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Wednesday, 01 March 2023

Slow-Travel Road Trip in Umbria, Italy Featured

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This was our first road trip since the Covid-19 tragedy. We were very fortunate to be able to slow-travel for 45 days to the Umbria and Le Marche regions of Italy. As always, our travels foster careful planning and promote boundful excitement; all within a fixed budget. As slow-traveling seniors, we are inspired by the visual arts, informed by culture and history, and motivated by curiosity and imagination.


We especially wanted to study church art and architecture; and to discover the hilltop villages and small towns that were designated “Borghi più Belli d’ Italia” or the most beautiful villages and towns in Umbria and Le Marche. Slow-traveling, for us, is not just passing through. It must be a full stop to explore a church and/or museum, a walk around to find a cafe or restaurant, or simply to sit in a square and contemplate how fortunate we are to be able to travel to Italy.


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This article is focused only on the Umbria region of Italy. We spent the first 20 days in Umbria, and the subsequent 25 days in Le Marche. We continued our trip to Sicily, flight to Malta, and finally two weeks in Rome. The other articles about Le March, Sicily and Rome will be in subsequent issues of



The itinerary for our stay in Umbria include the towns of Spoleto, Bevagna, Montefalco, Spello, Todi, Assisi, Gubbio, Norcia and Orvieto.


Within each of our slow travel bases were Borghi più Belli d’ Italia villages and towns nearby to explore. Many are off the tourist route, others are touristy for good reason. We continually lengthened our focus to include basilicas and cathedrals with Renaissance frescoes and paintings, and explored the layered architectural building styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Also, we paid close attention to the many Etruscan, Roman and Medieval monuments that are plentiful in those regions.



Spoleto (pop. 38,000) was our base for eight nights. Spoleto’s profile has been raised considerably by the Spoleto Festival (Festival dei Due Monti) now in its 60th year, one of Europe’s leading summer cultural events in June and July. We planned to visit four charming medieval hilltop villages within a 45-50 km radius of Spoleto (Bevagna, Montefalco, Spello, and Todi). If you love the history of art, Medieval, Romanesque, Baroque architecture, religious culture and secular/spiritual music, Spoleto must be a definite stop. Many of its main sights are centuries old and offer much insight into the lives of ancient people. Spoleto has been reported to be one of the most beautiful towns in the area; we certainly agree.

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Highlights of two of the sixteen churches in Spoleto were:


The UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Duomo di Spoleto (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta), which is Umbria’s prettiest and contains two major Renaissance frescoes: Life of the Virgin cycle (1467) by the Florentine Fra Lippo Lippi, and a second fresco of the Madonna and Child (1497) by Pinturicchio. Slot in a coin and the coin-operated light illuminates this brilliant fresco. Imagine, painted over five hundred years ago, and these frescos still move us visually and emotionally in many ways.


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Nearby was Sant’Eufemia, an unusual Romanesque (10th-12th centuries) church. Built on the site of an 8th-century ducal palace and incorporating the spoils from that palace as well as an earlier Roman villa. However, the highlights of the church were its architecture of the nave: two-story side aisles and tall apses that stretched the full height of the church. A brightly painted fresco was high up in the apse, and two carved pillars with 11th century motifs. Sant'Eufemia was a special treat as it was a unique representation of 400+ years of advanced design and functional structure.


The Rocca Albornoziana is an imposing fortress that stands on the top of Colle Sant'Elia, in a strategic position overlooking the entire Spoleto valley. The fortress was built around 1359, and the views over the city were incredible. The Rocca had an informative museum with artifacts found in and around Spoleto.


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Last modified on Wednesday, 08 March 2023

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