I really enjoyed the small Umbrian town of Bevagna where I stayed for 3 nights last month. My hotel, the Palazzo Brunamonti, was completely charming and a steal at just 60 euro per night. Bevagna boasts several good restaurants, several lovely churches, extraordinary Roman mosaics (see below,) an interesting little waterfront park and an excellent bakery. Even the free parking outside the town walls (which I was occasionally forced to use due to the size of my big-ass BMW) proved easy and convenient since nothing is that far away from anything else inside the walls!
Besides all of that, Bevagna is extremely well-located. It's several kilometres from Assisi, Spello, Montefalco -- and very close Mary T.'s lovely agriturismo Genius Loci. In fact, it was when I first visited Mary that I really could see, quite literally, from her terrace just how close all of these famous Umbrian hill towns are to one another. And also see her lovely lavender and her family's grape vines.
Bevagna is one of the rare Umbrian towns that is actually quite flat. I thought that would make it easier to drive in and out, during the brief period when I had the rental car -- a large BMW station wagon (for one person? What was AutoEurope thinking?) This caused a bit of a mismatch between the width of the rental car and the narrowness of Bevagna streets.
My hotel, the delightful Brunamonti, was on the town's main street. Before I arrived, I worried that it might be a busy, noisy thoroughfare. It wasn't; instead, Corso G. Matteoti was bustling with pedestrian traffic, which was very pleasant. However, it was also more narrow than I am tall. So when I drove down main street, pedestrians were forced to flatten themselves against the walls of the medieval buildings all along the route. Despite that, there were bigger cars than mine inching along the streets, so I didn't feel like a total cretin.
Bevagna has numerous interesting, medieval churches to see but their art is a bit less accessible -- I wasn't ever able to gain entry to either San Michele, or San Silvestro, two great Romanesque churches that face off across the main Piazza Silvestri. Both were heavily damaged in the 1997 earthquakes and I don't believe they have yet re-opened. (This helps to explain the crane you might have noticed in the top photo of the piazza!)
Here are a few reliefs from the facade of San Michele:
This outdoor fresco is from the piazza side of San Domenico, which I did enter and found several interesting fresco fragments in its slightly sinister gothic, dark interior:
Although Bevagna was originally an Etruscan settlement, Roman roots run deep in this town which was once a quite important administrative centre on the Via Flaminia. Known then as Mevania, the Roman town had a theatre, several temples, baths with mosaics, and an amphitheatre, and remains of these are accessible.
I was especially impressed by the mosaics, which are well preserved and readily viewed with a guide from the local museum (spitting distance from my hotel.) However, photos are not allowed so I borrowed the mosaic photo at the top of this entry from Bill Thayer.