GUBBIO / TODI /ORVIETO
Gubbio is one of northern Umbria’s most stunning stone hill towns, and stands at the foot of Mount Ingino. It is difficult not to be awed by the stark beauty of this medieval town as you approach by car and see it’s grey limestone buildings built along it’s steep streets that wind up the base of the mountain. Gubbio is one of the most ancient towns in Umbria, remaining marvelously well-preserved over the centuries, with many monuments that bear witness to its glorious past. Architecturally it represents the zenith of medieval civilization and of society in the 1200-1300s, with the system of the guilds.
Evidence of its ancient origins is provided by the Eugubine Tablets, one of the most important archaeological records in Italy – seven bronze tablets with writing in the Umbrian language preserved at the Civic Museum – and the Roman Theater standing just outside the city walls. The monumental Basilica of Sant'Ubaldo, which holds the remains of the town's patron saint, towers over Gubbio, with its architectural masterpieces that stand as symbols of the power of this medieval city-state.
Todi, a very popular small Umbrian hilltown is situated halfway between Perugia and Terni, was founded by the Umbrians around 2700 BC and shows traces of both Etruscan and Roman civilization.
The name Todi is thought to have originated from the word “tutor” (border) or “tutus” (fortified hilltop), and due to it’s elevated position on a two-crested hill overlooking the east bank of the Tiber river, Todi has stunning views overlooking the surrounding Umbrian countryside in all directions. First built on land occupied by the Umbri, Todi was later taken over by the Etruscans, and then in 89 BC by the Romans who leveled Todi’s two hilltops to make Piazza del Popolo, the historical center of the town which probably looks very similar today as it did during the Middle Ages.
Orvieto is a city in southwestern Umbria, Italy situated on a 1000 meter high tufa cliff and is accessed by a funicular from the lower city. It lies roughly midway between Rome and Florence and is best known for its spectacular Duomo, its Etruscan ruins, and for it’s world famous Orvieto Classico wine. The site of the city is among one of the most dramatic in Europe as it rises above the almost vertical faces of tufa cliffs that are topped by defensive walls built of the same stone. This ancient city is one of the region’s oldest, and has been populated since Etruscan times. It was annexed by the Romans in 264 BC who all but destroyed the town, but Orvieto was finally revived in the middle ages when the town developed into a free state. Orvieto eventually came under papal control in 1348 after the town was devastated by The Black Death.
The history behind why such a small town ended up with such an impressive Duomo is an interesting one. It is said that in the 1260s, a skeptical priest who doubted that the bread used in communion was really the body of Christ, passed through Bolsena (a few miles from Orvieto) while on a pilgrimage to Rome. During Mass there, the bread bled, staining a linen cloth. The cloth was apparently then brought to the pope, who just happened to be visiting Orvieto at the time. The pope felt that such a miraculous event required a truly magnificent church, and the Duomo we see today was designed and built.