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A tempest in Todi

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The June day when I visited the small Umbrian hill town of Todi was unusually cool and rainy. I did, briefly, work up a sweat climbing up, up, up from the parking lot to the main square, the Piazza del Popolo. I suspect this is a beautiful medieval piazza -- most of the time. Alas, the Sunday morning when I was there, the piazza shook with the sounds of a motorbike competition.

The entire square had been turned into a track and an unbelievable din was created by the roar of the motorbikes. The noise bounced off the three stunning buildings that all face the piazza -- the Palazzo del Capitano, the Palazzo del Priore and the Palazzo del Popolo -- as well as Todi's Duomo.

I have read that this piazza is one of the most picturesque in all of Italy and is often used as a movie set. I believe that, although I couldn't get a good sense of this from my one visit. Further, Todi has been dubbed the world's most livable city, based on a report in the early 1990 by Richard S. Levine, a professor of architecture at the University of Kentucky, who chose Todi as the model sustainable city, because of its scale and its ability to reinvent itself over time.

I didn't hang around the square long, but instead walked to the next hill and the church of San Fortunato, which is pictured above with reliefs from its unfinished facade. I found San Fortunato to be quite beautiful. Wikipedia reports that it was originally a 7th century Palaeo-Christian temple and two lion sculptures from its earliest days stand guard near the entrance portal.

I was intrigued by the reliefs showing humans, carved around the main doors.

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The crypt beneath San Fortunato houses a sepulchre containing the remains of St. Fortunatus of Todi and other saints, as well as the tomb of Jacopone da Todi, a Franciscan poet.

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Todi, which is incredibly hilly and steep, has many interesting sites but rain discouraged me from much exploring. I did get a chance to pop inside the beautifully domed Renaissance church of Santa Maria della Consolazione, which was begun in 1508.

The photo just above I borrowed from Bill Thayer's excellent Umbria website, because I loved the way it captures the steepled building of San Fortunato on the highest point of the hill while the domed building on the lower left is S. Maria della Consolazione.

Below are my closeups from the latter church.

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The interior is much less spectacular than the exterior, but the apse is surmounted by a square terrace with four eagles at the corners, from which the dome rises. The altar houses a reportedly miraculous image of the Madonna, which, according to tradition, was discovered by a worker during early construction.

Comments (10)

That brought back memories, I have been to that church twice.

What a wonderful spot to visit . . . now that you've gotten a taste of the town you'll need to go back and explore some more. Do the additional exploring sans raine and motorbikes, preferably!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, wonderful post and interesting to learn that Todi was dubbed the most liveable city. I had not heard of Todi before and enjoyed reading your descriptions and looking at your beautiful photos. You took some wonderful close up photos of the releif and of the exterior of the Santa Maria della Consolazione church.

Thank you so much for sharing more of your experiences (and photos) from your recent visit. Have a great evening.

Dorit:

Great pictures, and great memories. I have pictures of my son "riding" the lion statues right by that first picture you have. And we have fond memories of a fabulous pizza we ate at a place right near there. Enjoyed Todi very much.

The one day I have visited Todi it also rained! I also loved the church of San Fortunato. I did not get to go into the S. Maria della Consolazione. Glad to hear I did not miss too much. I would love to go back on a sunny day. Did you drive there?

sandrac:

Hi Leslie, hope they were good memories!

Jerry, it would be wonderful to see Todi again, when it's sunny, dry and without all the motorbikes!

Hi Kathy, thanks so much. I think I first heard of Todi from Girasoli's day trip there a few years ago. It sounded (and is) beautiful but I had to wait until I had a car to get there.

Dorit, those must be great photos -- there's something about those lions (like the lions in Rome's Piazza del Popolo) that make you want to play with them!

Girasoli, I did visit Todi when I had the rental car for a few days in June. I remembered the difficulties you had getting there a few years ago (I think you took the private train line from Perugia, then needed a bus to get up to town?)

Without a car, it would be a bit hard to get to S. Maria della Consolazione from the centre of town. At the very least, you'd need a good map and a lot of walking!!!

I've concluded that it's possible to see many great sites in Umbria without a car, but others can't be reached any other way. I think I'll be using the hybrid method (a car for a least a few days; public transit the rest of the time) from now on!

These are some beautiful churches. I really like the carvings, esp. the poignant crucifixion in the third photo. The bike race sounds loud!

What a fabulous place to visit! I've read many great things about Todi, have never been there yet. I am hoping to use it as a home base in our(hopefully soon) visit to explore Umbria.
I love your photos!

Kathryn:

I need to plan another trip to Italy!

sandrac:

Thanks, Annie. Some of the small carvings around the door were really lovely.

Candi, I hope you'll enjoy Todi. It is very lovely. A bit remote, though -- it might be a bit challenging to use as a base for Umbria (altho I have to confess I am biased towards Perugia, Bevagna, or Spoleto!)

Kathryn, I highly recommend it!

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