Todi (Italian pronunciation: [ˈtɔːdi]) is a town and comune (municipality) of the province of Perugia (region of Umbria) in central Italy. It is perched on a tall two-crested hill overlooking the east bank of the river Tiber, commanding distant views in every direction.
In the 1990s, Richard S. Levine, a professor of Architecture at the University of Kentucky, described Todi as the model sustainable city, because of its scale and its ability to reinvent itself over time. After that, the Italian press reported on Todi as the world's most livable city.
Historical Todi was founded by the ancient Italic people of the Umbri, in the 8th-7th century BC, with the name of Tutere. The name means "border", the city being located on the frontier with the Etruscan dominions. It probably was still under the latters' influence when it was conquered by the Romans in 217 BC. According to Silius Italicus, it had a double line of walls that stopped Hannibal himself after his victory at Lake Trasimeno. In most Latin texts, the name of the town took the form Tuder. A notable find dating back to this age is an ancient bronze statue of Mars , which was excavated in 1835 in the nearby Montesanto; it is now at the Vatican Museum, but a copy is kept in the crypt of the Cathedral.
Christianity spread to Todi very early, through the efforts of St. Terentianus. Bishop St. Fortunatus became the patron saint of the city for his heroic defense of it during the Gothic siege. In Lombard times, Todi was part of the Duchy of Spoleto.
After the 12th century the city started to expand again: the government was held first by consuls, and then by podestà and a people's captain, some of whom achieved wide fame. In 1244 the new quarters, housing mainly the new artisan classes, were enclosed in a new circle of walls.
Benedetto Caetani, the latter Pope Boniface VIII, started his career as a Canon in the Cathedral of Todi in 1260. He never forgot his roots in Todi, later describing the city as "the dwelling place of my early youth," the city which "nourished me while still of tender years," and as a place where he "held lasting memories."
In 1290 the city had 40,000 inhabitants. Communal autonomy was lost in 1367 when the city was annexed to the Papal States: the local overlordship shifted among various families (the Tomacelli, the Malatesta, Braccio da Montone, Francesco Sforza and others). Although reduced to half of its former population, Todi lived a brief period of splendour under bishop Angelo Cesi, who rebuilt several edifices or added new ones, like the Cesia Fountain that still bears his name.
Todi is the birthplace of the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi, who is buried in a special crypt in the church of S. Fortunato.
Almost all Todi's main medieval monuments – the co-cathedral church (Duomo), the Palazzo del Capitano, the Palazzo del Priore and the Palazzo del Popolo – front on the main square (Piazza del Popolo) on the lower breast of the hill: the piazza is often used as a movie set. The whole landscape is sited over some huge ancient Roman cisterns, with more than 500 pits, which remained in use until 1925.
Todi Cathedral (11th century) is a Gothic edifice on the Lombard plan, said to be erected over an ancient Roman building, probably a temple dedicated to Apollo. The current church was almost totally rebuilt after a fire in 1190. The main feature of the squarish façade is the central great rose window, added in 1513. Of the same period is the wooden door of the portal, by Antonio Bencivenni from Mercatello, of which only the four upper panels remain today.
The church follows the plan of the Latin cross, with a nave and two aisles. Bonifacio VIII allegedly had a second aisle on one side, commonly known as "La navatina". The counter-façade is occupied by a giant fresco depicting the Universal Judgment by Ferraù Faenzone, called "Il Faenzone", a work commissioned by Cardinal Angelo Cesi, in which the influence, if nowhere near the genius, of Michelangelo is easily discerned. The choir includes the Gothic altar and a magnificent wooden choir-enclosure (1521) with two floors. One important work of art is the 13th-century Crucifixion of the Umbrian school.
The "People's Palace" is a Lombard-Gothic construction already existing in 1213, and is one of the most ancient communal palaces in Italy. It comprises two great halls: the "Sala Grande Inferiore", or "Sala delle Pietre", and the "Sala Grande Superiore", housing the city's Art Gallery.
The "Captain's Palace", in Italian Gothic style, was built around 1293 and named "New Communal Palace" to differentiate it from the former one. It is on two distinct levels: the first floor housed the Justice Hall (currently, seat of the Communal Council), with the Judges's offices in the lower. The latter is now occupied by the City Museum, with findings and remains of Todi's history. It includes a saddle used by Anita Garibaldi, the wife of Giuseppe Garibaldi. Some rooms are frescoed with histories of the city and portraits of its most illustrious men.
The Priors' Palace is located in the southern side of the Piazza, facing the Cathedral. It was begun in 1293 and later enlarged as seat of the podestà, priors and the Papal governors. The trapezoidal tower was originally lower, and had Guelph merlons. The façade includes a big bronze eagle by Giovanni di Giliaccio (1347).
Located at the left of the Cathedral, the Bishop's Palace was built in 1593 by Cardinal Angelo Cesi at his own expense. His crest is visible over the great portal, attributed to Vignola. The upper floors include a room frescoed by Ferraù Fenzoni and a gallery frescoed by Andrea Polinori in 1629.
Todi is surrounded by three more or less complete concentric walls: the outermost is medieval, the middle wall is Roman, and the innermost is recognizable as partly Etruscan. Sights include also a colossal Roman niched substructure of uncertain purpose (the Nicchioni), the slight ruins of a Roman amphitheatre, about a dozen smaller churches, and a few Renaissance or classical palazzi, among which the most important is one by Vignola, round out the sights. The neighbourhood of the city has many historical castles, fortresses and ancient churches including the famous Todi Castle in Umbria which was once used for the purpose of war has now been restored by the Santoro family and is used as a vacation spot for visitors.