SPELLO: Splendidissima colonia Julia
Spello lies at the heart of the Umbrian valley on the west side of Mount Subasio between Foligno and Perugia. Spello has been called the “stone town”. Its appearance is characterized by the white and pink limestone and its narrow and steep alleyways, arches, small hidden squares, terraces, towers and stairways make this place unique. The Roman colony known as Splendidissima colonia Iulia offers to the visitor an enchanting view marked by uncontaminated nature including two medieval villages, Collepino and San Giovanni da Collepino.
The itinerary which passes through the Mount Subasio reaches the “Eremo delle Carceri” of Assisi. The first inhabitants were Umbrians and were settled to the east of the Tiber which separated them from the neighboring Etruscans and were considered by Pliny to be the most ancient people in Italy. In 90 B.C. it became a Roman municipium with the name of Hispellum. Shortly after 42 B.C. a colony was founded there to resettle the veterans of the civil wars and its territory was considerably enlarged to the detriment of the nearby towns, Assisi in particular. At the end of the 5th century it became a diocesan see. In the early Middle Ages it met the fate that was common to many towns in those years: having declined due to the barbarian invasions and pillages, it was subjugated by the Longobards at the end of the 6th century and became part of the Duchy of Spoleto. Having established itself as a free Commune in the 12th century, it was devastated by Frederick II in 1238 and then torn apart by internal struggles until, at the end of the 14th century, the Church regained control of the town and entrusted its protection to Pandolfo Baglioni, a leading member of the Perugian family who, except for brief intervals, ruled Spello until 1583. Subsequently included in the Papal State, it shared its fate until the Unification of Italy.
The urban setting of Spello has remained intact over the centuries: its winding streets and small squares reveal visitors monuments of inestimable worth, such as the marvelous Baglioni Chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore, the Tega chapel, the ancient gates and the numerous churches.
“Spello, qual canto palpita nei petti...”
Gabriele D'Annunzio, “Le città del silenzio”
Here’s a curiosity to know
In the area of Villa Fidelia once stood the most important monumental nucleus of the ancient town: a magnificent sanctuary laid out on terraces, overlooking the theatre and the amphitheatre. Venus, who is mentioned in an inscription inserted into a mosaic, was certainly one of the divinities venerated there. It was in this area, near the ruins of the theatre, that an important epigraph was found in 1733, known as the “Rescript of Constantine”, now housed in the Great Hall in the town hall. The inscription, carved between 324 and 337 A.D. on a large marble slab, contains the Emperor Constantine’s reply to a petition that had been addressed to him by all the Umbrian peoples, who had asked for permission to carry out their annual celebrations, consisting, among other things, of theatrical and gladiatorial shows, in Spello, rather than in Orvieto together with the inhabitants of Tuscia. The emperor gave his permission and granted the town the honorary title of Urbs Flavia Constans.
Do not miss
- The Picture Gallery’s art collection
- The enchanting Baglioni Chapel decorated by Pintoricchio in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore
- The Church of Sant’Andrea with the panel painting by Pintoricchio and and the Crucifix by Giotto
- The treasures housed in the Town Hall: the decorated rooms, the “Rescript of Constantine” and the ancient collection of the library
- Elegant signs and forms in the Museum Emilio Greco
- The Properzio towers and the Belvedere which offer a magnificent view of the town
- A walk to see the remains of the Roman aqueduct outside the walls
- The fresco portraying san Ventura in the Church dedicated to the same saint
- Church of Santa Maria di Vallegloria with the annexed Monastero delle Clarisse (Monastery of the Poor Clares) which houses the art works belonging to different authors such as the Fantino, Marcantonio Grecchi and the followers’ of Pintoricchio school
- The Church of San Claudio
- The Villa Fidelia with the Baroque garden and the Italian-style garden
- Take a break in the medieval village of Collepino immersed in an uncontaminated nature
- Taste the “bruschetta” (toasted bread) with the extra virgin olive oil of Spello and the typical “tozzetti” (biscuits with nuts) accompanied by the Vin Santo