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Todi, a classic hill town in Umbria

Todi illuminated by the sunset in midsummer
Todi catching the last rays of sun in midsummer, viewed from the appropriately named Il Belpoggio su Todi

Todi is a popular and beloved Umbrian town surrounded by beautiful countryside. We spent a week here six years ago in a villa to the west of town called Il Belpoggio su Todi and have been back many times since because there's a Cantina Sociale we like for white wine that is situated just outside town. It's called Tudernum, after the Roman name for Todi, and has two outstanding wines: an award winning Grechetto di Todi Superiore called 58 and a Trebbiano Spoletino just as unromantically called TS 396. Each one costs under 10 euros so for those staying for a week or more near Todi, make a note to go there.

A classic view of Todi from the Giardini Oberdan terrace
A classic view of Todi from the Giardini Oberdan terrace

Todi seems to be prime Umbrian villa country which perhaps explains why it always seems to attract more tourists than many other Umbrian towns that are equally if not more interesting like Gubbio, Trevi and Amelia. Perhaps because being centrally located it is easier to reach from Florence and Rome which makes it an obvious pick for the tour companies. Todi is also a classic hill town sitting at 1,300 feet of elevation and very much a focal point in the center of Umbria.

(As an aside, for 2025 Elena and I will be offering customized tours of Umbria, Abruzzo, the Maremma and perhaps also the Riviera di Levante for groups of 5-10 people who book together. Both of us will accompany each group tour and in all likelihood Todi will be on our Umbrian itinerary, but there will be other less obvious destinations. Anyone who might be interested should get in touch with us).

A spring shower and green countryside below Todi
A spring shower passing through the very green Umbrian countryside around Todi

Todi was one of the first hill towns to cater properly for visiting tourists when years ago they built a large car park at Porta Orvietana on the western approach to town along Viale di Montesanto and added an elevator to get people into town with a minimum of effort. The elevator takes you to panoramic terrace at Giardini Oberdan where you'll find great views of the town as well as of Monte Castello di Vibio and the countryside to the north-west.

Tempio di Santa Maria della Consolazione, Todi
Tempio di Santa Maria della Consolazione

But the best view in my opinion is of Todi itself from the road to Doglio west of town where for a few weeks around the end of June the setting sun throws its final rays on Todi turning it a bright golden color with all the countryside around it left in the shade (top photo).

On our most recent trip, after visiting the Tempio di Santa Maria della Consolazione, we parked against the massive walls on the southern side of Todi, entered through the ancient gate, Porta Fratta, and walked up 330 steps through the medieval part of town. Narrow, gloomy medieval streets may be fascinating but they are not conducive to modern living given their lack of open spaces and sunlight and their endless staircases that old people struggle with, so it's not surprising that so many apartments in these areas eventually become airbnb rental properties.

Chiesa di San Fortunato, Todi
Chiesa di San Fortunato

Walking up through town from Porta Fratta brings you out at the back of the Chiesa di San Fortunato, an early Christian church that was changed to a Gothic style in the 14th century and is a very recognizable Todi landmark.

For many people the highlight of a visit to Todi is Piazza del Popolo in the center of town where the very impressive buildings date back to the 13th century and underneath, long forgotten, is the old Roman forum. Todi was an ancient Etruscan town centuries before the Romans arrived and it went on to be an important medieval town long after the Romans had gone. In the 13th century its population even outnumbered Rome but so did several other Italian cities like Florence, Venice and Genoa because Rome had fallen a long way by then.

Piazza del Popolo, Todi
Palazzo del Capitano (left) and Palazzo dei Priori (right)

The high Middle Ages was also when Todi built 4 kilometres of protective walls (almost exactly the same length as Lucca's walls built much later) as well as the bastions and gates that survive today.

The Romanesque Gothic Cathedral of the Annunziata in Piazza del Popolo, Todi
The Romanesque Gothic Cathedral of the Annunziata in Piazza del Popolo

On July 11th 1849, a day after passing close by Casperia, General Garibaldi and his retreating army arrived in Todi. They had just lost Rome to the French troops of Napoleon III, sent to restore power to the Pope, and an additional 6,000 Spanish troops had recently landed in Italy, also at the request of the Church. Garibaldi was being pursued from the south and also needed to avoid his Austrian enemy to the north once he entered Tuscany. The First Italian War of Independence was effectively over and Garibaldi would have to escape Italy to return another day when there was more popular support for independence.

Statue of Garibaldi in Todi with a rainbow behind
With one in almost every Italian town, there must be more statues of Garibaldi than anyone else in the world

170 years after Garibaldi sought refuge in Todi, the local municipality decided that the anniversary provided the perfect occasion to restore and clean his statue just off the Piazza del Popolo; a rainbow after a passing spring shower provided a fitting backdrop for the great general on our visit to Todi.

Fonte Cesia in Corso Cavour, Todi
The Fonte Cesia in Corso Cavour known locally as La Fontana della Rua


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