Earth : Europe : Italy : Central Italy : Umbria : Spello
Spello is a city in Umbria.
By car, from Rome, take Autostrada A1 north, towards Florence, then exit at Orte. Take superstrada towards Terni and Spoleto. At Foligno, turn off towards Perugia, Cesena. When arriving from the north, follow road to Perugia, then take superstrada to Assisi and Foligno. Spello is the last exit before Foligno.
By train: train line Foligno - Florence, get off at Spello. All local trains arriving from Perugia or Foligno stop in Spello. Long distance trains from Florence and Rome sometimes stop in Spello (check schedules).
By plane: from Perugia airport (flights from London, Milan, Tirana) take a taxi, or take a bus into Perugia, then the train. Or hire a car- 15 min. drive
It is best to leave your car at the bottom of the hill and walk up through town. Alternatively, you can take a shuttle bus from the new part through the historic centre (usually runs only in the morning).
Sights from more than three millenia can be found in Spello. There is a Roman amphitheatre outside of town, but it was never fully excavated and is not usually open to the public. It can be seen from the belvedere lookout in the historic centre.
Spello has some of Italy's best preserved city walls, many of them Roman, some medieval. They can be seen from the superstrada and from various angles around town. Three large Roman gates remain: the main Porta Consulare, Porta Urbica and the Torre di Properzio Gate.
Numerous medieval churches near and in Spello are worth visiting. Of particular interest are S. Claudio (1 km outside), S. Ventura (at the bottom of the hill), S. Maria Maggiore (ex-cathedral, when Spello was still a bishop's seat - half way up the hill, before the main square), S. Andrea (50 metres past S. Maria M.), S. Lorenzo (past the main square) and Chiesa di Vallegloria (on top of the hill).
The Pinacoteca Civica art museum (between S. Maria M. and S. Andrea churches) houses many precious artefacts from various Spello churches and palazzi.
The medieval palazzo comunale (city hall -on the main square) is also worth a visit: the various building parts are very beautiful and they house a number or Roman and medieval artifacts (e.g., an original stone edict by emperor Constantin). Sometime, art exhibits are held in some of the larger halls.
In the upper part of town (on Via Giulia, between S. Lorenzo and Vallegloria churches), there are two important sights: the remnants of a large former Roman arch (to the left of the bakery) and (30 metres on) a splendid little 200-year old theatre, which has shows throughou the year and is sometimes open during the day for visitors.
Outside Spello, near S. Claudio church, is the beautifully located castle/palace VILLA FIDELIA, where outdoor concerts are held in the summer. Some of the buildings are used as art museums and the castle gardens can be visited.
At the bottom of the hill, near S. Anna church, the floor of a Roman villa with unusually beautiful and well-preserved mosaics was discovered some years ago. It is now open to the public.
Spello's most famous artworks are to be found in S. Maria Maggiore and S. Andrea churches: two of the Renaissance's best-known painters have left behind a number of paintings and frescoes of major interest. In S. Maria Maggiore, Il Pinturicchio painted the Baglioni chapel in 1500- the frescoes are extremely well preserved. The same church houses two paintings by Il Perugino. S. Andrea has one large Pinturicchio painting.
Towards the top of the hill, past Vallegloria church, up Via Cappuccini, a complete Roman arch is remaining. 20 m past the arch, the belvedere lookout) offers a splendid view of Assisi and (if the weather permits) Perugia.
Some more recent art can be found in a number of local art galeries and art shops. In particular, the Museo di Norberto, on the main square, is very interesting.
Spello's main point of interest is the town itself: its hundreds of steep medieval streets and stairways, arches and angles, nestled into a pristine Umbrian countryside, are second to no none in their beauty.
If you leave Spello during one of its upper gates (from Vallegloria) you can reach numerous walk ways through the local olive groves, which offer nice views of the town and the valley. Driving further up the Subasio Mountain (on whose slopes Spello is built) you reach the village of Collepino (which is part of Spello)- a very romantic little medieval hamlet. Past Collepino you enter the Subasio Regional Park (on foot or by car), which offers hiking paths, beautiful nature, splendid views, and an alternative way to Assisi.
Spello may be small (8500 inhabitants) but there are many things to do. Apart from walking through town or visiting the many churches and museums, there are cultural events throughout the year. The most important annual event is the Infiorata flower festival, on Corpus Domini Sunday (usually late May or early June). For months, the inhabitants of Spello (and many outsiders from Italy and abroad) collect flowers in the mountains (or more recently buy some extra ones) to cover the entire streets of Spello with intricate flower images. Some of the pictures are so refined and detailed that it is almost impossible to notice the flowers- they appear as paintings. The event has grown over the years and now attracts tens of thousands of visitors during the night from Saturday to Sunday. Whlie more than 50 flower artist groups assemble their competing images, the visitors walk around and look on in awe.
During August, Spello usually has a summer festival with free concerts, art exhibits and archaeological tours. In late summer, a Roman festival is held with period costumes, classic Roman theatre and a Roman dinner. During December, Spello and nearby Assisi are famous for their nativity scenes, which can be found in many corners and angles all over town. The local olive oil festival, Festa della Bruschetta, is held in November or December. Delicious fresh oil is served with local bread and traditional dishes.
Spello is famous for its local olive oil. After the annual harvest (which begins in late October) the fresh oil can be obtained. There are also olive wood handicrafts (cutting boards, kitchen equipment, etc.) to be found. Local wine is abundant and good- sometimes very good (e.g. Sportoletti wines). Umbrian ceramics and traditional linen and cotton cloth can be found in a variety of local stores. Local foods (truffles, dried mushrooms, sausages) are also popular souvenirs.
The recent tourist boom has been followed by a flood of new restaurants. Some are simple and cheap, others are more expensive and traditional, a few are top-class and expensive. Pizza can be found in the Frantoio and Orlando Furioso pizzerias and the Trombone and Time's Hotel Restaurants. Traditional food is offered at the Cacciatore, il Pinturicchio and the Osteria Dada. The new Osteria Il Buchetto, at the top of town, has a beautiful location. Il Mulino and La Cantina feature more innovate traditional cuisine. La Bastiglia has a Michelin Star is offers nouvelle Italian cuisine. For small snacks, try some of the take-out pizza shops, local food stores (they offer fresh sandwiches) and the delicious local bakery in Via Giulia, perhaps one of the last of its kind that makes all its many breads and pastries by hand, according to traditional recipes.
Apart from a number of bars on the main squares (Piazza Kennedy at the bottom, the main square Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza Vallegloria), drinks are available during the summer in a number of terrace restaurants (e.g., Il trombone, Time's hotel and Il Giardino). Also, one of Italy's most famous Enoteca (wine shop), located on the main road next to the Pinacoteca art museum, has a wine bar and offers small snacks. Outside of town, near the public swimming pool, a night-club/bar/disco/pub has recently opened (NiKa).
Numerous hotels, farm hotels, rooms, guest houses and holiday apartments can be found. For simple or mid-range hotels try Paolucci (below, new part), La Pace (new part) or Albergo Teatro (near the theatre, on Via Giulia) and the Cacciatore (also on Via Giulia).
More upscale hotels include La Bastiglia (Valleglria, near the top) and Palazzo Bocci (near S. Andrea church).
Cheaper rooms and small apartments can be rented at Residence La Terrazza, on top of town, in a beautiful location.
Holiday apartments throughout the medieval centre are available from agencies and private individuals.
Outside Spello, in the hinterland, a number of Agriturismos (holiday farms) have opened recently.