Introductions to various aspects of the history, languages and peoples of Tuscany in Italy
Vallo di NeraThe Val di Chiana of Umbria and Tuscany Vallo di Nera The attractive village of Vallo di Nero in Umbria retains its mediaeval character almost intact and is well worth a visit. Its walls, towers and lanes are extremely photogenic and the principal church of Santa Maria contains frescoes by Cola di Pietro [...]
Church of St. Augustine, MontefalcoChiesa di sant'Agostino in the town of Montefalco, Umbria Church of St. Augustine, Montefalco interior In 1275, the Augustinians moved to the village of Castellare, near one of the main gates of the first wall of Montefalco, where there was a small church dedicated to St. John the Baptist, gifted to [...]
The Eremo (Hermitage) delle Carceri is a refuge located not far from Assisi in a steep forest gorge on the slopes of Monte Subasio, at 791 m (2,595 ft) above sea level. The name Carceri comes from the Latin carceres, meaning “isolated places” or “prisons”.
The church of San Giovanni Battista (St John the Baptist) is one of the most important monuments of the castle of Arrone. In addition, the nearby hamlet of Casteldilago is home to to the Church of San Nicola, with frescoes by Giovanni di Pietro, called ‘the Spaniard’, or a pupil of his, and the Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Round Rock.
St. Benedict (San Benedetto) enjoys a very special place in the life of Norcia (Nursia, in Roman times), where he was born, probably in about the year 480, reaching manhood as the remnants of the Roman Empire slid into chaos. During the subsequent Dark Age, monasteries were often the main focal points of culture, learning, spiritual zeal and readiness for social action, in contrast to the agitated sea of barbarism that surrounded them on all sides.
Spoleto is well worth a visit both on account of its wonderful location on the slopes of the Apennines and for it Roman, mediaeval and Renaissance art and architecture. The history of Spoleto is long and illustrious and this is reflected in its art and architecture.
Carsulae is a quite well-preserved Roman city located in the Umbria countryside. Although not as spectacular as Pompeii and Herculaneum, Carsulae does nevertheless provide a readily comprehensible example of Roman city planning, with some of the major features of a Roman provincial city clearly visible.
Città della Pieve in Umbria overlooks the Val di Chiana towards the western frontier of Umbria, about 20 km south of Lake Trasimeno and 8 km from Chiusi in Tuscany. Città della Pieve is more a town than a city and is an attractive, compact locality.
The “old town” of Assisi is not very large and can easily be explored on foot. The Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is the mother church of the Order of Friars Minor, commonly known as the Franciscan Order. As the burial place of St. Francis, the basilica is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Italy.
One of the great pleasures of a visit to Italy is to stumble across a local festival or fair (festa, sagre, fiera). Although there are a great many of these events – fairs, costumed festivals, patron saints’ days etc. – so that your chances of finding yourselves participating by chance are good, it is nevertheless worthwhile to do a bit of research because some of these festivals are not to be missed.
Here’s an interactive map of Tuscany with links to the best websites for many of the most interesting cities, towns, villages and sights of Tuscany.
Narni in Umbria is first referred to as “Nequinum”, a populated nucleus dating back to about 600 BC. By 299 BC, Narni had become a Roman colony named “Narnia”. The name comes from the nearby Nar river, which is called the Nera today.
The fortified Benedictine Abbey of St. Cassiano is beautifully located on Monte Santa Croce, overlooking and controlling the Nera, in Umbria. The abbey was built on the site of a fortified monastery dating back to the Gothic Wars (6 C), and was probably built by the famous Byzantine general, Belisarius.
Lago Trasimeno, known historically as “the lake of Perugia”, is the largest lake in peninsular Italy, being slightly smaller than Lake Como. The lake has three islands, one inhabited, and several attractive villages on its circumference.
Gubbio is beautifully situated at the foot and on the slopes of Monte Ingino and Monte Calvo, with a wonderful view out over the Umbrian plains. Gubbio is austere in appearance because of the dark grey stone from which the majority of its buildings are constructed, as well as the narrow streets and Gothic architecture.
Castelluccio di Norcia is a small high-country village situated in the the Sibylline Mountains (Monti Sibillini) of Umbria. The geomorphology is dominated by U-shaped valleys and glacial plains formed by huge glaciers during the last ice age. The attraction of these high altitude valleys is the “Fiorita” or “Fioritura” (the Flowering) of Castelluccio di Norcia. Between the end of May and the beginning of July of each year, the plains change colour as millions of flowering plants burst into bloom.
Todi was important to both Etruscans and Romans and is the location of several interesting Gothic and renaissance buildings, including the 11 C cathedral and 13 C palazzi. Its triple walls are still easily discerned. The innermost is Etruscan, the middle wall is Roman, and the outside wall dates from the 6 C or 7 C.
Visitors to Orvieto should not miss the two small museums located on the Piazza del Duomo. These are the National Archaeological Museum which holds the most recently found archaeological materials from the city and surrounding area, and the Museum of the Faina Foundation, located on the opposite side of piazza which holds a number of older finds plus items bought on the antiquarian market. Of special interest are the Etruscan artefacts, since Orvieto is a good candidate to be the site of Etruscan Volsinii (Velzna or Velusna) which was known to stand on a steep height and was the location of the Fanum Voltumnae, the most important sanctuary of the Etruscans.
Many Roman ruin and Roman history enthusiasts visiting Italy might be unaware that, in addition to Pompeii and Herculaneum, there are many splendid Roman remains to be found outside of Rome and its environs. A great many of these are located in Umbria, in part because some important Roman roads, notably the Via Flaminia, ran through what is now Umbria.
Orvieto, Italy is situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff, one of the most dramatic townscapes in Europe, rising above the vertical cliffs that are extended by defensive walls of the same stone. The facade of theDuomo of Orvieto, a masterpiece of Italian gothic art, is equally spectacular, consisting of bands of black and white stone decorated with bronze dragons, gold mosaics and marble bas-reliefs by Lorenzo Maitani.
Spello is vastly under-rated as a place to visit in Umbria, Italy. This quiet Umbrian hilltop (or, rather, ridge-top) town is a pleasure for those who love to explore the integration of Roman structures into a living town. Three well-preserved Roman portals form the entries into Spello.
The Cascata delle Marmore waterfalls, which are located about 8 km from Terni, in Umbria, are not a natural phenomenon but were created by the ancient Romans. The water source of the falls is Lake Piediluco which is fed by the river Velino (the rest of the river flows into a hydroelectric power plant). The falls descend into the river Nera in the valley below. The falls are in effect turned on and off according to a fixed schedule, for the benefit of tourists and the power company alike.
Deruta is a major centre for the production of painted ceramics in Italy and this is the main reason to visit this attractive town in the Province of Perugia. Nevertheless, in Deruta there are a fine gothic church and an art museum housing a fresco by Perugino.
Perugia is one of the principal “art cities” of Umbria and indeed of Italy, and presents a rich feast of architecture, frescoes, paintings and historical artifacts. The location and climate of Perugia, as well as its reasonable size, add to the pleasure of a visit.
The three sectors of Città della Pieve, called Terzieri (Borgo Dentro, Casilino, Castello) challenge each other to an archery competition, known as “The Bull Hunt” (inspired by the “Caccia del Toro”, a primitive bullfight that took place in the ancient Castel della Pieve in the 15 C and 16 C).