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Foligno (Perugia province)

A town of E central Umbria: 42°57.4N, 12°42.2E. Altitude: 233 m. Population in 2003: 52,300.

[image ALT: Some old and somewhat decayed three-story houses fronting on a small canal. It is a view of downtown Foligno, Umbria (central Italy).]

Downtown: old houses along a branch of the Topino.

Foligno is the first flat place the Topino river sees as it exits the Appennines. The river immediately turns sluggish and remains so until it flows into the Tiber just south of Perugia. It is to the Topino that we owe the fertile plains of eastern Umbria, much of which in Antiquity and until the 16c was alternately a large lake — the Lacus Umber, or Lacus Persius — and swamp ground: drained a first time by the Romans, after the fall of the Roman empire the area reverted to water; the second drainage scheme took many hundreds of years, initiated in the Middle Ages by Benedictine monks, consolidated in the 16c by a Folignate engineer, and finally protected by 20c levees.

Currently the third largest city of Umbria, Foligno was a relatively small town a hundred years ago — see the good article in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica — but grew steadily in the 20c, mostly because it was selected as a repair yard for a large chunk of central Italy's rail network, and by the middle of the century it had become an important industrial center: during World War II the city was therefore subjected to some of the heaviest Allied bombing in Italy. The core of the city was spared somewhat, but the general impression a visitor has today is one of industrial and suburban sprawl: Foligno is not a place you want to drive thru, although you will; and you will certainly not enjoy walking or biking thru town, either.

Yet within the partial circuit of medieval walls around this lively commercial town, there are many interesting sights, chief among which several beauti­ful buildings clustered around the Piazza della Repubblica: the 12c Duomo, gutted in the 18c but retaining the splendid Romanesque carvings of its two façades; the imposing Palazzo Comunale, essentially a 16c building although with earlier and later portions; and the 14c Palazzo Trinci, restored in the late 1990s to house an excellent archaeological museum.

[image ALT: A medieval stone carving of a lion crouching amid the stylized acanthus foliage of the column capitals supporting him. It is a detail of the main door of the church of S. Domenico in Foligno, Umbria (central Italy).]

In addition to the Duomo, Foligno boasts a number of other old churches, mostly late Gothic (S. Giacomo, S. Nicolò, SS. Salvatore, S. Domenico) but also earlier: S. Maria infra Portas is of particular interest. The beginning of a site on the churches of Foligno (and its extended territory) is noted here mostly to remind me to keep on working on it!

[ 5/28/23: 24 churches, 11 pages, 46 photos ]

The best medieval monument, however, is the abbey of Sassovivo 6 km to the SE, with a very attractive Romanesque cloister: closed to visitors for about a decade during its restoration from the damage suffered in the Umbrian earthquake of Sept. 26, 1997, it is apparently now open again.

For a while in the 1970s and 1980s, it looked like Foligno might become a provincial capital: there was a lot of talk about carving a third province in Umbria, mostly out of the present province of Perugia. The contenders were Foligno and Spoleto, and the rivalry was sharp: the idea has been shelved for now, but may surface again.

At any rate, historical reasons and the town's vigor in our own time have combined to extend the territory of the comune over an unusually large swath of the central Appennines: among its frazioni for example, the town of Annifo whose beauti­ful Romanesque church collapsed in the 1997 earthquake, the only historical monument to have been completely destroyed at that time; Sassovivo, as mentioned above, and S. Giovanni Profiamma also with a good church, but more importantly the almost certain site of the Roman town of Forum Flaminiae, where the two branches of the Via Flaminia joined again to cross the Appennines on their way to the Adriatic. The modern history of Foligno thus continues its ancient identity as a transportation nexus: did I remember to tell you not to try to drive around here?


Foligno is one of the larger comuni in Umbria, and includes in its territory a long list of subject towns and hamlets. Many of these places are very small, a few hundred inhabitants if that; as elsewhere in Italy, those that have a certain administrative identity of their own are frazioni of the comune (singular: frazione, literally a "fraction"): a complete list of them follows. I've crossed quite a few of these small places in trains, cars, and buses, but very few on foot. For these, links will be to my own site, either to a formal page on the town or to a diary entry; otherwise any links will be offsite.

Annifo • Belfiore • Borroni • Budino • Cancellara • Cancelli • Capodacqua • Carpello • Case Vecchie • Casenove • Cassignano • Cave • Colfiorito • Colle S. Lorenzo • Colle Scandolaro • Collelungo • Corvia • Fiamenga • Fondi • Forcatura • Leggiana • Maceratola • Morro • Padule di Colfiorito • Pale • Perticani • Pieve Fanonica • Pisenti • Pistia di Colfiorito • Ponte S. Lucia • Pontecentesimo • Popolo • Rasiglia • S. Giovanni Profiamma • Sant' Eraclio • Sassovivo • Scandolaro • Scopoli • Sostino • Uppello • Verchiano • Vescia-Scanzano • Volperino

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Site updated: 28 May 23