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Montone
The village of Braccio Fortebraccio and of the Holy Thorn
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HISTORY

The history of Montone, which begins in the 9th century, is intimately connected with the vicissitudes of the Fortebraccio family, which ruled the area. In 1200 the family decided to overcome politically and peacefully the struggles for controlling the territory disputed between Perugia, Gubbio and Città di Castello: it ceded all of its possessions to Perugia and in exchange received the title of "Perugian nobles" and other privileges.

In 1368 the most famous of the Fortebraccios was born in Montone: Andrea, later known as Braccio da Montone, who became one of the most celebrated condottieri. Following his death and after various vicissitudes, Montone became subject to the rule of the Church. It became an autonomous commune once again only after the birth of the Kingdom of Italy (1860).

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

The building of greatest artistic interest in Montone is the Gothic Church of San Francesco (14th century) with a single nave and polygonal apse. Inside are numerous Umbrian frescoes, some attributed to the master Bartolomeo Caporali, and interesting wooden sculptures. The church is also the home of the Municipal Museum, which holds paintings, silver, and sacred vestments of great artistic value and, on the ground floor, the Ethnographic Museum, with over 600 items from Eastern Africa.

The Municipal Historical Archives, one of the most important in Umbria for its extensive collection of documents, is also in the historic center, in the former convent of Santa Caterina. Another important religious building is the Parish Church of San Gregorio, Montone's oldest church, built in about 1000 AD in the Romanesque-Byzantine style: it has an unusual round apse with frescoes from the Umbrian school.

Also worthy of a visit is the Collegiate Church, built in 1310 and restored during the 17th century; on Easter Monday the relic of the Holy Thorn is put on display. Just outside the center one finds the Rocca d'Aries, an imposing castle which has been returned to its ancient splendor by painstaking restoration work.


Perugia
Perugia
City of art with an immense cultural heritage
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Map of tourist attractions

 

HISTORY

Etruscan in origin, Perugia later became a flourishing Roman municipium called "Augusta Perusia". After the fall of the Empire, it suffered the barbarian invasions and was destroyed by Totila and the Goths (547 AD). It was then conquered by Byzantines, and became one of the strongholds of their dominion against the expansion of the Lombard Duchy of Spoleto. Perugia remained Byzantine until the 8th century, when it came under papal rule, and when it became an independent commune in 1000 AD it remained an ally of the papacy. The friendship with the Church of Rome deteriorated irremediably in the 14th century when Perugia destroyed Foligno, an ally of the Pope: from that time on, Perugia's history was an endless succession of civil struggles, conspiracies, betrayals and wars, until the Papal States under Pope Paul III took control once and for all. Perugia was deprived of every freedom and independence, and all attempts at overthrowing papal rule were punished with massacres and destruction. In 1860 Perugia was joined to the Kingdom of Italy.

 

ART AND CULTURE

Perugia has an immense heritage of art and culture, the fruit of its glorious past.

One finds monuments everywhere bearing witness to its many centuries of history, art and culture, from its squares to its tiniest alleys, starting with the Etruscan Arch, also known as the Arch of Augustus, a monumental gate in the ancient Etruscan city walls and later restored in Roman times, the Etruscan Well and Porta Marzia, the second monumental Etruscan gate, now incorporated in a rampart of the Rocca Paolina, a fortress erected by Pope Paul III in 1540.

Standing on Piazza IV Novembre, one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, is the Palazzo dei Priori. An elegant Gothic edifice, it is also the home of the National Gallery of Umbria, which holds some of the greatest masterpieces of Italian art from the Middle Ages to the 18th century, including works by Piero della Francesca, Benozzo Gozzoli, Beato Angelico, Pinturicchio, and Perugino. Also very fine are the Sala dei Notari, the Collegio del Cambio, the old seat of the money exchangers' guild, with the famous fresco cycle by Perugino and the San Giovanni Battista chapel with 16th-century frescoes, the Collegio della Mercanzia, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo and its annexed Chapter Museum, and the gorgeous Fontana Maggiore, a 13th-century fountain designed by Frà Bevignate of Perugia with bas-reliefs by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano.

Other interesting buildings are the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo and the Palazzo della Vecchia Università, the old seat of the university and now used as the Perugia Courthouse, Palazzo Donini and Palazzo Cesaroni, respectively the seats of the Umbria Regional Cabinet and the Regional Council, the Palazzo della Provincia (1870) in the Lombard style, and Palazzo della Penna, an exhibition center with permanent collections and which also hosts temporary exhibits.

There is also the elegant theater, Teatro Morlacchi (1788), as well as Palazzo Antinori-Gallenga Stuart (1754), home of the University of Foreigners.

Perugia has many religious buildings worthy of note: the Basilica of San Pietro, with its splendid cloister, the Basilica of San Domenico, next door to the National Archeological Museum of Umbria and its extensive collection of Umbrian, Etruscan and Roman artifacts, the round Temple of Sant'Angelo, the San Francesco al Prato complex with the former church of San Francesco and the Oratory of San Bernardino, the Church of San Filippo Neri, the San Severo Chapel with a fresco, the Holy Trinity and Saints, painted in part by Raphael and in part by Perugino, the Church of Santa Maria Nuova with a wooden choir and organ built in 1584, the Church of Sant'Ercolano, and the Church of San Bevignate (13th century).

Other enjoyable visits in town are the Botanical Garden and the Medieval Garden, the latter at the Abbey of San Pietro; places of interest in the nearby area include the Volumni Hypogeum (2nd cent. BC) in Ponte San Giovanni and Perugino's tomb and frescoes by him in Fontignano.


Orvieto
Orvieto
The city of the tuff rock Cliff
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HISTORY

Orvieto's origins go back to the Etruscan civilization; the earliest settlements date to the 9th century BC, localized around the caves in the tuff massif upon which the town currently stands. Archeological evidence shows that the city reached its economic and artistic peak between the 6th and 4th century BC. After 263 BC the Romans took hold of the city, leaving intact the institutions, customs and language of the Etruscans, but changing its name to "Urbs Vetus" (from which comes its present-day name of Orvieto).

After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was conquered first by the Goths, then the Byzantines, then the Lombards of the Duchy of Spoleto. In about 1000 AD it underwent new urbanistic, economic and social development, and soon became an independent commune with a government that Pope Adrian VI officially recognized and legitimated in 1157. In the 12th century, following victorious battles against Siena, Viterbo, Perugia and Todi and with the alliance of Florence, it extended its borders, ruling vast areas of the present-day regions of Tuscany and Lazio.

Medieval Orvieto's power and wealth reached its peak in the 13th and 14th centuries, as can be seen from the splendid buildings the town is still proud of today. After a period of civic and religious strife among Orvieto's noble families, in 1354 Cardinal Albornoz reasserted the papacy's control over the area. In 1449 it permanently became part of the Papal States, and remained so until 1860, with the birth of the Kingdom of Italy.

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

Orvieto's art and cultural heritage is one of the richest in Italy. The Cathedral, designed by Lorenzo Maitani in the 13th century, is one of the most majestic creations in Italian architecture. Its magnificent Gothic façade is decorated with mosaics and bas-reliefs, and has a splendid rose window by Orcagna. Among the many works inside is a masterpiece of Italian painting of the 1400-1500s: the fresco cycle by Fra' Angelico and Luca Signorelli in the San Brizio Chapel.

Orvieto has many ancient churches: San Giovenale, built in 1004 and enlarged in the 14th century, has frescoes by the Orvieto school; San Giovanni, built in 916 over Constantine's Theater and with a 16th-century façade; Sant'Andrea, originally from the 6th century, rebuilt in the 11th century and completed in the 1300s; San Lorenzo de' Arari and San Francesco (13th century); and San Domenico (13th century), which holds the tomb of Cardinal de Braye by Arnolfo di Cambio.

The town's most representative civic buildings include: the Palazzo Comunale or Town Hall (1216-1219); Palazzo del Popolo (13th century), a Romanesque-Gothic structure; Palazzo dei Sette (1292); two towers, the Torre del Moro (13th century) and Torre di Maurizio (1348); Palazzo Faina, home of the Archeological and Civic Museum; Palazzo dei Papi (13th century), home of the National Archeological Museum, the Opera del Duomo Museum and the Emilio Greco Museum of Modern Art; and the Luigi Mancinelli Municipal Theater (1844).

A unique visit is that of St. Patrick's Well, a virtuoso work of engineering (1527-1537) designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger to supply the town with water. The well is 62 meters deep, and has two separate helical staircases that make it possible to go down the well to get water without bumping into those going back up. The well was commissioned by Pope Clement VII, who also had another well, the Pozzo della Cava, built in place of an existing Etruscan structure, incorporated into a system of nine caves that hold a large number of Etruscan, medieval and Renaissance artifacts.

Hidden underneath the town lies fascinating underground Orvieto, where an incredible number of artificial caves create an intricate maze of tunnels, cisterns, wells, quarries and cellars. Just outside the walls is the Etruscan Crocifisso del Tufo Necropolis (4th-5th century BC), with chamber tombs made from blocks of tuff stone with the names of the deceased inscribed above the tomb entrances. The necropolis can be reached on foot from the historic center, along an interesting path through the archeological park. Orvieto is the "Città Slow" (Slow Food cities) capital. The town and surrounding area can boast of a thriving wine and food tradition: the famous Orvieto wine can be enjoyed along the Etruscan-Roman Wine Route, which includes the entire Province of Terni: those interested should check at the Enoteca Regionale (regional wine shop) and at Palazzo del Gusto.


Intermodality: To visit Orvieto, Orvieto Link is active, the new intermodal funicular + train service (Busitalia / Trenitalia) which makes it even easier to reach the historic center of Orvieto.

Cannara
Cannara
The ancient Roman municipium of Urvinum Hortense
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Cannara is located in the heart of Umbria, in the middle of the Valle Umbra plain on the left of the Topino river, facing Assisi and Spello. According to tradition, its name comes from the many cane thickets that once grew in the marshy areas along the Topino.

 

HISTORY

Cannara's origins go back to the ancient Umbrians and Romans, and after the fall of the Roman Empire and the Lombard invasion, Assisi and Perugia fought to control it for many years. In 1352 it became part of the Duchy of Spoleto, and in 1424 Braccio da Montone conceded it to the Baglioni of Perugia, who held on to it until 1684, when the entire area came under the dominion of the Church, until the birth of the Kingdom of Italy (1860).

 


ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

Places worthy of a visit in the medieval-walled historic center are the Town Hall and the Civic Tower (15th century). Also very interesting are the Church of San Biagio, an example of the late Umbrian Romanesque which has preserved its old 13th-century façade and portal in Assisi stone, the Church of San Matteo (14th cent.), with a triptych by Alunno and a wooden statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, and the Church of San Sebastiano, home of the Picture Gallery.

Cannara has three special sites of religious interest that trace the life of St. Francis: the Church of San Francesco commemorates the Institution of the Third Order with another precious painting by Alunno; Palazzo Majolica-Landrini, inside of which is the Sacred Hovel where Francis stayed during his visits to Cannara; and just outside the town is the Pian d'Arca Shrine, with a stone which marks the place where Francis made his famous Sermon to the Birds.

Essential sights nearby include the Church of San Donato, built in 1667 to preserve a miraculous image of the Madonna and Child with Saints Francis and Donato frescoed in a rural shrine, and the Church of San Giovanni Decollato, with frescoes attributed to Dono Doni of Assisi.

In the locality of Collemancio are the ruins of the ancient Roman municipium of Urvinum Hortense, where archeological excavations have unearthed a number of important artifacts, on permanent display in the Antiquarium.

Bettona
Bettona
Among its alleyways, the old houses with vegetable gardens
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HISTORY

An ancient Umbrian-Etruscan settlement, Bettona was conquered by the Romans, who made it a municipium. In the 12th century, after the barbarian invasions, it became an independent commune, but in 1352, after a lengthy siege, it was conquered and destroyed by Perugia. In 1367 the Church ordered Cardinal Albornoz to rebuild the town, which soon after became part of the Papal States. Immediately after it returned under the rule of Perugia and the Baglioni lords. In 1648 it was incorporated permanently into the Papal States, remaining there until 1860.

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

The built-up area is entirely surrounded by the medieval walls, with parts of the older Etruscan walls remaining, made from quadrangular blocks of sandstone. Inside the historic center are the 13th-century Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, with paintings by Perugino, Nicolò Alunno and a fresco by Gerardo Dottori, and the Palazzo del Podestà (1371), today the home of the Municipal Picture Gallery, with works by Perugino, Dono Doni, Tiberio d'Assisi, Della Robbia terracottas and an archeological section.

Nearby, in the hamlet of Colle, there is an Etruscan hypogeum (2nd century BC): one large rectangular chamber tomb with a number of cinerary urns. Going toward the hamlet of Passaggio di Bettona, one comes across the handsome Torre del Molinaccio (13th century), built as a lookout tower during the wars against Perugia. Descending the hill to the plain, one sees Villa del Boccaglione, a grand 18th-century country estate built by Piermarini. Worthy of a visit in Passaggio di Bettona is the Abbey of San Crispolto al Piano complex, built prior to 1000 AD over a Roman building.


Collazzone
Collazzone
The hamlet with a typical Longobard military architecture
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HISTORY

The district was first inhabited by the Umbrii, then the Etruscans and the Romans. After the fall of the Roman Empire it was contested by the Duchies of Rome and Spoleto until the 13th century when Todi's territorial borders were drawn up to include Collazzone. During the 13th and 14th centuries, after a brief period as a free commune and clashes between Guelphs and Ghibellines, the district was governed by a nobleman of the Baglioni family from Perugia invested by the pope, and annexed to the Papal States until the creation of the Kingdom of Italy (1860).

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

This hamlet of medieval origin has maintained the essential characteristics of Longobard military architecture: town walls, rammed-earth embankments, intact keeps, and narrow streets.

Of interest to visitors are the parish church of San Lorenzo, with its 18th century bell tower constructed on one of the castle keeps and still visible behind the apse of the church built in 1671 to replace the old parish church: inside can be found a valuable polychrome wooden Madonna from the 13th century, and a canvas depicting San Carlo Borromeo dated 1615, work of the painter Pietro Paolo Sensini, whose other painting, Adorazione dei Pastori, is also in the church; the church of San Michele Arcangelo; and the Municipal Council building, Palazzo Comunale, with a portal attributed to Vignola. In the vicinity, not far from the castle, is the Convento di S. Lorenzo, a Benedictine convent from 1227 and then Franciscan from 1236. It is composed of a massive main building in brick, and a church. The convent is believed to be of Romanesque origin and confirmation of this can be found in the structure of the crypt, where according to tradition Jacopone da Todi died on Christmas night 1306.

The hamlets in the surrounding territory are very interesting: the Castello di Assignano, immersed in the countryside, has a well-preserved main keep and intact fortifications over the main gateway; in Collepepe can be found the church of the Madonna del Buon Consiglio, and the ruins known as Le Carceri that bear witness to Roman presence in the district during the late Imperial Age (1st century A.D.). Today a large water cistern remains, probably constructed to serve the baths of a Roman villa or to supply water to a substantial settlement of the era. The territory is of great environmental value: the hills are covered in oak and pine woods, and the olive groves give it a salubrious, hospitable feel. The panorama from the castle walls takes in the wonderful sight of the Tiber River Valley from Perugia to Todi, and the typical Umbrian countryside of woods interspersed with fields cultivated in the same way as centuries ago.


Valtopina
Valtopina
A gateway to the Mt. Subasio Park
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HISTORY

The Valtopina area was inhabited in Roman times, and is mentioned in historical reports from the 10th century, when a community of refugees from Puglia settled there. In 1282 it submitted to Assisi, and in 1383 Pope Urban VI assigned it to the seigniory of the Trinci family of Foligno, to which it remained subject until the fall of the Trinci in 1439. After passing under the direct control of the Church, Valtopina was invaded by French troops, and in 1849 it became part of the Roman Republic. In 1860 it entered the Kingdom of Italy, and after being under the control of the Commune of Foligno from 1927 to 1947, it became an autonomous commune once again in 1948.

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

The area is characterized by traces of Romans and by the many old fortresses and castles built in the 10th-12th centuries. There are a number of interesting works built in the course of constructing the ancient Flaminian Way, such as the Roman bridge at Pieve Fanonica and the Ponte Rio construction (retaining wall).

The ruins of some important castles can still be seen, such as the Castello di Poggio, the administrative seat from the Middle Ages to 1867, of which the Tower, defense walls and castle church remain, or Gallano Castle, while the Castles of Pasano and Serra are important examples of urban architecture.

Other sights include the Town Hall, an early 20th-century noble residence, and the Medieval Church of Santa Cristina, which still has some of the frescoes with which it was once covered inside (one of these, dating from the 15th cent., is now at the Bishop's Museum in Foligno). The excavations done by the Archeological Department near Casa Orlando in 1994 brought to light the remains of a rustic Roman Villa from the 1st century BC: an area for making wine was identified at the site, with a large tub for pressing grapes and a smaller receptacle for collecting the must.


ARTE, CULTURA, AMBIENTE

Da vedere il palazzo Comunale, ottocentesca residenza signorile che ospita dal 2007 il Museo del Ricamo e del Tessile di Valtopina, e la chiesa medievale di Santa Cristina, in cui si possono ancora vedere alcuni degli affreschi che un tempo la decoravano internamente (uno di essi, risalente al XV secolo, è conservato presso il museo vescovile di Foligno).

Il territorio è caratterizzato dalle testimonianze del passaggio dei Romani e dalla presenza dei castelli edificati tra il X e il XII secolo.  L’Universitas Vallis Topini et Villae Balciani, le cui dimensioni territoriali erano il doppio rispetto alla attuale estensione comunale, era costituita dai terzieri di Poggio, Santa Cristina, Gallano , Pasano, Serra e Balciano. Il Castello di Poggio (XI secolo) è stato sede amministrativa dal Medioevo al 1867, ancora oggi in cui si possono osservare la Torre, le mura e la chiesa castellana.

Interessanti le opere relative alla viabilità per la realizzazione della Via Flaminia: poco prima di raggiungere Valtopina, in località Ponte di Ferro, la via si portava di nuovo sulla riva destra del Topino tramite un ponte a più arcate di cui restano le fondazioni di due piloni. Resti di una Villa rustica romana risalente al (I a.C.-II d.C) è visibile lungo la strada che conduce a Santa Cristina, sulle colline che dominano la sponda sinistra del Topino tra Casa Nova e Casa Balconi.

I

Vallo di Nera, Valnerina
Vallo di Nera
The village with a typical medieval urban layout
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HISTORY

It has Roman origins but the territory (4th – 2nd century BC) was already inhabited by the Naharci population, named after the river Nahar, known today as the Nera, who were of probable Celtic origin. In the 4th century, the Lombard manor of Vallo belonged to the Duchy of Spoleto. In 1217, Spoleto allowed Vallo to build the Castle, so giving rise to the current town layout. In 1522 – 23 the military captain Pietrone from Vallo, heading a coalition of castles in the valley, unsuccessfuly rose up against Spoleto. Following the ruinous defeat there was also a plunder by Landsknechte mercenary soldiers. The castle of Vallo rose again shortly afterwards, as showed by a fresco byJacopo Siculo that represents it intact and flourishing. The reference to Nera was added just after the unification of Italy.

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

The urban layout still preserves the fortress, a substantial part of the town walls (the Carbonaia) and the mighty tower provided with corbels and drains. There are two access gates: Porta Ranne and the Customs gate, called Portella. Inside the walls you get the feeling of travelling back in time: loopholes, corbels, narrow passages, closed alleyways, Romanesque churches and stone doorways.

Places to see are the church of St. Mary of Assumption (12th century), that preserves important frescoes of the Giottesque School and the famous Procession of the Bianchi (1401), the church of St. John Baptist, a Romanesque building of the 13th century erected on the highest point of Vallo di Nera and devoted to the patron saint of Vallo, that preserves in the apse frescoes by Jacopo Siculo, as well as the church of St. Catherine to which the convent of Franciscan Tertiaries was attached.
Outside the walls there is the 15th century church of St. Rocco, with a gabled façade decorated with a wrought iron gate.

The territory is studded by fortresses and villas: Piedipaterno, ancient settlement at the bottom of the valley, hosts the parish church of St. Sebastian, erected in 1253, the Chapel of Our Lady of Graces, the church of SS. Peter and Paul and the remains of the ancient Abbey of St. Maria dell’Eremita, located along the Nursina Road.

In the little village of Geppa, of early medieval origins, it’s possible to visit the church of St. Stephen, and in nearby Paterno, an ancient settlement dating back to the early medieval era, it’s possible to admire the churches of St. Giusto and St. Bernardo. In Meggiano there are the church of St. Michael Archangel, of the early 17th century and the church of St. Maria de Pedemonte. Nearby one can glimpse the ruined houses of Roccagelli and La Forca.


Scheggino
Scheggino
In the heart of the Valnerina
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HISTORY

Scheggino was built by the Duchy of Spoleto to defend one of the three bridges over the Nera river, thus serving as an outpost. Historical reports tell of a victorious resistance to a siege (1522) attempted by the condottiere Picozzo Brancaleoni, who failed to breach the walls and fortifications built in the 11th and 12th centuries.


 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

The old agricultural center of "Schiginum" came into being in the 18th century around the Castle, enclosed by triangular walls and with a keep at the top, the primitive structure of which can still be seen today.

Sights right in the historic center include the Church of San Nicolò, dating from the 13th century and entirely redone during the 1500s, with fine frescoes in the apse attributed to Spagna, and the Church of Santa Felicita, which is astonishing for its primitive style despite its having been built in the Romanesque period, causing it to be erroneously attributed to the Lombard period.

The area offers a truly unique landscape, due to the distinct beauty of the Nera valley in this location: the splendid Valcasana springs, which flow out of the ground not far from the village, are just one example of the wonderful show offered by nature in this area.

Sant'Anatolia di Narco
Sant'Anatolia di Narco
The hamlet of the Dragon
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HISTORY

Already inhabited in pre-historic times, in the Middle Ages the hamlet was subjected to the rule and influence of powerful Spoleto, and from the 15th century was involved in struggles with local towns and the Papal States. Interestingly, when the town became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860, it came within the newly enlarged municipal borders of Spoleto and only obtained real independence in 1930 when those borders were redefined.

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

The historical centre has maintained the characteristics of an ancient fortified hamlet, with town walls, keeps and three gateways, one of which is well-preserved. Inside the walls can be seen the ex-Palazzetto municipale, the old municipal building with its portal and medieval workshops; the parish church of Sant'Anatolia that has been recently restored and includes 14th – 15th century painted decorations; a marble frontal from the main altar carved by the Neapolitan School; a wooden cross; and several 17th century paintings.

Outside the walls lie the Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie, a 16th century enlargement of an ancient country shrine featuring a miraculous image of the Madonna frescoed by Maestro di Eggi; and the ex-Convento di S. Croce dei Minori Osservanti, perhaps from the 13th century: the church has been turned into the Sala Campani, dedicated to Roman opticians and watchmakers of the 17th century who originally came from Castel San Felice.

In the vicinity are castles and holy places: Castel San Felice, medieval settlement with the outstanding Abbazia di S. Felice di Narco, splendid example of Umbrian Romanesque architecture.

Not far away is Grotti, where, apart from the ruins of a medieval castle, can be found the parish church of San Pietro with several paintings from the 1600s and an organ from 1857. The municipality is in the centre of the Valneriana, Nera River Valley, between the narrows of Piedipaterno and those of Scheggino, where the valley widens out to the alluvial flats called Canapine. The pure waters of the Nera River are perfect for sports fishing, which is supported by Legambiente's No Kill policy that ensures that fish are only caught with barbless hooks and released back into the river.


Preci
Preci
The village of surgeons since 1500
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HISTORY

According to local tradition Preci was founded by the Syrian monk Eutizio at the end of the 5th century AD. A text written by St. Gregory in 594 AD mentions the presence of many pre-Benedictine hermitages in the area, and it is probable that the first urban settlement was built around one of the hermitages. In the 13th century Preci was included in the territory of Norcia, and when it attempted to rebel it was defeated and destroyed by the more powerful Norcia. It was rebuilt (1533) by order of Pope Paul III, but only after a formal act of submission to Norcia. It was separated from Norcia by the will of Pope Pius VII, who assigned the title of Commune to Preci. With the birth of the Kingdom of Italy (1860) Preci kept its status as an autonomous municipality.

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

Worthy of a visit in the historic center, where the Town Hall stands on the main square, is the Castle, dating from the 14th century, destroyed and rebuilt several times, and the Church of Santa Caterina, with an excellent Gothic portal, while the rest of the façade is decorated in the Romanesque style. Also interesting is the Church of Santa Maria, with a 15th-century Pietà and a 16th-century baptismal font. Just outside the historic center are three of Preci's outlying divisions: the hamlets of Roccanolfi, Poggio di Croce and Montebufo, where one finds two parochial churches of particular interest, with many 16th- and 17th-century canvases portraying scenes from the New Testament.

The real jewel of Preci is undoubtedly the Benedictine Abbey of Sant'Eutizio, built in three successive stages in the 10th-14th centuries. Founded over the tombs of Syrian monks who first came to these out-of-the-way areas in the 5th century to live as ascetics and hermits, the "abbey" became an important monastery with an oratory, lodgings for pilgrims, pharmacy, school of paleography and miniature, scriptorium, and even a library of illuminated manuscripts. Starting in the 1200s and continuing for the entire Middle Ages, it became a flourishing center for the Preci school of surgery, famous throughout Europe: the tradition of the Benedictine monks' operating techniques was passed on to the people of Preci and spread to Norcia, Spoleto, Foligno and Rome.

In the midst of wild, uncontaminated nature, Preci lies within the Sibillini Mountains National Park, one of the most beautiful natural protected areas in Central Italy. Here rocky peaks alternate with karstic tablelands and hills, and where there are hornbeam, Turkey oak, pubescent oak, and beech woods, as well as pastures with plant species endemic to the central Apennines.


Poggiodomo
Poggiodomo
The village perched on a rocky spur
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HISTORY

Its origins are ancient, and after the arrival of the Romans (IV century BCE) the area became part of what was then called the Sannio Region. Under the control of the larger surrounding cities, first Spoleto and then Cascia, it was linked to their history. The more powerful families defended it during the Middle Ages, building the four castles of Poggiodomo, Usigni, Mucciafora and Roccatamburo. When it came under the control of the Papal States, during the reign of Pope Urban VIII it enjoyed its most flourishing period. It became a comune in 1809 under the reign of Napoleon and managed to remain politically independent even after it was once again enveloped by the Papal Restoration. In 1860 it became a part of the unified State of Italy.

 

ART AND CULTURE

The centre of Poggiodomo has various fascinating buildings, like the castle (XIII-XIV century), the Church of San Pietro (XIV century), with interesting frescoes painted between the XVI and XVIII century, and the Church of San Carlo Borromeo (1633), home to nine wooden Baroque altars from the XVII and XVIII century.

Well worth a visit, in the surrounding area, are the hermitage of the Madonna della Stella, a mystic place of refuge and contemplation, and the Church of San Bartolomeo in Mucciafora.
In Usigni, known as the city-palazzo for the quality of the buildings constructed here at the behest of Cardinal Fausto Poli, secretary to Pope Urban VIII, is the Church of San Salvatore, built between 1631 and 1644 by Cardinal Poli with a XVI century façade bearing the heraldic shield of Pope Urban VIII, and Palazzo Poli, the cardinal's elegant residence.


Basilica of St. Benedict
Norcia
At the centre of the Sibylline Mountains National Park
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HISTORY

An ancient Sabine city, Nursia was conquered by the Romans and became an important municipium. It was a free commune in the 11th century, and when it passed to the Catholic Church in the 1400s it was granted considerable autonomy. Saint Benedict was born circa 480 AD. And even though the town was destroyed more than once by earthquakes (in 1703, 1730, and 1859) many works of art and historical memories connected to the life of the founder of the Benedictine Order can be found.

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

The town is divided into wards and has a 17th-18th century urban structure. Norcia is proud of its historical and artistic heritage that makes it one of the most important art cities in Umbria. On the main square are visible the oldest and most important buildings in Norcia. In the middle of the square is the statute of San Benedetto; while framing the square is the Castellina, the monumental fortress designed by Vignola in 1554 and today home of the Museo Civico e Diocesano, civil and religious museum; the Palazzo Comunale,Town Hall, with its double loggia; the Basilica di San Benedetto, erected on 1st-century Roman remains, with a Gothic facade from the 14th century, and in the crypt can be seen the ruins of a Roman building that according to tradition was the paternal home of Saints Scholastica and Benedict; and the Portico delle Misure, the measuring porch, built in the 1500s as a covered cereals market.

Close by the square is the Concattedrale di S. Maria Argentea from the 16th century with an altar done by F. Duquesnoy (1640). Also to be seen in the town is the complesso di S. Francesco from the 14th century, today housing the Auditorium, the municipal library and the Historical Archives; the Palazzo dei Cavalieri di Malta, the Knights of Malta palace, presently the Museo dell'Arte Contadina, farm life museum; and the church of Sant'Agostino built in the 14th century. Of great interest are the Tempietto, the most original and best preserved historical building in the town was constructed in 1354 by the Norcia-born Vanni della Tuccia; the church of San Giovanni, one of the oldest in Norcia, featuring a beautiful wooden ceiling and Renaissance altar from 1649; the Oratorio di S. Agostinuccio with an elegant wooden ceiling and Baroque altar; the church of Madonna Addolorata, that displays the miraculous image of the Madonna painted on canvas in the 18th century; the del Crocifisso church abutting onto the city walls at the highest point of the town; and the church of San Lorenzo, the oldest in Norcia.

Norcia is situated at the centre of the Sibylline Mountains National Park: the town is surrounded by mountains of more than 2000 mt, a day-trippers and skiers paradise. Between the mountains, on large flat amphitheatres are raised prized crops (most famous are the lentils from the plain of Castelluccio) and a wide variety and quantity of animals (such as hogs for the production of Norcia's renowned delicatessen products). Not far from the town, on the wide open plains of Castelluccio, can be found the European School of Free Flight; the many trails in the National Park are perfect for hikes, horse riding and mule treks; the Sordo and Corno rivers offer rafting and canyoning, while the striking rock faces, the Karst grottoes and the gorges that are characteristic of the whole Valnerina area are ideal for free-climbing and speleology. Places in the vicinity that merit a visit are: the winter sports and day trip centre, Forca Canapine (20 km from Norcia, at 1541 metres); the Castelluccio high plains (Pian Perduto, Piano Piccolo and Piano Grande, a large Karst basin that in Spring is covered with beautiful alpine flowers; Monte Porche (2235 metres) with a striking panorama onto the Sibylline Mountains and the Abruzzo Mountains; Monte Vettore (2476 metres), with Lago di Pilato lake and the Grotta della Sibilla, Sybil's Grotto; and the Necropoli della pianura di Santa Scolastica with findings from the Iron Age to Roman times.


Monteleone di Spoleto, Clock Tower
Monteleone di Spoleto
The village of the Golden Chariot
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HISTORY

People have lived here since the Bronze Age. After the town was destroyed in the 12th century, its history became closely tied to that of the Duchy of Spoleto, which retained control over it, fortified the village and gave it its name. Archaeological finds made in the early 19th century in Colle del Capitano, some 3 km north-east of Monteleone, brought to light a vast necropolis that dates back to the Bronze Age, to the 5th century BCE. The most important find was a princely tumulus with a rich array of funerary items, including a chariot with hammered bronze plates.

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

The historical centre has retained the layout typical of a hilltop castle, with walls, fortifying elements and gates, while the streets are those characteristic of a medieval town.

The great treasure of Monteleone is, without a doubt, its chariot, a parade carriage, the extraordinary product of Etruscan workshops in around 540 BCE. The frame is made of walnut and it is covered with hammered bronze plates decorated with depictions of episodes from the life of the Greek hero Achilles. It was part of the funerary items found in the tumulus of a wealthy local prince and is now the most important piece of the Etruscan collection at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, where it is known as the Golden Chariot. There is a life-size copy of it in Monteleone di Spoleto, in the basement of the monumental complex of San Francesco. The complex dates to the late 1200s and underwent many changes as the centuries went by. Inside are two naves, of different widths and with different ceilings, while the door to the cloister leads visitors to the archaeological finds uncovered at the Colle del Capitano site.

The complex of Santa Caterina is also very interesting. It has an ovoid shape created by the four intersecting equilateral triangles. The Church of San Nicola is graced with altar pieces attributed to Ghezzi and Masucci, while the Clock Tower is the entrance gate to the old medieval castle that dominates the town, and Palazzo Bernabò is a 15th century building with two floors and a central terrace.

Monteleone di Spoleto is surrounded by beautiful nature. It is within the confines of the Coscerno-Aspra Nature Park, one of the most pleasant and interesting places in the entire central Apennines from an environmental standpoint. The high mountains here are separated by deep, narrow valleys. Most of the area is covered in woods interspersed with wide open fields and small plots of cultivated land, the result of the thousands of years of man's presence here in this natural environment.


Cerreto di Spoleto
Cerreto di Spoleto
The village of "Ciarlatani"
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HISTORY

Cerreto's strategic position made it the cause of bitter disputes between Spoleto and Norcia in the Middle Ages. Most of the village's history occurred within the orbit of the Duchy of Spoleto, and later the Papal States, until the birth of the Kingdom of Italy.

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

The historic center has preserved stretches of its medieval walls and the Civic Tower, and also has a number of fine religious buildings, such as the former monastery of San Giacomo. Founded between 1100 and 1200, today the monastery is beautifully renovated, and has frescoes from the Umbrian school dating from the 14th to the 16th centuries. The ex-monastery is currently the home of the Municipal Historical Archives and of the Cedrav (Center for Anthropological Documentation and Research in the Valnerina and in the Umbrian Apennines), which has extensive multimedia documentation on popular traditions and an interesting collection of household objects and work tools from the past.

Also worthy of attention are: the Renaissance Church of Santa Maria De Libera, with precious frescoes from the Umbria/Marche school; the Church of Santa Maria Annunziata, of medieval origin, which has a baptismal font shaped like an octagonal temple (1546) and a Madonna del Rosario by Felice Damiani (1583); and the Church of the Castello (12th century), with a fresco from the school of Perugino.

Situated along the state road running below the hamlet is the attractive village of Borgo Cerreto, where remains of the defense walls and towers can still be seen. Also at Borgo Cerreto is the Church of San Lorenzo, built in the Gothic style in the 13th century, which has a Crucifixion (early 14th century), a Madonna Enthroned and Saints dating from 1507, and the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence (mid-15th century) on the high altar. Nearby, in Ponte, is the notable Church of Santa Maria Assunta, a Romanesque parish church with a rectangular façade with a handsome rose window and a double row of arches. One essential sight that is also in the vicinity, near the village of Ruscio, is the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Stella, a 17th-century Augustinian hermitage, with a church and the cells of the hermits in the rock.


 

 

View of Cascia
Cascia
The town of St. Rita
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HISTORY

Inhabited by the Romans, Cascia was annexed to the ancient municipium of Cursula. Conquered by the Byzantine general Narses in 553, it was later included in the Duchy of Spoleto, and in the 10th century it became an independent republic with its own currency. Siding with the Ghibellines, Cascia fought lengthy wars against Spoleto and the Papal States. After being ruled by the Trinci family of Foligno, in 1228 it was occupied by Frederick II of Swabia. Devastated by an earthquake in 1300, it was rebuilt and fortified. In 1516 it was besieged and conquered again, and its fortress was destroyed. In the 16th century it surrendered to the Papal States, remaining under its rule until 1860.

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

A religious center charged with mysticism and spirituality connected with the veneration of St. Rita, Cascia has artistic gems of great interest such as the monumental Church of San Francesco, a splendid example of Gothic architecture with a beautiful rose window and pointed arch door, and the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate, originally built in the 1400s and renovated in the Baroque period, with a cycle of frescoes depicting the story of St. Nicholas of Siena. The Collegiate Church of Santa Maria, one of the town's oldest buildings, built during the time of the Lombards, has a rich collection of paintings and sacred ornaments. The Gothic Church of Sant'Agostino stands on the top of the hill near the Fortress, and inside has excellent frescoes from the Umbrian and Perugian schools. The Basilica and Monastery of St. Rita is known throughout the world as a center of great historic and religious interest. This sanctuary, which was built starting in 1937 and which preserves the saint's cell and rose garden, incorporates a mixture of Gothic and Byzantine styles. Also worth visiting are the Palazzo Santi Civic Museum, which has important archeological artifacts and one of the most important collections of wooden sculpture in Italy, and Palazzo Carli, perhaps the town's most representative example of public architecture, which holds the municipal archives and the library. Worthy of a visit nearby are the village of Roccaporena, a treasure trove of memories regarding St. Rita (the house where she lived, the miracle garden, the crag and the rose garden), and the Villa of San Silvestro (Chiavano highland plain), with the ruins of a pagan temple (2nd century BC), an important record of the archaic period.


Todi
Todi
Art town with a great historic and architectural heritage
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HISTORY

Probably of ancient Umbrian origin, Todi was one of the towns in contact with the Etruscan civilization that flourished on the right bank of the Tiber River, and it was a thriving center in the 5th-4th centuries BC. In Roman times it was a colony and a municipium. Todi's lofty position and solid defense system saved it from destruction during the barbarian invasions, and it was able to live in relative peace during the turbulent early Middle Ages. In the 12th century it became an independent commune, the start of a very prosperous period, which saw the construction of many of its outstanding monuments. Its independence did not last long, however, due to the continuous fighting against Spoleto, Orvieto and Narni. In 1230 the leading religious poet of the 13th century was born in Todi: Jacopo Benedetti, better known as Jacopone da Todi. Political and military instability continued until the 16th century when, after being under various rules, Todi became part of the Papal States, remaining there (except for the Napoleonic period) until 1860.

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

Todi is encircled by three concentric rings of walls, which provide evidence of the town's size in the Umbrian-Roman, Roman and medieval periods respectively. Just before entering the heart of the historic center, one encounters the impressive Temple of Santa Maria della Consolazione, one of the tallest Renaissance buildings in Umbria, begun in 1508 following a design attributed to Bramante and completed in 1617, with the contribution of the leading architects of the time. In the heart of town is the splendid Piazza del Popolo, one of the most beautiful squares in all of Italy, flanked by a religious complex and monumental public palaces: Palazzo del Popolo, one of Italy's oldest civic buildings, built in 1214–1228; Palazzo dei Priori, built between 1334 and 1347 in Gothic forms and with a square tower; Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo (late 13th century), with a spacious loggia and central pilaster on the ground floor; and the Cathedral, dating from the 12th century and enlarged in stages during the 13th and 14th centuries, next to which stands the Bishop's Palace. The Temple of San Fortunato (13th-15th century), set at the top of an imposing stairway, is a work of precious artistic merit, a remarkable example of the Umbrian Gothic style. Inside is the crypt that holds the remains of the friar-poet Jacopone da Todi and, in an isolated chapel, those of the town's patron saints: Fortunato, Callisto, Cassiano, Degna and Romana. Piazzale IV Novembre, the highest spot in town, with the ruins of the Rocca (fortress), which was destroyed in 1503, is an excellent vantage point for enjoying a splendid view of the Tiber River valley and of the surrounding countryside: from the massive walls of the Rocca's park it is still possible to see the remains of the castles that once formed a particularly effective defense network. One of the most impressive of these numerous outposts is the castle of Montenero, set in a dense pine wood overlooking the entire southern slope of the municipal territory. Sights nearby include the Church and Sanctuary of Merciful Love in Colvalenza, one of the most courageous examples of modern religious architecture in Italy, designed by Giulio Lafuente of Madrid and built in 1965. Many pilgrims come here today, and it is also used as a center for spiritual retreats and conventions. Also worthy of note is the Convent of Montesanto, a traditional-style religious building, famous for being the place where St. Bernardine went on retreat in the early 1400s: a linden tree planted before the church entrance on that occasion is still there today. A splendid altarpiece of the Coronation of the Virgin by Spagna was once above the altar, until the arrival of Napoleon's troops. The painting now adds to the collection at the very interesting and especially well-designed Picture Gallery Museum on the top floor of the Palazzo del Podestà and the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo.

 

FOOD & WINE

The local cuisine, as all Umbria after all, leaves nothing to fate. On the tables of Todi’s families we will find for sure the “pan caciato” or “nociato”, namely a small round loaf of bread whose dough is made of nuts, cheese and raisin.

In winter the real delicacy is the “palomba alla ghiotta”: pigeons cooked on a spit that are generally accompanied by a good glass of Grechetto of Todi DOC, a wine that was even able to bewitch the great Pliny the Elder.


Monte Castello di Vibio
Monte Castello di Vibio
and the world's smallest theatre
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HISTORY

The name of this town comes from gens Vibia, a Roman noble family who owned much property in the area. Its urban layout is typical of a medieval castle. Built on a hilltop to dominate the Tiber Valley, its strategic location was the object of the territorial ambitions of the powerful neighbour Todi, which ruled over it for a long time. Repeated rebellions finally forced Todi to raze the town's walls. In 1303 the fortress was rebuilt by the larger city, adding it to its defensive system. The proud character of the residents, however, prevailed until 1596, when Todi finally consolidated its power. In the Napoleonic era the village flourished, opening up to new ideas with initiatives of great importance. It finally became an independent comune after the Second Pontifical Restoration in 1814.

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

The heart of town is home to a real gem, the unique Concordia Theatre. Considered the world's smallest theatre, it can seat 99 spectators in boxes and the stalls. It was inaugurated in1808 and designed in the heyday of Post-Revolutionary French style, named in celebration of the "Concordia tra i Popoli" (or Harmony among the People), a dominant trend of thought all over early 19th century Europe. It was constructed at the behest of several illustrious local families as a place for entertainment and gathering.

In the historical centre, a faithful reproduction of the urban layout of a fortified medieval town, you'll find the Church of Sant'Illuminata or ‘of the Holy Crucifix' (dating to the 15th century) where a wooden cross dating to the 1400s is venerated. Other places worthy of note are the tower of Porta di Maggio, a crenulated tower that stands guard over the valley towards Todi, the city this village had to defend itself from many times over, the church of Santi Filippo e Giacomo dating to the 19th century, and the chapel of the Madonna delle Carceri dating to the 16th century.

The surrounding area also has some noteworthy landmarks, like the remains of the abbey of San Lorenzo in Vibiata, an ancient Romanesque building, in Doglio the abbey of Santa Maria in Monte and the oratory of Santa Maria alle Rotelle, which dates to the 17th century.

From the terrace of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II you can enjoy the spectacular, wide open panoramic view of the south of Umbria, all the way to the mountains of Lazio and Abruzzo.


Massa Martana
Massa Martana
The ancient village on the slopes of the Martani mountains
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HISTORY

The history of Massa Martana, which has very ancient origins, is connected in Roman times with the building of the Flaminian Way, the road that linked Rome to the Adriatic Sea and northeastern Italy. After the fall of the Roman Empire and the devastation wrought by the barbarian invasions, in the 7th-8th century it was part of the Lombard Duchy of Spoleto: the construction of the Massa Castle began in that period. Starting in about 1000 AD, Massa Martana came under the rule of various local noble families, the Church, and the town of Todi. In 1565, it obtained its long-desired independence by paying Todi the sum of 23,000 gold scudi, and with the protection of the College of Cardinals, it remained free until the creation of the Kingdom of Italy.

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

The historic center is situated within the castle walls, and has a number of fine buildings from the 16th and 18th centuries. The well-preserved entrance gate is decorated with carved stone and the town's coat of arms. Buildings of interest include the Church of San Felice, dedicated to the town's patron saint, the Church of San Sebastiano, with an excellent canvas from 1595 portraying a Madonna and Child Crowned with Angels Between St. Felix and St. Sebastian, and the 16th-century Town Hall. Just outside the center one comes to the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the Church of Santa Maria della Pace, the exterior of which is entirely faced with travertine. Nearby there are several unique, precious churches: the Church of Santa Maria in Pantano, one of the oldest and most interesting religious buildings in Umbria; the Church of Sant'Illuminata; the Abbey of Santa Maria in Viepri, built in 1150, which has preserved its original Romanesque appearance with a double sloping façade; the Abbey of San Faustino, built over the ruins of a Roman villa and the tomb of the saint by Benedictine monks in the 8th century; and the Abbey of SS. Fidenzio e Terenzio, dating from the 9th or 10th century, with an old, fascinating crypt. The area's great Roman monument is the Ponte Fonnaia, a bridge built in 220 BC on the ancient Flaminian Way. Near the bridge are the Christian catacombs, the only ones in Umbria, which contain over 300 burial vaults. Massa Martana's natural environment can be enjoyed by following the Martani Trekking paths, nature itineraries with facilities in the Monti Martani area, or by treating oneself to a stay at the San Faustino spa, which has waters with excellent therapeutic properties.


Marsciano
Marsciano
The centre of brick making and terracotta
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HISTORY

Since the dawn of civilisation, this region has been an important crossroads between Todi, Orvieto and Perugia. Proof of its ancient origins can be found in the traces and relics left by Etruscan, Roman and Longobard settlements. The first official document mentioning Marsciano dates to 1004. In the 12th century it became the fiefdom of the Counts of Bulgarelli, and in 1281 it was ceded to Perugia as a border fortress during its wars with Todi. When the dominion of Perugia ended, in 1540 it came under the rule of the Papal State, until the Unification of Italy.

 

ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT

The historic centre has been entirely restored. Points of interest include the Parish Church of San Giovanni Battista, the city's patron saint. It houses a painting done by the school of Perugino, a 19th century wooden cross and a wooden tabernacle from the 1700s. Aside from the Palazzo Comunale, constructed in 1871, and the Teatro della Concordia, you can admire several Art Deco buildings and Palazzo Battaglia, embellished with decorations done by the celebrated Futurist painter Gerardo Dottori. Traces of the ancient walls, the old Bolli and Boccali Towers, the now restored ancient entrance gate known as Porta Vecchia (Old Gate) and a tangle of narrow streets and typical piazzas of a medieval towns are all that is left of the ancient fortified castle that Ottone II gave to the Bulgarelli counts.

Marsciano is a major brick making centre and is home to the Dynamic Museum of Brick Making and Terracotta, a museum spread out over the area that touches on topics including peasant civilisation, crafts and industry. The main hub of the museum is Palazzo Pietromarchi, a noble residence constructed in the 1300s by the Bulgarelli counts of Marsciano. In it is a section devoted to brick making and a fresco done by the Pinturicchio school in the early 16th century of the Madonna on Throne with Child and Angels, St Sylvester and St Rocco.

Just outside of town is the Abbey of San Sigismondo, founded in the year 1000 circa by the Camaldolite monk San Romualdo. It is owned by the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta.

Important frescoes adorn the churches of various nearby villages, like the St. Sebastian done by Perugino and the Crucifixion by Tiberio d'Assisi, housed in the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta di Cerqueto. Cerqueto is also home to the Santa Lucia Shrine, featuring a fresco depicting St. Lucia, St. Rocco and the Madonna with Child, most likely a work by a pupil of Perugino. In Castiglione della Valle is the very noteworthy complex of the Castle of Monticelli, where the tiny Church of San Paolo and Sant'Ubaldo (12th century) is home to frescoes by Meo da Siena.

The valley carved by the Fersinone River opens up between the castles of Montelagello and Migliano, an area where nature has remained entirely untouched.

The small village of Papiano, few kilometers from Marciano, is worth a visit.
The village, of ancient medieval origins, is immersed in the surrounding countryside, half-way between the rivers Tiber and Nestore.
The castle, built in 1277, keeps some traces of the original plan. The fortification, characterized by an irregular and peculiar shape, included five watchtowers, three of which are still in good condition.
The most important one was used as Bell Tower in 1823 and is still today one of the most significant bell towers in Umbria.
Built on the highest point of Papiano, it is entirely made of stone, marked by a big clock dating back to the end of the 13th century, as well as two bells.
The village is rich in alleys, underground tunnels, town walls, arches and frescos, all of whom are still well-preserved, dating back to the medieval era or shortly after.


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