With the arrival of the Etruscans, the indigenous Umbrian’s relinquished much of their broad territory and retreated to various central valleys and plains. The two peoples cooperated and, many centuries later, put up a united front against Rome. The Etruscans built many roads and cleared the swamps and marshlands. They produced exquisite art works and jewelry, and their tombs and “cities of the dead” (necropolis) have survived across the centuries. They established autonomous city states in Umbria, and their presence is still visible in many Umbrian cities, particularly Orvieto, Perugia, and Città della Pieve.
Eventually, the increasing might of Rome brought about a rapid decline of the Etruscan civilization, and at the battle of Sentino in 295 BC, all of Umbria fell under the control of Rome. Many Umbrian cities were converted to colonies, and in 90 BC, the Umbrian people were granted the full status of Roman citizenship. Roman rule brought to Umbria a long period of relative peace and increased cultural and economic prosperity.
The collapse of the Roman Empire left Umbria defenseless against the “Barbarian hordes.” The ensuing struggle between Barbarians and Byzantines left a power vacuum that Christianity began filling. By the 4th century, twenty-one distinct dioceses existed throughout Umbria, and the bishops became the cultural and spiritual figureheads of the region.
A brief period of calm preceded the arrival of the Longobards, who took possession of large parts of eastern Umbria and established the Duchy of Spoleto. The Duchy achieved a large degree of autonomy, and its prosperity ensured that it survived well beyond the end of Longobard rule.
With the fall of the empire of Charlemagne, Rome and the Church consolidated their position, formally declaring all of Umbria to be part of the Papal state. The region flourished, and there were increases in both prosperity and population. The continued history of Umbria was marked by internal conflicts and political sparring, alongside steady economic, artistic, and spiritual growth. The region was a center of learning, courtesy of numerous Benedictine and Franciscan monasteries, and the University of Perugia was established in 1308.
The twentieth century saw Umbria embracing the Industrial Revolution, with Todi being dubbed the “Manchester of Italy.” World War 2 left the area heavily damaged, and extensive urban reconstruction was undertaken. Today, Umbria has become an increasingly popular tourist destination.