A couple of months ago, whilst dog sitting, I managed to take a trip around the two hill towns of Spello and Spoleto. Both are on the main Rome – Ancona railway line and you get great views as you pass but to truly feel them, you’ve got to get off the train.
Spello is situated at the opposite end to Assisi on Mount Subassio and drapes itself over the lower slopes. It’s an old town, with Roman roots, ancient gates, an amphitheater and other impressive buildings.
The steep cobbled streets certainly give you a good work out as you explore. One of the iconic sights of Spello is Porta Consalare, the gateway with olive trees growing on top of its tower. As I searched out more detailed photos to complete the painting I noticed Pinturicchio‘s work in the town mentioned a lot. So refreshing my memory on this Perugian artist who trained under Perugino and possibly worked alongside a young Sanzio Raphael, I found he’d painted a couple of frescoes in the town. What was interesting about his work was the typical Umbrian landscape he put in his backgrounds. The lakes, the hills and trees but more specifically his hillside towns, for which the province is famous. And it is the gate towers and steeples of Spello that gave me the inspiration for the composition.
Spoleto’s historic centre
Twenty miles south, Spoleto is dominated by two architectural feats. The austere but imposing castle, built by Cardinal Albornoz, oppressively gazes down on the town, while its delicate looking aqueduct “Ponte delle Torri” straddles the valley. The skyline, here is dotted with a number of towers and steeples, with the one belonging to the Spoleto Cathedral housing both the artworks and body of Filippo Lippi, who died in the town in 1469.
The composition of Spoleto proved to be more tricky than Spello when trying to pose the buildings in a convincing manner. The castle and aqueduct were pretty much a given but the churches and other buildings were a little more difficult to arrange, but I think the finished result gives the right feel for Spoleto. Along with Trevi and Montefalco these four towns make an interesting sight as your train coasts along the Apennine Mountain trail. The trip between Terni and Spoleto is particularly enjoyable as the railway cuts its way through a deep sided rocky gorge. If you find yourself in the area, hop on the train. It’s an enjoyable trip.