Spoleto’s Rocca Albornoziana
One of the very first things to see in Spoleto is the Rocca Albornoziana (Albornoz Fortress) which overlooks a large part of the valley of Spoleto (also called Valle Umbra) from atop Sant’Elia Hill. History says that Pope Innocent VI ordered the building of the fortress, to restore the authority of the Church over the area. In fact, since 1309, the Pope and the Curia had resided in Avignon and, expecting the Pope’s return to Rome, the complex task of restoring order in the territories was entrusted to the Spanish cardinal Egidio Albornoz. Matteo Gattapone of Gubbio, an expert in military architecture, was appointed in 1362 to build the fortress as a defensive stronghold in the heart of the Papal State. The Cardinal, who died in 1367, was unable to see the completed work, but the fortress has always been closely linked to his name.
Lucrezia Borgia, the most fascinating woman of the Italian renaissance:
The fortress was designed as an instrument of control and defence of the territory, to restore order to the region. The governors of the city, often chosen from among the Pope’s closest relatives, resided in the fortress; among these, the best known is surely Lucrezia Borgia, secured in Spoleto in 1499 by her father, Pope Alexander VI (Lucrezia was also the sister of Cesare, the famous “Prince” addressed by Machiavelli), who did everything possible to reunite with her husband Alfonso of Aragon. As evidenced by the numerous papal coats of arms that decorate its entrances, towers and two courtyards, the Rocca was often visited in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by the Popes, who sometimes used it temporarily as a papal residence. In 1499 Nicholas V stayed for a few months in Spoleto to escape the plague of Rome.