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Roman era

Along the Via Flaminia: A Journey in the Footsteps of the Romans

The origins of the Via Flaminia are ancient, built by the consul Gaius Flaminius Nepos starting from 220 BC with the aim of connecting Rome to the Adriatic and northern Italy

At the height of ancient Narnia, the road splits into two branches: the western one, Flaminia vetus, which continued from Narni towards Carsulae, heading towards Bevagna and Nocera Umbra; the eastern one, Flaminia Nova, of primary importance for trade, as it had stops at flourishing towns like Terni, Spoleto, and Foligno. Both of these routes still traverse Italy today, crossing the region and intersecting with some unmissable archaeological sites.

In this itinerary, we will travel along the oldest of the two branches, the Flaminia Vetus: a journey immersed in greenery and in the footsteps of the ancient Romans.

Stage 1

Ocriculum was the first Umbrian stop on the Via Flaminia; the area was already very important due to the presence of a commercial port on the Tiber, of which no trace remains today. The Archaeological Park, surrounded by greenery and located next to the river, lies at the foot of present-day Otricoli.

The beauty of the original city is revealed along the path with the remains of the main structures built between the end of the Republican era and the Empire: the grand theater, the public fountain, the 2nd-century baths, and an amphitheater excavated and built into the rock. The archaeological artifacts from the earliest excavations, commissioned by Pope Pius VI, are preserved in the Vatican Museums, while those from more recent excavations are displayed in the Antiquarium, set up in the Park.

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Stage 2

Of ancient Narnia, a Roman colony built "against the Umbrians" - as Livy narrates, after having besieged and defeated Nequinum for a long time - little remains in the inhabited area, hidden beneath medieval Narni. The Via Flaminia crossed the city from south to north, leaving traces in the remains of the southern gate on the city walls.

The Roman infrastructure still present today demonstrates that Narnia represented a strategic hub for controlling the traffic between Rome and the Adriatic for the Romans. The most well-known is the Ponte di Augusto, erected over the Nera River by the emperor of the same name in 27 BC, on the occasion of the modernization of the Via Flaminia. The imposing Aqueduct of Formina, also from the Roman era, extends for about 12 km, collecting water from seven springs to ensure the water supply to the city. Along the structure of the aqueduct, there are four bridges: Ponte Pennina, Ponte Nuovo, Ponte Vecchio, and finally, the Augustan Ponte Cardona, with an impressive semicircular arch, easily reachable by following the paths of the green and enchanting Bosco di Cardona.

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Stage 3

Between Terni and San Gemini, the city of Carsulae was erected following the construction of the Flaminia. The original extent of the center is still unknown because the excavations carried out so far have only revealed a small part of the Roman urban layout. The main visible monuments that still exist today date back to the Augustan era, while there are few traces remaining from the early Republican phase, coinciding with the construction of the Via Flaminia. With the construction of the Flaminia Nova, towards Terni and Spoleto, Carsulae's geographical position became peripheral, leading to its decline and progressive abandonment. This was further exacerbated by the barbarian invasions of the 4th century AD and subsequent significant seismic events.

The unfortunate fate of the city has likely contributed to its preservation over the centuries. In the Archaeological Park, we can still admire the pavement of the Via Flaminia, the Forum, the Arch of San Damiano, a symbol of the city, the Basilica, a funerary area, the baths, some remains of temples, and foundations of ancient apartment buildings. In addition to the Archaeological Area, the Park also includes an Antiquarium, where Roman artifacts found during archaeological excavations are displayed.

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Stage 4
Massa Martana (Villa San Faustino and Ponte Fonnaia)

Statio ad Martis was one of the main stations along the Via Flaminia; the accommodation for soldiers and travelers was located near present-day Massa Martana, where you can now admire the remarkable Romanesque church of Santa Maria in Pantano. Around the Statio, a settlement called Vicus Martis Tudertium developed.

The real significance of Vicus, like Carsulae, cannot be fully interpreted, but dovecotes, inscriptions, and coins suggest the presence of villas surrounded by thriving agriculture. Along the Flaminia, of significant archaeological interest, is the imposing Ponte Fonnaia, built in 220 BC and renovated during the Augustan period. Not far away, in the locality of Grotta Traiana, lies the Catacomba of Villa San Faustino, the only known catacomb in Umbria, which testifies to the widespread influence of Christianity in the territory as early as the 4th century AD. .

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Stage 5

Ancient Mevania, located in the center of the Umbrian valley, was not only a road junction on the Flaminia vetus, which traversed it in its entirety, but also a river junction, thanks to the confluence of three rivers: the Topino, which formed a wide bend in the city, the Clitunno, and the Teverone.

Recent studies seem to identify, in the area of the former Dominican convent, some remains of the ancient River Port that allowed it to engage in active and rich commercial exchanges directly with Rome during the Augustan period.

Also worth visiting is the vast complex of the ancient public baths. Among the four restored rooms is the frigidarium, adorned with a large black-and-white mosaic, dating back to the early 2nd century AD, depicting octopuses, dolphins, and lobsters, typical marine-themed decorations in Roman thermal structures.

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Stage 6

Spello, located on a narrow ridge of Monte Subasio and with its privileged position on the Via Flaminia, preserves significant traces of the Romans who originally called it Hispellum and elevated it to municipal status in 90 BC. The city is still surrounded by its authentic walls, extending for about 1.8 km. They were built using the "opus vittatum" technique in the Augustan era when the city was redesigned, using blocks of pink limestone from Subasio. Ancient gates can be admired, including Urbica, Consolare, and Venere.

Of considerable archaeological importance, just outside the walls of Spello, in the locality of Sant'Anna, is the Villa of the Mosaics. Its name refers to the splendid floors preserved within the villa. Discovered by chance in 2005 when the remains of a mosaic reemerged, the excavations revealed an archaeological treasure: a large complex of twenty rooms, ten of which contain precious polychrome mosaics. The structure dates back to the Augustan period as its initial construction, followed by a second construction phase during the Imperial era.

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