Foligno railway station forms part of the main line from Rome to Ancona, and is the junction for Perugia; it is thus an important rail centre, with repair and maintenance yards for the trains of central Italy, and was therefore subjected to severe Allied aerial bombing in World War II, responsible for its relatively modern aspect, although it retains some medieval monuments. Of its Roman past no significant trace remains, with the exception of the regular street plan of the centre. Other resources include sugar refineries and metallurgical, textile, building materials and paper and timber industries. After the war, the city's position in the plain and again its rail connections have led to a considerable suburban spread with the attendant problems of traffic and air pollution, as well as a severe encroachment on the Umbrian wetlands. Foligno is on an important interchange road junction in central Italy and 2 km (1 mi) away from the centre of the city there is the Foligno Airport.
Foligno seems to have been founded by Umbrians in the pre-Roman period (probably 8th century BC). It was conquered by the Romans after the Battle of Sentinum in 295 BC, receiving the name of Fulginiae from the ancient cult of the goddess Fulginia. In the classic Roman age the city acquired importance first as a municipium, later as the seat of a prefecture and finally as a Statio principalis of road traffic along the ancient Via Flaminia.
The city began to decay in the late Roman Empire years: after the fall of the latter, Fulginiae became part of the Duchy of Spoleto, and was sacked by the Saracens in 881 and ruined by Magyars in 915 and again in 924: its inhabitants therefore decided to move, settling around the nearby Civitas Sancti Feliciani (former Castrum Sancti Feliciani), a church strengthened by walls where the Bishop and martyr Feliciano was buried in the 3rd century AD and which was then already populated. The new seat had also attracted people from Forum Flaminii (now San Giovanni Profiamma), a neighbouring city and former bishopric that had been destroyed by the Lombards under Liutprand but remains a Latin Catholic titular see.
Foligno recovered and continued to grow, ultimately gaining the status of free city in 1165 thanks to emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Siding first with the Guelph party, after its occupation by Corrado Guiscardo, a captain of emperor, Frederick II it became Ghibelline as a fierce rival of the Guelph Perugia. It changed hands often during the wars of the 13th century, until 1305 when it was seized by the powerful Guelph family of the Trinci, acting as semi-independent deputies of the Holy See. During this period Foligno flourished and reached the height of its wealth and, especially in the 15th century, was a centre of art thanks to the family's patronage of arts (exemplified by the Palazzo Trinci). It controlled a large territory, including Assisi, Bevagna, Giano, Montefalco, Nocera and Spello.