Umbria is fast becoming a tourist destination for travelers wary of the crowds in Tuscany. Umbria is populated with many small medieval hill towns as well as the lively university town of Perugia, the capital of the region. Known as the “Green Heart of Italy” because of its green, rolling hills Umbria is one of the most pleasant places to visit in Italy. In Umbria you can enjoy both the exciting nightlife of Perugia and the quiet of an agritourism vacation.
Here are the best places to visit on your trip to Umbria:
Perugia – With a population of about 150,000 Perugia is the largest city in Umbria. Perugia was settled by the Etruscans in the 5th century which qualifies it as old. Today Perugia is young, cosmopolitan and artsy. It is home to both the University for Foreigners and the Umbria Jazz festival. Piazza IV Novembre is the heart and soul of Perugia. This large open piazza is where locals and tourists congregate at all hours of the day and night. The Piazza is home to both the impressive Palazzo dei Priori and the beautiful Fontana Maggiore. Perugia is also home to the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, considered the most important art museum in Umbria and a beautiful Duomo dedicated to San Lorenzo.
Gubbio – To the northeast of Perugia sits Gubbio one of the oldest towns in Umbria dating back to pre-Roman times. Located at the foot of Mount Ingino, many of Gubbio’s Roman sites are on the flat land below the slopes including the large, well preserved Roman Theater. When you enter the town of Gubbio you will be welcomed by a jumble of homes, many built in the 14th and 15th century by the towns wealthy merchants. The bronze Iguvine Tablets with inscriptions in ancient Umbrian, an extinct language, are located in Gubbio. The tablets are the work of the Attidian Brethren a group of twelve priests of Jupiter.
Orvieto – The medieval town of Orvieto sits on a plateau of tufa that rises up from the surrounding countryside. Like most cities and towns in Italy, Orvieto is home to a beautiful Duomo that dominates the town. The most unique thing about Orvieto is the underground manmade caves or cellars that lie below the town. The caves have been used over the centuries for storerooms and workshops. The caves have been opened to visitors and tours are available.
Assisi – The most obvious draw to Assisi is the famous Basilica di San Francesco, but the town has much to offer in addition to the church. There is the Piazza del Comune, once the site of a Roman forum which has been partially excavated. Assisi is a great walking town so leave your car in the large car park (Largo Properzio) located just outside the walls of the city. Visit Rocca Maggiore, a 14th century fortress that dominates the city and offers beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and the city of Perugia.
Todi – One of the prettiest towns in Umbria, Todi is a medieval town that has remained tranquil and quiet in spite of its gaining popularity among tourists. The center of the city for centuries has been the Piazza del Popolo. This beautiful square contains the Duomo, Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo del Capitano and Palazzo dei Priori.
Spoleto – The Festival of Two Worlds (Festival dei Due Mondi), the international music festival put Spoleto on the map, but Spoleto has more to offer than the festival. This beautiful and peaceful hill town has a Duomo, Roman ruins, an art museum, the Ponte Sanguinario ( a Roman bridge), the Rocca d’Albornoz (fortress) and the Ponte delle Torri. The impressive ten-arch bridge/aqueduct Ponte delle Torri spans the Tessino River and is worth a visit.
Here is a beautiful YouTube video of Umbria, Italy: