Key to Umbria: Spoleto

Walk III:  Inside the Medieval Walls

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This walk proceeds in an anti-clockwise direction around the city, through the annulus between two circuits of walls:

  1. those that were built on foundations provided by the Roman walls; and

  2. the Medieval walls, which were built in 1297 to enclose  the suburbs that had grown up outside the Roman circuit:

  3. Borgo San Gregorio, which grew up around the hospice of Santa Maria della Stella (see below);

  4. Borgo San Matteo which grew up around the hospice of San Matteo (see below); and

  5. Borgo di Monterone, which grew up around a series of hospices that lined the road between Spoleto and Rome.

The walk begins (like Walk II) outside the Duomo. 

Continue a little way around the piazza in the anti-clockwise direction, past the entrance to the Canonica and turn right down the steps. 

Turn right along Via del Seminario, round the back of the Canonica. 

  1. Palazzo del Seminario is ahead.

  1. The opening to the right of Palazzo del Seminario leads to cloister (in restoration at January 2009) that it shared with the Canonica, which has fine views towards the Rocca.

  1. The portal at number 1, opposite the entrance to Palazzo della Seminario has an interesting relief of the Madonna over it.

  1. [Oratory at number 3.]

Palazzo Pucci della Genga (also known as Palazzo de Domo Alberini) is in the piazza beyond.  The palace was never completed as originally designed: it used to be possible walk past it and down the steps  into Via Vaita de’ Domo, which runs under the fine north facade of the palace (illustrated here).  This is no longer a right of way, but you will see the north facade in the distance in Walk I. 

Retrace your steps along Via del Seminario to the foot of the steps from Piazza del Duomo and turn right down Via delle Mura Ciclopiche

Take a short detour along the first turning on the right (Via Vaita de’ Domo): the buildings on your left once housed the Chiesa della Passione and an adjacent nunnery also known as the Conservatorio delle Convertite
  1. The nuns of Santa Maria della Stella moved here in 1798 and stayed until 1903, when they moved to San Ponziano.

  2. The sisters of the Congregazione delle Suore della Sacra Famiglia di Spoleto had a temporary home here in 1898-1900.

This street used to continue along the line of the medieval walls, but subsidence has taken its toll, and it is now a cul-de-sac

You must therefore repeat part of Walk II by returning to Via delle Mura Ciclopiche.  This street is so-named because it follows the line of a fortified road that ran along  the outside the Roman walls from a gate that was later called Porta Ponziano (see below) to the acropolis behind you.  Remains of Roman wall can be seen near the bottom, in the right wall of the house at number 28 on your left.  There are more extensive remains in the private garden opposite.
Take a short detour by turning left along Via della Ponzianino. The remains of the medieval Porta Ponzianino can be seen in the wall of number 55 and in that of the house opposite. 

Retrace your steps along Via della Ponzianino into into Largo Fratti: the house at number 18 on the left (round the corner in the illustration above) has a fresco (15th century) of the Madonna and Child in a niche in the wall of  that is attributed to the Maestro di Eggi.   (There are standing saints to the sides and another fresco on the top underside of the niche, but these are difficult to see). 

Turn immediately right again along Via della Ponzianino .  The ex-church of Santa Maria Maddalena “di Capatis” (see nunneries on Colle Ciciano) on the left is just inside the medieval walls and was built at roughly the same time as the walls themselves.  

The path on the right here was once part of the street that ran inside the walls to the Duomo.  The walkway in construction outside the walls (at January 2009) will offer an interesting alternative for reaching this point when it is completed.

Take a short detour by continuing ahead to Ponte della Ponzianina, which crosses the Tessino river.  This is a modern bridge, but there must have been other bridges here at least from Roman times.   Two reliefs (late 13th or early 14th century) from an earlier bridge here, each of which depicts a knight on horseback (perhaps St Pontian) are now in Room 13 of the Museo del Ducato di Spoleto.
The road continues to San Ponziano (illustrated here but visited in Walk IV), for which both the road and the bridge are named.

Look back from the bridge for an interesting view of the ex-Monastero delle Palazze (see below), which was built on the elliptical foundations of the Roman amphitheatre.

Retrace your steps past Santa Maria Maddalena and turn right along the left side of the church (Vicolo San Giuseppe).  The road swings left and runs along the right side of the church of San Giuseppe(17th century), which has its facade in Piazza Cairoli.  This church belonged to the Arte dei Fabbri e Falegnami (guild of blacksmiths and carpenters), whose arms can be seen in the tympanum.  The panel (17th century) on the high altar which depicts St Joseph in his workshop, is attributed to Francesco Refini.  Filippo Marignoli, who built the adjacent Palazzo Marignoli (19th century), restored the church in 1855.

Turn right along Via dell' Anfiteatro and turn into the small piazza that opens on the right.  The elliptical line of the Roman amphitheatre becomes evident from this point. 

San Gregorio Minore, which was built over part of the amphitheatre, is in this piazza.  The nuns who moved here in 1406 built a nunnery (the Monastero delle Palazze, which you saw above) to the right of the church, on a site that occupied about a quarter of the amphitheatre. 

Follow the line of the ellipse past San Gregorio Minore on your left and into Via delle Murelle, a street that was recently opened inside the medieval walls.  There is a fine view of the Rocca behind you.  The walls on your right still retain the slits through which weapons were fired.  The arched buttresses ahead marks the end of the Roman amphitheatre.    

Borgo San Gregorio

Continue past the apse of Santa Maria della Stella to the opening in the walls to the right.  Turn left here along the left wall of Santa Maria della Stella and walk round to its facade in the gravel courtyard that was once the centre of this important nunnery and hospice.

Cross the courtyard diagonally to the right and walk into Piazza Garibaldi, which is dominated by the lovely facade and campanile of San Gregorio Maggiore.

Piazza Garibaldi is almost certainly  the site of the cemetery in which St Abbondanza (the widow) buried St Gregory of Spoleto  after his martyrdom in 303 AD.  The place was described as being outside the (Roman) city walls, near a bridge called "Sanguinarius" - i.e. Ponte Sanguinario (see below).  Further evidence of the existence of the cemetery includes a funerary inscription that was once in the crypt of the San Gregorio Maggiore, which recorded the grave of a lady called Picentiae, a new convert whom Pope Liberius (352 – 66) had christened. 

An area of Roman paving (4th century AD) can be seen some meters below the current level of the piazza in the restaurant Il Tartufo (ahead on the left).

The piazza later became known as the Campo (field) di San Gregorio, a reference to its rural character.  However, by the time that the outer walls of Spoleto had been built in 1297, it had become the heart of a new working-class suburb.

Walk through Porta San Gregorio on the left, which was rebuilt in 1945 on what was always the site of the most important  entrance to the Medieval city.  This brings you to Piazza della Vittoria: the remains of a roman bridge, Ponte Sanguinario, are reached by the steps on the right, beside the busy main road.

Return to and cross Piazza Garibaldi and continue along Corso Garibaldi, which runs through the heart of the borgo .  The inscription on the pink palace on the right (number 16-22) records  it as the home of Francesco Colonnesi, where Blessed Leopold of Gaiche died in 1815.

Continue along Via Porta Fuga.  The remains of a spur the Roman Via Flaminia are exposed beside the modern road here, just before Porta Fuga, which stands on the site of a Roman gate that was the main entrance to the Roman city. 
  1. the ex-church of San Giovanni Battista is on the right just before the gate; and

  1. Palazzo Vigili, which incorporates the exceptionally high Torre dell’ Olio, is opposite.

Walk down the steps of Vicola San Giovanni on the right, just before the ex-church, to reach the entrance to the earlier church on the site and the ex-nunnery.  Continue down Vicola San Giovanni, past the Trattoria Pecchiarda, which occupies what was the nuns' orchard.  (“Pecchiarda” is a dialect word for a tall lady.)

Turn left at the bottom into Via della Posterna, which is named for a small gate in the medieval wall at the end of it.  (There is a fine view behind you of the Torre dell’ Olio).  The ex-church and nunnery of Santa Caterina is on the right, at number 13.   The complex occupied the “island” bounded by Via della Posterna, Via Vicola degli Orti, Via delle Murelle and Via Interna delle Mura. 

Continue along Via della Posterna to Via Interna delle Mura, which is named for the medieval walls.  Turn left past the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, at number 15.  This stood in the garden of another large nunnery, the Monastero della Trinità (on the route of Walk II).

Continue to the imposing entrance to the (now abandoned) abattoir (19th century) on the right.

Hotel San Luca is opposite, on the corner with Via della Fonte Pescaia.  The street was probably named for the fountain in the courtyard of this lovely hotel, which is also known as the Fonte Santa.  An inscription (1601) records that Pope Innocent III caused water to appear here miraculously in 1198.  The site later formed part of the garden of San Domenico (on the route of Walk II).  Pilgrims were allowed free access to the waters because they were believed to have healing powers.  When a tannery was built on the site in the 19th century, it was stipulated that the fountain should be protected.
Continue along Via Interna delle Mura, past the Istituto Nazareno on the left.  The institute, which belongs to the Congregazione delle Suore della Sacra Famiglia di Spoleto, is a modern hostel and conference centre.  It has a lovely chapel that is always open.

Continue to Porta San Matteo, one of the two surviving medieval gates of Spoleto. 

Borgo San Matteo

Walk through Porta San Matteo and along Via Goffredo Mameli, which is at the heart of Borgo San Matteo.  The ex-church and hospice of San Matteo are on your left (i.e. on the right in this photograph).

Continue into Piazza di Porta San Lorenzo, was the site of a Roman gate that is recorded in the statutes of 1296 as Porta San Lorenzo. 

The ex-church of San Giovanni Battista di Borgo San Matteo (12th century ?) is on the left.

Turn right along Via delle Monterozze, which follows the line of the Roman wall, and turn right along Viale Matteotti (or alternatively through the park to your right).   The “Spoletosphere” is on the right, across the junction with Viale Martiri della Resistenza.  An American architect, Buckminster Fuller, designed this “geodesic cupola” in 1967.  The metal-clad towers to the sides lead down to the car park at he end of the moving walkway along Viale Matteotti.
Turn left along Via Esterna delle Mura, along the medieval walls to Porta di Monterone, the second surviving medieval gate of Spoleto.

Borgo di Monterone

Take a short detour by continuing outside the walls along the road used by pilgrims and others traveling between Spoleto and Rome.  The fresco (1549) in an aedicule to the right of the gate depicts the Holy family with St Francis.

The hotel beyond it on the left stands of the site of the Ospedale della Croce, later San Carlo Borromeo.

Return to Porta Monterone and take another short detour by walking through it, along Via Monterone, which was at the heart of Via Borgo di Monterone.

  1. The tiny church of Link Santa Maria del Pozzo is at number 5 on the left; and

  2. Santa Lucia (16th century) is at number 34-6 on the right. The Confraternita di Santa Lucia built this tiny church, which is still the focus of celebrations on the Feast of St Lucy (13th December).  It also opens during May.

Retrace your steps to Porta Monterone and turn sharp left to continue along Via Esterna delle Mura:

  1. the apse of San Simone e Guida and the adjacent convent are ahead, ....

  1. with the Rocca above and the Torre di Braccio below).

Walk through the gap in the walls on the left and take a short detour by continuing along the walls, past  a medieval washing facility to the nunnery of Sant’ Angelo

Retrace your steps and turn right along Via delle Mura, along the side of the convent.  Turn right along Via Sant’ Angelo.  This street turns left at the entrance to the nunnery to rejoin Via Monterone.

Turn right along Via Monterone, under a covered passage between [numbers ??]. 

Continue to Arco di Monterone, the only surviving Roman gate and the church of Sant’ Ansano (visited in Walk I).  Fork right along Via degli Eremiti, which used to link Sant’ Ansano and its associated hermitage of San Giuliano on Monteluco (visited in Walk III).   The road now ends just beyond Palazzo Leti, which is now a lovely hotel.  Turn left opposite Palazzo Leti, left again and immediately right along Via Visiale.   Turn left at the end into Piazza del Mercato, where the walk ends.

Return to Walks in Spoleto.