From Spoleto to Orvieto - an Umbrian Renaissance art itinerary

From Spoleto to Orvieto – an Umbrian Renaissance art itinerary

From Spoleto to Orvieto – an Umbrian Renaissance art itinerary

From Spoleto to Orvieto

An Umbrian Renaissance art itinerary

Duomo of Spoleto interior
Duomo of Spoleto interior

A journey from Spoleto to Orvieto to view some of the greatest works of art of the 16 C. The drive directly west from Spoleto to Orvieto takes an hour and half when uninterrupted, but the itinerary outlined here, looping to the north through Spello to Perugia, with many stops will occupy a very full day.

Umbria is a Region of Italy that boasts more than its fair share of masterpieces. It owes much of its splendid artistic heritage to the Renaissance. It was in Umbria that painters such as Pietro Vannucci and Bernardino di Betto, better known as Perugino and Pinturiccho, but also Luca Signorelli, Benozzo Gozzoli and Filippo Lippi, produced some of their most important works.

The journey begins with a visit to the Duomo (cathedral) of Spoleto. Although this structure, which dates from the 13 C, is predominantly Romanesque, its majestic portico is the result of alterations made during the Renaissance period. Inside, a cycle of frescoes by Filippo Lippi and a Madonna and Saints by Pinturicchio can be seen. Spoleto is home to many other exquisite churches, the most important of which being the Romanesque Church of San Nicolò, the Church of Sant’Eufemia, the Church of Santi Giovanni and Paolo, and the Church of San Gregorio Maggiore. In addition, the Art Museum of Spoleto should not be missed. Look for the Mary Magdalene attributed to Guercino.

Renaissance art itinerary through Umbria
Renaissance art itinerary through Umbria
Montefalco Umbria
Montefalco Umbria

The first stop on this route to Perugia is at Montefalco, where the Sagrantino, one of Umbria’s most highly praised red wines, is produced. Montefalco is often referred to as the “balcony of Umbria” on account of its panoramic position dominating the valley. Montefalco is home not only to inviting wineries but also to an important museum, housed in the old Church of San Francesco. The museum comprises three sections, the first situated within the old church where, between 1450 and 1452, Benozzo Gozzoli painted his “Life of St Francis”. Perugino’s splendid “Nativity” is housed in the same section. Moving on to the Pinacoteca, we find paintings from the Umbrian School dating from the 14 C to the 18 C. Finally, in the crypt there is a fascinating collection of sculptures and archaeological exhibits.

The next stop is at Spello and the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, to see some of Pinturicchio’s greatest works in the little chapel that once belonged to the powerful Baglioni dynasty.

Pintoricchio Dispute with the Doctors Spello
Pintoricchio Dispute with the Doctors

Once in Perugia, we start our tour of the region’s capital with a visit to the National Gallery of Umbria, in Palazzo dei Priori. The gallery contains an incredible number of Italian artworks, dating from the 13th to 18th centuries, including works by Piero della Francesca, Pinturicchio, Beato Angelico, Benozzo Gozzoli and, naturally, Pietro Vannucci, alias Perugino. The position of the museum is a strategic one: just a few meters from Piazza IV Novembre and its celebrated fountain, the Pozzo Etrusco, the Cathedral, and the Collegio del Cambio. This latter, the city’s ancient currency exchange, contains a stunning pictorial cycle by Perugino. Not far away, lies the charming little Church of San Severo in which to see a fresco of the Trinity and Saints, half of which painted by Raphael, half by Perugino.

Between Perugia and Orvieto, if time permits, stops at Deruta and Todi would be worthwhile.

This itinerary ends in Orvieto where the magnificent Gothic Cathedral is the most important sight, especially the ornamental details of the façade, embellished with light reliefs and mosaics. The interiors are also worth investigating. The cathedral houses a colossal 15 C vision of the “End of the World” by Signorelli (responsible for completing the work initiated by Beato Angelico). While strolling around Orvieto, be sure to visit to the Pozzo di San Patrizio, a 16 C engineering masterpiece, designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger.

Orvieto is home to a number of excellent restaurants making it worthwhile to have your evening meal here before heading back to your base.

The Duomo of Orvieto, Umbria
The Duomo of Orvieto