Thanks to the guidance of the wonderful team at Villa Louise, I managed to see and explore five of Umbria's stunning hill towns during my short stay. The first and largest was Spoleto. I had no idea what to expect with Spoleto. I had only heard of the town in passing. I was shocked to learn it has such a history.
Originally a Roman city, Spoleto grew in at a strategic position along the Via Flaminia, an important road that linked Rome to Adriatic Sea (over the Apennine mountains). The current town dates from the 12th century, but retains parts of its original Roman walls, amphitheater, and a spectacular aqueduct that spans the valley.
During the middle ages the city was the seat of an independent duchy, before becoming part of the Papal States. While visiting the medieval fortress/castle on the top of the hill, it finally dawned on me why I heard of Spoleto prior to my visit -- the famous Lucrezia Borgia was appointed governor of Spoleto by her father Pope Alexander VI in 1499. I mean, who doesn't love the Borgias!
The main sights of the town include: a Roman amphitheater, a restored Roman house, the aqueduct, the Rocca Albornoziana fortress (worth the hike for the views alone!), the Palazzo della Signoria (which has a city museum), a the duomo, or cathedral. The entire town is picturesque with little medieval alleyways leading up the hill.
My reward for a day of climbing was an amazing wine tasting at a winery just down the road from Villa Louise, Colle Uncinano. Family owned and operated, this pink winery produces outstanding local Umbrian wines. They even opened a special bottle for us, their very first production, bottled in 2005!
When in Umbria you definitely need to try their distinct and delicious wines. There is the Grechetto, a fruity white with a bit of spice, the Trebbiano Spoleto, another delicious but slightly more citrusy white, and the famous Sagrantino, which is the regions signature bold red wine. Trust me, you will want to try them all!