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Spello: Splendidissima Colonia Julia

A town of east central Umbria: 42°59.5N, 12°42.4E. Altitude: 313 m. Population in 2003: 8400.

[image ALT: A partially walled town on a rather steeply rising spur about 600 m long, with several churches and a small fortress in a park at the top. In the foreground, an olive grove. It is the city of Spello.]

View of the city from the road to Collepino.

[image ALT: A long stretch of Roman wall sloping uphill to a gate with two 12‑sided towers.]

[ 8/3/98: 9 pages, 25 photos:
amphitheatre, gates, inscriptions, funerary altar. ]

A Roman city: Hispellum was either prescient or fortunate in siding with the winner in the Perugian Wars. When Perusia lost, Augustus took a good part of its land from it and attached it to Spello, assigning it to faithful and meritorious veterans: the emperor's reputation for shrewdness was enhanced (just think carefully of how many birds he killed with this one stone!) and Spello became a luxury retirement colony, embellished with some unusually attractive walls: even those of Rome are not of gleaming squared white stone. A stretch of them remains, as well as six gates, a well-preserved aqueduct, bits and pieces of an amphitheatre, dozens of inscriptions, and more.

[image ALT: A town on the top of a low hill, crowded with small stone buildings, with the belfries of three churches poking above the mass. It is a view of Spello, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 2/21/07: 24 churches, 26 pages, 83 photos ]

Yet Spello is by no means all Roman. I haven't got the count straight yet, but this small town of 7,000 people has at least 26 medieval or Renaissance churches. The three you see here are only the most prominent in the upper town: S. Maria Maggiore, S. Andrea and S. Lorenzo. The Churches of Spello is an orientation page with thumbnails of most of them; each will eventually be linked to its own site. The first 4 are online now:

S. Biagio S. Claudio S. Giovanni Battista S. Maria Maggiore

plus the church of S. Silvestro in the frazione of Collepino.

[image ALT: A composite capital of the Renaissance period, with Ionic volutes on Corinthian foliage, and a grotesque face in the foliage on each side. The image serves as my icon for the book 'Spello, Bevagna, Montefalco' by Giulio Urbini.]

[ 6 pages, 46 photos ]

Mind you, I'm not the first person to write about Spello! Giulio Urbini was an Umbrian art historian who devoted much of his life to telling the story of his part of the world; the Spello section of his book Spello, Bevagna, Montefalco provides a fairly complete overview of the town. (In Italian)


Most of the comuni in Umbria include in their territories 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"). In Spello there are only two, and I've been to both:

Collepino (6 pages, 21 photos) • S. Giovanni

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Page updated: 6 Dec 21