Nestled right in the centre of Italy, with Tuscany to the north, Lazio to the south and west, and Le Marche to the east, Umbria is often referred to as the green heart of Italy. In this article we’ll look at 6 of the best places to visit in Umbria, helping you to shape your itinerary and make the most of your time in this beautiful and exciting region.
Often the first stop on the itinerary for many tourists to Umbria, Assisi is a stunning white city that looks like something out of mythology perched on a hill rising out of the plains. It truly has to be seen to be believed! It’s best-known for being the home of the patron saint of both Italy and animals – St Francis of Assisi.
The UNESCO World Heritage site, the Basilica di San Francesco was built in the 13th century and is still a pilgrimage site from people all over the world in the present day. In fact, one of the largest religious festivals in Italy takes place here every October where pilgrims from all over the world take part in processions dedicated to Saint Francis.
It’s not just St Francis and his basilica that make Assisi a worthwhile tourist destination though – walking through the narrow, cobbled streets is a lovely experience which will only be made better when you stumble across the beautifully preserved Roman Temple of Minerva that dates back to the 1st century. Finally, nearby Mount Subasio Regional Park is the perfect tonic to city life for nature lovers.
Located in south-eastern Umbria, Spoleto is one of the most fascinating art towns in the region. The medieval centre is beautifully reserved and there are even some Roman influences left over. The 12th century Romanesque Cathedral is undoubtedly the highlight of a visit to Spoleto, decorated with Byzantine Mosaic and filled with Renaissance frescoes. There’s plenty more to enjoy than just the cathedral though! Don’t miss the triple-arched Roman Bridge or the Roman amphitheatre.
After a day of exploring, head to a café in the historic centre to enjoy a slice of the local speciality cake: crescionda.
If you’re looking for a lively time, then the best time to visit Spoleto is from the end of June to mid-July, when the city transforms for the internationally-renowned Spoleto Festival. This festival takes place across several squares in the centre, with shows dedicated to opera, art, ballet, music, and movies.
After all that time in cities (albeit beautiful historic ones), it might be time to get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy one of Umbria’s natural attractions. If that’s the case, then it’s probably time to head to Lake Trasimeno!
Although it’s not as well-known as the northern lakes of Garda, Maggiore, and Como, Lake Trasimeno is the 4th largest lake in Italy by surface area and there’s plenty to do on its shores. And best of all, you can get to the lake by train in under 40 minutes from the capital Perugia.
This natural paradise is a great spot for birdwatching as its home to cormorants, kingfishers, and a whole host of other birds. If you’re looking for something that will pump a little more adrenaline, then try windsurfing on the lake!
There are so many things to do on Trasimeno including camping, hiking, and cycling – as well as visiting towns like Castiglione del Lago and Città della Pieve.
Orvieto is one of the most beautiful and historic hilltop towns in the entire region. Close to the border with Lazio, the city has plenty to see that will make travelling to the southernmost reaches of Umbria worth your while.
The Pozzo di San Patrizio, or St. Patrick’s Well is one of the more unusual attractions that you can enjoy – a 16th century well with a double helix design extending 72 metres down into the earth! The 72 arched windows in the well make for some great photos and the opportunity to play tricks with the light.
Not only is the well a must-see, but also the façade of the 14th century Orvieto Cathedral. The beauty of the Gothic exterior is matched by the Renaissance frescoes inside the San Brizio Chapel.
There are also Etruscan remainders and some World War II bomb shelters in a town that showcases a wide variety of times in history!
The capital of Umbria and also the truffle capital of Italy, Perugia is another historic city that no visit to Umbria is complete without seeing. This vibrant and exciting city is centred around one of Europe’s oldest universities, dating all the way back to the 14th century!
There are bars, cafes, and boutique shops aplenty meaning that there’s everything you could want for a chilled day in the city – as well as some fantastic views from its hilltop location. A walk around the city’s defensive walls is something you can’t miss either.
Perugia is also the home of Baci chocolates, and you can try these melt in the mouth bites with a tour of the Baci Perugina factory, which is in the more modern and industrial part of town.
Since 1973, Perugia has hosted one of the largest jazz festivals in the whole of Europe, so if that’s your kind of jam, head to the city in July. Maybe you can combine it with a trip to Spoleto for a festival filled trip! If chocolate is more your thing, the city hosts Europe’s biggest chocolate celebration every October – Eurochocolate!
Last but not least is Gubbio, located in north-eastern Umbria. The town is built into the steep slopes of Mount Ingino and boasts centuries of history and culture – with a 1st century Roman amphitheatre being one of the key attractions in this lovely and charming little town.
Take a walk through the winding, cobblestoned streets before stopping in the central Piazza Grande and enjoying the views across town and the façade of the 14th century Palazzo dei Consoli. The piazza is the perfect spot for a late lunch, a coffee, or a glass of wine.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Gubbio in May, you’ll get to enjoy Festa dei Ceri, one of Italy’s largest folklore festivals.