Foligno - Umbria
the folds of Umbria's rich valley, just down the winding road from
the famous town of Assisi, is age-old Foligno. Foligno's history is
marked with a score of invasions, as well as flowerings of artistic
expression. Local cuisine draws from the fields and woods surrounding
the town, with main staples like cheese, meats and breads. The spirit
of nobility is still celebrated in the annual Giostra della Quintana,
or tournament of 17th-century cavaliers.
Foligno was originally part of the Umbrian region, which claimed separate identity from the Roman Empire. In the battle of Sentino in 295 BC, Foligno was conquered by Rome and became the first municipium, or official Roman city.
The center of town is called La Piazza della Repubblica. It is lined with buildings and structures dating from as early as the 12th century. The Cathedral, as it is simply known, is a stone construction with archways and engravings as intricate as its history. It was first built in 1113 by the master stonemason Atto, and later expanded. Its original façade faces the Piazza Duomo. In 1904 a restoration project created a second façade that overlooks the Piazza della Repubblicca, as well as an elaborate mosaic. The inside of the church is home to art by the patron saint of the town, Saint Feliciano, including one of the town's finest silver statues. Underneath the church is the original 10th century crypt.
Another piazza worth visiting is the Piazza S. Domenico, home to the 11th century Church of S. Maria Infraportas. This church is said to be one of the most impressive Romanesque structures in all of Umbria. Among art, relics and paintings within, there is a particularly impressive wooden statue depicting the Madonna and the Child from the 12th century. The Church of Saint Salvatore was also built around this time, with the original purpose being that of a Benedictine Abbey. It now houses Flemish tapestries from the 14th century. The Church of the Nunziatella displays paintings by Bartolomeo di Tommaso, Alunno and Mezzastris, and frescoes by Perugino.
Just outside the town, through a canopy of woods and olive groves, is the way to the Benedictine Abbey of Sassovivo, founded in 1000. Inside the Abbey, along the cloister, are 58 Romanesque arches supported by 128 small columns. The structure, built by Pietro de Maria, dates back to 1229 and is highlighted by a lintel made of mosaics and colored marble. Outside of the cloister is the Cappella del Beato Alano, a 10th century crypt. Like something out of a fairy tale, Grotta di Pale is tucked in the ground just outside of Foligno with a calcareous cave of stalactites and stalagmites.
The nearest airport is Regional Umbrian Sant'Egidio Airport, 30 km away. By train, take the Florence-Rome line from the north, the Rome-Orte-Florence line from the south or the Ancona-Foligno line from the Adriatic. By car, several routes are available. You can take Autostrada del Sole A1 Florence-Rome. From the north, take the Valdichiana exit; from the south, the Orte exit. Or, follow Autostrada Adriatica A14 to the Civitanova Marche exit; or take the E45 Motorway (Cesena-Orte), running north-south across the entire region of Umbria.