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Thursday 14 December 2017
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PERUGIA

Civitella d’Arna - At the Centre of the Valley of the Umbrians


Once they had consolidated their hold over Perugia, the Etruscans built two city-fortresses on the other side of the Tiber: Vettona (Bettona today) and Arna. Both these cities were in the lands that had been controlled by the Umbrians, between the river Tiber and the Apennines. The word “arno” in Etruscan stood for “the current of the river”. Arna was therefore a riverside city for the Etruscans.

With their customary knack for military strategy, the Etruscans had built a city that stood directly opposite Perugia and commanded a 360° view over the surrounding valleys. Today Civitella d’Arna offers exceptional views over Perugia on the one side, Assisi, Spello, Foligno and Trevi on the other side, and Bevagna and Montefalco further to the right. During the last war the Allies were delayed for a number of days here as they were moving up through Italy in 1944.

The castle of Civitella d’Arna that is still visible today was not erected until between the 11th and 13th century, when life began to flourish once more in the cities and countryside of Umbria. It is built on the ruins of Etruscan and Roman constructions at the top of the hill, more precisely on Roman cisterns that are still visible today in the vaulted underpassages of the castle.

The castle itself was used as a residence for a number of noble families including the Sozi, later the Azzi Vitelleschi and finally the Spinola. The entrance bastion still survives, under which there is still a 14th century archway in the vaulted entrance. Remains of windows dating from the 15th and 16th century are still visible within. Sections of Etruscan and Roman walls are discernible along the exterior.

The Castle Church
The church within the castle has suffered damage on more than one occasion. The existing opening is from the last century. The church did not become the village parish church until the 17th century. A number of important works are kept within, including a particularly fine 1492 banner attributed to Bartolomeo Caporali, depicting the Madonna and Child with St John and St Sebastian. There is also a painting on wood of the Virgin regarded to be one of the best works by the Perugian painter Domenico Bruschi, as well as mid-19th century Crucifix. After the chapel of the local cemetary suffered severe damages during the Second World War, a fine Deruta tile from the late 15th century depicting St Cristopher was brought here along with a detached fresco depicting the Madonna in the foreground with the nuns of the monastery of Santa Giuliana in Perugia behind. The work has been attributed to Giannicola di Paolo, a pupil of Perugino.

All that remains of the old cemetary chapel is a section of the apse with a marble slab on the exterior on which there is inscribed "Isa opera Bonos fecit A.D. MLXXX" (Bono made this in the Year of Our Lord 1080).

A Convent Over Roman Cisterns
Before the rise that leads up to the castle there is the large construction of the convent of the Padri Filippini, erected between the 17th and 18th century also above a number of Roman cisterns. The convent incorporated a previously existing 14th century chapel and was used as the summer retreat of the Padri Filippini of the Chiesa Nuova in Perugia. The convent chapel is decorated with 18th century stucco work and contains a canvas by Francesco Appiani depicting the Ecstasy of St Philip.


Events in Civitella d’Arna

Festa delle Campane (bell festival) and the Rassegna del Piatto Antico featuring forgotten dishes, now in its 3rd edition.

Civitas Arnae poyphonic choir
Founded just three years ago, this choir has already reached a surprisingly high standard thanks to the direction of Vladimiro Vagnetti.

Palio dei Carrettini
An exhilirating competition on carts between the town’s five ‘rioni’, or quarters.

Those in need of sustenance after their visit to Civitella should stop at the Ripa Relais Colle del Sole, which serves traditional revisited Umbrian cuisine. Via dell’Aeroporto Sant’Egidio Ripa (Pg) tel. (+39) 075.60.20.131.

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