Terni is one of the largest of the Umbrian cities. It industrialized heavily in the 19th and 20th centuries, taking advantage of the nearby water supplies to build steelworks, foundries and weapons factories. This made the city a target for allied bombardment during the Second World War. 108 raids reduced the city to rubble, and the Terni of today was mostly built in the 1960’s. The Romans established a large settlement at Terni around the 6th Century BC. They built aqueducts to transport water to other towns on the nearby plains. Many of these structures still stand in the surrounding area today, although much of the Roman and Medieval buildings in the town centre were reduced to rubble in the Second World War. Terni is close to several other Umbrian and Tuscan towns with slightly more to offer visitors in the way of culture. There are however a couple of main attractions to Terni that a visitor should be aware of.


In 290 BC the Roman consul Curius Dentatus decided to join the River Velnio with the River Nera. This involved building a canal from the deepest point of the Velnio, across the plains towards the Nera. The cliffs at Marmore provided a formidable obstacle, but the capable Roman engineers setting about building the highest artificial waterfall in Europe, and succeeded. The waters from the unstable Velnio were transported via the [http://www.bellaumbria.net/Terni/Cascata_delle_Marmore_eng.htm Cascata delle Marmore] into the Nera, and the regular flooding of Terni's plains was abated. The falls became popular with young Europeans touring the continent in the Victorian Era. It was hailed as an incredible feat of human engineering, and an example of how man's ingenuity could overcome the problems posed by nature.

During the industrial revolution, Terni and the surrounding area industrialized very quickly, earning itself the appellative 'The Manchester of Italy.' The industrious Umbrians wanted to harness some of the latent energy of the falls, and set up a hydroelectric power station, which still provides some power to the town today. In the post-war years, and especially since the 1980's, Terni's manufacturing industry has been in decline.

The area's main source of income is now tourism, and the falls are one of the principal attractions of the area, not only for their outstanding 'natural' beauty but also the leisure activities. Sports societies and companies running adventure holidays from all over central Italy come to use the waters for canoeing, white water rafting, mountain biking, rock climbing and hiking. In 1998, a project was undertaken to illuminate the Cascata at night. Lights of varying intensities are placed at different stages of the falls, so the impression of luminous water cascading down the cliff is given to nocturnal visitors. Hydroelectric stations at the top of the falls generate all the energy used in the illuminations.

Residents of Terni would have you believe that their city is the birthplace of Saint Valentine, the patron saint of lovers. An early bishop and also patron saint of the town, he is believed to rest in the ‘La Basilica di Santa Valentino’. There is an unfortunate irony that the saint associated with romance could hardly be attached to a less romantic city in central Italy if he had tried. By the standards of the rest of Umbria’s idyllic countryside and well-preserved towns, Terni is something of an aesthetic disappointment. There is, in any case, a good deal of uncertainty as to whether this particular Saint Valentine was the soldier that became the lover’s protector.

For those who enjoy a days’ golfing, La Romita is one of Umbria’s most popular clubs. Golf clubs can often be hard to find in this part of Italy, but this 9 hole course has a lot to offer besides. 10 tennis courts, 3 swimming pools, a gym and a sauna are all available as part of the club.

If Terni’s industrial character becomes a bit much for you, you should visit the nearby town of Orvieto. This is a huge contrast to Terni. Built atop a large hill, you can take the Funicular (cliff railway) to get from the car park at the bottom to the city square. If you have the energy, you could walk up the steep, narrow streets, and be rewarded with an impressive array of craft and art shops. Once you get to the square at the top of the city, it is hard not to be impressed by the mosaic façade of the 8th century Duomo that dominates the square. A visit to [http://www.bellaumbria.net/Orvieto/pozzo.htm Il Pozzo di San Patrizio] (Saint Patrick’s Well) is also recommended. This is a very deep well cut into the hillside. You can take the stairs all the way to the bottom and look up to see the small circle of light at the top.


Terni being an industrial city, there are plenty of malls and supermarkets, and an outdoor market. However, there is a lack of the small local crafts shops one comes to expect of Umbrian towns. For local pottery and other crafts, try the nearby towns of Orvieto and Assisi.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Velia’s cooking school is highly recommended for those travellers who have a particular interest in Italian cuisine. She will immerse you in the Italian way of life, and have you making fresh ravioli and stonebaked pizza in no time. There are of course, many high-quality restaurants in Terni offering traditional Italian cooking. A local speciality is Rabbit and Tomato, which you should try with the local wine, Orvieto Classico.

Tourist Information

Viale C. Battisti 5 05100 Terni


Terni is on the ancient Roman road Via Flaminia, which connects Rome with the Adriatic port Ancona. This is a major highway, although actually entering the city can be quite confusing, as there is a network of one-way systems and slip roads to negotiate. The closest airports are in Rome (Ciampino and Da Vinci) and Pisa.

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