The legend of the Bella Pupa of Sellano

The legend of the Bella Pupa of Sellano

In the green heart of Italy, Umbria, Sellano is known for its splendid natural scenery that is still unspoilt and rural, for its high-purity mineral waters and for the highest Tibetan bridge in Europe (to be inaugurated near Easter 2024). But not only that, for many generations a romantic legend has also been handed down, that of the Bella Pupa.

In the Italian language, 'pupa' identifies the iconographic beauty of a doll, that of a beautiful little girl or young girl whose beauty everyone would like to win. By the end of the medieval period, various 'aesthetic' trends were beginning to emerge among the noble courts of the time. Reflections on beauty, also in its material and bodily meaning, not just spiritual, were developing. This is precisely where the tale of the Pupa comes from. A love story faded by time, as is often the case with narratives handed down orally, but which is still told by some local elderly people to their descendants.

«Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare
la donna mia, quand'ella altrui saluta,
ch'ogne lingua devèn, tremando, muta,
e li occhi no l'ardiscon di guardare.

Ella si va, sentendosi laudare,
benignamente d'umiltà vestuta,
e par che sia una cosa venuta
da cielo in terra a miracol mostrare.

Mostrasi sì piacente a chi la mira
che dà per li occhi una dolcezza al core,
che 'ntender no la può chi no la prova;

e par che de la sua labbia si mova
un spirito soave pien d'amore,
che va dicendo a l'anima: .»

- Dante Alighieri - 

“So kind and so honest she looks

my woman, when she greets others,

that every tongue becomes, shaking, mute,

and eyes dare not look at her.


She goes, hearing people praise her,

benignly dressed in humility,

and it seems she's something that's come

from the sky to the Earth to show a miracle.


She looks so attractive to those who behold her

she gives through the eyes a sweet taste to the heart,

which can't be understood by one who hasn't experienced it;


and it seems her face releases

a pleasing spirit full of love,

which goes and tells the soul: Sigh.”


The legend is set in Pupaggi, a small hamlet in the municipality of Sellano, not far from Terni (about 60 km), home of St Valentine. This is a hamlet that definitely deserves a  visit along with many others in the municipality, including Piaggia, which we will discuss in a future article.

In the Pupaggi  castle, lived a young and beautiful maiden, known to all as the 'bella pupa'. She was so beautiful that the local nobles vied for her, to the point of engaging in bloody battles in order to win her as their bride. 

We do not know exactly how this contention came to an end, but one thing is certain, following the outbreak of these terrible battles, the inhabitants of the village decided to hide the true love of the Pupa inside the castle, in its highest part.

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Pupaggi, the history of a castle without fortifications

Back in the Middle Ages, several fortifications stood on the mountains around Spoleto, including the castle of Pupaggi. The castle was located near the Via della Spina, the main passage and trade route before the construction of the Via Flaminia. In later centuries, particularly from the 11th century onwards, the urban settlement developed around the castle and Pupaggi became a small village. Even today, it is still possible to admire the characteristic basements of the period, made of stone and with unsquared stone vaults. Due to its historical and architectural value, Pupaggi is under the protection of the Ministry of Cultural and Historical Heritage.

The houses have developed around a large central square that houses the public washhouse, the Church of San Sebastiano and a building with the famous tower that is at the centre of the love story.
A romantic legend, reminiscent of the fairy tale of Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm and intertwined with other stories linked to the castle of Pupaggi and its small village. A mysterious and somewhat romantic place, whose name is linked to the memory of the Pupa and her love.

Pupaggi and his Agritourism

If you fancy sleeping and eating in the castle, you should know that delightful flats and rooms have been created inside the ancient building. Finely restored rooms that retain traces of their past, such as wooden beams, terracotta floors, ancient faces and stone elements. Agriturismo Castello di Pupaggi also offers guests many shared  areas, such as the outdoor courtyard with the elegant swimming pool where one can cool off on hot days and enjoy moments of pure relaxation. There is also a delightful farm, which children can enjoy visiting.

One of the farmhouse's excellent facilities is the restaurant, where you can enjoy real quality cuisine. Housed in the old dungeons of the castle, with rooms dating back to the 13th century that have been skilfully restored, the restaurant offers traditional dishes and imaginative reworkings prepared with the farm's excellent raw materials, preserving all the genuine flavour of the Umbrian land.

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Truffle hunting and Norcineria courses

The Valnerina is a unique natural setting. Here you can enjoy a thousand outdoor adventures, surrounded only by the enchanting beauty of nature. The thrill of launching yourself in an inflatable boat down the Nera river, climbing the rocky mountains of the Apennines or the surprising treks through the woods of holm oaks and beeches, perhaps in search of Umbria's hidden treasures.

Truffle hunting is an experience not to be missed! The Agriturismo Castello di Pupaggi organises courses in which an expert truffle hunter guides you through the woods, revealing its secrets. You cannot even imagine the thrill of digging the earth with a spade and suddenly smelling the unmistakable scent of truffles. On your return, of course, you cannot miss a tasting of dishes based on this symbolic product of the territory. A delicacy for the palate!

The pork butchery (norcineria) courses offered by Castello di Pupaggi are another of those unique experiences to be had in the Valnerina. Taking an active part in pork processing, learning the techniques and knowledge of this ancient craft, from selection to mincing the meat, from seasoning the mixture to bagging, is extremely fascinating. And to finish, a taste of some of the best sausages, salami, coppe and pancetta in the world will leave you with an indelible memory of the taste of this territory's tradition. 

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Credits: pictures by Agriturismo Castello di Pupaggi.

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