Spoleto is a sleepy hillside town, nestled in the verdant undulations of the Umbrian countryside. It started out as a small Bronze Age settlement, and later became the Roman settlement of Spoletium. It repelled Hannibal’s invasion in 300BC, and became a point of strategic importance for Rome during the Punic Wars. From 500 AD up until 1200 AD, the city was the seat of the Longobord Duchy and then fell into the hands of the Papacy. The city remained the regional capital through the Napoleonic occupation up until the Italian ‘Risorgimento’ (Unification) in 1871. This role then passed to the larger city of Perugia. Since then, the city’s importance has dwindled, being a fairly unremarkable industrial city with a rich architectural city. However, Spoleto’s modern turning point came in the 1950’s, when the American composer Gian Carlo Menotti, chose Spoleto as the site for a festival of music and high art he was planning.


The centre of Upper Spoleto’s archaeological interest is the Roman Theatre. Despite the sacking of the stonework by the Goths in the 5th century AD, the remains of the amphitheatre give a good indication of the original design from the first century AD. The spectacles held here in Roman times were of such a violent nature that when all the blood had drained into the river Tessino, the river ran red, and the Roman bridge built over that river was named Ponte Sanguinaria. Attached to this theatre is the Museo Archaeologico, which contains several interesting exhibits. These include Busts of Augustus and Julius Caeser from the 1st century AD, the preserved torso of a young boy, and relics from tombs discovered next to the theatre.

The 13th Century church San Domenico is a colourful addition to the upper town, with a tower that has been painted with pink and white bands. Inside, above the altar, there is a 15th century Frescoe paying tribute to St. Thomas Aquinas. In the chapel, there is a nail which is said to have pierced Christ’s hand when he was on the cross.

Most Italians associate Spoleto with the [http://www.spoletofestival.it Festival dei due Monde] (Festival of the Two Worlds), an all embracing arts festival founded by the composer Menotti. He later set up a counterpart to the festival in Charleston, in the United States, but has since severed his connections with the US festival. Despite this fact, they continue to his brand without permission.

The main attraction to the festival is the various concerts of opera and classical music. The festival draws the cream of international performers. This year, the opening concert was a performance of Verdi’s overture from ‘La forza del destino,’ followed by Liszt and Shostakovich by the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. This was held in the Piazza del Duomo, with the cathedral providing a fittingly magnificent backdrop. There are also performances in the fields of jazz, ballet and modern dance, drama, exhibitions of the visual arts, screenings of art-house cinema, and discussions of scientific and sociological issues. During the 2 weeks at the being of July when the festival takes place, the city receives an influx of visitors that makes hotel rooms extremely scarce. If you are planning to attend the festival, you would be well advised to consider booking a room up to six months in advance. You can find information about Spoleto’s hotels by clicking the link at the bottom of this page.


Umbrian pottery is famous for its traditional method of production, and there are still several small family shops in Spoleto specialising in decorative plates and vases. You can spend a pleasant couple of hours wandering the narrow streets, poking into the cavernous local crafts shops. Aside from this, there is little to separate shopping Spoleto from anywhere else.

Nightlife and Eating Out

The New York Times called Spoleto’s restaurant scene ‘pretty ordinary’. This is maybe a little unfair. The demand for restaurants is up to 4 or 5 times higher during the two weeks of the festival, with the rest of the year being fairly quiet. (Spoleto’s population is only 37,000.) Umbrian cooking is some of the most rustic and traditional in Italy, and for good examples of this, you should visit Il Tartufo in Piazza Garibaldi, and Fontecupa in Piazza Collipola. Predictably, it can be extremely hard to find tables at the time of the festival. There are some stalls selling Pizza and other snacks, but if you have the freedom of a rented car, you would be well advised to explore the local villages for eating establishments.

There is a growing Agriturismo scene in Umbria. The premise is simple. Farms cook traditional meals entirely from ingredients grown or reared organically on their land. The result is often a cheap way to enjoy an excellent standard of locally sourced traditional Italian cooking.

Tourist Information

The ‘Azienda di Tourismo’ is in Piazza della Liberta, near the bus stop.

Telephone: +39 49 0743 224331

You can get information about next year’s festival by emailing info@spoletofestival.net


Most tourists get to Spoleto by train from Rome. The train station is in the new part of town, which is some distance from the old historical centre. It is a good idea to take a bus up the hill to Piazza della Liberta.

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