It is not difficult to be fascinated by the beauty of Umbria, a small region but full of treasures, art and history. Immersed in a genuine and uncontaminated nature, Umbria is ideal for those who want to spend a regenerating holiday.
If you are thinking of spending your next holidays in Umbria, maybe renting a holiday home, continue reading this article. We want to show you the main beauties that await you, give you suggestions on what you can do and what to see in Umbria. There are some unmissable itineraries that you cannot miss. Are you ready? Umbria is waiting for you!
Umbertide: discovering lesser-known Umbria
While Assisi, Perugia and Gubbio are well-known locations that are already widely appreciated by tourists, there are less popular towns that are, at the same time, little gems of unique beauty. Let’s start our itinerary from one of these: Umbertide.
This ancient village lies in the Upper Tiber Valley and is bathed by the waters of the Tiber. Descending from the mountains of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, where it springs, it heads towards Rome: in Umbria it still retains the characteristics of a small hill river.
Because of its strategic position, Umbertide has been inhabited since ancient times. It even seems that the original settlement was founded by the Umbrians, predating even the Etruscans. The fact is that the Romans made it one of their fortresses and since then the town has remained a fundamental junction. Unfortunately, this has also cost it a succession of sieges and sackings, until the dramatic bombing during the Second World War.
Umbertide, however, has managed to recover and today offers tourists spectacular views of peace and nature, with the Tiber River that flows calmly through it, the high walls that still defend the historic centre and the beautiful Rocca, a medieval fortress.
What to see in Umbertide
There is no shortage of things to see in Umbria, but, if you want some advice, before immersing yourself in art, culture and gastronomy, take a walk in the cool of the tree-lined streets, beneath the walls of Umbertide. Here you can still breathe in the peace typical of medieval villages, where not even the frenzy of modern life seems to have affected the serenity.
Despite this, it is a modern and well-organised town, where there is no lack of entertainment, comfort and services. In the Rocca di Umbertide you can admire a permanent exhibition of contemporary art, while around the city you can visit the beautiful church of San Francesco, of fourteenth-century origin, a perfect example of Gothic style.
In the Church-Museum of Santa Croce, in Baroque style, dating back to the 16th century, are preserved two masterpieces of art: the panel of the Deposition from the Cross by Signorelli and the Madonna and Child by Pomarancio. Also not to be missed is the church of Santa Maria, with frescoes by Pinturicchio.
Just outside the city, the Collegiate Church of S. Maria Reggia awaits you, octagonal on the outside with a diameter of 22 metres and a height of 40 metres, while inside it is circular.
What to eat in Umbertide
If you decide to visit Umbertide, the other thing you can’t miss is the cuisine. In addition to a vast assortment of typical Umbrian products, including salami, cheeses, extra virgin olive oil with a full-bodied and intoxicating flavour, you can taste the typical Ambrecciata di Umbertide, a legume soup to be served hot, to which roast chestnuts can be added in autumn.
Let’s discover other spectacular things to see in Umbria. All destinations are easily accessible by car, and are perfect for day trips, so you can return in the evening to the peace of your holiday home in Umbria.
Assisi: the most important centre of faith and spirituality
Assisi is perhaps one of the most difficult cities to describe in words. Its atmosphere must be ‘breathed in’. Get up close and enjoy the view from afar. It lies gently on the slopes of Mount Subasio, which protects it with its rounded peak from above. The Rocca Maggiore of Assisi towers over the top of the hill, while the complex of the Basilica of San Francesco delineates the boundaries of the village, as if to raise it to the heavens.
Everything here revolves around the cult of St Francis and St Clare. It is thanks to the mystical figure of these characters, founders of the sacred Franciscan order, that Assisi has acquired all its importance.
A curiosity: you may not know that even the great Los Angeles owes its name to this small town. Los Angeles was founded by a group of Franciscan friars and was originally called ‘El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porziuncula de Assisi’, which translated means ‘the People of Our Lady the Queen of Angels above the Portiuncula of Assisi’.
The original church of the Porziuncola is now incorporated within the majestic Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, in the village of the same name at the foot of Assisi.
What to see in Assisi
What to see in Assisi? Apart from the religious aspect, which attracts millions of believers every year, Assisi is an important historical centre with a long history to tell.
How many towns, for example, have a perfectly preserved Roman temple bordering on churches and palaces from the Middle Ages? This is the Temple of Minerva, later converted into a church, whose façade can be admired from Assisi’s central square, Piazza del Comune. From here you can embark on a fascinating underground journey to discover Roman Assisi, with the forum, the amphitheatre, the perfectly preserved remains of villas and noble residences.
What to eat in Assisi
Sit down at a table and choose what inspires you most from the menu: you won’t be disappointed. Whether it be truffles, the undisputed king of Umbrian tables, meat or cured meats, Assisi will give you nothing but tasty delicacies.
All accompanied by a good glass of wine, such as Rosso di Montefalco, a DOC wine produced by blending Sangiovese and Sagrantino grapes. Or Sagrantino di Montefalco, a DOCG wine with a full-bodied, intense flavour, like the land from which it originates.
Perugia, the capital of art and culture
Perugia is the capital of the region but still retains the form of a small, well-organised, liveable town and is an absolute must-see in Umbria. A visit to Perugia will show you how modernity, history, culture, art and gastronomy can coexist. It is a combination of elements that reinforce and underscore each other.
What to see in Perugia
The city is built on several levels and the different historical eras, instead of being swept away by the next ones, have been incorporated and have served as the foundation for the new and increasingly modern city.
Wandering through the streets of Perugia, on the surface, you will find typical examples of art, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, with its palaces, historical buildings and the beautiful Piazza IV Novembre, where the Fontana Maggiore stands out in the centre. Built in 1275, it has been bringing water from Mount Pacciano to the centre of Perugia for more than 700 years.
The historic centre of the city retains the structure of a Roman settlement. The ancient cardo maximus, today’s Via Ulisse Rocchi, is accessed through an imposing arch of Etruscan origin.
Other finds from the Etruscan period can be found in the city and surrounding areas, a symbol of the importance of the area since ancient times. For example, there is a well-preserved Etruscan well, dating back to the 4th century BC, which can be visited a few metres from Piazza IV Novembre. In Ponte San Giovanni, on the outskirts of Perugia, you can visit the Hypogeum of the Volumni, another Etruscan tomb that is one of the oldest and best-preserved monuments of the period.
However, there is also a mysterious and fascinating underground version of Perugia. In addition to the route that leads to the discovery of Etruscan, Roman and Medieval remains, it is possible to walk, or use a long escalator route (which leads from the car parks at the foot of the old town to the historic centre), through the underground passages of the Rocca Paolina.
The Rocca Paolina was an imposing structure built in the 16th century by Pope Paul III Farnese to symbolise papal rule over the city. Hated by the citizens, it was demolished after 1860, when Perugia was admitted to the Kingdom of Italy. Today only the basement remains, where exhibitions and markets are held throughout the year.
What to eat in Perugia
After a long visit to the city, you will certainly be hungry. As we have already told you about the other Umbrian towns, you will be enchanted by the tasty Umbrian gastronomy, which tells of the simple peasant past of its population, revisited in delicious recipes. For example, pasta alla norcina (typical of Norcia, but found in many restaurants in Perugia) made with cream and sausage, with a generous sprinkling of truffles at the end of cooking.
Perugia is also the city of chocolate, thanks to the presence of the Perugina chocolate factory. One of the things to see in Umbria is Eurochocolate, held every year in October in the streets of the city. This is one of the most important chocolate festivals in Italy.
Lake Trasimeno: unspoilt nature and timeless villages
Lake Trasimeno is the fourth largest lake in Italy and stretches across the Umbrian hills in a fairytale landscape. There are many activities to do in this part of Umbria, starting with a visit to the small, picturesque lakeside villages such as Castiglione del Lago, Passignano sul Trasimeno or Tuoro sul Trasimeno, to name but a few. It is also possible to organise mountain bike trips, excursions in the hills, sailing trips and sport fishing.
What to see on Lake Trasimeno
The tour of the lake by boat is a lot of fun, allowing you to reach the beautiful Isola Maggiore, still inhabited, or Isola Polvese, the largest and highest, which is part of the Trasimeno Regional Park. Here too, as in the rest of Umbria, a land rich in every respect, you will find Roman remains, ancient fortresses and castles, churches and palaces from different eras, witnesses to the long journey made by the Umbrian people.
What to eat on Lake Trasimeno
It will be the friendliness and joviality of the inhabitants of Umbria that will win you over, making this region an indelible part of your heart. The cuisine that awaits you at Lake Trasimeno will further contribute to the love affair.
On the lake, as you might expect, delicious recipes based on freshly caught fish await you, to be paired with a fine Colli del Trasimeno DOC wine.
If you don’t want fish, you can choose one of the traditional Umbrian dishes. Did you know that stuffed roast goose is a must on every table at Ferragosto? This is a very old tradition, which in Umbria is also associated with the threshing of wheat. On the occasion of the end of the threshing, in fact, the farmers used to (and still do) prepare a big feast, where home-made pasta dressed with the typical goose sauce and roast goose is served. The recipe is very special, jealously guarded by Umbrian housewives. We recommend you try it.
Gubbio, the medieval pearl waiting for you in Umbria
Gubbio is one of the oldest Umbrian settlements. It is located inland, in the mountains, almost on the border with Le Marche. Many of its traditions, in fact, echo those of the neighbouring region.
Gubbio is famous among the things to see in Umbria for its traditions. The people of Gubbio are very attached to their town and its history and welcome tourists with enthusiasm and goodwill. The town has a lot to offer.
What to see in Gubbio
The main area, as well as the centre of the social and administrative life of Gubbio is Piazza Grande (Piazza del Popolo), overlooked by the beautiful Palazzo dei Consoli and Palazzo Pretorio, seat of the municipality of Gubbio. This complex, built during the 1300s, represents the power represented by Gubbio at the time. Gubbio was also a fief of the Montefeltro and Della Rovere families during the period of the Signorie, whose dominions have left us splendid examples of Renaissance architecture.
Like every part of Umbria, Gubbio is also inextricably linked to religion and the cult of St Francis. Here it is said that the miracle of the pact with the wolf took place, and still today in the church of San Francesco dei Muratori we can see the stone that the inhabitants used to cover the wolf’s grave, which they took care of until his death.
What to eat in Gubbio
Gubbio is very influenced by the Marche region. A typical dish of the town is in fact the crescia (also widespread in the Marche region), a kind of focaccia that can be eaten stuffed with cold cuts or local cheeses.
These are just a few suggestions for discovering what to see in Umbria. The region is small and well served, so you will have no difficulty in finding destinations that the whole family can enjoy.