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The Umbrian region is poor of words but generous with scenery and Spoleto is the best place to admire views and landscapes painted by nature and history. It's pyramid of houses, it's labyrinth of alleys, the bright squares, the solemnity of the dome, the fortress from the ]4th century, the twelve streets which divided the city until the thirteenth century.

The history of Spoleto drives its roots in the period well former the foundation of Rome, to which it has been subdued in consequence of the Sentino’s battle (295 b. C.); transformed later in a Roman settlement with the name of Spoletium, the town proved to be a faithful ally to Rome, above all on the occasion of the incursion in Italy of Hannibal, leader of the Carthaginians. After having defeated the Roman garrisons near the Trasimeno Lake, Hannibal has been blocked in his rapid advance towards Rome just by the valiant resistance offers by Spoleto, and the enormous losses lead him to deviate with his troops towards the Picen and the Puglia.
T
his important historical event testified the great strategic, military and economical organization reached by Spoleto since his very remote antiquity, attested by the survival till our days of more than two kilometres of boundary wall, which goes back to the VI-V century b. C.. Transformed later in a Roman municipality, Spoleto became in a short time a well-known resort for the rich Roman middle class, who built in the area a lot of villas, particularly in proximity to the numerous watercourses present there.
At this time date back some important architectonical evidences, such as the Arch of Druso and the Germanic one (dates back to the 23 a. C.), a house that belonged, according to the tradition, to the mother of the emperor Vespasian, a theatre and an amphitheatre built respectively in the I and in the II century a. C.; the emperor Theodoric himself ordered the land reclamation of the territories situated below the Clitunno’s valley.
I
n a short time Spoleto became an episcopal centre and it developed a solid ecclesiastical organization influenced, among other things, by oriental elements due to the presence on the Monteluco of a settlement of Syrian monks, established there since the beginning of the Christian era.
Passed later under the Longobard domination, whose jurisdiction extended from the coasts of the Adriatic to the Tiber river, Spoleto continued to exercise a political roll of fundamental importance, becoming the seat of one of the most important dukedom of Italy.
During the following period of Frankish domination, the town has been governed by the Duke Guy, who obtained in the 891 the coronation as emperor from the pope; when his son Lambert dead (898), the imperial crown definitively emigrated from Italy.
Particularly important for the following developments of the history of Spoleto was the conquest and the successive destruction of the town operated by Frederick Barbarossa (1155). At that time Spoleto was one of the richest autonomous communes of the centre of Italy, but the event reduced as much the roll as the political and economical vitility, and it has been the essential condition for the progressive subjugation to the State of the Church: Gregory IX obtained from the emperor Frederick II the definitive recognition of the Church’s sovereignty on Spoleto in the 1231, and the dukedom has been suppressed in the 1247.
In the 1362 the cardinal Albornoz, who has chosen to transform Spoleto in a strategic stronghold for the reconquest of the Papal State in the period of the struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines, ordered to Matteo Gattaponi the construction of the Fortress, imposing defensive system which includes the Ponte delle Torri too.
After few decades the Fortress was already the seat of dukedom’s rectors, as a rule chosen by the pope among his most faithful relatives (an example is the Borgian dynasty), as well as the destination of frequent stays of the Pontiffs themselves.
The progressive loss of political power of the town is demonstrated by the fact that, already in the epoch of the pope Pius IV (by the middle of the XVI century), the rectors, no longer chosen among the popes’ relatives, but however ecclesiastics of high rank, governated no longer directly, but through representatives.
In the period of the Napoleonic domination (1809-1815) Spoleto rose again to a roll of protagonist in the Peninsula’s history as chief town of the Department of the Trasimeno Lake, a territory that extends from Perugia to Rieti: the political and social renewal has been accompanied by a new building development, which continued even subsequently, with the return to the pontifical jurisdiction.
At the time of the fist liberal revolts there were a lot of considerable figures who distinguished themselves in the patriotic activity: among them we should remember Pompeius of Campanello (the president of the revolutionary council of the 1831 and minister of arms of the revolutionary government of the 1848) and Luigi Pianciani (gonfalonier of Spoleto in the 1848 and flanker of Garibaldi in the battles that fought in order to conquer Rome, of which he has been designated first syndic in the1871).


In the year of the conquest of Spoleto by the Piedmontese troops (1860), a hurried administrative reorganization of the rising Kingdom of Italy took the rank of chief town of province from it.
Till the outbreak of the First World War the town however conserved intact some important prerogatives: the Court remained one of the greatest of Italy, both for the vast territory of jurisdiction, that also included the dell of Terni, and for the prestige of the judges; the Infantry Regiment, the Military District and the School for Official Cadets made it one of the principal military centres of the Country; the cultural life, also thanks to the presence of schools of any order and rank, included a Classical Lycèe, continued to be vivid and attentive to developments in the field of Science, Agriculture, Archaeology and Art; the ecclesiastical district was particularly vast and rich in remarkable personages also in the national ambit; economy, based on the wholesale trade of oil and other alimentary products, on a cotton mill and on some lignite-mines, was fairly flourishing and Spoleto could confer upon itself to be the second industrial town in Umbria after Terni.

Fortunately, the realization of the speedway that links Southern Umbria with Rome (the Supreme) intervented just in time to avoid a confinement which would induced, in a short time, an irresistible and definitive decline, and some intelligent initiatives in the cultural field has greatly contributed to the relaunch of the town in recent times: in the 1946 the National Experimental Theatre has been inaugurated and in the 1951 the Italian Centre of Studies about the Early Middle Age too, and finally, in the 1958, has taken place the first edition of the "Festival dei Due Mondi", a world-wide exhibition of theatre, music and prose today among the most prestigious and complete of the world.

 

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