Spoleto, Italy

Panoramic view of the Upper Town of Spoleto, with the medieval castle and cathedral tower. Photo © Sacred Destinations.

Spoleto is a beautiful town of about 38,000 people on the slopes of a sacred mountain in the Apennines. It is located in the region of Umbria, 39 miles SE of Perugia and 78 miles N of Rome. Spoleto has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. As a Roman town in the 3rd century BC, it fought off the fierce invader Hannibal. Strategically situated on the ancient Via Flaminia from Rome to Ravenna, Spoleto became the stronghold of many rulers during the Dark Ages. The Lombards made it the capital of their empire in the 8th century; the duke they installed here governed most of central Italy. At the turn of the 12th century, Spoleto fell into papal hands, and its twilight began. Today's Spoleto has two levels: the Lower Town, extensively rebuilt after World War II; and the well-preserved medieval Upper Town. Spoleto contains a number of ancient Roman and medieval sacred sites - in addition to the Duomo, with Filippo Lippi's last fresco cycle, there are many Romanesque churches and a Roman theater, now restored and once again in use.

Spoleto Cathedral
The lovely Duomo di Spoleto dates from the 12th century. It features a fine Romanesque facade, magnificent frescoes by Fra Filippo Lippi and others, and a handwritten letter from St. Francis of Assisi.
San Ponziano
This 12th-century church on the outskirts of town is dedicated to Spoleto's patron saint. It has a fine Romanesque facade and extensive medieval frescoes in the crypt.
Museo Diocesano
The Diocesan Museum of Spoleto displays religious art from the Middle Ages to the Baroque period and includes admission to Sant'Eufemia Church.
San Pietro
Reached by a shady 2km walk out of town, this medieval church is famed for its facade sculptures. Illustrating biblical stories and medieval themes, they are among the best Romanesque carvings in Umbria.
Built in the 12th century over a Lombard palace next to the Duomo, Sant'Eufemia is famed for its unique women's galleries above the nave. It is now part of the Museo Diocesano.
Museo Archeologico
Housed in a former Benedictine convent and incorporating a Roman theater, this museum displays interesting Roman artifacts including an inscription warning against damaging a sacred forest.
San Salvatore
Unlike the others in Spoleto,this church isn't Romanesque - it's Roman! It was built in the late 4th century in the style of Classical temples and is remarkably well-preserved.
San Gregorio Maggiore
Built in 1069, San Gregorio has an exterior made with Roman spoils and an interior with patches of Romanesque frescoes, unusual stone confessionals, and a little crypt.