What it is and where it is
In order to grasp the details of Todi's rich historic center, still well defended and bordered by monumental travertine walls with their adjoining medieval gates, you will be pleasantly compelled to move through space and time at the pace of a walk. Perched on the hillside guarding the lower Tiber plain, the city was in fact called, by early 20th-century travelers, the most "ascending" in Umbria because of the distinctive spire of the cathedral's bell tower that was its architectural apex.
Why it's special
Todi's historic center is a space in which the winding and sinuous streets, narrow spaces and stairways that connect the unevenness of the city's districts reign, giving those who walk through them the feeling of being lost in a labyrinth. Instead of boxwood hedges, however, here we find the ancient walls, stone houses and streets, and then splendid buildings from different eras, including the Fountains of the Rua and the Scannabecco (13th century), the Churches of San Filippo (16th century), San Nicolò de Criptis (11th century) and Santa Prassede (14th century) to the Municipal Theater, which takes us all the way back to the late 19th century.
Not to be missed
The beating heart of Todi, is definitely Piazza del Popolo, framed by the splendid Duomo on the northern side and the Palazzi Comunali on the remaining sides: Palazzo del Capitano and Palazzo del Popolo, which house the Museo Pinacoteca Comunale, and the Palazzo dei Priori. Below ground level in the square, an intricate system of tunnels, cisterns and wells from different eras, commonly referred to as "underground Todi," stretches for about five kilometers and contributes to the city's unique character.
A bit of history
Archaeologists have recognized the nucleus of an original settlement, dating from the 8th-6th centuries B.C., inhabited by a people of farmers and shepherds who were subjugated by the Etruscans. In 89 BC the village was under Roman rule, which was a period of expansion of the city. In the Middle Ages Todi did not lose its momentum, and under the rule of the Lombards extended its authority over the surrounding territories. It was in 1236 that the town gave birth to Fra Jacopone da Todi, a cantor of the Passion of Christ and author of some of the most famous Laudi in Italian vernacular literature.
On the wall of the Palazzo dei Priori stands the very famous bronze eagle, the symbol of the city, created by Giovanni di Gigliaccio in 1339. This symbol derives from a legend about the founding of Todi. According to tradition, the city was founded in 2707 B.C. by the Veii-Umbri tribe. It is said that while the men were resting after beginning construction work on the banks of the Tiber, a mischievous eagle carried away a tablecloth, dropping it on the top of the hill behind them. The sign was received as a divine message, and the city was built on the spot indicated.