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Deruta Ceramics – the Potter’s Wheel Workshop

A workshop to discover the craft techniques of the ceramics district of Deruta

from 80€ Per person
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Etruscan Umbria – From Bettona to Marsciano

On the trail of the Etruscans. The third stage of the itinerary with a cycle ride to suit everyone

from 65€ Per person
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Etruscan Umbria – From the underground tomb of the Volumni family to Bettona

Discovering the Etruscans. The second stage on the itinerary, an easy route in search of the oldest settlements

from 65€ Per person
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Horse riding in Umbria, over the hills between Umbertide and Gubbio

Jump on the saddle of a magnificent horse and enjoy peace and nature on the trail of St Francis.

150€ Per person
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Just a bit of flatland between the Nostore valley and Monte Peglia

Hard-core training and a lot of effort leads to the greatest satisfaction

from 90€ Per person
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Learn how to make italian pasta and bread

Find out how to make bread and prepare homemade italian pasta in the traditional Umbrian style!

25€ Per person
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Montefalco and the roads in the Sagrantino winescape

Cycling through vineyards and magical landscapes

from 70€ Per person
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Ride a horse on the hills of Assisi, in the footsteps of St. Francis

Ride on a magnificent horse in Assisi and enjoy nature and peace of mind following in the footsteps of St Francis

150€ Per person
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Sagrantino Cycling like the Champions

Hot on the heels of champion cyclists, on a route suitable for everyone

from 90€ Per person
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Sibillini Mountains trekking on horseback

With the Sibillini Mountains horseback trekking, get on a magnificent horse to enjoy nature, the fresh and genuine mountain air on the Castelluccio upland, also called “Little Tibet.”

60€ Per person
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The Apennines and the green hills of Gualdo Tadino

On the upper Apennines behind Assisi, with views stretching as far as the border

from 70€ Per person
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The Castles around Bevagna

Put in a little peddle power and admire the fortifications around Bevagna

from 90€ Per person
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Discover the small Town of Bettona

Discover Bettona with us 

Bettona is a small town on the north-eastern edge of the Colli Martani range, a very peaceful place that has always lived in close symbiosis with nature. It overlooks the Umbrian valley and offers extraordinary views, ranging from Perugia to Assisi, and beyond, which is why it is called ‘the Etruscan balcony’.

Indeed, ‘Vettona’ has Etruscan origins and was later a Roman colony; the ‘Vettonenses’ are mentioned by Pliny in his Naturalis Historia. It was razed to the ground by Augustus because it supported Marco Antonio during the conflict, subsequently suffered the disastrous effects of barbarian invasions and was devastated by Totila, subsequently succumbing to Greek and Lombard domination and then to the Duchy of Spoleto.

A Free Commune in the Middle Ages, it joined Assisi at the beginning of the 13th century, and in 1352 it surrendered to Perugia, which destroyed it and also removed the body of Saint Crispolto, protector and martyr of the city, who according to legend was tortured, burned alive and even sawn to pieces, in the spot where the area’s first Benedictine abbey was built. Bettona went on to rise again thanks to the papal legate Egidio Albornoz and saw the return of the patron saint’s body.

The town was subject to dispute during the Renaissance and several powerful men ruled over it: the Trinci of Foligno started their lordship in 1412, while in 1516 Pope Leo X gave “Bettona, a very suitable land to his state, and of not minor consideration in these parts” to Giampaolo Baglioni. The major figures at the time were the Crispolti, an illustrious family from Bettona who repeatedly tried to bring the town back under the rule of the church. The rule of the Baglioni family over Bettona ceased in 1648, when the heirs to the counts died out and the Apostolic Camera claimed possession of the town again; it remained under the aegis of the papal state until the unification of Italy.

During the Renaissance era, Bettona was highly influential: its administrators always paid particular attention to economic problems, with the help of the ‘Collegi delle Arti’ (an aggregation of business interests in a single corporation) and the foundation of the ‘Monte Frumentario’ (surplus ‘Grain Mountain’) was important in 1491. The rulers were very skilled in dealing with disastrous epidemics like the plague, which were always followed by crop shortages, and great rains and floods along with ‘such freezing cold weather that almost all the olive trees and vines withered’.

The history of Bettona is inextricably linked with the town’s religious settlements, which played a crucial role from the 13th century onwards with the birth and spread of mendicant orders. The first documentary evidence of the existence of a Benedictine monastery in the Bettona area dates back to 1014 and refers to the abbey of San Crispolto della Piana, which is now a private house in the Passaggio area; the relics of the holy martyr were kept in the abbey until they were transferred to the church of San Crispolto, built inside the walls of Bettona in 1266. Another important Benedictine monastery in the early Middle Ages was San Quirico, with the female branches of San Giacomo, and Santa Caterina. The first Franciscan community arrived in Bettona in 1235, upon the wishes of the townsfolk of Bettona; the Conventual Franciscans settled in a short time at the church of San Crispolto and in the 15th century the Observant branch of the Order of Friars Minor also arrived in the city. They built the marvellous convent of Sant’Antonio in 1500, which now lies in ruins.

Bettona is one of the most beautiful small towns in Italy and is a feast for the eyes with its medieval and Renaissance artistic treasures and its gardens and vegetable patches hidden among the town’s narrow streets. Don’t leave Bettona without tasting its most typical dish: roast goose. You’ll find few restaurants open all year in the small town, but the Sagra dell’Oca (Goose Festival) is held in the last week of July, when you can enjoy a succulent dish outdoors, enjoying the cool breeze on summer evenings, sitting in one of the vast gardens that open up inside the town walls. Another typical speciality from Bettona is the ‘piselletto’, a sweet, firm pod of peas that owes its survival to the determination of the women of Bettona, who saved it from extinction in the 1970s. The plant climbs two metres high, intertwining with the Etruscan and medieval walls, as if to exhibit its attachment to its land and its history; it is harvested in May and can be tasted in a variety of dishes.

The Municipality of Bettona and the ‘Pro Loco’ (a grass roots volunteer association) organize events throughout the year: the Bettona Art Music Festival takes place in April, featuring a series of events such as classical music concerts and conferences, held in various obscure locations around the small town, while during the Christmas holidays, the town is the setting for an evocative ‘live nativity scene’. The summer is obviously the busiest and most lively season: in addition to the Sagra dell’Oca, which is the most eagerly awaited and important event, the ‘Notte Romantica dei Borghi d’Italia’ is held on the last Saturday of June, with Bettona proudly taking part in the event. Throughout the evening, restaurants, farm stays, B&Bs and producers throughout the municipal area cook their own specialties and showcase their local agri-foods and products, accompanied by wines from the local winery, all combined with good music and the opening of the town’s museum.

Discover what to see in Bettona 

Bettona was located along the Via Amerina, one of the most important communication routes to the north; this was the road that enabled the arrival of St Crispolto, who evangelized the area. The centre of Bettona, with its ellipsoidal plan, has a street running along its entire length, from the old Via di Mezzo, which connected Porta Vittorio Emanuele to Porta Romana, the two entrances to the city which are now called Porta Santa Caterina and Porta Sant’Antonio; two other pedestrian-only access points are Porta San Crispolto and Porta Primo Maggio.

Coming in through any of these entrances, you will get to Piazza Cavour, an ancient forum, where the most important buildings in the city are located, such as the ‘Palazzo Comunale’ (the Town Hall) and Palazzo Baglioni, where Malatesta Baglioni died; you will also find Palazzo della Podestà, completed in 1371, and Palazzo Biancalana, the residence of a noble Bettona family: both buildings are now home to the Museo della Città di Bettona. The museum has an archaeological section and a picture gallery, which houses works by Fiorenzo di Lorenzo, Niccolò di Liberatore, Jacopo Siculo, El Greco and Pietro Vannucci known as Perugino. The masterpieces in the collection, established in 1904, are the Adoration of Dono Doni and a terracotta depicting St Anthony of Padua.

After visiting the art gallery, you can go to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, with the adjacent chapel of the Compagnia della Morte, which is completely covered in frescoes, and then to the Oratorio di Sant’Andrea, a Baroque-style building that houses a spectacular cycle of late-Giotto frescoes. Passing by the 19th-century fountain in the piazza, built on an ancient medieval well, you will reach Piazza Garibaldi where you will see the church of San Crispolto, founded by the Benedictines in the 13th century. From there you can walk along the town’s alleys and feast your eyes on the multicoloured flowers grown by the locals in their gardens; as you come out through one of the gateways, walk under the Etruscan and medieval walls and enjoy the sensational panoramic views.

The convent of Sant’Antonio, an important site from an artistic and historical point of view, stands a short walk from the centre but is unfortunately abandoned and in ruins. Moving away from the town centre and walking through Bettona’s natural surroundings, you will come across various lovely little ancient churches, such as San Gregorio, Sant’Onofrio and San Quirico, a Benedictine abbey in the hamlet of Cerreto.

Heading down towards Passaggio, do stop to admire Villa Boccaglione and the former Abbazia di San Crispolto; if instead you head down towards Colle, don’t miss the Etruscan tomb, situated where the ancient Etruscan necropolis of Bettona was located.

The convent and church of Sant’Antonio are in ruins today, but they were at the centre of the social and religious life of the inhabitants of Bettona for some three hundred years. In his Memorie, the stubbornly disobedient priest of Bettona, Pietro Onofri, paints a wonderful picture of the building at the beginning of the 19th century, shortly before its demise: “all together this was one of the most beautiful convents had by the Observant Friars in Province of Umbria. […] In the vicinity of our Bettona, there is no more beautiful location”.

The convent was founded by the Observant branch of the Order of Friars Minor who arrived in Bettona in 1434 at the behest of the villagers themselves: the friars had settled in the hermitage of Sant’Onofrio, which is now the chapel of the Bettona’s cemetery, where they remained until 1500, when “due to the great humidity and injuriousness of the site that became uninhabitable”, they moved to the spot where a chapel dedicated to St Manno stood and started building the church and convent.

The convent was fairly large: there were two dormitories, with 20 habitable rooms and an apartment for the provincial superiors; the refectory could accommodate 40 friars and there were all the necessary workshops. A well-stocked and catalogued library is also mentioned, while there was no infirmary or apothecary, but the friars had a vast garden and a wood with fruit trees.

The adjacent church was a treasure trove of works of art, as well as the fulcrum of community life in Bettona: here the confraternity of Sant’Antonio Abate was erected, consisting entirely of peasants, to show how much this place represented the most attractive religious complex for the rural populations. They helped the friars to manage the church and convent and, with their quests, purchased many of the objects and works of art that are in the building: many went missing after the complex was suppressed while others are now kept at the Museo della Città di Bettona. Among the latter are Sant’Antonio di Padua e committente and the Madonna della Misericordia by Pietro Vannucci known as Perugino, the Madonna delle Grazie e sei santi by Jacopo Siculo and a glazed terracotta representing St Antony of Padua by Della Robbia.

After the Unification of Italy, the convent was suppressed and became a hospital, a colony of the G.I.L. (Italian Youth of the Lictor), and social housing for families in financial difficulty. The complex has been in a very poor state since uncompleted renovation work in the 1980s. Completely stripped of any furniture, it is now covered with vegetation both internally and externally, with unsafe walls and parts of frescoes left in a terrible condition. In recent years some initiatives have been promoted by the Pro Loco of Bettona in collaboration with the Municipality: a restoration project for the entire building has been proposed but the necessary funds are still lacking.

Palazzo del Podestà is situated in Bettona’s main piazza next to Palazzo Biancalana and not far from the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. This unassuming 14th-century building was home to the ancient governors and the Podestà (generally the highest-ranking administrator or chief magistrate). Its construction dates back to the rebuilding of Bettona by Egidio Albornoz in 1367, after the Perugians had razed it to the ground: in 1379, in fact, the decided was made to build a new home for the priors.

The palazzo is important from an historical and artistic point of view, as evidenced by two frescoes: the Maestà e santi, dating back to 1380 and located inside the hall, and the Santi Pietro e Paolo con angeli reggistemma, which is located outside and was painted over half a century later. Both look very faded now and for a long time they went practically unnoticed among the walls of the building. Indeed, over the years, the building took on a different appearance and at the beginning of the 20th century it had 17th-century windows and was a two-storey building, which had been built on the right. It had at least continued to be used for public functions such as hearings with the Conciliator, tax collecting and as a municipal treasury, but the real revival came when it was chosen as the seat of the Bettona’s art gallery.

On August 14, 1904 the Museo della Città di Bettona was finally opened and was housed in the halls of the palazzo, which had been restored to its original 14th-century appearance, thanks to the architect Viviani and the painter Sebastiano Novelli, who frescoed the hall.

Today the museum is still located in the Palazzo del Podestà, but due to an earthquake in 2016, the works have all been moved to Palazzo Biancalana, as the room in Palazzo Podestà is closed temporarily.

Palazzo Biancalana is one of the main buildings overlooking Bettona’s central piazza and is next to palazzo del Podestà. It was built on the site of a pre-existing building and designed by Francesco Biancalana, who bought it in the early 19th century. He planned the reconstruction but died before it was completed, in 1859, as indicated on one of the bricks on the floor. The previous old building had adjoining gardens and a public passageway, but everything was demolished to make way for the aristocratic residence, which is characterized by a neo-16th-century style in use in 19th-century private buildings and a certain rhythmic spatial dimension typical of neoclassicism; other aspects, such as the railing and the entrance portal, which are not very ornate, are typical of the fin de siécle style.

The building is composed of two different materials, rusticated on the ground floor and plastered on the upper floors, while the balcony railing above the portal is in cast iron.

Today, part of the palazzo is home to the Museo della Città di Bettona: the left side of the ground floor houses the archaeological section, while the right hand half of the piano nobile, which also includes the living room with the fireplace, is a picture gallery.

It’s a peculiar fact that some of the museum’s works of art came were inherited from the last owner of the building, who would never have imagined such a turn of events. In 1920, Bianca Biancalana named Guido Cingolani as her universal heir, with the express wish that her assets “never be sold or exchanged or rented to the townsfolk.” Instead, after various vicissitudes, Biancalana assets were sold to the Municipality of Bettona in 1931, so fortunately for us, we can now admire them in their original location!

The oldest documentary evidence of the existence of a Benedictine monastery in the Bettona area concerns the Abbazia di San Crispolto della Piana, dating back to 1014, although the actual foundation date is unknown. The abbey, known as Badia, is in the town of Passaggio, near the point where the rivers Topino and Chiascio merge, in an area that was inhabited in Roman times, but which subsequently underwent gradual transformation to swamp land.

The abbey was built with waste materials obtained from Roman buildings and guarded the body of the patron saint of Bettona, San Crispolto: according to legend, the saint was martyred on the very spot where the abbey was built. In 1238 it became a dependency of Santa Maria Farneta, with the disagreement of the monks who experienced a downsizing in their political power. In 1265 the body of San Crispolto was transferred inside the city walls, to the new church of San Crispolto headed by the Conventual Franciscans. This event marked the beginning of an irreversible crisis in the Benedictine Order, whose importance was gradually reduced by the spread of the mendicant orders during the 14th century.

The abbey then remained the property of local prelates, who lived there until the mid-19th century, when the building was given over to farming purposes. Today the complex is a private residence, but the owner has lovingly restored the entire building: the original crypt, the apse above – one of the oldest in Umbria – and parts of the cloistered courtyard remain.

The Abbazia di San Quirico is in the Cerreto area and was the residence of Benedictine monks from the 1st to the 19th century. Together with the abbey of San Crispolto della Piana, it was the main Benedictine settlement in Bettona in the early Middle Ages and the first documents attesting to its existence date back to 1185, while we have no information about its foundation, which is presumed to be prior to the year 1000. There are no documents referring to San Quirico in the 13th century, although we know that at the beginning of the 14th century it depended on the abbey of San Giuliano di Spoleto. It was a flourishing centre throughout the century, administering numerous estates and functioning as a large agricultural concern. Subsequently it was subject to raids by troops from Perugia and by king Ladislaus of Naples, right up to the beginning of its decline: in 1325 the pope incorporated San Quirico into the Duchy of Spoleto and subsequently granted it in commendam to the monk from Chiaravalle, Ugolino Baglioni.

Today the abbey is private property and the church, which was built on the ruins of the monastery, is completely bare. It was built with materials taken from the nearby Roman settlement Urbinum Hortense. Above the door of the church there is a fresco depicting a Madonna and Child with the Saints Crispolto and Quirico attributed to Cesare Sermei, an 17th-century Umbrian painter.

The tomb is located along Via Etrusca, which connects Bettona to Torgiano. It dates back to between the end of the 3rd century BC and the beginning of the 2nd century BC and was discovered in the early 20th century.

The burial chamber or ‘hypogeum’ is easy to spot as it is open and protected only by a gate; after crossing a short open-air corridor, which leads to the door, originally composed of two travertine slabs, and accompanied by two steps leading to the tomb one enters the chamber. It is built of uniform stone blocks and is composed of a single room surmounted by a barrel vault ceiling.

The Etruscan tomb is also provided with channels for the rainwater, which was collected in an underground compartment located at the entrance. The last burial dates back to the 1st century AD, probably after the tomb was abandoned, as id evidenced by a Latin epigraph, which mentions a municipal magistrate of Bettona who was praetor Etruriae, that is, a priest of the league of Etruscan cities.

When it was discovered in the 20th century, the tomb was in a state of neglect, had been damaged and the funereal accompaniments were in complete disarray. For safe-keeping, most of these – including jewellery in gold, silver, stone paste and bronze – are now at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Perugia and the Museo Archeologico della Città di Bettona.

Villa Boccaglione

Villa Boccaglione, called the ‘little Versailles of Umbria’, is located in the plains at the foot of the hill of Bettona, in the Passaggio area, and is one of the most important examples of a lowland villa in Umbria; it is of great historical-artistic important but unfortunately it is closed, and visits are rarely allowed.

It can be reached by following a long tree-lined avenue, at the end of which you will find yourself in front of an impressive and imposing three-storey villa, with a small church attached to it, a lemon-house, the remains of farmhouses and an area once occupied by stables and a large garden. At the rear of the villa, there is a horseshoe-shaped park, which ends in a grove with a small outdoor theatre.

According to some scholars, the architect Piermarini was commissioned by the Crispolti from Bettona to build the villa in the 18th century, after which it was sold first to the Penna from Perugia, then to the Bianconi, the Fedeli and the Iraci-Mandolini Borgia. Since 1987 it has been owned by the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali (Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities).

The villa, built upon an existing building, is oddly eclectic in style, blending neoclassical features with baroque elements; it is richly decorated with frescoes both outside and in the numerous interior rooms.

Discover what to do in Bettona 

Thanks to Exploring Umbria, in Bettona you’ll be able to spend entire days completely immersed in nature: whether in the mountains, hills and plains with their breath-taking views, or in the woods with their dense trees obscuring the view of the sky. And you can enjoy it in winter, when the town’s rooves are carpeted with snow, and in summer, when many people go there to escape the heat of the towns in the valley.

There are numerous possible routes and trails suitable for cycling or walking. You can walk through Bettona’s narrow streets and around the Etruscan walls and then climb up from the town to the hamlet of Cinque Cerri and along the river Sambro. You can also combine a nature trail with visits to ancient churches or archaeological sites, such as the Roman ruins of Urvinum Hortense, and a visit to neighbouring towns such as Collemancio.

Exploring Umbria, moreover, will enable you to enjoy the wonders of Bettona while on exciting horse rides through the most captivating areas in the region.

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