Official website: Trevi
The town was originally settled by Umbrian tribal people as early as 700 BC. By 200 BC the town was firmly under the control of the Romans. By the first century BC its status was raised to that of a "municipium" - enabling the townspeople to claim Roman citizenship. After the fall of Rome, possession of the town fell under the control of a succession of powers. It was firmly within the Papal States when, in 1860, it was absorbed into the Kingdom of Italy, which became the modern state of Italy.
The town, which enjoys a spectacular view of the surrounding Umbrian countryside, sits above the flood plain of the Clitunno River on the steep lower skirts of Mount Serano. Below the town, west toward the Via Flaminia, there is a "new town", Borgo Trevi, whose origins date only to the more or less peaceful 19th century. It is here where one finds the usual collection of modern offices, shops, housing and light industrial plants that sit beneath most of the ancient towns in Umbria.
The town was originally ensconced in Roman walls and fortifications erected during the 1st Century BC. Only a little of these walls remain, because in about 1264 a newer, larger circle of walls was built. When you visit Trevi today, you will pass through the outer walls to visit the centro storico - the town center - which sits on a flat plateau and contains the major medieval buildings which are of interest to today's travelers. Tourism and the production of a very high quality olive oil are today the mainstays of Trevi's economy.
The principal access to the old part of the town is from Piazza Garibaldi on the outside of the walls. You can find a parking lot for your car and spend your time enjoying Trevi on foot. Stroll down the via Roma through the vaulted "tunnel" between the Palazzo Comunale (city hall) and the adjacent campanile (bell tower) into the Piazza Mazzini. The Palazzo Comunale was built in the 14th century, but features a Renaissance style portico. The Palazzo Valenti, down via San Francesco, is a Renaissance flavored palace built in about 1545, that was the home of a family that held great power in the administration of the Papal States.
There are about twenty medieval churches within the comune's precincts, some within the walls, some down the slopes, and yet more on the plain toward the ancient via Flaminia. Most of them are in the Romanesque style but, many of them have been added onto, renovated and even rebuilt and so incorporate features from other periods, including the Gothic and Renaissance.
The most noteworthy are the Duomo Sant'Emiliano, which was built in the Romanesque style in the 12th century (expanded and renovated in the 14th and 19th centuries respecively) on the main piazza, and the Gothic style Chiesa San Francesco parts of which date back to 1288 or so, but was largely built between 1354 and 1358. This church has been de-sanctified and is now part of the town's main museum complex. Inside there is a wonderful painted crucifix done in the fashion of Giotto, but not by Giotto. In the nave on the left side there is a magnificent organ installed in 1509.
Look also for the Chiesa Madonna delle Lacrime, in which you will find a fresco on the Adoration of the Magi by Perugino, and the Chiesa San Martino, with paintings by Mezzastris.
The Museo San Francesco has artifacts dating back to the town's origins. The Pinacoteca Civica has a collection of good paintings, the most prized being an altarpiece done by Lo Spagna. There are also works by Niccolò di Liberatore, known as l‘Alunno; and Pinturicchio. There are two other museums of note: the Museo della Civiltà dell' Olivo, is devoted to olives and olive oil, a subject of immense importance to Trevi, and indeed to all of Umbria. Those travelers who enjoy contemporary art can visit the Flash Art Museum housed in the Palazzo Lucarini, another mansion built in the Renaissance style of the 15th century.
Following via Dogali on its downward slope you will eventually come to an ogival arch in the old Roman walls, the Arco di Mastaccio. Continuing between the medieval houses that line the street, you will come to the Porta del Cieco in the "new walls". Going left will take you back to Piazza Garibaldi. The drive - or preferably walk to the church and convent of San Martino takes you about 1 kilometer along the scenic Viale Ciufelli. The complex includes a small chapel in the piazzini in front of the church, inside of which are frescoes by Lo Spagna and Tiberio d'Assisi. Another chapel has a frescoe by Mezzastris.
There are two places below the old town, near the via Flaminia that attract travelers from far and wide. One is the ancient Roman townsite of Pietrarossa, and the other is the Springs at Clitunno.
Excavations and Pietrarossa has yielded significant finds, including ruins of Roman buildings, among them a complex of thermal baths which were apparently still in use during the time of Saint Francis, and, of course, a variety of artifacts. The town essentially disappeared as the Romans lost their grip on the territory, and the people were forced upward the current location of Trevi. Today, there is a small settlement on the location.
In ancient days the Springs of Clitunno and the river that flowed out of it were possessed of much more water than they are today. Roman Emperors, like Caligula, used to boat up the Tiber to the River Clitunno then to the springs, fed by cold water from the mountains. There was a small lake, beside which the Romans built a temple to worship and celebrate the god Jupiter. It is, to be truthful, a little over-touristed now, but today's tourists are just following the paths laid down over the centuries by throngs of travelers, including poets from Virgil to Lord Byron. Enter the area with the right spirit and you will still find it an enchanted and enchanting place.
Trevi is on the route between Foligno and Spoleto, the latter possessing many attractions that may make you want to give Trevi a pass. Don't. Try to adjust your plans so you can give each town its due. And as always, if you have a choice, plan your visits for the shoulder seasons to avoid the dense crowds of tourists that are drawn to the area in July and August.
by Vian Andrews December 20, 2005