SPOLETO / CASCATA DELLE MARMORE / LAGO TRASIMENO
Located just a few kilometers from the Valnerina, occupying an impressive hillside position, Spoleto feels very civilized surrounded by a very rural backdrop. Midway between Rome and the late imperial capital Ravenna along the Via Flaminia, Spoleto was one of the few towns able to prosper in the twilight of the empire. Most famous for its famous Festival dei Due Mondi held every summer since 1957, Spoleto is often considered one of Umbria’s most graceful hill towns. Apart from the three week long festival of the arts, Spoleto also has a good collection of Roman and medieval attractions that ensure a visit anytime of the year will be enjoyable. The Umbri were the first to settle Spoleto, but it was soon taken over by the Romans who fortified the city walls by building an aqueduct across the gorge, serving as a foundation for the amazing Ponte dell Torri. Ancient churches set in and about Spoleto reflect the town’s importance during the early Christian period when it ruled over a large independent duchy. By the 14th century, Spoleto fell under church control, and the Rocca was built at its summit to enforce papal rule.
CASCATA DELLE MARMORE
The amazing Marmore falls are just 8 kilometers from Terni and can be reached by either of the two roads east of the city, one leading to the upper road, or “Superiore”, and the other that takes you to the lower road, or “Inferiore”. Cascata dell Marmore is in fact a manmade water fall and at 541 feet is the highest in all of Europe. The falls were created by the Romans in 271 BC when they diverted the River Velino into the Nera to prevent flooding of local agricultural land. Further work was done when channels were dug in 1400 and 1785 with the intention of draining Riet’s plain without causing floods in Terni. The final step that created the spectacle as we know it today came about when Lago Piediluco was dammed in the 1930′s which allowed their use for hydroelectric power. The hydroelectric plant at the Marmore Falls is in fact the largest in all of Italy.
Lake Trasimeno is also known as Lake Thrasimene or Trasimene. Located south of the River Po, the lake covers an area of 128 sq km which is only slightly less than Lake Como. The River Tiber flows a few kilometers away from Trasimeno, but the two are separated by hills. No other major lakes flow in or out of Trasimeno and the level of its water can fluctuate wildly depending on the amount of rainfall and the water utilized by nearby towns.
Three million years ago the location of Lake Trasimeno was a shallow sea. A depression formed due to geological fractures, which caused the formation of the lake. In the earlier days Lake Trasimeno was known as Lake of Perugia since it was quite important to the entire Umbria region as well as for the Tuscan Chiana district. Trasimeno is actually a mythological figure who joined a nymph from Agello called Agilla. Agello today is between Trasimeno and Perugia, but it was once an island on the lake.
The northern shore of the lake was the location of the Battle of Lake Trasimeno, which took place in 217 BC. The exact location of the battle is not known since the lake extended further north in those times.
The Etruscans were the first civilization to inhabit the area and their cities of Crotona, Chiusi and Perugia are all within 20 kilometers of the lake. The Romans then followed and their ruins can be found in Castiglione del Lago, whose main streets here are structured and designed like a chess board.