Italians know they have something special, something unspoiled in Spoleto Italy. It’s not just the Umbrian cuisine, local white wine, or even the UNESCO World Heritage site nestled secretly away in Spoleto. It’s more of a feeling. The one that says, you just found a hidden gem.
Where is Spoleto?
You’ll find Spoleto in east-central Umbria at the foothill of the Apennines mountains surrounded by hills, olive groves, and vineyards. Off the beaten track in the Italian countryside, Spoleto is surrounded by a carpet of lush green in every direction.
Map of Spoleto Italy
If you’ll planning a visit, the following map of Spoleto, Italy will help you explore our list of things to see.
What Spoleto is Known For
Today Spoleto Italy is famous around the world for the Festival of Two Worlds. This wasn’t always the case. For many years Spoleto Italy was truly one of Italy’s hidden gems. Festivals changed all that. In the summer music lovers flock to Spoleto for dei Due Mondi or the Festival of the Two Worlds. Founded in 1958 the annual summer music, opera, and dance festival is the most popular in Spoleto.
What to See in Spoleto Italy
Spoleto is a bright, magical city full of inspirational art. Some new, some historic. Here is a collection of some of the best things to see in Spoleto, Italy.
Piazza del Duomo
Dating from the 12th century, Spoleto Cathedral has a porticoed facade embellished by a mosaic. Inside is a cycle of frescoes by the medieval artist Filippo Lippi.
Just outside the Basilica of San Salvatore in Spoleto is Piazza del Duomo. Not only is the view of Duomo inspiring but a quick look around and you can see the history of Spoleto’s connection to the arts found in frescos throughout the city. This is the perfect location to start exploring Spoleto.
Spoleto Cathedral (Basilica of San Salvatore)
The Basilica of San Salvatore in Spoleto which dates back to the 4th century is one of seven sites in central Italy to be named UNESCO world heritage sites in 2011. We recommend taking what is called the “Spirit of Art” journey which includes The Duomo, The Bell Tower, The church of Sant’Eufemia, and The Diocesan Museum.
If you only have time for one, make sure to see the Spoleto Cathedral. The frescoes are inspiring because they are well preserved, and vivid in Perugia.
Romanesque Church of Sant’Eufemia
The church of Sant’Eufemia is one of the most notable Romanesque buildings and one of the finest example of architecture dating to antiquity in Umbria. It is also among the most significant monuments of the Duchy of Spoleto because it contains reused materials dating back to the 1st century.
While not much of the interior of the decorations survived the passing of time, the structure is worth visiting because of the three naves and the vaulted octagonal ceiling. Together they provide a sense of peace and protection from the outside world.
The Roman House
Constructed in the 1st century AD, locals forgot about the Roman house of Spoleto until archaeologist Giuseppe Sordini rediscovered it at the end of the 19th century. Among the remarkable finds was an inscription dedicated to the Emperor Caligula. Consequently, the working theory behind the Roman House is that it belonged to Vespasia Polla. She was the mother of the Roman emperor Vespasian, and hence, grandmother to the two more emperors Titus and Domitian. Talk about a house with a regal legacy!
Ponte delle Torri in Spoleto, Italy
Ponte delle Torri is an imposing structure spanning 754 feet and the epic panoramic views of Monteluco. Nine pillars of local limestone stand 262 feet tall making for one very impressive structure. 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.
Piazza del Mercato, Historic Spoleto City Center
Part of the reason is that Spoleto Italy is as peaceful inside the city wall as it is outside. Spoleto is peaceful as cars are few in the historic city center. Even the tourist information kiosk is adorned in art. In fact, just about every flat surface is used in Spoleto to display art.
National Archaeological Museum & Roman Theater of Spoleto
While Italy has plenty of mass tourism, in Spoleto you can wander into a restaurant and be casually led to a terrace that opens up over Roman theater ruins. The National Archaeological Museum complex displays items from the Bronze Age and Roman times. It also includes the restored Roman Theater.
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, and 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 corner.
Pictures of Spoleto Italy
What to Eat 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 is in order. 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. In the case of Spoleto, we’re talking Umbrian cuisine.
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 tableside with hand-shaved, paper-thin slices of pungent Tartufo. 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.
One of my absolute favorite things about Italian cuisine is that pasta is never just pasta. Each pasta shape has a story and a specific purpose and sugo (sauce) it’s traditionally served with.
Strangozzi which loosely translates to ‘strangle’ is the regional pasta of Spoleto. The name comes from 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.
While mortadella and charcuterie are in no short supply in Spoleto, one thing they really do well is bruschetta. Two things to know about bruschetta before ordering it in Italy. One, bruschetta is not a side dish with pasta. Nor is bruschetta 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.
As it’s commonly mispronounced, check out our tips to properly pronounce Bruschetta before ordering it in Spoleto.
Trebbiano Spoletino a Local Wine in Spoleto
Spoleto has only been an Umbrian wine DOC since 2011. Trebbiano Spoletino is still trying to make a name for itself outside of Spoleto. Despite the fact that winemakers plant the Trebbiano grape is one of the most common 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 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.” –Robert Camuto in Wine Spectator.
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. You guessed it, Ponte delle Torri. You can reach Ponte delle Torri from Piazza Campello by heading down Via del Ponte. It runs alongside the wall of the Rocca Albornoziana fortress.
Okay I know, that doesn’t sound easy, but it’s only tricky because they have not labeled the path from inside the historic city center. Still, the view is well worth finding.
Final Thoughts on Spoleto, Italy
The views looking outside Spoleto are breathtaking. On our first visit to Spoleto, Italy the surrounding views from the historic city center made me turn to Paolo and say “You know we have to live here right?” In the end, we moved to the Italian Alps, but Spoleto remains one of my favorite places to visit in Italy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Rome and 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.
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