Key to Umbria: Trevi

History of Trevi

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There was probably a small Umbrian settlement on the hilltop site of modern Trevi, although no archeological remains survive.   Some blocks used in the medieval walls here probably date to late antiquity, which suggests that the site was reused, probably when the site of Roman Trebiae (below) became unsafe.

Roman Trebiae

The eastern branch of Via Flaminia (220 BC) passed below modern Trevi on its way from Spoletium to Forum Flaminii.  Simone Sisani (referenced below, at p. 246) described the results of excavations near the church of Santa Maria di Pietrarossa here, which unearthed:

  1. “... a series of structures pertinent to a settlement that seems to have developed from the 2nd century BC” (my translation).

He suggested that:

  1. “... the presence of viritane settlers in the district from the end of the 3rd century BC would push one to identify this settlement in the plain as a vicus, created at the time of settlement and significantly located on Via Flaminia” (my translation)

Three inscriptions found in or near Trevi suggest different possible tribal assignation:

  1. A funerary inscription (CIL XI 5012), late 1st century BC that was found in 1864 near Santa Maria di Pietrarossa (now in the Museo Comunale, Trevi) commemorates Caius Lanfrenius son of Publius, who belonged to the Oufentina tribe . 

  1. A now-lost inscription (CIL  XI 5005, early 1st century AD) from San Pietro in Bovara  records:

  2. T(itus) Rubrius T(iti) f(ilius) Aem(ilia) Crispus, IIIvir, VIvir

  3. Carlo Pietrangeli (referenced below, at p. 36) suggested that he had probably originated at Mevania (which was assigned to the Aemilia tribe).  However, he presumably held the offices of quattuorvir and sevir at Trebiae.

  4. A now-lost fragmentary inscription (CIL  XI 5013) from an unknown location near Trevi records

  5. [--- i]o P(ubli) f(ilio) Ser(gia) M[---]

  6. The Sergia was the tribal assignation of Asisium.

Given the location of Trebiae on the eastern branch of Via Flaminia, it seems most likely  that it was assigned to the Oufentina, like nearby Forum Flaminii.


The draining of the valley and the construction of the Via Flaminia encouraged development in this area, and charming country villas begin to spring up along the Clitunno river.  The Emperor Augustus probably incorporated these lands into Colonia Iulia Hispellum (a new colony at Spello) in ca. 40 BC. 

Pliny the Elder included the Trebiates in his list of the people assigned to the Augustan Sixth Region (‘Natural History3:19). 

Early Christianity

St Emilianus came from Armenia to Spoleto in the 3rd century.  Pope Marcellinus apparently consecrated him as the first bishop of Trevi in 296.  He was martyred with three companions in 304.  He apparently survived a tussle with the lions in a Roman amphitheatre at Trevi (of which there are only fragmentary records) and was beheaded under an olive tree (believed to survive at nearby Bovara). 

The relics of Sant' Emiliano were probably originally preserved in a church on the site of Sant’ Emiliano in Trevi, but they were subsequently taken to Spoleto.  The date of the translation is unknown, but St Emilianus is mentioned in the statutes of Spoleto of 1296 alongside the other patron saints of that city.  The cult of St Emilianus was revived in 1660 when the relics were re-discovered under the floor of the apse of the Duomo of Spoleto.  The reliquary was translated to the church of Sant' Emiliano in Trevi in 1935.

List of bishops:

  1. Costantino (attended a synod in Rome in 487)

  2. [Lorenzo, but perhaps of Trebo in Lazia] (attended a synod in Rome in 499)

  3. [Propinquo , but perhaps of Trebo in Lazia] (attended synods in Rome in each year in 501-4)

Spoleto absorbed its diocese in 570, but separate bishops of Trevi are again recorded after 743.


The Roman colony in the plain below modern Trevi seems to have been destroyed during the Barbarian invasions.  The marshes returned and the people concentrated in the hilltop settlement, which formed part of the Duchy of Spoleto. 

Saracens attacked the city in 840 and 881, followed by Hungarians in 915 and 924.


Trevi became a free commune in the 11th century, hemmed in between Spoleto and Foligno.  Its political centre was in the lower part of the settlement, some distance from the religious centre of Sant’ Emiliano.

List of bishops:

  1. Prisco (attended a synod in Rome in 743)

  2. Valerino [Valerimus ?] (attended a synod in Rome in 769)

  3. Paolo (attended a synod in Rome in 826)

  4. Crescenzio (attended a synod in Rome 853)

  5. Areste (mentioned in Rome in 963)

  6. Giovanni (attended synods in Rome in 1059 and in 1060)

Spoleto absorbed its diocese for the second (and last) time in 1095.

Trevi probably remained under the effective control of Spoleto after that city had submitted to Pope Innocent III.

Diepold von Vohburg (whom the Emperor Otto IV had appointed Duke of Spoleto in defiance of Innocent III) seems to have taken the town under direct Imperial control in 1210. 

Spoleto made an alliance with Duke Diepold against Trevi in 1213.  However, he became a papal prisoner by 1214, and Otto’s claim to the German throne ended in that year when King Philip Augustus of France defeated him at the Battle of Bouvines.  Spoleto was undeterred, and almost totally destroyed Trevi in July 1214.  Innocent III granted the ruins to Foligno, whose commune rebuilt the town and its fortress.

The second circuit of walls was built in 1264 to accommodate a greatly increased population.

In 1285, Trevi secured protection from Spoleto and Foligno by allying itself with Perugia against the latter.

In 1309, as the Emperor Henry of Luxembourg descended on Italy, Trevi provided a haven for the Guelf exiles from Spoleto and Todi.  In 1312, Spoletan exiles and a Perugian army marched out of Trevi and defeated the Ghibellines of Spoleto in the plain below.

Papal State

In 1389, Pope Boniface IX confirmed the independence of Trevi from its powerful neighbours.

Biordo Michelotti, Lord of Perugia took Trevi in 1394, during his attack on Foligno.

In 1400, Boniface IX appointed Ugolino Trinci, Lord of Foligno as Papal Vicar of Trevi.

In 1420, Trevi fell to the Trinci of Foligno.  Two of the three Trinci brothers were murdered in January, 1412, but the position of the third, Corrado III Trinci was strengthened in 1421 when Pope Martin V reluctantly appointed him as Papal Vicar of Foligno and Nocera Umbra for three years.  He built (or perhaps rebuilt) the fortress of Trevi at this time.

Corrado Trinci rebelled against Martin V in 1424.  Francesco Sforza took Trevi for the pope and destroyed its fortress.  Trevi passed into the hands of the Papal Legate to Perugia.

Corrado III Trinci was once more created Papal Vicar of Trevi in 1425.

In 1438, Nicolò and Francesco Piccinino took Trevi.

In 1439, when Pope Eugenius IV defeated and executed Corrado III, Trevi once more passed into the hands of the Papal Legate to Perugia.

The marshes were drained once more in 1465-8.

Fr Bernardino da Feltre stayed at the newly-established Observant Franciscan convent of San Martino in 1487.  His preaching in Trevi against corruption and social discord led to the reformation of the civic statutes.

In 1527, troops of the Emperor Charles V sacked Trevi on their way to Rome.

In 1784, pope Pius VI granted Trevi city status once more.

Read more:

S. Sisani,  “Fenomenologia della Conquista: La Romanizzazione dell' Umbria tra il IV sec. a. C. e la Guerra Sociale”, (2007) Rome

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