And so to Spello. After 1918 kilometres (1192 miles) we were delighted to reach our destination.
The picturesque town of Spello in Umbria lies on a hillside in the shadow of Monte Subasio, which rises to 1290 metres (4230 feet) and on the border of a national park. Subasio’s distinctive rose-coloured stone was used to build much of both nearby Assisi and Spello. Spello retains some traces of its Roman past, largely in its fortifications and gateways. Under Roman rule Spello was known as “Hispellum” and the town walls with its 6 gates were built in the Augustan era. After a chequered history of sackings by various great aristocratic families, Papal rule and the Napoleonic revolution, the province of Umbria was created in 1861 as part of the unification of Italy.
Spello: Town View
So why Spello? It fitted all of our criteria: an area we had not previously visited, a small town (population @7000), few tourists, a nice property with outside space and wifi. Somewhere where we could blend into local life, improve our (limited) Italian, taste the fine cuisine and wines, appreciate the unspoilt landscape and see its art, architecture and join in with its festivals.
Our apartment is in the bell tower of an ex-nunnery, built in the 13th century, and reputed to be the first convent constructed for the Order of the Poor Clares. St Clare followed the ideals of poverty and prayer exhibited by St Francis of Assisi.
The entrance to the ex-nunnery
We have been trying out our Italian at every opportunity. People have been really helpful and appreciative of our poor efforts. The people of Spello are – understandably – proud of their town, and are curious about new faces. Our hosts are the lovely Anja and Paolo who have been very helpful and informative. Wandering around town we have greeted everyone enthusiastically and have been met with friendly responses at every turn. We have introduced ourselves to the local artisan baker (oh, the rosemary bread….!) and to Luca in the family shop selling a cornucopia of local Italian foods. Luca has promised to help us with our italian in exchange for our helping him out with his English. We have been invited to join in with some of the Easter celebrations (more later) and are keen to do so.
Today we walked for 4 kilometres along the Roman aqueduct which brought water into Spello until it was bombed by the Allies in 1944. The remains of the aqueduct were buried for many years, but have been recently restored and now there is a beautiful walk between Spello and the next village.