Looking for the best Spoleto Italy attractions? Here is a short guide to visit the town and its surroundings in one day or more!
Umbria attractions are always popular with Italians, as well as with foreign tourists. One of the best places to visit in Umbria is Spoleto, a town in the province of Perugia. It is one of the oldest cities in Italy, located on the southern plain of the Umbrian Valley, close to Monteluco.
Its history dates back more than 2500 years ago, when the city was founded by the Huns.
In 241 BC it became a colony of the Roman Empire. Thanks to this historical period, the city took the name of “Spoletium”. Visiting Spoleto will make you see evidence of ancient Roman influence in the buildings, in the monuments and in the works of art we will discuss later.
In the 4th century with S. Brizio, first bishop of Spoleto, the city became an episcopal seat.
Several churches and monasteries in the city and in the surrounding countryside date back to this period.
Later Spoleto became a duchy during the Lombard domination and then under the Holy Roman Empire. The Franks and the State of the Church had been fighting over Spoleto for some time, the latter prevailing in 1240.
In 1809 the Papal States were annexed to France: the Trasimeno Department was created and Spoleto was appointed capital of this department.
After World War II, the institutions enhanced the artistic and cultural works of the city with the restoration of buildings and monuments, as well as the creation of new events that we will see later in the article dedicated to the best places to visit in Umbria around Spoleto.
Visiting Spoleto is immersing yourself in an ancient times: thanks to the influences of various conquerors, the city is rich in monuments, churches, noble palaces and Roman theatres.
But, in addition to being an important destination from a historical and artistic point of view, Spoleto is also a place for nature and outdoor lovers.
From long walks in the alleys and in the countryside, to jogging along the city walls: here are some ideas on the best things to do in Umbria around Spoleto. Horseback riding are also fascinating outdoor activities.
It is worth visiting Spoleto and the surrounding areas by including it in a trip dedicated to the best places to visit in Umbria or returning from some nearby Umbria attractions or towns.
Below, I will show you what to see in Spoleto in just one day! 😉
What to visit in Spoleto in one day
Visiting Spoleto in just one day is not easy, but you can help yourself with this guide and be sure that you know what to see in Spoleto and thus make your journey easier.
You have 2 options if you arrive in Spoleto by car (about half an hour from Perugia).
The first is to park in the south-eastern part of the city and start the route from the Rocca Albornoziana and immediately admire, from the belvedere, the spectacular view on Ponte delle Torri that dominates the landscape.
From this point, you can easily reach the historic centre of Spoleto with the famous Piazza del Duomo and admire the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, one of the artistic treasures that the city preserves, where you will find artworks by Filippo Lippi and Pinturicchio.
Palazzo Arroni is located right next to the former Church of Santa Maria della Manna d’Oro.
Then you can go down the streets admiring the Palazzo Comunale, the Roman house and the Clock Fountain until you get to the Ducal Palace.
At this point, I advise you to move away from the main road to reach an important stop: the Roman Theatre, dating back to the 1st century BC and included in the complex that houses the State Archaeological Museum, is still used today for performances and events, especially in summer.
If you are interested in modern art and do not know what to see in Spoleto, I recommend that you visit Palazzo Collicola, which hosts contemporary art exhibitions in its ancient building, creating an elegant fusion of different styles.
Several lifts, escalators and railway lines connect the most beautiful points of the city so as to allow everyone to be able to visit the best Spoleto Italy attractions.
Not far from Ponte Sanguinario, the Basilica of San Salvatore, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is among the top places to visit in Umbria around Spoleto!
A second option is to start your tour of the 10 things to see in Spoleto (and beyond! 😉) right from this Basilica, which offers free parking a few metres away. From here your walk will take place in the opposite direction to that described previously and I could advise you, since the Roman theatre is at the exact antipodes of the Basilica, to visit it last, but you should not miss the spectacular sunset view over Ponte delle Torri.
As I told you, Spoleto is well connected both internally, to move easily, and for those coming from other cities.
For those arriving from Perugia, it is possible to use the Italian State Railways and the Umbrian Central Railways: with an hour and just over 5 euros, it will take you to visit this beautiful city.
For Northern Italy, even for those arriving from Florence, Ternola, Ancona, Falconara and Foligno, it will be possible to use the Italian State Railways.
For Central Italy or Southern Italy, the cities from which it is easy to reach Spoleto by train are Rome, Orte, Terni, L’Aquila and Rieti.
The alternative is the airport: the plane lands at Sant’Egidio airport in Perugia, which is 34 km from Spoleto.
An excellent opportunity to rent a car and reach the best places to visit in Umbria. Alternatively, you can take the train to visit Spoleto and its surroundings.
The Best Spoleto Italy Attractions
Below you will find an explanation of the best Umbria tourist attractions in and around Spoleto.
We will not only talk about 10 best things to do and see in Spoleto – in fact only the historic centre has got more than 10 historic monumental churches – but I will make a list of the top Umbria attractions that you can find in Spoleto.
Here are the top 10 things to see in Spoleto:
- Cathedral of Spoleto
- Olive Oil Tower
- Roman Theatre
- Roman House
- Market Square
- Church of San Salvatore
- Albornoz Fortress
- Bridge of the Towers
- Mascherone Fountain
- Textile and Costume Museum
Are you ready? Visit Spoleto with me!
1. The Spoleto Cathedral
With the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, Piazza del Duomo has great importance.
The façade of the Spoleto Cathedral dates back to the 12th century and it has got a stone gabled façade and an imposing square bell tower.
The upper part of the facade is in the Romanesque style with Gothic influences, the lower part is in the Renaissance style.
The Latin cross interior is instead in Baroque style: the cross vaults and the apse were frescoed with the Stories of the Virgin (The Annunciation, the Dormitio Virginis, The Nativity, The Coronation) by the Florentine painter Filippo Lippi (buried right here in the cathedral).
Much of the architecture of this monumental church is due to the work of Architect Giuseppe Valadier.
The precious autographed letter from St. Francis of Assisi to Brother Leo is kept in the Chapel of the Relics. It should be remembered that the Saint had his conversion in this city, a destination for worship and spirituality.
2. The Olive Oil Tower
In the historic centre of Spoleto, we find this thirteenth-century tower that we can only admire from the outside as it is privately owned.
It is likely that it was part of a defensive system of the city at the time of Frederick Barbarossa, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and King of Italy. The boiling olive oil that recalls the name of this tower was poured at a very high temperature to defend itself.
Legend has it that it was poured over the Carthaginians when Hannibal, after the victory over the Romans at Trasimeno river, tried to take over the city without success.
3. The Roman Theatre
As previously mentioned, the Roman Theatre dates back to the second half of the 1st century BC and it has got a diametre of about 70 metres.
In the early Middle Ages, it was included in the church of Sant’Agata. Subsequently the Benedictine nuns founded their own monastery there by creating a cloister on octagonal pillars.
In 1891 Giuseppe Sordini discovered the Roman theatre and the restoration perfectly distinguishes between the ancient part and the modern one. Obviously the church of Sant’Agata is still there but today it houses the State Archaeological Museum.
Especially in summer, the Roman Theatre is one of the main Umbria attractions in Spoleto as it hosts various events, including the Spoleto festival (the so-called Festival dei due Mondi).
4. The Roman House
Here too it is thanks to Giuseppe Sordini that the Roman house was discovered. The remains found indicate that it belonged to Vespasia Polla, Emperor Vespasiano’s mother, owner of several properties in the area around Spoleto.
5. The Market Square
It is one of the most famous squares in Spoleto, at the time Roman forum and later main square and open-air market.
It is the place for nightlife in Spoleto, the culinary centre for the best local delicacies. If I were you I would stop here in some shop to taste Umbria food.
6. The Church of San Salvatore
The Church of San Salvatore was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2011 thanks to its Lombard architecture. It’s absolutely worth a visit!
7. The Rocca Albornoziana
In the second half of the fourteenth century, its construction began at the behest of the Spanish Cardinal Egidio Albornoz.
The Rocca Albornoziana is made up of six quadrangular towers joined by defensive walls: Torre della Balestra, Torre Nuova, Torretta or Torre del Tinello, Torre dell’Acqua and Torre del Forno.
There are two quadrangular courtyards inside the Rocca Albornoziana: the courtyard of the arms and the courtyard of honour. The three buildings were the residence of the governor and his officials.
The Courtyard of Honour highlights the changing role of this fortress from a defensive function to a noble residence.
Inside the lord of the manor’s private apartment, the “camera pinta”, you can admire the beautiful frescoes dating back to the first half of the fifteenth century.
Today inside the Rocca Albornoziana we find the National Museum of the Duchy, which shows the historical, political and cultural development of the Duchy of Spoleto allowing the visit to tourists.
8. The Bridge of the Towers
Already from the name we can guess that this bridge connects two towers: at the two ends we find the Rocca Albornoziana and the Fortalizio dei Mulini, the latter used to watch over the bridge and as a municipal water mill.
A second but not less important use of the bridge, in fact, was to bring water form Cortaccione springs.
The nine pillars that support the structure are joined by arches and the view from the Belvedere on Via del Ponte, the only one available at the moment given the temporary closure of the bridge, is very fascinating and alone it is worth a visit to Spoleto.
9. The Fontana del Mascherone
Located in Piazza Bernardino Campello, the name of this fountain derives from the unusual animal face with human features carved on the large votive shrine.
Entirely carved in stone, it has got laurel decorations and it is believed to represent a pagan deity from whose mouth a jet of water comes out and pours into the three basins below.
10. Museum of Texile and Costume
In addition to a contemporary art museum, Spoleto houses a Museum of Textile and Costume in the former municipal art gallery.
This building preserves Spoleto textile heritage consisting of historical flags, tapestries, wall tapestries, but also precious sacred ornaments, ancient clothes and ornaments used by the priors of this ancient city.
As I had anticipated, the best things to see in Spoleto are not few but, if you like to discover with me some places made famous by Italian television, keep reading the article!
Don Matteo’s film locations in Spoleto
A famous television show filmed in Umbria is Don Matteo, starring the legendary actor Terrence Hill.
In Spoleto Don Matteo with his bicycle rides made us admire, often without knowing it, the historic buildings of the city and some of them were reference points of the television show: the Rocca Arbonoziana, in the television show it was the prison, or the door on the left of the former Church of Santa Maria della Manna d’Oro transformed into the protagonist’s home with the nice Natalina, Pippo and the children in foster care.
Many scenes take place in Piazza del Duomo since right here there are the fake rectory (Chiesa Sant’Eufemia), the Carabinieri barracks (Palazzo Bufalini) and the bar where Don Matteo and Marshal Cecchini discuss unsolved murders (in reality, Trac and Trac bar).
The Spoleto Festival
If you think that Spoleto is an ancient city with little social life, you are wrong! Every year Spoleto becomes the centre of music, art, culture and entertainment with the Festival dei Due Mondi (or Spoleto Festival).
In 1958 Master Composer Giancarlo Menotti founded this festival, which is still directed by Giorgio Ferrara.
Shows of dance, opera, theatre, music, cinema, puppet art and painting take part every year.
Spoletoscienza with a scientific medical theme is also very interesting. In summer the city comes to life with the Spoleto Festival and makes even more the city a place to visit.
What to eat in Spoleto
As you can imagine, the cuisine in Spoleto has got very ancient origins and traditional Umbria food is used in many local dishes.
Meat, cheese, cured meats and fresh home-made pasta are essential, as well as Black Truffle from Norcia and White Truffle from Val Tiberina.
Among the best Umbria food from Spoleto and the surrounding areas, we find:
- Scottadito mutton chops, covered with a mixture of ham fat, ground lard, garlic and various herbs;
- Pilotto, used as a seasoning, is simply lard on straw paper which is then placed on meat on the spit halfway through cooking. By burning the paper, the lard will melt and flavour the meat;
- Lamb offal with garlic, olive oil, onions, herbs and tomato;
- Wild boar in casserole with tomato sauce and red wine;
- Stringozzi alla spoletina is a type of homemade pasta with tomato sauce, garlic, olive oil, parsley, pepper and chilli for a spicy note. Grated pecorino cheese garnishes the dish. They can be found in the Norcia black truffle version or with goose sauce.
- Crescionda, a traditional Spoleto sweet with strong contrasts. In ancient times, it was made with pecorino, eggs, chicken broth, sugar, dark chocolate and lemon zest. Today it is made with amaretti, chocolate, grapes, sugar, lemon zest and flour. It is a traditional dessert for Spoleto Carnival.
- Attorta, similar to a strudel with apples, dried fruit and spices.
Surrounding Areas of Spoleto
Now that I have told you what to see in Spoleto, it is useful to know that its surrounding areas are also rich in history and nature trails that will add value to your holiday.
Going to Perugia, I recommend that you visit Spello.
The city is famous for its decks with flowers that colour the city with music, flowers and many events. There are several tours organised to visit the city in this magical moment and you could combine it with other activities such as the truffle hunting that Italia Delight offers you.
You will have a wonderful day in Spello!
A few kilometres away, towards the north and Perugia, we find the city made known by Saint Francis: Assisi. With its ups and downs, with its characteristic alleys and the majestic Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, it is a must after you have visited Spoleto. In the evening, it is even more impressive!
Perugia itself is interesting to visit: the city is famous for its defensive walls, medieval houses, Renaissance works and monuments. It is also an excellent destination for eating in renowned restaurants. Spoleto countryside stands out because of its wonderful nature: the Fonti del Clitunno are a heavenly oasis. The small temple that rises on the banks of the Topino tributary is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The landscape surrounding Spoleto is made up of hills, vineyards, olive groves and local farms.
The territory of Montefalco is just like that, a territory of agriculture and large vineyards that surround the medieval upper town, where there are several ancient wine bars.
Sagrantino di Montefalco wine dates back to Roman times and here you can taste it at its best, thanks to years and years of experience by local wineries.
In Montefalco, discover Sagrantino wine with the experiences by Italia Delight: a visit to a hundred-year-old winery, wine tasting and olive oil tasting.
A unique experience to discover the territory where Sagrantino di Montefalco is produced!
Did you like the article on the best Spoleto Italy attractions? If you are looking for a travel idea in Umbria, you can create a tailor-made trip with a local Expert from Italia Delight, a tour operator specialising in food and wine trips. It’s free and without obligation! 😉