It can be said that Umbria is Italy’s green heart, the perfect place to escape big crowds, and one of the most picturesque regions of Italy, gracing tourists with an authentic Italian experience. In this central region you will be able to enjoy hills, mountains, valleys and historical towns, most of them characterized by a full Medieval flavour.
The imaginary land of Narnia from The Chronicles of Narnia fantasy books was actually inspired by Narni, a town in the south of Umbria. If you love nature, you might want to check places like Lake Trasimeno, Marmore waterfall, or the labyrinth-like grottos and tunnels in Orvieto. There are many festivals held in a variety of towns here, about religion, history, music and food, perfect for any type of tourist.
Like every Italian region, Umbria offers a variety of delicious foods, and among them the traditional products of Valnerina (black truffle, lentils, cheese) are particularly famous. Olive oil and wine, for example the white Orvieto, are definitely a must-try as well.
How to get to Umbria
Umbria has one international airport, Perugia San Francesco d’Assisi, located in the regional capital Perugia. By flight, you can get there from London, Rotterdam, Bruxelles, Malta and a few cities of South Italy.
In you travel by car, Perugia Airport is reachable by the E45-SS3 Bis (Ravenna-Cesena-Perugia-Terni) from the Ospedalicchio exit, and you can use the same motorway in the other direction to go to Perugia. The nearest railway stations to the airport are Perugia Fontivegge, Perugia Ponte San Giovanni and Bastia Umbra, all of which are reachable once you get to the city centre. The airport is served by 2 buses, the E007 and E422, which can both take you to the centre of Perugia in 30-60 minutes. If you decide to call a taxi, getting to Perugia will cost more or less €35.
For more information, check the official site of the airport: https://www.airport.umbria.it/en/home-en
Things to do in Umbria
The Etruscan city of Perugia is the regional capital of Umbria and a well-known cultural and artistic centre of Italy. The city is big on music, and it hosts many annual festivals and events, among which are the Music Fest Perugia for young talented musicians, and Umbria Jazz Festival, one of the biggest Italian jazz festivals.
If you are looking for art, history and/or architecture, you might want to check: the Basilica di San Pietro (open from Monday to Friday, ticket: €6); the Fontana Maggiore (Medieval fountain); the Palazzo dei Priori (which holds the National Gallery of Umbria, with a collection of Renaissance and Medieval paintings and sculptures that can be seen from Wednesday to Sunday for €8); the Etruscan Well, also known as Sorbello well; and the Etruscan Arch or Arch of Augustus. All of this beauty will be available to you by walking distance between 1 and 20 minutes, making Perugia the perfect site for the perfect cultural stroll.
Assisi is best known as the birthplace of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religious order here in 1208. All the Franciscan structures of Assisi are a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000 and, among others, you definitely want to see the beautiful Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Another important landmark is the Rocca Maggiore, a Medieval castle which dominated and acted as a fortification for the citadel and the valley for more than 800 years.
The view of the town from up there is breath taking. Among other things, Assisi is also famous for its Calendimaggio festival, which celebrates life and rebirth in spring and dates back to ancient peoples, such as the Celts (celebrating Beltane), Etruscans and Ligures. With a re-enactment of medieval and Renaissance life, the “Upper Part” and “Lower Part” of town, who belonged the rival families Fiumi and Nepis, play games during the festivities that, together with music, food and drink, enchant every Assisi person and tourist alike.
Andreas Lattmann, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Like many other Umbrian towns, Gubbio has a distinct Medieval flavour, with its dark grey stone, narrow streets and Gothic architecture. Another delightful piece of the town’s culture is represented by the festival of the Ceri (Candles), also known as St. Ubaldo Day, which dates back to 1160. The festival is focused around a race consisting of three teams of cerioli, carrying large symbolic “candles” topped by saints, including St. Ubald, St. George and Anthony the Great.
The teams run through throngs of cheering supporters from the main square in front of the Palazzo dei Consoli to the basilica of St. Ubaldo. It is one of the most renowned folklore manifestations in Italy, and has strong devotional, civic, and historical overtones.
Among other things, the Palazzo dei Consoli is definitely worth visiting, with its beautiful exterior and the Civic Museum in the interior. Of particular interest are the Iguvine Tablets, the longest and most important document for the Umbrian language.
Deblu68, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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Spoleto can be found at the head of a large, broad valley, surrounded by mountains, a very strategic position in which the original Umbri tribes flourished and constructed walls around in the 5th century BC, some of which are still visible today.
Among the many places you can visit, there are: the majestic Rocca Albornoziana fortress, which resisted many sieges and was used as a jail from 1800 until the late 1900s (now a museum); the Roman theatre, largely rebuilt and now occupied by ex-church of St. Agatha, now National Archaeological Museum; Ponte Sanguinario, a Roman bridge of the 1st century BC, close to which Christians were persecuted.
There is a famous festival held in Spoleto, called the Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of the Two Worlds), which revolves around music, theatre and dance performances and lasts three weeks. A parallel festival in held in Charleston, South Carolina, called Spoleto Festival USA.
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