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Umbertide (Perugia province)

A town of northern Umbria: 43°18.2N, 12°19.8E. Altitude: 247 m. Population in 2003: 15,300.

[image ALT: An urban landscape of old three- and four-story houses. We are standing on a small bridge, of which all we see is the brick parapet: the stream, far below, is unseen. In the foreground, to the left, a 2‑story medieval house built atop a machicolated tower. In the distance, almost completely obscured, a pointed church belfry, and fully visible, a tall square crenellated tower. It is a view of Umbertide in Umbria (central Italy).]

Part of the center of town,
as seen from the S over the medieval moat.

Umbertide is one of the larger cities of Umbria, on the main road from Perugia (30 km S) to Città di Castello (20 km N). It is an important regional industrial center producing machine tools, farm machinery, textiles, packaging material, and ceramics. Now that's what you'll read in guidebooks: for some reason what you don't read is that Umbertide is a handsome and interesting town set in beautiful countryside. I too was fooled and as a result was very surprised on my first visit in 2000; but it's never to late to repair ignorance: I went back to live here for three months in the spring of 2004.

Umbertide appears to have replaced the ancient Roman town of Pitulum, destroyed by Totila in the mid‑6c, which may account for Roman remains in S. Maria delle Sette. In its present incarnation, the town was founded in the 8c or according to others, the 10c.

Despite the photo above, it's not by and large very medieval-looking. Except for the large Gothic church of S. Francesco, which was undergoing restoration in 2004 and which, from the looks of it, I expect will be closed for several more years, most of Umbertide's best monuments are of later periods: S. Maria della Pietà, with the attractive funerary chapel of the counts of Sorbello; the striking 16c octagonal church of S. Maria della Reggia; and the 17c church of S. Croce in which a museum has been set up with a good collection of paintings, including a Deposition by Luca Signorelli. The main survivor from the Middle Ages is not a church, but, as you see above, part of the 14c citadel — or Rocca to use the common Italian word for an urban fortress.

If you want to see something straight from the Middle Ages, you need to go four and a half kilometers northeast, where the castle of Civitella Ranieri is one of the best-preserved medieval fortresses in the region. The interior is of interest as well (some magnificent 17c mantelpieces, apparently) but — like every single one of the medieval castles in the comune — cannot be visited. More accessible is the abbey of S. Salvatore di Montecorona about 4 km S of Umbertide, which has a beautiful 11th‑century crypt with early Romanesque capitals and naïve 18c painted ceilings.

My three-month stay in town will eventually lead to a proper website; pending those formal pages, those of you planning trips, especially, may find the following pages of my diary useful:

Sep. 12, 2000

Pleasant town; train station.

Feb. 25, 2004

Train connections.

Feb. 26, 2004

Daily life in town; basic layout of the centro storico; a restaurant.

Mar. 1, 2004

Migianella de' Marchesi.

Mar. 18, 2004

Polgeto, Borgo S. Giuliana, the Eremo di Montecorona.

Mar. 21, 2004

I Samaritani, a volunteer association of Niccone, and their lending library.

Mar. 31, 2004

Pierantonio, Ascagnano, Antognolla; a restaurant.

Apr. 11, 2004

Good Friday observances; the sport-fishing area just N of town; the possibly Etruscan building in Lama.

Apr. 27, 2004

The church of S. Cassiano; commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Apr. 25, 1944 bombing.

May 3, 2004

A restaurant.

May 16, 2004

Preggio; S. Bartolomeo de' Fossi.

May 25, 2004

The attractive large modern residential areas; a restaurant.

Minor entries:

Mar. 8, 2004 Mar. 10, 2004 Mar. 16, 2004 May 15, 2004

As a first instalment on that formal site,


[image ALT: The façade of several buildings, taken somewhat obliquely along the street. On the right, a long two-story building, both stories arcaded; on the left in the background, two churches, right next to each other. It is a view of the churches of S. Croce and S. Francesco in Umbertide in Umbria (central Italy); and an adjacent conventual annex.]

[ 1/21/07: 16 churches, 11 pages, 68 photos ]

The Churches of Umbertide are a varied lot, ranging in date from an exceptional abbey of the 11c to some very good modern.


[image ALT: A stone medallion of a lion's head in the center of a patch of weathered brick wall. It is a detail of a fountain in Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 1 page, 2 photos ]

The Fontana della Lira is a small fountain at the base of the city's medieval walls; and a nice lesson in civic pride.

Historical Documents


[image ALT: An oval photographic portrait of a young man with a mustache, in a late‑19c suit. He is Francesco Mavarelli, an Italian educator from Umbertide in Umbria; the small image serves as my icon for his editions of several historical documents.]

[ 70 printed pages ]

Notizie Storiche e Laudi della Compagnia di Disciplinati (di S. Maria Nuova e S. Croce nella Terra di Fratta) is a monograph collecting what seems to be all the extant information relating to a company of flagellants, dating back to at least the early 14c, that operated a hospital in what is now Umbertide: diocesan documents authorizing their devotions and their work, account books, membership dues register — but also a mystery play of the martyrdom of S. Apollonia, and especially, a beautiful 15c verse lament on the Passion of Christ. The monograph gains additional interest from its 19c author, a young man who would die at just 30 years old, but who had already been mayor of Umbertide: the town's school system is still named after him. (In Italian and Latin.)


[image ALT: An impressionistic drawing of a violently ruined brick or stone building. It represents the wartime destruction, by a stray bomb, of the Borgo S. Giovanni in Umbertide in Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 55 printed pages ]

On April 25, 1944 a British air crew, flying a bombing raid on rail lines in central Italy to cut off German troops retreating northwards, made a disastrous mistake: a single bomb fell, not on the train station of Umbertide, but 500 m away on a densely populated block of the medieval quarter of S. Giovanni. Seventy people perished.

Voci della Memoria is a small book written by a group of students at the high school of Umbertide, seeking to give back their voice to those who died. It is a carefully researched history of ordinary people; more than that, it is a beautiful, moving book. (In Italian; I hope eventually to translate it into English.)

Frazioni

Like most of the comuni in Italy, Umbertide includes in its territory some smaller towns and hamlets, of a few hundred inhabitants if that, with a certain administrative identity of their own: as elsewhere in Italy, these are referred to as the frazioni of the comune (singular: frazione, literally a "fraction"): a complete list of them follows. Although Pierantonio, especially, is rather prominent on the train ride from Perugia N towards Sansepolcro, they're usually not much in the way of sights; I've walked a fair amount of the area, so links are usually to my diary, at least for now.

Badia • Calzolaro • Castelvecchio • Comunaglia • Leoncini • Mita • Molino Vitelli • Montecastelli • Niccone (entries in my diary: Mar. 3, Mar. 21, May 25, 2004) Pierantonio Preggio • Ospedalicchio (or Spedalicchio)


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Page updated: 24 Aug 12