The Upper Tiber Valley offers extraordinarily beautiful monuments and places to visit for those people enamoured with the splendours of the Italian Renaissance.
Located in the northern Upper Tiber Valley, San Giustino offers the greatest example of a renaissance fortress: the Bufalini Castle, which was built as a fortress in 1487 and later converted into a lordly mansion.
The local feudatory family transformed the defensive building into a splendid residential villa with the assistance of Giorgio Vasari. The castle still conserves its original frescos by Cristoforo Gherardi, called Il Doceno, its period furniture and furnishings and its Italian garden with a labyrinth.
Moving on to the town of Citerna, you can visit the 15th-century Palazzo Vitelli, where the mercenary leader Alessandro Vitelli died. In the early 1500s, the Vitelli family became curates of the town and embellished it with works of art and monuments, such as the Bontempelli Theatre located in a small but elegant town square. Another jewel is the 16th-century fireplace, called “of the lovers”, in the Palazzo Prosperi located in the town centre.
Moving on to the town of Città di Castello, the splendour of the Renaissance is immediately visible in the 16th-century fortified walls and the historic centre with its elegant architecture and details, such as the loggia (recessed balcony) of the Vitelli family.
Since the late 1400s, this powerful seigniorial family ruled the entire town and transformed it into a renaissance urban conglomerate. In particular, they constructed five magnificent buildings that bear their name: the Palazzo Vitelli alla Cannoniera (1521-1532), so called because it stood on the site of a cannon depot, which now houses the Civic Picture gallery; the Palazzo Vitelli a San Giacomo, which contains frescos by Parmigianino; the Palazzo all’Abbondanza (1490-1550) in Piazza Matteotti, the main square of Città di Castello; the Palazzo Vitelli a Sant’Egidio in Piazza Garibaldi, which was built by Paolo Vitelli in the mid 1500s and contains frescos by Cristoforo Gherardi and Parmigianino; and finally, the Palazzina Vitelli with its elegant loggia (recessed balcony) that was also frescoed by Gherardi. Thanks to this influential family, many famous artists worked in Città di Castello such as Luca Signorelli, Giorgio Vasari, Raphael, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Rosso Fiorentino. Even the Cathedral bears signs of renaissance splendour, especially the dome on which Pomarancio, Marco Benefial and Tommaso Maria Conca worked.
Other 16th-century buildings include: the Palazzo Albizzini, which now houses the Burri Collection; the Palazzo Bufalini (1572 and 1750); the Palazzo Bondi-Mancini; and the Palazzo del Podestà (People’s Palace) decorated with a baroque façade in 1686.
Not to be missed are the gothic Church of St. Mary the Greater and the 14th-century Church of St. Francis, the latter houses the Vitelli Chapel (1563) created by Giorgio Vasari.
Moving on to the town of Pietralunga, just 12 kilometres from its historic centre is the hamlet of Pieve de’ Saddi, the birthplace of Christianity in Italy. According to legend, St. Crescentino, who evangelised throughout the entire Upper Tiber Valley, was martyred there. The complex contains buildings and frescos from the 1400s and 1500s.
The Vitelli family also ruled in Montone until 1640 and brought the renaissance style to that town. Prior to that, the town’s most illustrious family was the Fortebracci, in particular Braccio, who was a famous soldier of fortune.
The gothic Church of St. Francis was enlarged in the 14th century and contains important works of renaissance art.
In the eastern Upper Tiber Valley, you can visit Monte Santa Maria Tiberina, a former stronghold of the Marquis del Monte. In the main square stands the Palazzo Boncompagni
Ludovisi that was a Bourbon family residence. Across from it is the lavish 15th-century Marquis palace with a 16th-century portal.
The town of Lisciano Niccone, in the valley of the Niccone River, also maintains many renaissance characteristics thanks to restorations carried out over the centuries.
The town of Umbertide boasts two 16th-century churches, the Church of St. Bernardino and the Church of St. Mary of the Reggia, which is based on an octagonal plan.
The Church of the Holy Cross, built circa 1651, contains a “Deposition from the Cross” by Luca Signorelli. Not far from the town, you must visit the 15th-century Castle of Civitella Ranieri and the 16th-century Castle of Serra Partucci, as both are built on a renaissance plan.