, as it was damaged during the earthquakes in 2017. But the doors are normally open and you can see the interior with it’s frescos.
In 2011 it was put on the UNESCO heritage list. It’s part of the ‘Longoboards of Italy’. A group who invaded from what is now Hungary, and created the Duchy of Spoleto from sometime after 568AD till 729AD.
Look for the Basilica’s origines as a Roman temple, like the columns. As a christian building it was first a dedication to the martyrs Concordio and Senzia. Around 815 it’s first referred to as San Salvatore.
In the 16th century, the inner walls were decorated with frescoes. At this point it’s name changes to Crucifix/Church of the Crocefisso, from the cult of the Crucifix.
And then in the 20th century it returned to its original name, San Salvatore.
Spoleto’s Roman Amphitheater
It’s small, but not underwhelming. It’s connected to the archeological museum. So if you have a Spoleto card you can enter into the Archeological museum and enjoy this Roman amphitheater.
They still hold plays and concerts here in the summer.
Hours: Closed Mondays. Tuesday to Sunday 8.30 till 7.30pm
Cost: 4 euros, 2 euros for 18-25 year olds. Free for under 18s
Where and What to eat in Spoleto
Grab a well deserved gelato at Crispy. They have high quality gelato, with one Gelateria exclusively selling varieties of pistacchio…
Spoiled for choice with quaint little osterias, make sure to have some antipasti that highlight the regional olive oil and cured ham, prosciutto crudo, from Norcia.
Like all of Umbria, restaurants in Spoleto will have a dish with local black truffles when in season.
Things to do in and around Spoleto, Italy
Walking Around Spoleto
One of my favorite walks is around the outer wall of La Rocca Albornoz. With impressive panoramic views across the valley and the mountains. And a close up of the Ponte delle Torri
In April/May the forests are full of trees with purple flowers sprinkled throughout. And the iconic Umbrian olive groves cover the hillside above and below the fortress walls.
On your way up to the fortress find this big face of a water fountain, in the summer fill up your water bottle. And then sit down for a caffe and pastry while admiring the view from the cafe uptop.
In town, stroll through the Roman Arch of Drusus and Germanicus, enjoy fountains in the piazzas, and get lost down cobblestone alleyways.
Festival dei 2Mondi
This festival was created in 1958 to celebrate the arts in all forms, traditional European and the modern American.
Expect to find opera singers and contemporary song writers, films and plays, ballet and modern dance, poets and novelist.
And expect people. Spoleto will be crowded and vibrant.
To find out more here’s a link for the Festival dei 2Mondi
Looking for your Next Destination in Southern Umbria?
So you’ve planned and seen Spoleto, what’s next?
Why not stay in southern Umbria and explore Orvieto? They excel at white wine and underground living.