Located in the northwestern part of Umbria, Città di Castello is spread out along the Upper Tiber Valley, at the border with Tuscany and not far from the Marche. The area holds many pleasant surprises for the visitor: steeped in history, it has a wealth of monuments and centuries of culture in an environment where respect for nature goes hand in hand with a thriving industry.
Founded by the ancient Umbrians, Città di Castello became a Roman municipium with the name Tifernum Tiberinum. After being subject to various rules and having been sacked and destroyed by Totila and the Goths (6th century AD), it was rebuilt and fortified and given first the name Castrum Felicitatis, followed by, starting in the 10th century, its final name of Castrum Castelli.
It established itself as an independent commune in the first half of the 12th century, and in the 15th century it was ruled by the Vitelli family. During the Middle Ages it went through periods of independence interspersed with other periods under the rule of the papacy, Florence, and Perugia. It was not until the 16th century that Cesare Borgia took the town once and for all for the Papal States, under the rule of which it remained (except for the brief Napoleonic period) until the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy (1860).
ART AND CULTURE
Enclosed by long stretches of walls built in the 1500s, in Città di Castello one finds the breath of art in the enchanting atmosphere of the historic center, in the elegant Renaissance architecture, in the courtyards and loggias of noble mansions such as Palazzo Vitelli alla Cannoniera (today the home of the Municipal Picture Gallery), in the cloisters and aisles of churches such as the monumental Cathedral (11th century), with the treasures of the Sacred Art Museum, or Santa Maria Maggiore, Santa Maria delle Grazie, San Francesco and San Domenico. But it is also found in the masterpieces by Raphael and Luca Signorelli, as well as in the sacks, wood, plastic and cracks of Alberto Burri, one of the great masters of contemporary international art, who left all his works to the town where he was born.
Deserving of a visit in the historic center is the Municipal Picture Gallery, second in Umbria only to the National Gallery of Perugia for the importance of its collection. Recently enlarged with new rooms, it holds masterpieces by Raphael, Luca Signorelli, Ghirlandaio, Raffaellino del Colle and Pomarancio.
The complete collection of works by Alberto Burri can be seen at two fascinating exhibition locations, the Palazzo Albizzini and the Ex Seccatoi del Tabacco (former tobacco drying sheds). Other interesting visits include the Cathedral Museum, next to the Cathedral, which holds precious sacred art objects; the Weaving Museum, which covers the history of the Tela Umbra weaving mill, and the Grifani-Donati Printing Museum, with perfectly functioning printing machines from various periods in history.
Worthy of a visit nearby are the Oratory of San Crescentino in Morra, with stupendous frescoes by Luca Signorelli (the Flagellation and the Crucifixion) inside; the Basilica of Canoscio, one of the most important places dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Umbria; the Sanctuary of the Belvedere; the Abbey of Badia Petroia, a fine example of Romanesque architecture (11th-12th century); and the Villa della Montesca, surrounded by a centuries-old park with many rare botanical species. In Garavelle, the farmhouse across from Villa Cappelletti is the home of the Center for the Documentation of Popular Traditions, one of the first museums in Italy with a collection of objects from rural life.