Walk through enchanting old towns scattered along the middle Tiber valley.
During the centuries, this valley saw rich noblemen and fights over territories and power between the Papacy and the Empire; these rough historical events have left a huge artistic and cultural heritage, testimony of the exploits of the commanders of mercenary troops, who put their armies at the disposal of the towns and the lords of the manors.
Castles, fortresses, towers and fortified villages were built in strategic points on top of the hills, in order to guard the communication routes, but with the evolution of political situation after the XIV century many of them were no longer used for defence and transformed into houses for gentries or residential villas.
Nowadays, they have been converted into town halls, cultural centers and local museums, but they still maintain the appearance of villages with houses built close together to form a defense wall.
These medieval villages conserve a human scale and a deep tranquility in people’s way of life, the sense of hospitality and the friendly relationships established between people are the most precious virtues survived there.
As well as the whole Umbrian territory, the middle Tiber Valley is rich in fortress and castles built on knolls and hillsides during the Middle Ages for refuge and defense in this area, at length contended between Perugia and Todi.
From Perugia to the Forello clefts, this valley is delimited by hills and crossed by the Tiber, that passes through the following towns.
It is a fortified medieval village founded by Romans, its wine vocation has an international reputation and it’s clearly visible in the multitude of vineyards that cover the gentle hills and in the several ancient findings of amphoras and cisterns.
Have a walk in its old town centre, dominated by the ancient Baglioni tower, to see the remains of the medieval walls and the castle, where an old oil mill with a XIV-century gate built in local stone houses the Museo del Vino e dell’Olio – while the Museo del vino is situated inside the baroque Palazzo Graziani-Baglioni.
This village is well-known thanks to its centuries-old production of pottery, a strong tradition still alive in this little village, where every house has a kiln and shows its own pieces.
During the Middle Ages, Deruta was conquered by Perugia and became a defense stronghold on the border with Todi and other opposing territories; during the XVI century it was dominated by the Baglioni family and its pottery production knew its best magnificence.
Don’t miss the Museo della Ceramica housed inside the ex-convent of San Francesco, where you can discover its evolution from the archaic period to the XIX century through thematic out fittings, a specialized library with over 1500 books and a metal tower used as study area.
Montecastello di Vibio
It has been renamed ‘the lost paradise’ thanks to its evocative position: it’s a little medieval village situated on the top of an hill, and reachable by climbing narrow alleys surrounded by medieval buildings, that will lead you till Porta Maggia, the perfect place to enjoy the beautiful overview of the Tiber valley.
This heart-shaped old town retraces the urban structure of a typical medieval castle and conserves a delicious little jewel: the Teatro della Concordia, the smallest theatre of the world with its 99 seats, built in 1808 and dedicated to the harmony among the populations that Europe was looking for after the French Revolution.
Its reduced dimensions were adapted to the tiny centre of Montecastello, perfectly harmonized with the friendly and snug atmosphere of the village, where you can immerse yourself in long relaxing promenades in its silent streets full of traditions and history.
Finally, the most interesting place to visit is the elegant, suggestive medieval town of Todi, where medieval, Roman and Etruscan traces live together through squares, buildings, churches and the 3 circles of defensive walls.
Piazza del Popolo is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, and houses the XII-century Duomo with its elegant carved wooden doors, the high staircase and the Romanic facade, built over the ancient temple of Apollo.
On the other side of the square, there is the XIV-century Palazzo dei Priori dominated by a tower, the Palazzo del Popolo, which houses the Pinacoteca, the lapidary museum and the Roman-Etruscan museum, and the Palazzo del Capitano, with its broad staircase.
Not far from here there is the church of San Fortunato, dedicated to the Saint patron of Todi, which conserves the tomb of the famous humanist poet Jacopone da Todi.
Finally, you can’t miss another magnificent monument at the feet of the town: the Tempio della Consolazione, built in the XVI century according to the project of Donato Bramante, one of the most interesting examples of Umbrian Renaissance art.
It has a Greek-cross structure dominated by a big central dome, with 4 other domes around it; inside the church, a beautiful baroque altar guards the picture of ‘The Virgin with the Child’, considered as a miraculous image.
Next week we move to another Umbrian valley. Which one? Click here!