Key to Umbria: Spello

Detail from the Annunciation (1500) by Pinturicchio

Cappella Bella, Santa Maria Maggiore

The walk begins outside Portonaccio, the main entrance to the city.  The gate announces itself as the entrance to the Roman colony, “Splendissima Colonia Julia”, despite the fact that it was built in ca. 1360.  It s now isolated, but the fresco detail above (in which it is at the extreme left) shows that it was originally an integral part of the medieval walls.

A large necropolis, which was discovered in 1977, extended south from Portonaccio (i.e. behind you) towards the railway station.  Although many of the tombs had been disturbed, two remained largely in tact and the grave goods that they contained could be dated to ca. 200BC.  A fibula (7th century BC) was also discovered here.  A third tomb, which was discovered in 1979 in Via Baldini (across Via Centrale Umbra and parallel to it), contained grave goods that were about 100 years older.  Some of these finds are now exhibited in Palazzo Bianconi.

Walk though the arch to Porta Consolare (visited in Walk I) and turn right along Via Sant’ Anna, towards the circular tower on the left in the medieval walls.  The Spello Card alows access to the excavations of a Roman domus known as the Domus di Sant’ Anna in the car park on the right. 

Take a short detour by along Via Sant’ Anna to the church of Sant’ Anna.  (It is only open for services).

Return to the first circular tower and follow the path to the right of it, which runs along the walls.   Continue to a second circular tower next to Porta Chiusa, so-called because it was blocked up for a considerable period.  Walk through the gate and up the steps and turn right along Via Sambucaro.  This ends after the ruins of a large square tower in the walls.  Continue into the car park and left along the main road below to Porta Prato.

You can take  short detour by continuing along the road to the abandoned church of SS Trinità on the right.  This was probably built in the 12th century.  Records from the 19th century describe its interesting frescoes, but these were destroyed when the roof collapsed.

Return to Porta Prato and turn immediately left along Via Madonna della Rosina, with lovely views over the centuriated fields that were laid out to the east of the Roman colony, for which the gate is named. 

There is a good view of the the campanile of the church of Santa Maria del Prato (see below) from the first turn o the right.

Continue to the second turn on the right.  The house at this junction was built in 1956 on the foundations of the Oratorio della Madonna della Rosina and preserves its portal and the lower part of its facade.

Turn right here (along what is still Via Madonna della Rosina) and right at the end along Via del Fonte del Mastro.  The facade of Santa Maria del Prato is on the right.  The Spello Card allows access to this church, which now contains a museum of musical instruments. 

Continue up to Via Giulia.  The Fonte del Mastro, for which the street is named, is on the left at the junction.  The fresco (1943) above it, which is by Ugo Sacramucci, depicts the Madonna and Child enthroned with SS Joseph and Felix: it preserves the memory of an earlier fresco (15th century) that no longer survives.  [Was the fountain named for Giacomo del Mastro, the Podestà who commissioned Palazzo Veccho in 1270?]

Turn right along Via Giulia, past

  1. Teatro Subasio at number 28-32 on the right;

  2. an interesting house (14th century) at number 93 on the left; and

  3. Palazzo Benedetti Cianetti (17th century), at number 34 on the right. 

If you look up at the steps in Piazza Foglie, to the left of the house at number 77 on the left, you can see a circular tower.  This is part of the garden wall of Palazzo Preziosi and was probably originally part of Rocca Albornoz

Turn right again and the left to continue along Via Giulia.

  1. The ex-nunnery of Santa  Chiara is at number 107-13 on the left.

  2. The (usually closed)  Oratorio di San Biagio is at number 94 on the right.

Continue into Piazza Gramsci: the Monte Frumentario della SS Trinità was at number 14-15. 

This space opens into Piazza Vallegloria, which is dominated by Santa Maria di Vallegloria.  Unfortunately, this important church is usually closed.

Walk anti-clockwise around the nunnery to Porta Montanara.  

The apse of the church of Santa Barbara, to the right of the gate, incorporates a tower from the medieval walls.   An inscription from the church, which commemorated the Emperor Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD) and which is now embedded in what remains of the Arco Augusto (see Walk I), probably related to the construction of the nearby aqueduct (see the detour below).

The long detour below starts from here, as do the following two short detours:

  1. Turn right outside Porta Montanara along the main road and then fork left along Via San Girolamo to San Girolamo and the cemetery. 

  2. With Porta Montanara behind you, turn left along Via Poeta, past a fountain (16th century), which incorporates the arms of Pope Paul III  and of two cardinals, above a medieval sarcophagus.  It was moved here from a site near San Claudio (visited in Walk III).

  3. Retrace your steps and take the next turning on the left (signed to Collepino).  Fork left by the sign that marks the end of Spello to see the remains of the Roman aqueduct

Return to Porta Montanara and then to Piazza Vallegloria.  Turn left in front of the church and then right along Via Fontevecchia, which runs along the side of the nunnery.  This leads to Porta Fontevecchia

  1. the vestiges of the medieval walls to the left of it originally continued to Torre Santa Margherita (see below); and

  2. the medieval walls to the right enclosed the nunnery. 

Take a short detour by walking through the gate and down to the fountain for which the street and gate are named (on the right, just after the junction with Via Cervare on the left).

Retrace your steps and turn right along Via Torre Santa Margherita, which is signed for Torre Santa Margherita.  This tower, which formed part of the medieval walls, is named for the ruined nunnery of SS Giacomo e Margherita.  There is a display of modern sculpture in the garden just beyond the tower.

Fork left along Via Porta Sant’ Angelo and through the medieval Porta Sant’ Angelo and continue to the Roman Porta Venere ahead (visited in Walk I and also the start of Walk III): from this point, the the medieval walls followed the Roman circuit.

Continue along Via Torre di Properzio: he house at number 37 on the left (now Ristorante Porta Venere) is the reputed birthplace of the Blessed Andrew Caccioli.  Continue into Piazza Matteotti, where the walk ends.


This detour from Porta Montanara, which takes in:

  1. two abandoned nunneries in the hills outside Spello;

  2. Santa Maria di Vallegloria Vecchia; and

  3. Sant Maria del Paradiso;

  4. the church of the important abbey of San Silvestro; and

  5. the Roman aqueduct

It is probably best done in part by taxi.  Get the driver to take you to the first three of these monuments and then to drop you outside Collepino, at the start of the aqueduct.  The easy and interesting walk along the aqueduct to Porta Montanara takes about an hour.

Return to the home page on Spello.

Walk II:  Outside the Roman Walls

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