Suspended between history and nature, nestled in the Valle Umbra, the city of Foligno enjoys international fame due to its geographical centrality in Italian territory since ancient times. Perched on the banks of the Topino River, this charming town in the province of Perugia has always been a hidden gem to be discovered at a leisurely pace, perhaps along an itinerary designed to explore and appreciate all the splendid nuances of the Umbrian land in a slow mode. Here are our travel tips to enjoy the best of the territory.
Foligno: what to see in the heart of Italy
Between sacred art, cultural and naturalistic routes, and a visit to the wineries of Montefalco, those who reach Foligno essentially arrive at the center of the Boot. Let's explore this charming town together through an overview dedicated to iconic places and must-visit stops during a city tour.
"The center of the world"
It may sound like a legend, but the story of Foligno's centrality is something tangible, still touchable today. In ancient times, the city was considered not only the heart of Italian territory but even of Europe and the Mediterranean. In the 19th century, this particular position was accurately calculated and fixed at the center of the Trivio, the exact point where all the main city arteries converged. In more recent times, precisely in the 1950s, the "center of the world" underwent a new measurement that placed it exactly in the middle of the billiards present inside the historic "Gran Caffè Sassovivo": a red skittle pointed it out for decades.
Today, with the Gran Caffè no longer there, the same red skittle still indicates the center, radiating from Foligno to the entire globe. Embedded in crystal and inserted into the floor of the store that now stands in place of the old coffee shop, this small object is a true time capsule. This fascinating story was also sealed by a resolution of the Foligno City Council in 2009, recognizing the Trivio as the "Lu centru de lu munnu" precisely the "Center of the world."
The city, characterized by a strong identity largely due to its position, has ancient origins: founded in the 10th century by the Umbri Fulginantes, it took the name of Fulginium under the Romans. Dominated by the Lombards and Franks, Foligno then passed under the control of the Duchy of Spoleto until 1198 when Pope Innocent III annexed it to the Papal States. The year 1255 marks the beginning of the communal period, then in 1439 the city returned to the rule of the Church, before becoming part of the Kingdom of Italy. In structure and characteristics, Foligno perfectly reflects the succession of eras it has traversed, tangible today in the palaces of the historic center and the suggestive locations that dot the surroundings. A short vacation or a weekend may be enough to discover them. Here are some suggestions to build your own itinerary dedicated to this splendid medieval town.
Piazza della Repubblica: the beating heart of Foligno
No itinerary dedicated to discovering Foligno can begin without visiting Piazza della Repubblica. This place, once known as Piazza Grande, is linked to the story of St. Francesco: right here, the Assisi Saint, divesting himself of material possessions, began his spiritual journey devoted to poverty.
For those arriving in Foligno, Piazza della Repubblica represents the frame enclosing the main historical buildings of the city: Palazzo del Podestà, the Cathedral, and Palazzo Trinci scenographically define the square and ideally guide visitors on a tour that intertwines local art and history.
Let's take a closer look.
Palazzo del Podestà
Reconstructed between 1546 and 1642, Palazzo del Podestà has medieval origins. The neoclassical facade, however, is the result of reconstruction in 1835, after the damage suffered by the building during the earthquake of 1832. Another earthquake made the town hall sadly famous: in 1997, the earthquake that struck Umbria and Marche caused the collapse of the tower of the palace, the famous "torrino." The beating heart of city life during the communal period, Palazzo del Podestà is linked to the printing of the first edition of Dante's Divine Comedy: it was on April 11, 1472, when Johannes Numeister, a student of Gutenberg, brought this important typographic activity to the palace, still celebrated today during the annual Dante Days: always scheduled between April and May, this event animates the city with lectures, readings, and educational activities for children.
The fate of this precious religious building is linked to seismic events that shook Umbria in 1997 and again in 2006 when it was declared completely unusable. Today, the Foligno Cathedral is a work of religious art to be admired only externally: its imposing portal, sculpted by masters Rodolfo and Binello, enhances the Umbrian Romanesque facade. The church is dedicated to San Feliciano: the patron saint of the city was martyred in 251 AD right in the area where the religious complex was built between 1113 and 1201.
This building, commissioned by Ugolino Trincio, was the residence of the Trinci, lords of the city from 1305 to 1539, and then passed under the control of the Papal governors. Converted to offices after the Unification of Italy, the rooms of the palace now host the rich city museum complex: here, in addition to an interesting visitor's path through richly decorated rooms, it is possible to appreciate the collections of the Civic Art Gallery and discover the history of the territory in the spaces of the Archaeological Museum and the Multimedia Museum of Tournaments, Jousts, and Games.
Tourists visiting Palazzo Trinci for the first time are fascinated by the geometric decorations of the splendid Gothic staircase leading to the first floor.
Foligno's sacred art
For enthusiasts of sacred art, Foligno reserves two valuable stops: the Church of Santa Maria Infraportas and the Oratory of the Nunziatella. The first represents one of the most interesting examples of Romanesque architecture in the area. Inside, you can admire a splendid Madonna of the Milk by Giovanni Corraduccio and a Madonna with Child and St. John the Evangelist signed by Ugolino di Gisberto. Also notable are the Crucifixions that embellish the niches along the right nave.
Located not far from the Cathedral, the Oratory of the Nunziatella is famous for the Annunciation fresco to which various miraculous events were attributed in 1489, making the building a long-time pilgrimage destination. The oratory is now highly appreciated by visitors for the Baptism of Jesus created by Perugino between 1497 and 1507.
A curiosity: the "Cosmic Magnet"
Among the peculiarities worth a visit during a stroll in the city, there is the "Cosmic Magnet" the surprising work of art created in 1988 by the Ancona artist Gino De Dominicis. It is a gigantic reproduction of the human skeleton that has a beak instead of a nose and is topped by a golden rod starting from the index finger of the right hand. Purchased by the Cassa di Risparmio of Foligno, the work has been the subject of a series of international exhibitions before finding its final location in the former church of Santissima Trinità.
The scent of Montefalco wines
There is no characteristic, flavor, or territorial identity that does not find expression in the scent of wine: in this, Foligno and its territory are no exception and have always placed one of their distinctive features in the wine production of Montefalco. To immerse yourself in this aromatic dimension with an ancient flavor, just reach the Tenuta di Còlpetrone. Here, in the heart of the DOCG Sagrantino Montefalco area, the winery of the Unipol Group represents one of the most important production realities, a stop that offers enthusiasts the opportunity to taste the precious wines produced from Sagrantino grapes, here declined in the labels "Memoira", "Sacer", "O' di Còlpetrone" and in the passito version. Completing the range are the Rosso di Montefalco DOC and the Grechetto Umbria IGT.
In addition to discovering all the secrets of production that the company has been carrying out since 1995, those who make a stop in the Còlpetrone cellar have the opportunity to come into contact with the authentic face of the territory through its flavors and traditions.
Art, history, and landscape: Foligno is a city where these elements find a magical centrality, in perfect coherence with the tradition that has considered the city "lu centru de lu munnu" since ancient times. Have you already planned your trip "to the center of the world"?