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Azzano di Spoleto

Lessons in Preservation

A town of central Umbria, a frazione of Spoleto: 42°49.2N, 12°29.4E. Altitude: 239 m. Population: 103.

[image ALT: A flat field of poppies several hundred meters deep toward the horizon, and in the background a loose village of some thirty or forty houses. It is a view of the comune of Azzano, Umbria (central Italy).]

Azzano seen from the south in early May, at the height of the poppy season. In the distance just behind the church, Mt. Subasio; and to the right, Trevi.

There's not much more to Azzano than what you see here: a line of houses in the upper floodplain of the Clitunno and all the other creeks that eventually form the Topino; it's in the comune of Spoleto, about 10 km N of that town.

Those watercourses have in fact been very dangerous to the village over the centuries, and survival meant keeping them in check, even at the expense of your neighbors; and Azzano is singled out by the authors of Trevi de planu as having been one of the most efficient in doing just that in the early 18c. They built nice dikes on several of the creeks — or at least those dykes were strong and effective on the side facing Azzano: if the floodwaters overtopped the other side to rush toward Beroide or the lower parts of Pissignano, too bad. . . .

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a view of the church of S. Lorenzo near Azzano, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 6/20/05: 1 page, 5 photos ]

The survival of Azzano has its good points for the rest of us too, though: three old churches have been preserved, when some nearby communities have lost theirs. The outlying chapel of S. Paolo I haven't seen, nor much of the 12c Romanesque church of S. Maria whose belfry you see above, right in front of Mt. Subasio; but I can show you something of S. Lorenzo.

Further survival is another matter, however; survival of a different kind. The eastern plain of Umbria, so dangerous over so many centuries for its raging floods, partly mastered by the Romans but undone by earthquakes and the collapse of Roman civilization, is now better controlled after 700 years of modern work on diverting rivers and building levees: it's safe to build on. And building is what the traveler now sees in Umbria; lots of it, bringing with it cheap concrete, and industry, and smog, and taking away the beauty of the land at an alarming rate: I've seen significant changes just in the ten years I've been walking the area.

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Page updated: 20 Jun 05