The Sacred Wood
The lush vegetation of the ‘sacred wood' covers Monteluco (800 m high), the hill connected to the city of Spoleto by the spectacular Ponte delle Torri.
The timeless importance of the woods is proven by its very name (lucus = sacred wood) and the ancient and strict laws of Lex Spoletina: the first example of forest management, if you will, was carved in stone in archaic Latin in the III century B.C.E. and established punishments for anyone desecrating the sacred woods then dedicated to Jove.
The Scared Wood of Monteluco is full of evergreen oaks, a rarity in areas so far from lakes or the seashore, and provide an ideal habitat for coleoptera beetles, for green woodpeckers, great spotted woodpeckers, creepers and the nuthatches.
There are plenty of hermitages and caves, including the one of Saint Anthony of Padua, that are easy to reach on foot over trails that wind through the woods behind the Sanctuary of Saint Francis (or the Franciscan Hermitage).
As you climb up Monteluco you'll find the church of Saint Peter, built in the early V century over an ancient villa, a fine example of Umbrian Romanesque architecture, and the Romanesque church of Saint Julian, which was constructed in the XII century to replace a VI-century building and then renamed after the saint. Further up is the Sanctuary of Monteluco, a Franciscan settlement they say Saint Francis himself founded in a place donated to him by the Benedictines along with a small church they had dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
French occupation brought the congregation of friars and monks to an end and, in the early 1800s, the hermitages themselves were sold to private individuals who transformed them into summer vacation homes.
The importance of the Sacred Woods of Monteluco was recently confirmed when it was selected as an EEC Site of Community Importance.