Hail, green Umbria, and you, Clitumno, genius* of the pure spring!
I feel in my heart the ancient fatherland, and the Italic gods
alighting on my fevered brow.
So often human history is intrinsically intertwined with water—floods and drought, navigation and exploration, the rise and fall of nations—and a visit to the crystal-clear springs which form the source of the Clitunno river is a reminder of this symbiosis.
This idyllic spot has been the inspiration for writers (Virgil to Pliny, Carducci to Byron have all paid homage to these springs), artists, priests, and emperors for over 2,000 years. In Roman times the spring was considered sacred for the river god Clitumnus, and white oxen were raised here to serve as sacrifices (legend had it that bathing the animals in the river rendered their color immaculate).
A severe earthquake in the year 444 A.D. changed the river’s depth, leaving it no longer navigable, and muddied the area around the springs, but a careful 19th century landscaping project restored them to their former splendor. These shallow lagoons and weeping willow planted islands are best visited on a weekday late afternoon, when traffic is at a minimum on the nearby Via Flaminia and the bus tours have left. In the silence you can hear the voices of poets past.
* – guardian or tutelary god/divinity