Why I Love Spoleto Italy

Spoleto is off the beaten tourist track in the lush, rolling green belt of Umbria. The surround views from the historic city center made me turn to Paolo and say “You know we have to live here right?” Poor man, I’ve said that in Paris, Venice, Ghent, Tuscany, Amsterdam and a few more places. So why visit Spoleto or in my case dream about living there?

Views from Spoleto
Views from Spoleto

It’s not just the amazing Umbrian cuisine, local white wine or even the UNESCO world heritage site nestled secretly away in Spoleto. It’s more a feeling. The one that says, you just found somewhere special. A place people who visit fall in love with, but few people know about.

Italians themselves love to visit Spoleto. They know, they have something special, something unspoiled here. They don’t really care if you come visit or not. Spoleto is a gem and they know it.

Spoleto Italy Attractions

In Italy, Spoleto is known as a cultured city. The Basilica of San Salvatore in Spolento dates back to the 4th century and is one of seven UNESCO world heritage sites in central Italy. While Italy is known for historic tourism, in Spoleto you can wander into a restaurant and be casually led to a terrace that opens up over Roman theater ruins. No lines or tickets or fighting crowds to see them. As if it’s no big deal to have Roman ruins afoot while sipping a glass of Trebbiano.

From posters for concerts and plays, to abundant frescos, religious and modern art. History is comfortably juxtaposed with modern art on display throughout the city. Wherever you walk in Spoleto, Art is just around the next corner.

Art on a Newstand in Spoleto Italy
Just Your Everyday Newstand. Except This One is in Spoleto Italy
Modern Art on the Streets of Spoleto
Modern Art on the Streets of Spoleto

Speaking of, walking Spoleto is peaceful as cars are few in the historic city center.

Spoleto Italy
One of a few cars in Spoleto Italy historic city center.

Spoleto is a bright, magical little city full of inspiration. No need to take my word for it, Paolo’s photos do the best job!

Images of Spoleto Italy

Spoleto Cathedral
Spoleto Cathedral
Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral in Spoleto Fresco
Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral Frescoes by Filippo Lippi and his assistants, depicting stories of the Madonna.
Frescos on a home in Spoleto Italy
Frescos at night on a home in Spoleto Italy
Building Frescos in Spoleto Italy
Building Frescos in Spoleto Italy
Piazza del Mercato in Spoleto Italy
Piazza del Mercato in Spoleto Italy

After spending the day on foot in Spoleto, especially after exploring Piazza del Mercato and the surrounding markets, restaurants and pizza shops, food was in order. When it’s time to eat in Italy, I find it’s always best to think outside the pizza box. Shocking for those who know me, I know! Especially given Paolo and my adventures in hunting down the best pizza in Torino. Yet still, to get a sense of regional cuisine, go for a tipico (typical) restaurant. While “tipico” might sound boring in Italy, it’s anything but. Tipcio is simply a way to say, local recipes served here. Here are a few quick tips about food in Spoleto.

Traditional Food & Wine in Spoleto Italy

When it comes to food, being off the beaten tourist track in Italy means Spoleto has held tight to traditional grape varietals and recipes. Many recipes remain untouched or pure if you will. Paolo and I were fortunate enough to be in Spoleto in Winter which is prime black truffle season.

One day at lunch, a table of four retirees behind us went for it! I watched their glee as each coarse was snowed upon table side with hand shaved, paper thin slices of pungent tartufo.

Even in Italy where food is notoriously amazing for the price, I shuttered to think what their lunch bill came to. As one of the world’s most sought after delicacies, black truffels are never cheap.

Other local specialties include Torta al testo an Umbrian flat bread sandwich. While it sounds a little less exciting than black truffles, don’t skip it. Torta al testo is what the locals eat regularly for a reason. A great reminder that when in Italy, the most humble foods are often the best.

Strangozzi

One of my absolute favorite things about Italian cuisine, is that pasta is never just pasta. Noodle is not a word that translates to Italian. Instead in Italy, each pasta shape has a story behind the name. Each pasta shape also has a very specific purpose which correlates to any sugo (sauce) it’s traditionally served with.

Strangozzi which loosely translates to ‘strangle’ is the regional pasta in Spoleto. The name comes from the a rebellion against papal domination in the 14th century.  As the story goes, the clergy were attached in the streets, strangled with whatever was at hand, including shoelaces. Thus the name of the pasta.

Brutal but no less delicious, Stangozzi is a rough, long pasta similar to tagliatelle, perfect to deliver rich sugo made from local seasonal ingredients clinging to each strand.

Now I’m hungry. Oh wait, it gets better.

Bruschetta Umbria

While mortadella and charcuterie are in no short supply in Spoleto, one thing they really do well is bruschetta, bruschetta, bruschetta!

Two things to know about bruschetta before ordering it in Italy. One, Bruschetta is not a side dish with pasta. Bruschetta is not Italian garlic bread. That bread slathered in butter and garlic that’s cooked in the oven, is also an American thing. In Spoleto Bruschetta typically comes heavily drizzled with local olive oil and is served on a platter of seasonal grilled vegetables or regional salumi and cured meats.

The second thing to know about bruschetta, is how not to sound like an American ordering it.

How to Properly Pronounce Bruschetta

Say it with me now, broo-sketta. In Italian CH is always pronounced K. Here, I always find these help.

Paolo still corrects me all the time when I say it. What I can always say right though is Vino!

Trebbiano Spoletino

Spoleto has only been an Umbrian wine DOC since 2011. Now, I’m still an Italian wine novice but even I know, that means Spoleto has only recently been recognized for producing Trebbiano Spoletino. Which seems funny considering Trebbiano is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world. Here’s the hitch. Trebbiano vines give quantity over quality. Thus earning it a bad name for being an undistinguished wine. After our visit, I did a little googling and found the reason thanks to an article by Robert Camuto in Wine Spectator.

“After Trebbiano Spoletino achieved critical success, Italy established a tiny Spoleto appellation in 2011 allowing for dry, sparkling and sweet wines made from a minimum of 85 percent of the grape variety.”

Trebbiano has the potential to be a bright, fresh yet complex, light to medium bodied white wine with hints of minerals and salinity. All of which came out in the bottle we tried at lunch making it a wine I will always remember discovering in Spoleto!

After indulging in Bruschetta, Strangozzi and Trebbiano, we walked it all off walking to one of the most inspiring historic bridges I’ve ever seen.

Ponte delle Torri

Ponte delle Torri can be reached from Piazza Campello by heading down Via del Ponte, which runs alongside the wall of the Rocca Albornoziana fortress. Okay I know, that doesn’t sound easy and it’s not really. The path to Ponto delle Torri is not marked from inside the historic city center but the view was well worth the struggle to get there. Hint: Download google maps to have them handy without roaming charges.

Ponte delle Torri is worth the struggle to find both for the imposing structure spanning 754 feet and the epic panaromic views of Monteluco. Nine pillars of local limestone stand 262 feet tall making for one very impressive structure. Thankfully Paolo is a man of history. Which means he was able to detail the history of the structure for me!

From Paolo, I learned that Cardinal Albornoz put in place many building initiatives during the 14th century including Ponte delle Torri. The bridge not only brought the Sant’Elia Hill and Monteluco together but also served to transport water to the city from Cortaccione springs. Ponte delle Torri is the best way to wrap up a trip to Spoleto because it left me curious about what’s just over that next hill in Italy.

Ponte delle Torri in Spoleto Italy
Ponte delle Torri in Spoleto Italy
Don’t get me wrong, I’d happily live in Rome or Florence but there is so, so much more to Italy than its big cities. Some of the smaller gems like Spoleto and the surrounding areas are worth the trip to Italy all on their own. Who knows, maybe one of these days Paolo will finally cave and we won’t come back. We’ll just stay, in Italy.

Flashback

Our flashbacks are trips we’ve taken around the world. A note to self to stop working and #optoutside

Photographer Paolo Ferraris
Photographer Paolo Ferraris in Spoleto Italy

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