Sassovivo – Spello

The Trail of the Paper Mills

Sassovivo – Spello is the fourth section of the Trails in the Olive Belt. This is called the “trail of the paper mills” because it leaves behind Sassovivo Abbey, enters the woods of the surrounding mountain and plunges down into Pale, which was once renowned all over Italy for its many paper mills powered by the Menotre river. This trail leaves the mountainous area behind to head back down in the plain, close to the outskirts of Foligno, and then leads into the wonderful hills of Spello.

The nature trail from Collepino to Spello that follows the route of a Roman aqueduct is particularly beautiful. The 5.61km-long waterworks was built in the Augustan age to convey drinking water within the city walls. It was fully operational up to the 1800s , the new aqueduct was inaugurated in 1902.


Start – This route starts from Sassovivo Abbey, though you can also start from the village of Pale (which can be reached after a steep descent down the mountain). The force of the high hill river Menotre, which feeds off the springs of the Favuella ditch, has left its mark on the manufacturing history of the valleys where it flows. The hydraulic energy obtained from the river has led to the construction of wool mills, mills and, above all, paper mills since the 1300s. In 1810, there were as many as 16 active paper mills between Pale and Belfiore that employed about 130 workers. Between 1911 and 1912, the paper mills were hit by the crisis and only 4 remained operational, with 71 workers. There are no more active factories in the valley now.

Intermediate point – Located on the Via Flaminia, a key road junction, Treggio Castle is thought to have very ancient origins, likely dating back to the Lombard age (568-774 AD). The town has been completely renovated and stands over the valley facing Foligno (about two kilometres away).

End – The town of Spello is part of the circuit of “Italy’s most beautiful towns” and is leaning against a hill 280 metres above sea level. This is a very ancient town. Founded by the Umbri, Spello was called Hispellum by the Romans and declared “Splendidissima Colonia Julia” by Emperor Augustus. It is one of Umbria’s best preserved and well-known towns. It was also a bishop’s see and has dozens of monuments and places of interest including villas, churches, museums and Roman ruins. One of its most famous local festivals, the infiorata, celebrates flower displays and is held on the feast of Corpus Christi.



22.812 metres

Elevation Gain

500 metres



Type of Route

25% tarmac, 75% unpaved


8h 00m

Route Pattern




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The power plant

Up until recently, the power of the Menotre river was also used to generate electricity. A number of power plants were built along the course of the river, the most important one being Altolina (1896), followed by the Rasiglia plant (1920), Serrone (1932) and Scopoli (1940).

The paper of Pale

Cotton paper, known as carta bambagina, was made by the small paper mills in Pale and involved very fine workmanship. In 1590, the Vatican’s librarian, Angelo Rocca, said the paper made in Pale was unequalled. Following the papal bull issued by Clement XIV in 1673, which granted the paper manufacturers of Belfiore the freedom to trade paper, the village saw a strong rise in production.

The Divine Comedy

According to tradition, the paper for the first printed edition of The Divine Comedy in 1472 was produced precisely by the paper mills in the area.

Washing clothes

Soap was once made at home also by using ash. To make their laundry whiter, people had a terracotta washtub at home, where they soaked their clothes in water and ash from the fireplace.


One of the typical local dishes is a cake with age-old origins: rocciata. It dates back to the first Umbri settlements. The Iguvine Tablets mention a very similar food used in holy rituals, the tensendo, the cake of god Hondo Cerfio, an ancient Umbrian deity, though the dish may also have Lombard origins.

The tin factory

In Scanzano in 1908, on the eve of the Great War, there was the idea to set up an ‘industrial’ plant to supply beef for the military. It was inaugurated in 1913. That year, the Military Commissioner commissioned the provision of 2000 quintals of fresh meat and 6000 of frozen meat. The facility is still in place, although it is no longer used to preserve meat.


From the mountain, the trail heads back down to the cities of Foligno and Spello. Villas, churches, forts, with plenty of nature and water as the main feature.

Collepino-Spello Aqueduct
COLLEPINO-SPELLO AQUEDUCT The aqueduct, measuring 5.61 km in length, drew water from the Canale or Molinaccio Spring, under the Collepino castle. The waterworks was builtRead more
Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Church of Santa Maria Assunta The history of the church is linked to the events of Sassovivo Abbey. Deeds of sale or agreements with thisRead more
Church of San Giovanni Profiamma
Church of San Giovanni Profiamma The church devoted to St. John the Baptist was built to replace the previous Roman basilica. It has a RomanesqueRead more
Maestà di Sant’Anna Chapel
Maestà di Sant’Anna Chapel Chapel erected in the mid 15th century at the intersection between Via Flaminia and the town road for Belfiore. At theRead more
Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Church of Santa Maria Assunta The first stone of the building was laid in 1683 and the structure of the church was completed in 1720,Read more
monastic retreats
The Menotre Waterfalls
THE MENOTRE WATERFALLS The whole of the Menotre river flows in the mountainous area around Foligno. The area of the waterfalls largely coincides with theRead more
Treggio Castle
TREGGIO CASTLE It is located near the important Flaminia road junction. Treggio Castle is thought to have very ancient origins, likely dating back to the Read more
Convent of San Girolamo
Convent of San Girolamo Built between 1472 and 1474 by the municipality of Spello following the preaching of the Observant friar Cherubino da Spoleto and Read more
paper mills
The Paper Mills of Pale
THE PAPER MILLS OF PALE In 1810, there were as many as 16 active paper mills between Pale and Belfiore that employed about 130 workers.  Read more
Palazzo degli Unti
Palazzo degli Unti In 1665, the Unti family purchased the wheat and oil mill of the Boncompagni-Ludovisi family. The aristocratic families of Foligno wanted to Read more


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