Culturally cities, villages and art sites in UmbriaCastello Izzalini offers the perfect view from which exploring all Umbria and the best locations near by. The resort is located only 10 minutes from the center of the beautiful city of Todi and a short drive to Orvieto, Perugia and Assisi. You can easily visit Spoleto, Spello, Gubbio and the numerous Umbrian/Tuscan villages historically important. We organize tours of the cities of art (minibus with driver): Perugia, Todi, Orvieto, Assisi, Gubbio, Spello, Montefalco, Bevagna, Norcia, Siena, Montepulciano.
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Seen from a distance, high on a hilltop, and in winter swathed in mists rising from the Tiber below, Todi seems to personify the romantic image of a medieval Italian hilltown. Closer inspection confirms this impression. The central piazza, with its romanesque cathedral and three magnificent palazzi, all dating from the thirteenth century - the golden age of Umbrian architecture - is believed by many to be among the finest in Italy. The origins of this little city go back much further however: founded by the Umbrians, it was later settled by Etruscans, who gave it the name of `Tutere', meaning border, probably because it served them as a defensive outpost.
The Romans conquered it in 340 BC, changed its name to `Colonia Julia fida Tuder', turned it into a legionary camp and enlisted its support in the fight against Hannibal. Perhaps it was the inheritance of this military tradition that bred in its people a fierce fighting spirit and allowed Todi to hold its own against Totila and other barbarian aggressors. In the twelfth century it became a free commune, but life here as elsewhere was dominated by political infighting and struggles for power between Guelphs and Ghibellines. Having lost its independence in 1328, it fell into decline and power was seized by a succession of noble families with mercenary armies. In 1500 it was annexed to the papal states and was ruled by pontifical governors, including the influential Atti dynasty, until Italy's unification in 1860.
One of the oldest cities in Italy, Orvieto stands high on a lava plateau, and the distinctive outline of its cathedral, whose west front glitters spectacularly in the evening sun, is visible for miles around. The plateau is all that remains of four extinct volcanoes which provide rich soil for the area's internationally famous white wine. Today, Orvieto is a lively, lived-in city with good communications; a funicular runs between the railway station in the valley and the city itself. Settled originally by Iron and Bronze Age tribes, by 500 BC it had become a leading member of the Etruscan Confederation, and extensive Etruscan remains are still to be seen.
Under the Romans, to whom it capitulated in 264 BC, it was known as `Urbs Vetus' (meaning `old city'); hence its present name. Given its easily defendable site, it proved a difficult but highly desirable target, and was successfully attacked by Goths, Byzantines and Lombards. In 1137 it became a free commune as well as a prosperous and sophisticated administrative centre, even for a while securing an outlet to the sea on the Tuscan coast by means of a treaty with Florence.
Originally settled by Umbrian tribes, Perugia rose to prominence under the Etruscans between the sixth and fifth centuries BC, and from the third to the first century BC it became the most important city of the Upper Tiber Valley. Its retained much of its Etruscan character and independence even after its defeat by the Romans, with whom it maintained an ambivalent relationship - as neither friend nor enemy - but was finally brought completely under Roman subjugation in 40 BC by Octavian. Originally settled by Umbrian tribes, Perugia rose to prominence under the Etruscans between the sixth and fifth centuries BC, and from the third to the first century BC it became the most important city of the Upper Tiber Valley.
Its retained much of its Etruscan character and independence even after its defeat by the Romans, with whom it maintained an ambivalent relationship - as neither friend nor enemy - but was finally brought completely under Roman subjugation in 40 BC by Octavian. The city took the name `Augusta', and embarked on a period of wealth and splendor. In the third century BC Emperor Vibio Treboniano Gallo gave it the name `Colonia Vibia Augusta Perusia'. In 547 Totila, King of the Ostrogoths, invaded and sacked the city. It was then annexed to the Papal States and awarded the protection of the papacy, as a result of which it allied itself firmly with the Guelphs
(who supported the Pope, as opposed to the Ghibellines who supported the Holy Roman Emperor), although it retained much of its strongly independent spirit.
Founded by Etruscans from Chiusi, Castiglione del Lago was under attack from neighbouring towns throughout its early history on account of its position on a promontory on the western shore of Lake Trasimeno, the largest lake in Umbria and the fourth largest in Italy. Its castle was destroyed and reconstructed several times after battles between Perugia and nearby Tuscan towns, and was redesigned as a crenellated defensive fortress - the `Castello del Leone' - by architect-monk Elia da Cortona on the orders of Frederick II of Swabia. In spite of seeing so much action, the town was never defeated. It was given as a marquisate by Pope Julius III to the Della Corgna family, who built Castiglione's splendid ducal palace, designed by Galeazzo Alessi and decorated by Salvio Savini. Castiglione del Lago is still surrounded by its medieval walls and access is provided by three entry gates.
Assisi's origins, Umbrian rather than Etruscan, are thought to date back to 1800 BC. The city was fought over by pagans and believers, destroyed and rebuilt by Charlemagne (who also erected the Rocca Maggiore), and only began to emerge from centuries of misery and strife in the twelfth century, with the birth of Saint Francis and its establishment as a monastic centre. However it continued to rebel against all those who sought to dominate it, including the Holy Roman Empire and Federico Barbarossa, the papacy and its neighbouring Umbrian cities; it was also the subject of internal battles, and for a while was divided into two parts,
the upper and lower towns, remembered every year in early May in the famous festival of `Calendimaggio', when Assisi decks itself out in spectacular medieval style. Assisi at last enjoyed a spell of economic prosperity during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries under the protection of the Church, and it was then that its Franciscan churches and principal public buildings were erected. But this happy interlude was short lived, and at the end of the fourteenth century the city was again plunged into long periods of warfare and fierce in-fighting, interspersed with epidemics and earthquakes. It emerged only around 1800, when the remains of Saint Francis were rediscovered (he had been secretly buried deep under the Basilica which was built to commemorate him). This allowed Assisi to assume a new importance as a religious centre and place of pilgrimage, and today it is known as the capital of world peace, enacting a vital role in the fight for human rights, respect for nature and harmony amongst people worldwide.