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Città di Castello

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Città di Castello

PRIVATE GUIDED ROADBIKE TOUR
A tough route from the Tiber Valley to Lake Trasimeno

Test your true grit on the hills that border Lake Trasimeno

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Cross Country – The Abbey of Montecorona

A satisfyingly tiring biking trip from the Abbey of Montecorona in the woods, in contemplation of beauty and spirituality

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Cross Country – Up towards Mount Tezio, in central Umbria

High up to Mount Tezio on your bike, with breath-taking views. Then down again on dirt tracks and through the undergrowth

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PRIVATE GUIDED TREKKING TOUR
Discover Montefalco

A trek through vineyards and olive trees on softly rolling hills. A path steeped in history and strong traditions

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Enduro – On the hills around lake Trasimeno

Gentle hills but hard-core adrenalin on trails around Lake Trasimeno

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PRIVATE GUIDED ROADBIKE TOUR
Farms and estates along the Tiber valley

Immerse yourself in the countryside of the Tiber valley and discover its secrets

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From Trestina, cycling amongst woods, meadows and castles

Cycling through magnificent landscapes in search of hidden castles

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PRIVATE GUIDED CITY TOUR
Guided Tour of Città di Castello

Discover the native town of Alberto Burri, with is ancient monuments and contemporary arts

140€ Per service
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PRIVATE GUIDED CITY TOUR
Guided Tour of Montone

Un tuffo nel passato alla scoperta di uno dei borghi meglio conservati. Bellezza fra storia e natura

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PRIVATE GUIDED TREKKING TOUR
Hiking Montone: the medieval period and lunar landscapes

A circular hiking on the hills of Montone, a stronghold of the medieval leader Braccio, immersed in lunar landscapes with an age-old history.

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PRIVATE GUIDED TREKKING TOUR
Hiking of Città di Castello: In the lands of the Marquises

The hiking of Città di Castello is a trek along paths that cross the lands of the Marquises of Monte Santa Maria.

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PRIVATE GUIDED ROADBIKE TOUR
Hills and Castles around Corciano

From the village where time has stood still to the discovery of its amazing natural surroundings, this easy and enjoyable cycling route will take you through settings that belong to a bygone era

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What to see and what to do in Città di Castello

Among the green hills and the bright cultivated countryside of the Alta Val Tiberina, Città di Castello surpasses the neighbouring towns in terms of size, wealth and peculiarity. A small Tuscan pearl nestled in the heart of Umbria, this settlement was the pride of the Vitelli family who, between the 15th and 16th centuries, transformed the medieval profile of the small village into a jewel of Renaissance architecture, with elegant and lofty forms that nowadays attract tourists from all over the world. Artists such as Luca Signorelli, Vasari and Rafael found themselves working in the city, attracted by the lively and stimulating environment that still remains to this day. Many centuries have passed since then but even in modern times, Città di Castello has not lost its role as a centre of attraction, a transit hub and meeting point for different cultures and traditions. The numerous events held in the streets of the old city every year testify to the immense heritage to be preserved and enhanced: from printing, which began here in the 16th century, to textile production championed by Baroness Franchetti in the early 20th century, to the traditional, distinctive craft of ‘reproduction furniture’ and the now-defunct Tobacco-drying plant, which has been successfully re-purposed, becoming the unusual “exhibition space” of works by a famous modern artist, the native of Città di Castello, Alberto Burri.

With its elegant, 16th-century buildings, famous masterpieces of Italian and foreign artists, city museums, active craft workshops, nationally and internationally important cultural events, lush parks for nature lovers and fascinating canoeing routes on the Tiber river, Città di Castello offers visitors an array of unique experiences and sensations to remember and treasure for years to come.

Discover Città di Castello

The Renaissance imprint left by the Vitelli family in Città di Castello with their tireless work of patronage still defines the peculiarity of the city centre. Unlike most medieval Umbrian villages, which cling onto tortuous and narrow lanes, Città di Castello breaks the mould with the relaxed beauty of its wide, linear streets, enhanced by the elegant facades of 16th-century palazzi. Your itinerary will inevitably start from the heart of the city, piazza Gabriotti, framed by public and religious buildings that symbolize the seats of power established over time. On one side you will see the imposing Duomo, dedicated to the saints Florido and Amanzio (respectively patron and co-patron saints of the city) with the annexed Museo Capitolare (or del Duomo) where you will have the chance to admire the famous tesoro di Canoscio, (treasure of Canoscio) one of the most unique collections of liturgical objects in the world. On the other side stands Palazzo Comunale (or dei Priori) with its distinctive Torre Civica, a tower once decorated with a fresco by Luca Signorelli, today partially preserved at the Pinacoteca Comunale. Continuing along Corso Cavour for a few meters, you will see two other stunning jewels of Renaissance architecture: Palazzo del Podestà, built by the famous architect Angelo di Orvieto, and one of the Vitelli family’s numerous stately palazzi: the so-called Palazzo Vitelli in Piazza, whose austere forms differ greater from the refinements of its ‘fellow’ Palazzi. At this point, you will have the opportunity to see another of Città di Castello’s gems: the Tipografia Grifani Donati (printing works], as well as the Museo delle Arti Grafiche. Moving towards the northern part of the city, you will come upon the Teatro Comunale and the church called Chiesa della Madonna delle Grazie, but before going quite so far, turning onto Via Albizzini, you will be able to see two masterpieces: “L’incoronazione della Vergine” (The Coronation of the Virgin)” by Vasari and “Lo sposalizio della Vergine” (The Marriage of the Virgin), (which is only a copy, unfortunately, as the original is in Milan) by the great artist, Raphael, both conserved inside the Chiesa di S. Francesco. You should be in no hurry to continue because on the same street you will find the sumptuous Palazzo Vitelli a S. Egidio which, with the vast Italian-style garden that surrounds it, testifies to the greatness of the family that commissioned it, and Palazzo Albizzini, which is interesting not so much for its outward appearance as for the invaluable contents within: it is one the exhibition centres of the Collezione Burri [Art Collection], a well-known 20th-century artist from Città di Castello. After taking in Burri’s evocative creations, you can begin the descent along via Mazzini, with a stop in Piazza Costa to visit the Laboratorio e collezione tessile “Tela Umbra” (Umbrian textile workshop and collection), where ancient hand looms are still in operation, and then continue until the end of Corso Vittorio Emanuele as far as the Chiesa di S. Maria Maggiore. Not far away, you will find Palazzo Vitelli alla Cannoniera, another example of Renaissance architecture now put to modern use. The building is, in fact, home to the Pinacoteca Comunale and exhibits works by artists who were active in the city, such as Luca Signorelli and Raphael. And to round off your sightseeing in style, let yourself be spellbound by the majesty of the Chiesa di S. Domenico, the largest church in Città di Castello, with its adjacent cloister illustrating the life and times of the blessed Margherita via its still-well-preserved 16th-century frescoes.

The Museum opened in 1991 and was extended and renovated in 2000. It currently consists of twelve rooms located on two floors, adjacent to the city’s cathedral, in Piazza Gabriotti.

Room I contains one of the most important archaeological finds in recent centuries: the tesoro di Canoscio (treasure of Canoscio). It is a collection of 25 objects used for the Eucharistic liturgy, found by chance in 1935 at the Canoscio sanctuary near Città di Castello during ploughing work. As well as containing a large number of objects (chalices, pyxides, crucibles, patens, plates and spoons), the collection is very important because it is a unique example of sacred archaeology dating back to the 5th-6th century.

Sala II displays two jewellery masterpieces: the Paliotto, a hanging in embossed silver that was donated to the city in 1142 by Pope Celestino II – whose family was from Città di Castello – to decorate the Cathedral’s altar, and the Riccio di Pastorale (Shepherd’s Crook), attributed to the Siena-born goldsmith Goro di Gregorio. It is attributed to the 14th century and is also made of embossed silver with figures of enamelled and translucent saints.

Sala III contains a dozen display cases containing liturgical objects that illustrate the historical evolution of the Christian liturgy from the 8th to the 19th century.

Finally, in the beautiful Salone Gotico, a gallery brings together local artists such as Giovanni Battista and Francesco da Tiferno and two masterpieces of Italian painting: Cristo in Gloria (Christ in Glory), oil on wood, created by Rosso Fiorentino between 1528-30 and Madonna col Bambino e San Giovannino (Madonna with Child and Saint Giovannino), tempera on wood, painted by Pinturicchio at the end of the 15th century.

The second floor holds extremely important archival documents: a Parchment by Emperor Federico Barbarossa and an 11th-century Parchment Codex containing the Rule of St. Augustine. The exhibition concludes with the funeral plaque of Alessandro Vitelli, made of lead, dated 1554.

It is useful to know that, thanks to the ECCLESIA CARD project, the purchase of a ticket for one of the museums provides access to all the diocesan museums in Umbria at a discounted price.

Next to the small square in San Giovanni in Campo, along the Largo Monsignor Muzzi, stands the imposing form of Chiesa di San Domenico, the largest church in Città di Castello.

The Dominicans built the church between 1399 and 1424 on the site of an earlier small church. The structure is based on a single nave and has a four-sided bell tower on the right side. The external facade remained unfinished.

The presbytery is embellished by a precious inlaid wooden choir carved in 1435 by the Florentine master Manno di Benincasa, known as Manno dei Cori.

Two important works of art were once conserved inside the church: “The Crucifix” by Raphael (1503), commissioned by the Gavari family and now displayed at the National Gallery in London and the “Martirio di San Sebastiano” (Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian) by Luca Signorelli (1498), commissioned by the Brozzi family and transferred to the Pinacoteca Comunale (Municipal gallery) at Palazzo Vitelli alla Cannoniera.

Despite this major loss, the Basilica still preserves important 15th-century frescoes and an urn with the ashes of the Beata Margherita [Blessed Margaret], (1298-1320), a Dominican tertiary called La Cieca della Metola, are conserved in the main altar upon transfer from their  original home. The decorative frescoes in the cloister adjacent to the church are dedicated to her and the story of the miracles in her life.

Concluded between 1662 and 1667 and recently acquired by the city council, the double-sided cloister of overlapping arches lends additional distinction and brightness to the imposing complex of the former Dominican convent.

What can now be seen of this church, consecrated in 1291, is the result of numerous successive modifications. The original Gothic structure has been preserved: a Latin cross plan with a single nave, crowned by an apse with three polygonal chapels. The interior decoration, on the other hand, was completely redesigned in the Baroque style between 1707, 1718 and 1727. The large entrance portal was also added in 1731, when the original Gothic portal was dismantled to build an altar inside the church.

The building is located in Via Albizzini (a short distance from Palazzo Albizzini and Palazzo Vitelli in Sant’Egidio) and in the bottom left corner houses the beautiful Cappella Vitelli, built to a design drawn up by Vasari in 1563. The large table depicting “L’incoronazione della Vergine” (The coronation of the Virgin), is attributable to the same year and the same author, and was commissioned by Gentilina Della Staffa Vitelli, mother of Paolo and Chiappino, who were buried in the chapel with Nicolò Vitelli also known as the ‘Father of the Homeland’ (“Padre della Patria”).

Vasari’s masterpiece is safeguarded by a majestic wrought iron gate, built in 1567 by a native of Città di Castello, the master craftsman Pietro Ercolani.

On the altar dedicated to San Giuseppe stands a painting called “Lo Sposalizio della Vergine” (The Marriage of the Virgin), (1504), a copy of the famous work by Raphael. The original was kept in Città di Castello until it was transferred to the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan in 1805.

Another very important work that was found in the church of S. Francesco was “L’adorazione dei pastori” (The Adoration of the Shepherds), painted by Luca Signorelli in 1496 and now on display at the National Gallery in London.

Cultivation of tobacco seems to have begun spreading throughout Umbria in the 16th century. Later, the small Republic of Cospaia, a free-trade area between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal State, became a thriving hub for smuggling and remained so until the 1970s. In the post-WWII period, the cultivation of tropical tobacco produced in the area became no longer profitable and was slowly abandoned, with the consequent neglect of the large warehouses of the Fattoria Autonoma Tabacchi in Città di Castello, which had been used for drying the leaves.

In 1978, the artist Alberto Burri secured and started to use the warehouses as a workshop for the creation of large-scale artworks. Born in Città di Castello in 1915, Burri was a doctor by profession and began to devote himself to art during WWII. His work is considered part of the informal art movement, characterized by the use of innovative materials and massive dimensions (one of his most famous works, “Il Cretto” of Gibellina Vecchia in Sicily, is a huge expanse of white concrete that covers the ruins of the earthquake of 1968).

On several occasions during his life (he died in Nice in 1995), Burri donated his works to his hometown, collaborating with the Palazzo Albizzini Foundation, which acquired the entire complex in 1989 and launched a structured project of reclamation and renovation. The large pavilions, completely painted in black according to the artist’s wishes, display as many as 128 large-scale works – some are even positioned on the lawn outside the building – divided and organized in the exhibition spaces according to cycles designed by Burri himself: Viaggio (1979), Orsanmichele (1980), Sestante (1982), Rosso e Nero (1983-84), T Cellotex (1975-84), Annotarsi (1985-87), Non ama il Nero (1988), Grandi Neri (1988- 90), Metamorfotex (1991), and Il Nero e l’Oro (1992-93).

The exhibition at the ‘Ex Seccatoi del Tabacco’ (former tobacco-drying plant) was inaugurated in 1990 with an area of some 7,500 square metres, housing the artist’s works produced between the years 1970 and 1993.

The remaining works, about 130 pieces made by Burri between 1948 and 1989, are at another exhibition location at Palazzo Albizzini, in Via Albizzini, not far from Palazzo Vitelli a Sant’Egidio.

Not far from the Cathedral, overlooking Piazza Gabriotti, stands one of the most beautiful and important Palazzi in Umbria. The Palazzo dei Priori (or ‘Comunale’) was built between 1322 and 1338 by the architect Angelo da Orvieto, as evidenced by a weathered and almost illegible inscription on the entrance lintel. In the same period, the architect was engaged in the construction of two other important buildings: the Palazzo dei Consoli in Gubbio and Palazzo del Podestà in Città di Castello.

Nowadays, Palazzo dei Priori is the Town Hall and the 16th-century staircase leads to the ‘Sala del Consiglio comunale’ with its fragments of frescoes and ancient Roman epigraphs.

The City’s coat of arms is carved on the lunette of the main door and the precious rustic ashlar facade recalls the elegant Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Unfortunately, the work was never completed and is still unfinished today, without a bell tower, which is, however, substituted by the nearby Torre Civica.

Also called Torre del Vescovo due to its position close to the bishop’s residence, the Torre di Città di Castello dates back to the 14th century and is the true emblem of the city. Numerous coats of arms are still visible on the facade, as are traces of the small roof that protected the fresco depicting “Madonna col bambino tra I Santi Paolo e Girolamo” (Madonna and Child between Saints Paul and Jerome) by Luca Signorelli. Created in 1474, the fresco suffered damage on numerous occasions due to the weather and earthquakes, so it was definitively removed in 1940 and preserved (only in part) in the Pinacoteca Comunale. In 1937, the Tower was even equipped with the first public clock and today it still provides the perfect place to enjoy a breath-taking view of the city and the surrounding area. From the top, one can admire the entire historic city centre, Montesca hill and the entire Tiber valley.

The ‘duomo’ or cathedral of Città di Castello has stood in Piazza Gabriotti, in the city centre, since the 11th century. According to tradition, the Romanesque church was built on the ruins of a former pagan temple and was consecrated three times during its long existence, first to San Lorenzo and then later to the patron saints of the city, Florido and Amanzio.

The building in its current form is the result of successive modifications. The first were carried out in 1356, then further renovations were made between the 15th and the 16th centuries under the direction of Elia di Bartolomeo.

The facade, which was left unfinished, dates back to between 1632 – 1646 and was designed by Francesco Lazzari. The Cathedral still preserves traces of its ancient origins: the cylindrical bell tower, in the Ravenna style, dating back to Roman times, and the left portal, decorated with twisted columns can be dated back to the Gothic period.

The imposing entrance stairway is more recent, attributable to the 18th century.

The structure is based on the Latin cross plan, with a single nave and side chapels that contain some noteworthy works of art: the chapel of S. Paolo displays “La caduta del Santo sulla via di

Damasco” (The fall of the Saint on the road to Damascus), painted by Niccolò Circignani, otherwise known as Pomarancio, at the end of the 16th century, and the “Transfigurazione” (Transfiguration) by Rosso Fiorentino (1530).

The presbytery is decorated with a beautiful, inlaid wooden choir carved in the mid-16th century. A visit to the Cathedral should be rounded off with a viewing of the crypt below, the ‘Duomo Inferiore’, which is accessible through a side staircase, where an ancient stone sarcophagus still holds the relics of the Cathedral’s patron saints.

Slightly offset from the main square where the city’s other public buildings are located, the Palazzo del Podestà stands in Piazza Matteotti and was built by Angelo da Orvieto, a few years after the construction of the Palazzo dei Priori. The building was commissioned by the Tarlati family from Pietramala who ruled Città di Castello between 1324 and 1335, but it was completely finished in 1368 when, according to what can be read in the Annals, the Municipal authorities rented five of the nine shops below it.

Above the portals of some of these shops there are still lunettes decorated with the friezes and coats of arms of the Podestà family who governed the city. The architect adopted different styles when he decorated the building: above each door is a small round fully-opening window that is in turn surmounted by elegant double-lancet windows.

The northern facade was made of sandstone blocks and still retains the 14th-century structure, while the loggia overlooking Piazza Fanti was completely rebuilt by Nicola Barbioni in the 17th century.

The work of patronage, but also of control and domination of the city, undertaken by the Vitelli dynasty between the 15th and 16th centuries, is clearly evident from the large number of buildings that bear the name of this family and that embellish the streets of the city, almost as if to acknowledge and remind us of their past existence and role in the city. Therefore, when talking about Palazzo Vitelli in Città di Castello, it is always advisable to specify which of the many buildings bearing this name is being referenced. The following buildings are all a short distance from each other, each with its own peculiarities:

PALAZZO VITELLI IN PIAZZA

It is so defined because it stands in Piazza Matteotti, the centre of the city’s social life. The large building was probably started in 1487 by Camillo, Paolo and Vitellozzo Vitelli but it was completely finished just a few decades later by Alessandro, in 1546. The cornice is a later addition, built around the 18th century, when the palazzo had already become the property of the Bufalini family.

The very sober architectural style, compared to the other Palazzi Vitelli, recalls the forms of Tuscan buildings. The building was left unfinished and is austere in its form and shapes, perhaps because it had to perform a specific function: that of warehouse and stables. The inner courtyard is in fact bordered by another building known as Palazzo Vitelli dell’Abbondanza, which in reality is the original nucleus of the entire complex, used as a warehouse for grain, hence the name ‘abbondanza’ (abundance). The stables, built above the basement, were barrel-vaulted and supported by massive pillars, while the top floor consisted of a large hall with walls bearing  frescoes in the upper section, although they are difficult to decipher now due to damage and wear.

PALAZZO VITELLI A SAN GIACOMO

Located in Via dei Vitelli, the building is currently undergoing restoration and will be used to house the Municipal Library named after Giosuè Carducci. The majestic facade has beautiful sandstone windows, while the interior still preserves the courtyard’s colonnades, the loggia on the first floor, a coffered ceiling and frescoes on the walls. The building was built in the 16th century for Paola Rossi of San Secondo Parmense, wife of Vitello Vitelli who, after being widowed, married Alessandro, a cousin of her late husband, in 1528.

PALAZZO VITELLI A PORTA SANT’EGIDIO

The largest of the four buildings, building of this palazzo was started in 1540 by Paul II Vitelli (captain in the service of the Farnese family and Emperor Charles V), based perhaps on a design by Vasari in present day Piazza Garibaldi.

While retaining the original floorplan, the modern structure has undergone various changes due to earthquakes that have damaged several parts. The facade has a high portico with five arches, supported by pillars that were once columns, and is divided into three floors that are reminiscent of the Tuscan style. Inside, a monumental staircase leads to the large hall on the main floor, reduced in size due to the earthquake in 1686. The fresco decoration of the Hall, masterfully carried out by artists of the calibre of Fontana, Doceno and their assistants, depicts the achievements of the Vitelli family.

The palazzo overlooks an immense Italian-style garden with oak woods and a nymphaeum. It is bordered to the north-east by the ancient city walls and beautified by the “Palazzina”, an elegant, recently-restored loggia built around a medieval tower. It was decorated with frescoes by Fontana and depicts landscapes, festoons of fruit and flowers and mythological scenes.

PALAZZO VITELLI ALLA CANNONIERA

The imposing building owes its name to the cannon foundry (or depot) that previously occupied the site of the present building. It was built by Alessandro Vitelli in the Tuscan style between 1521 and 1545 on the occasion of his marriage to Paola Rossi di San Secondo Parmense, who was widowed in 1528 after the death of Vitello Vitelli, as shown on an inscription inside the residence. The beautiful, graphically-decorated facade was created by Doceno based on a design by Vasari and is accompanied by interior frescoed decoration, again by Doceno, in several rooms (the most famous being the ‘Studiolo’ (small study).

The entire complex is divided into five buildings that overlook an immense garden. Thanks to the work of the tireless antique dealer and restorer Elia Volpi, since 1912 the imposing building has housed the Pinacoteca Comunale gallery which includes, among others, works by Luca Signorelli (Martirio di S. Sebastiano – Martyrdom of St Sebastian), the only work by Raphael in the city (Gonfalone della SS. Trinità – Banner of the Holy Trinity) and a valuable terracotta artefact from the workshop of Ghirlandaio and the Della Robbia (Madonna col Bambino e sei Angeli – Madonna with Child and Six Angels).

The walk around the historic centre of Città di Castello will certainly have occupied most of your time, but between one palazzo and the next, don’t miss out on visiting the numerous city Museums that reveal stories of ancient life expertly integrated with the spirit of modern society. This unusual combination together with the Municipality’s long-sightedness have given rise to superb exhibitions, such as the Collezione Burri, co-hosted by Palazzo Albizzini in the city centre and the former Tabacco-drying plant on the southern outskirts of the city. And let us not forget the two Museum-Workshops that make Città di Castello such a unique destination: the collezione “Tessile Umbra” is both a Museum and an active Workshop where the centre’s hand looms, established in 1908 by the barons Alice and Leopoldo Franchetti, produce masterpieces of local craftsmanship. Similarly, the Museo delle Arti Grafiche is also a printing works, the Tipografia Grifani Donati, established in 1799 by Bartolomeo Carlucci and Francesco Donati. Inside the rooms of the former church of S. Paolo, skilled craftsmen still preserve the traditional art of printing, which has existed in the city since the 16th century. Their work fuels the local economy, being one of the city’s major productive industries.

In one of the Tiber valley’s main hubs, there is certainly no lack of alternative activities. If you prefer the outdoors, you will be spoilt for choice: you can visit the park called Parco dell’Ansa del Tevere, close to the city walls in Viale Nazario Sauro, or Parco dei Cigni, on the Tiber river side, to the south of the city, where you can admire many species of non-captive water birds. Between the two parks, at the Ponte del Tevere (bridge) in via Aretina, you fill find Città di Castello’s Canoe Club headquarters. Its professional guides are available to accompany you on a truly captivating canoe route on one of the most important rivers in Italy. And if this were still not enough, you can go for a walk or a run up to the Terme di Montecchio (spa), some 3 kilometres from the city centre, where the sulphurous waters and the natural mud baths are the secret behind the Centre’s attainment of a certificate of excellence in the ‘Super First’ category, not only for the quality of wellness treatments but also, and above all, for the importance of its diagnostic and therapeutic centres, which are open all year round. Finally, several kilometres from the city, beyond route E45, and reachable only by car, you can visit the elegant Parco con villa di Montesca. The options are endless!

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THE HISTORY OF CITTÀ DI CASTELLO FROM ITS ORIGINS TO THE MIDDLE AGES

The origins of the inhabited city centre are not entirely clear, but it seems that the first dwellings in stilt houses arose near the ancient Tiber lake, which has since disappeared. Archaeological findings testify to the presence of a village of Umbrian-Sabellic and Samnite lineage since the first millennium BC, whose name was Tifernum and which for centuries was so strong as to reject Etruscan advances into its territories. Città di Castello still represents the most important city in the upper Tiber valley, an area that, in ancient times, was the subject of constant contention among the neighbouring Umbrian and Etruscans populations. In the 7th century BC, Tifernum was a wealthy and independent village which sustained commercial relations with the Etruscans and all the surrounding populations without being conquered by any of them.

It was only in the 3rd century BC, from around 283, that the city lost its independence and became part of the Roman Empire, following the Battle of Sentinum, changing its name to Tifernum Tiberinum. Under the new jurisdiction, the city experienced a period of growth and prosperity, especially from an architectural point of view, reaching its peak in the first century BC when the famous Pliny the Younger, who owned a private villa in Tifernum, had several public buildings built at his own expense.

Under the rule of Diocletian, in the 3rd century AD, Tifernum became part of the province of “Tuscia et Umbria” under the full control of Roman jurisdiction and experienced the spread of Christianity. A key figure in Christian preaching in the city was said to be San Crescentino or Crescenziano who, according to tradition, became a martyr at the hands of Diocletian himself at Pieve dè Saddi, south-east of the modern city.

The first bishop of the city was Eubodius, who ruled the fortunes of the community in the 5th century, before it was completely razed to the ground by Goths under Totila. Thanks to the commitment of bishop Florido, patron of the city, a new community was built on the ashes of old Tifernum which took the name of Castrum Felicitatis, and then later became Castellum Felicitatis between the 8th and 10th centuries, until it was called Civitas Castelli, the immediate forerunner of the current name: Città di Castello.

THE HISTORY OF CITTÀ DI CASTELLO FROM THE AGE OF THE COMMUNES TO THE VITELLI DYNASTY

Starting from the 11th century, Città di Castello acquired political autonomy becoming a strategic Commune (Municipality) in the region. Contested by Perugia and by the Papal State, firstly pro-Guelph and then pro-Ghibelline, it found itself alternately under the sovereign control of these two powers with short intervals of freedom. In 1326, after a brief spell of government by the Guelfi family, the Tarlati brothers (Guido, bishop of Arezzo and Pietro, called Saccone) conquered the city and took control of it until the popular uprising of 1335, which forced them out thanks to the support of Perugia. A few years later, in 1350, it was Perugia itself that claimed possession of Città di Castello, but with little success, because just one year later the inhabitants of Città di Castello rose up and regained their freedom.

In 1422, it was the turn of Braccio, the great leader of the Fortebracci da Montone family who, following a bitter struggle and with the political support of the Church, managed to seize Città di Castello and maintain government until 1428. From this moment on, and for about a century, Città di Castello remained under the control of the Papal State with internal struggles occurring between the local noble families, in particular the Giustini and the Vitelli, who gained the upper hand and succeeded in establishing an urban Lordship that lasted throughout the 16th century. In 1474, the city suffered the famous 80-day-long siege by the troops of Pope Sixtus IV. On this occasion, Niccolò Vitelli was defeated and forced to leave the city, relegated to exile in Urbino by order of the pontiff for eight years. In 1482, the old Lord, with the backing of a popular uprising and the support of the Medici, freed the city and rightly won the title of “Padre della Patria” (Father of the Homeland).

Apart from their political commitment, the Vitelli dynasty can also be credited with the cultural enrichment of Città di Castello. Thanks to the patronage of its rulers, the Umbrian Commune became a small Tuscan island in terms of its artistic and architectural forms. Throughout the 16th century, artists of the calibre of Ghirlandaio, Luca Signorelli, Vasari, Raphael, Gentile da Fabriano and Rosso Fiorentino were working in the city on commissions ordered by the Vitelli, creating a cultivated and enlightened environment which provided the backdrop that kindled the art of printing, which is traced back to Magister Mazzocchi in1538.

THE HISTORY OF CITTÀ DI CASTELLO DURING THE MODERN AGE

From the end of the 16th century, while retaining the patronage of the Vitelli, the city gradually lost its autonomy and fell permanently under the rule of the Papal State until the French invasion of 1798. The Napoleonic troops occupied the city for a year before being driven back by the Papal States, but they returned in 1809 and this time, having gained the upper hand over their adversaries, they succeeded in conquering Città di Castello until the fall of the French Empire in 1814. At that moment, the city lost one of its artistic jewels: “Lo Sposalizio della Vergine” (The wedding of the Virgin) by Raphael was looted by French troops and never returned to the city. Only after many years of negotiations was the painting handed back to Italy, and it is now on display at the Galleria di Brera.

With the first stirrings of the Renaissance movement, Città di Castello took an active part in its development, securing a Provisional Committee for itself in 1831 and adhering to the Roman Republic in 1849 until its annexation to the nascent Kingdom of Italy in 1860.

Today the city is the most important and densely-populated area of the Upper Tiber Valley and, thanks to the richness of its historical and artistic heritage and the dynamism of the events that are held there, it continues to attract a large number of visitors every year, all year round.

As is well known, artisanal crafts are the star players throughout Umbria, but within this very rich regional context, some towns and cities stand out even more due to the peculiarity of the craft activities they dedicate themselves to and safeguard. Città di Castello is one such example because it has managed to preserve traditions, in their original forms, from the ravages of time and modernity. Examples of this custodianship can be found in the Laboratori di “Tela Umbra” (Umbrian textile workshops) and in the Tipografia Grifani Donati (printing works). In the first, in the same premises used a hundred years ago, where about forty weavers worked under Baroness Alice Franchetti, prestigious pure linen fabrics such as tablecloths, curtains, towels and blankets are still produced today. In the second, it is possible to rediscover the ancient artisanal techniques of typographic art. The owner, a descendant of the Donati family, in addition to dedicating himself to the promotion and enhancement of the city’s typographic heritage, continues the family tradition of lithography (working exclusively on stone), and of the binding and restoration of books. Today, the workshop-museum is still a benchmark for all the artists who work with traditional engraving and who need equipment suitable for printing lithographs, woodcuts, etchings, dry-point or linoleum etchings. Age-old, fully-functioning pieces of machinery render the creations made within Città di Castello’s workshops unique examples of their kind.

There are also few comparisons to be found in another field of craftsmanship in which Città di Castello artisans take the lead and stand out for the finesse of their products: the creation of period-style reproduction furniture. This ancient tradition was successfully transformed in the early 20th century thanks to two major figures: the antique dealer and merchant Elia Volpi, who donated his collection of antique furniture to Città di Castello and Cesare Sisi, antique dealer and artisan who, several years later, developed the idea of using old furniture to reproduce new pieces in period style. The mastery of Città di Castello’s native craftsmen lies in their inimitable ability to harmoniously blend together ancient and new wood to create wholly original pieces. The recently created “Vero mobile in stile Altotiberino” brand or ‘trade mark’ is both a confirmation and a guarantee of the authenticity of this timeless art.

Another artisanal activity that should be mentioned, even if it has undergone a less fortunate fate, is Tobacco drying, which represented one of the main productive activities in Città di Castello for several decades until it was completely abandoned in the 1970s. What remains today of the large artisanal plant dedicated to the drying of Tobacco are the large warehouses, which have definitely changed their function, having been repurposed and transformed into exhibition pavilions for the works of Alberto Burri.

GASTRONOMY

As with art and culture, Città di Castello’s gastronomy also expresses its characteristics as a transit hub and meeting point for peoples and traditions. It so happens, then, that the same traces of Tuscan, Umbrian, Marches and Roman elements we find at the dinner table can also be heard in the local dialect or observed in the architecture of the buildings. The agricultural and natural spirit of the Upper Tiber Valley is found in the great variety of crostini (croutons) served with agricultural produce such as artichokes, truffles and almonds. For meat lovers there are recipes for l’oca arrosto imporchettata (herb-infused roasted goose) or fagiano all’uva bianca o al tartufo (pheasant with white grapes or truffle). And fans of polenta need never fear, since there are numerous variations, such as polenta with sheep’s meat sauce, mushrooms and sausage or liver. The liveliness of the dishes, however, preserves the frugality and simplicity of the produce, which is all the result of human labour and of a land rich in agricultural traditions. It is not surprising, therefore, that Città di Castello’s typical dish is baggiana, a very simple soup made with broad beans, tomatoes and basil, which is generally served with a tigella, a sort of small flat-bread made with flour, salt and water, which also pairs perfectly with cold cuts, such as ham and salami, and cheeses.

OLIVE OIL AND WINE

For the first time, in April 2018, Città di Castello became the hub of a new event organized by Fiera Show, in collaboration with AIS (Italian Association of Sommeliers) and sponsored by the Ministry of Agricultural Policies. The event is called “Only Wine Festival” and is a bone-fide exhibition and market-place for young producers of Wine and small Wineries. The 100 best products selected by AIS at the national level liven up the streets of the Umbrian historic city centre, allowing hundreds of visitors to savour the genuine aromas and flavours of the finest wines. Umbria and Città di Castello thus once again demonstrate their top-class credentials as custodians of tradition and good taste.

And on the subject of tradition, we should not neglect to mention l’oleificio Ranieri (Ranieri oil mill) located on the lush green hills on the outskirts of the city. Since 1930, and with a passion handed down through three generations starting from the founder Domenico Ranieri, it has been  providing the authentic flavour of extra virgin olive oil D.O.P. “UMBRIA” to tourists and locals alike.

With its flourishing craftwork and numerous events, Città di Castello cannot be said to bore either occasional visitors or its citizens. If you are in Umbria between December and January, you can’t miss the opportunity to see or participate in the Mostra Internazionale di arte presepiale, an international exhibition featuring the art of the nativity scene. It is one of the most important events related to the theme of the nativity due to the elevated number of participants it attracts every year and for the excellence of the exhibited works, with artists and materials coming from all over the world.

If, on the other hand, you are walking around the city in the summer between August and September, you will be able to take part in other important annual events: the Festival delle Nazioni which, for Città di Castello and the Region, became the official event for the promotion of a civil identity. Artists from all over the world illustrate their musical traditions in a combination of rhythms and cultures that will fill and thrill your senses.

In the same period, the art of urban printing is celebrated and promoted via the Mostra mercato del libro antico e della stampa antica. This exhibition-cum-fair of ancient books and prints features some forty Antique Bookshops engaged in the promotion of priceless ‘paper treasures’, ranging from incunabula to precious vintage bindings.

And once more, out of a love for tradition, the streets become animated again in September for the Mostra del Mobile in Stile ed artigianale, an exhibition of period-style reproduction furniture and original artisanal furniture.

And finally, with an eye to not neglecting anything, November brings cheer to your taste buds with the not-to-be-missed festivities dedicated to the Tartufo Bianco, the famous white truffle.

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