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About Spoleto


Spoletos history, like that of many towns and cities in Italy, is long and rich. Its roots go back before the Roman colonies (when it was known as Spoletium), even before the Etruscans. Many believe the “Umbri” had settled there over 5000 years ago (though the first historical record dates to 241 B.C.E., and discusses Spoleto as a Roman colony). During the Punic Wars, Spoleto was a valuable ally of Rome and, so the legends go, successfully resisted Hannibal in his march down the Italian peninsula. In the late sixth century C.E., the Lombards made the strategically located town the capital of the indedendent duchy of Spoleto. Still later, in the eighth century, Spoleto became part of the Holy Roman Empire. In the twelfth century, Barbarossa demolished the city, and ever since then it's been in a kind of amber, preserved in such a way that visitors can enjoy all these fascinating layers--from Etruscan arches to Roman amphitheaters, from medieval fortresses to Romanesque churches.

Spoleto is also typical of the region in that it perches on a hilltop, with its serpentine cobblestone streets cascading down to the plains below. Unique, however, is Spoleto’s magnificent Roman aqueduct, which connects the town to nearby Monteluco, where students can hike miles of trails into what the Italians call “the green heart of Italy.” Umbrian towns generally, and Spoleto specifically, are known not just for their stunning hilltop locations but also for their unspoiled nature. If that were not enough, Spoleto also hosts the Festival of Two Worlds, a combined art, theater, and music festival that takes place in early July, and that has become world renowned. In fact, many Americans first know the name Spoleto because of its sister festival in South Carolina.

 

The town is home to 45,000 inhabitants, but it hardly feels big or unmanageable. One may walk the entire historic center of town, from top to bottom, in less than ten minutes, and the nearby train station (just a fifteen-minute walk from city center, makes Spoleto much less isolated than many of the other beautiful towns in Umbria. Spoleto also boasts a lively youth culture, with the nearby capital city of Perugia home to the region’s main university. Because of this, Spoleto offers much more nightlife than many other towns of its size. In short, Spoleto is a pleasant mid-size town—small enough to be easily navigable and to offer students daily opportunities to get to know the townfolk, and yet big enough to possess all the amenities of a thriving college town.