Archeology Itinerary: Trasimeno, Valle Umbra, Colfiorito, Spoleto

Lake Trasimeno
Lake Trasimeno – Photo © Michele Tortioli – proprietà Regione Umbria

An Umbrian-Etruscan location, featuring three areas: Lake Trasimeno to the north west, in the historic locations of the battle between Hannibal and Roman troops in 217 BC; the central area, comprising Etruscan towns and fortified Umbrian settlements, transformed into municipia and colonies by Roman colonization; the eastern area, where it is still possible to identify the organisational style of settlements typical of Umbrian castellars.

Tours of: Perugia, Tuoro sul Trasimeno, Assisi, Spello, Foligno, Plestia, Spoleto, Trevi, Bevagna, Urvinum Hortense, Bettona.

Assisi: Roman Forum and archaeology collection
Bevagna:Archaeology collection
Cannara: Archaeology collection
Corciano: Municipal collection of archaeological remains
Deruta: Regional ceramics museum
Foligno: Palazzo Trinci archaeology collection
Montefalco: Civic Museum
Perugia: National Archaeological Museum
San Feliciano: Fishing Museum
Spello: Archaeology collection
Spoleto: Archaeological Museum
Torgiano: Wine Museum
Trevi: Museum dedicated to St Francis of Assisi
Tuoro sul Trasimeno: Permanent documentation center dedicated to the Battle of Lake Trasimeno.

Passignano sul Trasimeno
Passignano sul Trasimeno – Photo © Michele Tortioli – proprietà Regione Umbria

The itinerary proposes a journey through the region’s central strip, with an itinerary that begins in Perugia, stretching out towards Lake Trasimeno, eastwards to the Colfiorito plateau, and south to the Spoleto district, going on to explore in detail the surroundings of some of modern Umbria’s most important towns: alongside Perugia and Spoleto, the itinerary will include some of the smaller towns like Assisi, Spello, Bettona, Bevagna, Foligno and Trevi, which are certainly no less significant than the two bigger towns as far as art and history are concerned.

The area concerned is the meeting and synergy point of two ethnically and culturally separate environments, of the Umbrians and the Etruscans, as it was before the Roman conquest. Perugia, the Etruscan polis (city) in a border location, enjoyed relations with two of Etruria’s other magnificent towns: Chiusi and Cortona, thanks to its nearness to Lake Trasimeno, but on the other hand was also an important outpost for control and contact with the Umbrian world thanks to the Arna and Vettona territories that reached out beyond the Tiber and thus brought the city to play a significant role of cultural interface.

The towns of Assisi, Spello, Bevagna, Foligno, Trevi and Spoleto were actually part of the territorial map on the left bank of the Tiber, populated by the Umbrians (Umbrorum gens antiquissima Italiane, says Pliny), whose cultural heart will certainly be found in the Colfiorito “castellars”.
It is precisely the perspective of identifying the differences, analogies and contacts that will hallmark this itinerary, in which the archaeological findings, whether in the tours of town centers or those in territories outside town walls, will bring forth the contrasts and divergences, but at the same time will show the relationships and affinities between these areas.

Of the five itineraries presented, this is the most complex, both for the extension and for the wealth of archaeological evidence; so for this reason it can also further split into three circuits, which overall offer a quite wide range of archaeological and landscape situations.

Circuit I

The first circuit involves only that part of the regional territory occupied by the Etruscans and was mapped out to offer an itinerary that would highlight the link that connected Perugia to the Trasimeno area – now a regional park – and the latter to the settlements of Chiusi (ager Clusinus) and Cortona (ager Cortonensis) that fell within Tuscan boundaries. Another interesting aspect of this area lies in the fact that in 217 BC, during the Second Punic War, on the lake shore plain near Tuoro, there was a bloody battle between Hannibal’s Carthaginian army and that of the Roman consul, Caius Flaminius.

Circuit II

The second circuit wends its way through the part of the Region that is currently the most densely populated and rich in art towns. In ancient times the territory was occupied not only by the Etruscans – Perugia, Arna, Bettona – but also by the Umbrians, and the elements of interaction between the two cultures are strongly felt, especially in the objects exhibited in the regional museums.
In this area Roman colonisation successfully unified and standardised by founding new urban settlements and by monumentalising those that already existed.
The territory covers the area of the Mount Subasio park, the Tiber Valley and the central Umbra Valley, where the Lacus Umber was located in ancient times. This itinerary offers the possibility of following an alternative route connecting the towns compared to the E45, using historic roads and “forcing” the visitor to approach the settlements in a manner far more aligned with that of the archaeological period.
In this area, near Collemancio di Cannara, we meet the site of the municipium, Urvinum Hortense, not yet a museum and whose ancient layout shows significant remains of both private and public buildings, set in a position that offers a splendid view of the Umbra Valley.

Santa Maria di Plestia east Colfiorito
Santa Maria di Plestia east Colfiorito – Photo © Ingrid D.

Circuit III

Circuit III sets off from Foligno and proceeds towards the Colfiorito park area, where the visit to Plestia, a town abandoned in history and now being excavated, can be combined with the chance to take excursions on foot, on horseback and by bicycle, to discover the castellars that characterise the territorial and settlement layouts used by the ancient Umbrians. It is without doubt an itinerary that is recommended not only to those who are specifically interested in archaeology, but in general for nature lovers. Here the territories apparently untouched by historic human presence were actually organised in close-knit networks of tiny mountain settlements, easily recognized on countless mountain and hill peaks.
From Plestia, along Via della Spina, we arrive in Spoleto and then across today’s Via Flaminia, passing the Temple of Clitumnus, we climb towards Trevi and Foligno.
The route chosen does, in part, follow the ancient roads of Via della Spina and Via Plestina. Several sections of the two roads cannot be travelled by car, but to all intents and purposes, they can be considered excursion itineraries of great landscape significance, even if no historical evidence is traceable along their path.
Courtesy of Umbria 2000