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
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.
This 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
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.
In 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
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
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
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
dei Due Mondi", a world-wide exhibition of theatre, music and prose today
among the most prestigious and complete of the world.