Umbria may be a landlocked region, but it makes up for its lack of coastline with serene landscapes in the countryside that include lush rolling hills, sparkling lakes, bright yellow fields of sunflowers, vineyards, medieval hilltop towns, and lots of history and art to explore. The capital city of Perugia not only offers plenty of its own, but it can be a great base for exploring other cities and villages throughout Umbria. It’s also well-connected by train to other major cities like Rome and Florence which can easily be reached in about two hours.
But there are numerous other places to consider depending on your interests. You might want to stay in one of the enchanting hilltop towns like Orvieto or perhaps a small lakeside city such as Castiglione del Lago. No matter what type of trip you want to enjoy, these Umbrian towns are sure to provide a memorable getaway.
A lively university city and Umbria’s capital, Perugia is an intriguing destination with a beautifully preserved Old Town. Most of its attractions are located atop a hill in the historical center, so it’s basically a large hilltop town with 3,000 years of history jam-packed into a relatively small space. It’s easily walkable and well-located, making it easy to reach most of the towns throughout Umbria with direct connections to Rome and Florence by train.
The only downside is that if you plan to have a car, the streets in the central area are confusing and parking is very challenging, which makes it best to leave your vehicle in a parking lot below. Otherwise, you’ll be steps from numerous attractions as the city is an important center of medieval art which can be viewed at places like the National Gallery of Umbria which features works painted by artists from the Umbrian school, including Diamante, Perugino, and Raphael.
Assisi is one of the most popular destinations in Umbria, primarily for its connection to Saint Francis. It’s the saint’s birthplace and is widely regarded as one of the most important pilgrimage and religious sites in Italy. The small medieval village sits on a hill at the foot of Mount Subasio and was founded by the Romans.
Its ancient walls are still well-preserved and there’s a Roman forum, theater, and historic temple as well. But the highlight here is the churches, including the UNESCO-listed Basilica of San Francesco which holds some of the world’s most beautiful medieval frescoes. It’s also home to one of Italy’s greatest relics, the body of Saint Francis, the most famous penitent saint in Italy. The Basilica of Saint Clare which contains the remains of Saint Clare of Assisi, a follower of Saint Francis, is here too. If you stay in the historic center, you’ll be just steps away from both.
One of Umbria’s most picturesque and interesting cities, Orvieto sits along the border of Tuscany atop a volcanic butte overlooking the region’s scenic plains. There are numerous museums and cathedrals to explore, including the 14th -century Gothic Duomo, renowned for its vibrant façade and chapel with gorgeous frescoes created by Renaissance painter Luca Signorelli. Nearby is a fine Etruscan museum and a fantastic gelato shop for a sweet treat afterward.
Beneath the city is an intriguing network of Etruscan-era grottos and tunnels that have had various purposes, including being used as wine storage and World War II bomb shelters. From the bell tower, Torre del Moro, one can enjoy an awe-inspiring view of the town and countryside. The city can be easily explored on foot, and there are frequent buses that run through as well. As Orvieto is best explored in the early morning hours or around sunset, you’ll want to spend at least one night here.
Castiglione del Lago is an ideal town for a lake getaway, located in the southwest corner of Lake Trasimeno, Italy’s fourth-largest lake, known for its stunning blue color that contrasts magnificently against the lush green landscape and contains three islands that can be reached by boat for enjoying nature, history, and more. The town of Castiglione del Lago itself has a well-preserved historic center with a fabulous view of the lake along with multiple attractions, making it a great base.
Visitors can walk around the lake from here, explore hiking trails, or simply enjoy the views from within the town walls. There’s also an important historical site, the 13th -century Lion Fortress with an imposing tower that sits high above the town. Maggiore is the easiest island to reach from here. It’s the only inhabited island in the lake and offers its own mind-blowing history with lovely churches and the tradition of lacemaking is still practiced here.
If you want to do a lot of hiking, walking, or biking, consider staying in Preci as it sits right next to Monti Sibillini National Park which covers a substantial mountainous area with beautiful valleys, rivers, scenic gorges, and forests. There are many well-marked paths that will allow you to easily explore on foot or two wheels while watching for some 50 different mammal species from the Apennine deer to the chamois, European wildcat, and snow voles.
Birders will love it too, with golden eagles often seen soaring through the skies. The town of Preci itself was founded in the late 5 th century, developed within a fortress. It boasts an alluring historic center with the main square home to a 14 th century castle along with multiple other landmarks. You’ll find many agriturismos (farm stays) throughout the surrounding area providing memorable stays and accommodation is even available in the St. Eutizio monastery.
The capital city of Umbria, Perugia is a picturesque Etruscan town with a medieval atmosphere and the largest fortress in all of Italy, Rocca Paolina. While there is a sprawl of suburban and industrial areas, the historical center is one of the best in Italy and a great place for tourists to stay. Starting from the Palazzo dei Priori which is home to Umbria’s main art museum (La Galleria Nazionale dell’ Umbria) and the town hall.
Cobblestone streets spread from there while many attractions can be seen throughout, including Etruscan ruins like the 3 rd century Sorbello Well, named for the noble family which still owns the mansion that includes the structure, open to the public as a museum. Notable sites within easy reach include the Church of Sant’Angelo and the Monastery of Sant’Agnese. Perugia is also widely regarded as Italy’s chocolate capital, home to the world-famous creators of the legendary Baci chocolate kisses, Perugina.
Orvieto is dramatically perched atop massive tuf cliffs, with the walled hilltop town one of the most magnificent in the region, boasting a 3,000-year-old history. It’s split into two sections, with the new town at the base and the historic center atop the hill, connected by a scenic cable car ride as well as elevators and escalators. Ancient monuments are dotted throughout and there’s a network of underground passageways that date back to the Middle Ages.
One can admire the spectacular Gothic cathedral with gorgeous frescoes and a mosaic adorned façade, explore the Albornoz Fortress, and visit two archaeological museums displaying intriguing ancient artifacts. It's an authentic, unassuming town and wonderfully traffic-free as well as hosting a wide variety of shopping and dining experiences. Browse local handcrafted goods along Via del Duomo and enjoy touring nearby vineyards. The historical Decugnano dei Barbi winery is just outside of town, with winemaking here dating back to 1212 AD.
Overlooking the clear blue waters of Lake Trasimeno, Castiglione del Lago is an ideal base for a lakeside getaway, but it offers much more, with stunning natural, historical, and architectural beauty along with mouthwatering cuisine. It’s the largest of the hilltop towns along the lake, providing a perfect combination of water and beach activities. Hiking, biking, and horseback riding scenic trails are available, and on and around the lake, kite surfing, canoeing, and beach volleyball are all popular. Many like to rent a chic Vespa to explore the area in Italian style.
It’s also possible to visit one of the lake’s three islands by boat, with Maggiore the closest and only inhabited island. It’s home to attractions like the Chapel of San Francesco which contains the saint’s bed, and Guglielmi Castle. Don’t miss sampling the signature dish, Tegamaccio, which features all types of fish from the lake combined with an aromatic tomato broth.
The village of Preci is a gateway to Mount Sibillini National Park, one of Central Italy’s most beautiful protected natural areas. It’s ideal for tourists who are planning a walking, hiking, or biking trip with access to this huge, mountainous area with lush valleys, forests, scenic gorges, and rushing rivers. The wildlife watching opportunities are abundant with everything from golden eagles to the European wildcat, and Apennine deer.
The medieval village itself developed within a fortress and dated back to the late 5 th century. Its crown jewel is the Benedictine Abbey of Sant’Eutizio which was built over the 10 th through 14 th centuries. It became a flourishing center of the Preci school of surgery, with the tradition of the monks’ operating techniques passed on to the village residents before spreading all the way to Rome. There are some unique accommodation options here that include the St. Eutizio monastery and many agriturismos, or farm stays.
A city of culture and the arts, Spoleto is surrounded by hills covered with vineyards and olive groves while providing a tranquil experience with crowds and lines rare, even at popular sites like Roman ruins. It’s mostly known for its famous Festival of the Two Worlds, Festival dei Due Mondi, hosted annually for several weeks around late June through mid-July, focused on music, theater, and opera. If you come outside of that period, you might find you have some areas of town practically all to yourself.
It’s divided into the medieval hilltop Upper Town, home to most of the key galleries and museums as well as the Duomo, and the predominantly modern Lower Town, which also includes a number of Roman ruins and Romanesque churches. The 12 th – century Spoleto Cathedral displays a cycle of frescoes by medieval artist Filippo Lippi while the National Archaeological Museum features items from the Bronze Age and Roman era, including a restored Roman theater.
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