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Rocca Maggiore di Assisi
Art in Umbria

Discover the rocche (fortresses) Albornoziane in Umbria

Egidio Albornoz and his Umbrian fortresses

Egidio Albornoz was a Spanish cardinal, politician and leader. He arrived in Italy at about the second half of the 1300s, sent by Pope Innocent VI who was in Avignon at that time, with the aim of consolidating the power of the Pontifical State.

The Cardinal was responsible for reconquering wide territories of central Italy, carrying out a policy of control including through the construction of fortresses. He had numerous fortifications built with the aim not only of reinforcing the Papal state at the military level, but above all to allow a control over communication roads as well as over the population.

After this quick historical outline, you can start the tour crossing all Umbria to discover the Rocche (Fortresses) Albornoziane in Narni, Spoleto and Assisi, that dominate the underlying towns in a perfect state of conservation.

The route starts in Assisi, from the Rocca Maggiore, above town on the slopes of Mount Subasio. From here, you can enjoy a wonderful view. Then enter the fortress; inside its halls, you can admire some re-enactments inspired by medieval life.

Originally, this fortress was a feudal castle built for Federico Barbarossa: the first historical information dates back to 1174. In 1198 it was significantly damaged by the people of Assisi during the popular revolts supporting independence. It remained fragmentary until the intervention of Albornoz who had it rebuilt by reusing a portion of the western external walls as well as part of the internal ones.

Continuing south about 50 kilometers from Assisi, you reach Spoleto and its fortress, an imposing monument dominating the town skyline.

Located on Sant'Elia hill, the fortress rises next to the Monteluco wood to which it is connected with the monumental Bridge of the Towers, a former acqueduct.

August 2019 - Note that the Bridge of the Towers is currently closed for restoration. Until it is reopened, visitors who wish to reach Monteluco on foot or by bike are advised by the Comune di Spoleto to follow CAI trail n.3 from via del Tiro a Segno, then taking the right turn at the junction to follow CAI trail n.1 (view the trail map).

Construction of the fortress is documented starting from 1362 and was directed by Matteo di Giovannello, called Gattapone. Inside its rectangular form, you can visit the extraordinary National Museum of the Duchy of Spoleto, open to the public since 2007, with works dating from the fourth to the fifteenth century, the period of the Duchy of Spoleto. If you fancy taking a walk, we suggest the looped pathway below the base of the fortress: a path about one kilometer long, where you will be able to admire the most significant monuments of the city and sweeping views over the countryside.

The fortress itinerary finishes with a visit to the Narni fortress. It's the southern-most fortress in Umbria, about 50 kilometers from Spoleto and just above the historical center of the village of Narni. It was built in the second half of the 1300s and, thanks to recent renovations, today it hosts a big interactive museum.

So, if you have children along, this is the right occasion to help them discover the the fascination of the Middle Ages. Inside the fortress, see perfectly rebuilt spaces to discover the clothing, musical instruments and weapons used in the Middle Ages.

Beyond the classical visit, you will be able to enjoy a real Middle Ages experience. From April to September, guides dressed in historic costumes will accompany you in an alternative visit during which you will be able to challenge family and friends in the walnut game and catching the ring, as well as try archery or sword-fighting.

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