While attending an Italian school for a week in Todi, I visited Spello as an afternoon trip organised by the school. The drive from Todi to Spello took about 45 minutes and was on good, straight roads, unlike the previous day’s windy trip to Orvieto. On the way to the small town, we could see Assisi in the distance, which we visited the following day.
Our guide was a young (mid-20s) Italian who is currently working several part time jobs to make a living, including chaperoning us students to Umbrian hilltowns. He was very personable, chatted with us throughout the trip and spoke slowly and clearly enough that we could all understand him speaking only Italian the whole trip!
Our visit started at the parking lot located just outside the town’s main entrance near Porta Consolare. We then weaved through town along the main road. About halfway along the main promenade, we came across some major road works which involved ripping up the road and digging deep into the ground. To allow for tourists and locals to be able to access the shops, there was a series of walk ways built to cross over and around the construction. Though I’m sure the works were necessary, it definitely took away from the ‘quaintness’ of the town. I spoke to one of the store owners (of CasAntonini – see below) and he said his business was down about 60% and the construction had been ongoing for over a year and they didn’t receive any compensation for their losses. This would never happen in Australia!
If you’re in Spello and you love food as much as I do, check out CasAntonini. The shop sells jams, honey, pasta and all sorts of yummy treats using ingredients grown locally at the family’s farm, which dates back to 1800s! The family member running the store on the day I visited, Luca Antonini, was very happy to talk about the family’s products (and in my I’m-trying-to-get better at Italian, Italian no less!). After tasting a half dozen jams, I couldn’t walk out of there without a couple for the road.
Since Spello is a rather small and quiet town, for me the town itself is the main attraction. Wandering around, there were beautiful courtyards, quaint houses and flowers everywhere. There are also several notable churches (there always are in these towns), though be careful of opening hours as they tend to be closed for a large part of the afternoon. The only church we went inside was Santa Maria Maggiore, and was worth arranging our trip to make sure we could go in when it was open.
We stopped for a gelato at a shop outside of a school, which was full of parents waiting for their kids to finish class. I was wondering why there were so many parents there and not working?! I’ll blame it on this time coinciding with the shut down of shops around town …
Of the actual sites, the Roman gates on the outside of the town (Torri di Properzio e Porta Venere – recently restored) were also interesting to see, and on this day were guarded by one of the town’s many cats! The views from this area were incredible.
After our guided tour we had some time to shop and then it was back in the car. On the way to Todi, our guide offered to stop at a large ceramic shop which is famous in the area. We also had a quick stop in a neighbouring town called Deruta which is famous for its ceramics. Since it was around 6pm when we visited, pretty much all the shops were closed, but it made for a nice stopover to break up the drive.
Arriving home, it was time for some homework, and an appetizer of cheese and wine!