Umbria is a charismatic Italian region bordered by the rolling greenery of Tuscany, Le Marche, and Lazio. Characterized by medieval hill towns, gorgeous lakes, fascinating Roman ruins, and lip-smacking local cuisine, it’s the epitome of holiday heaven.
Forage for truffles, taste fine Italian wines, and uncover the history of Italy’s Patron Saints. Whether you’re looking for a spiritual escape in ever-popular Perugia, or you’d prefer the quieter slow life of Narni, Umbria truly has it all.
Map of Umbria, Italy
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Norcia is a medieval town of handsome contrasts. A walled town surrounded by lush countryside and undulating Umbrian hills, it’s the perfect spot for hikers, nature lovers, and foodies. It’s famous for its black truffles, salami, pork, and wild boar products – so famous, in fact, that they’ve been named norcineria.
Dating back to the Neolithic Age, Norcia is the birthplace of Europe’s Patron Saint, St. Benedict. Explore the mysteries of its medieval streets and the historic town center. While several important buildings – such as the Church of St. Benedict itself – were destroyed by earthquakes, you can still see the statue of Saint Benedict, Palazzo Comunale, and the 13th-century Town Hall with its photogenic Loggia Staircase and Bell Tower.
Located on the edge of Sibillini National Park in south-eastern Umbria, visitors choose Norcia for a healthy combination of food and exercise. There’s plenty of rolling countryside to explore on foot, bike, or horseback.
Don’t miss truffle season (November to March) or the dedicated festival held over the last fortnight of February. You’ll also love the three-day Prosciuti dal Mondo in November, which features prosciutto from all over Italy!
Tucked away within the Apennine Mountains, Monti Sibillini National Park is a wild and wonderful destination in Umbria. Dotted with medieval villages, lakes, and legends, it’s a popular destination for a host of outdoor adventures, such as hiking, biking, rock climbing, and canyoneering. Wildflowers and wildlife are abundant in the park, from orchids to wolves and birds of prey.
Dating back to medieval times, the Sibillines were believed to be a land of witches, necromancers, and fairies. Today, the legends live on, and it’s what makes this area so fascinating. Hike to the Cave of Sibyl, a sorceress said to have lured fearless knights into a life of damnation. The perfect way to witness the parks’ beauty is by hiking up one of the peaks or hang gliding or paragliding off them. Organized treks are available, or you can follow a self-guided trail from the park’s website.
Explore the little hamlets within the park’s reaches. Visso, the park’s seat, is believed to have been founded 907 years before Rome and features the eight-sided Sanctuary of Macereto. Explore Preci, the center of spirituality, and Arquata del Tronto, Europe’s only municipality within two national parks (Monti Sibillini in the north and Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga in the south). Alternatively, have a swim in the crisp waters of Lake Fiastra and bird watch at Hell’s Gorge.
The hilltop town of Todi overlooks the picturesque Tevere Valley. Surrounded by three sets of walls, the town conceals many hidden treasures. Each wall was built in a different historical era: the innermost is Etruscan, the middle one Roman, and the medieval wall from the Middle Ages.
Explore the city’s historic center from the Piazza del Popolo. Get a classic tourist photo at the stairs of the 12th-century Cathedral, located on the ruins of a temple dedicated to the god Apollo. Visit the Town Hall, People’s Palace, and the Museum of Roman Etruscan. Don’t miss the 13th-century Captain Palace, the 14th-century Priori Palace, and St. Fortunato Church honoring the city’s Patron Saint.
Other highlights include visiting the 16th-century Consolazione Temple with its gorgeous dome, exploring the Roman-built underground cisterns, and strolling the narrow streets in search of handicrafts. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, try the pan caciato, a small loaf made with walnuts, cheese and raisins, and palomba alla ghiotta (roasted pigeon). Pair these with a glass of Greschetto di Todi DOC, one of the fine local wines, and you’re all set!
Spello is an ancient walled town with honey-colored houses cascading down the slopes of Saint Francis’s mountain, Monte Subasio. Located on the doorstep of Assisi in east-central Umbria, it’s a small town that you can explore on foot in just several hours.
Small it may be, but its civilized pace and gorgeous views make it well worth a visit. In fact, it’s easily one of the most beautiful villages in Italy! Built from Subasio marble, the entire town takes on a pinkish color around sunrise and sunset – the photos are simply gorgeous!
Three well-preserved Roman arches form the entryways to the town. Inside, you’ll find the 11th-century Church of Santa Maria Maggiore with its famous Baglioni Chapel and striking Pinturicchio frescoes.
If you’re interested in churches, you’re in luck. Visit the Church of San Andrea, San Lorenzo, San Claudio, Santa Maria di Vallegloria, and Saint Jerome with its adjoining monastery. Other sights include the Roman House, Villa Costanzi with its summertime concerts, and the Piazza della Repubblica, which encompasses the 13th-century Municipal Palace and Archaeological Museum.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the Infiorata (Flower Festival) held in May and June. The streets are transformed into a colorful wonderland, dubbing Spello the ‘Capital of Flowers.’
Lake Trasimeno, with its hillside olive groves, undulating vineyards, and quaint stone villages, is one of the most enchanting destinations in Umbria. The fourth-largest of Italy’s lakes, Trasimeno is surrounded by ancient towers, fortresses, and Renaissance-style churches. On the lake itself, you’ll find pastel-colored wooden fishing boats, three scenic lake islands, and some of the most dramatic sunsets in Italy.
While the lake is located inside the region of Umbria, it’s northern shoreline hugs the border of Tuscany. The villages peppering the lake have a resort-style atmosphere. Peak season runs from April to October, when tourists descend to take advantage of the mild climate, beaches, and hiking and biking trails. Visit out of season and you’ll find many shops and restaurants closed.
Take your time exploring the lake’s islands, towns, and enjoying the decadent cuisine: wine, olive oil, fish, and legumes flourish in Trasimeno’s microclimate. Hike and bird watch in Isola Polvese’s nature park, browse the famous Irish lacework in Isola Maggiore, and visit Castiglione del Lago – the most popular town, perched on a small promontory.
Passignano sul Trasimeno, with its long stretch of beach, is perfect for sunbathing, while San Feliciano is the best spot to witness the fishermen with their traditional flat-bottomed boats. Take a drive along the scenic Percorso Storico Archeologico della Battaglia and soak up the gloriously slow pace of Monte del Lago, surrounded by lake views on three sides.
Narni is a quiet hamlet overlooking the lush Nera Valley. Known for its spectacular sunsets that take center stage over the backdrop of the Umbrian countryside, it’s one of the most romantic little villages in Italy.
But the old town has historical and cultural significance too. Admire the incredible artwork at the Civic Museum and explore Narni Sotterranea – an unbelievable underground town only discovered in 1977. Inside, you’ll find a 13th-century Benedictine church painted with amazing frescoes, a Roman cistern, a Holy Inquisition courtroom, and an eerie prison cell.
What makes this town special is that it’s not at all touristy. Yet there’s still so much to do. Stroll past the Duomo of San Giovenale, two beautiful palaces, and the 1370s Rocca fortress, and watch a summertime concert at San Domenico Church. Just outside town, you’ll find Ponte Cardona, which marks the exact geographical center of Italy. If you have time, take a day trip to the ruins of Ocriculum, an ancient Umbrian settlement.
Marmore Falls is one of the tallest human made waterfalls in the world. Tucked within Nera River Park – also known as Waters’ Park – it was built by the Romans back in 271 BC to divert the overflowing stagnant waters of the River Velino into the River Nero.
Today, the falls feed the Galleto Hydroelectric Power Station, which has enabled the metal-working, electrochemical, and electric industries at Terni. Yet the falls remain steeped in myth and legend. Popular belief dictates that a nymph called Nera fell in love with a shepherd named Velino. A jealous lover called Juno transformed Nera into a river and then threw himself over the cliff in order to be reunited with her forever. This mortal jump now lingers for eternity in the sprays of the waterfall.
Whether you prefer fact or fiction, the falls are a sight to behold. The Marmore Waterfalls can be visited along five trekking routes, catering to different fitness levels, but bear in mind that the water is only released at set times. Along the way, you’ll discover travertine grottoes and opportunities for kayaking, rafting, and canyoneering. Don’t miss the Enchanted Walk and the Balcony of Lovers!
Spoleto is one of those rare non-touristy towns. Totally off the beaten path, this medieval village has a steep historical center, accessible via a travellator, that dates back to 241 BC. Inhabited by the original Umbri tribes in the 5th-century BC who built fortifying walls that can still be seen today, it was only in 774 that it became part of the Holy Roman Empire, when one of the Dukes of Lombard made it their official residence.
Chosen as the filming location for the famous Italian soapy, Don Matteo (because it depicts a typical Italian town yet to be overrun by tourists), Spoleto promises all the best things about Italy – lovely restaurants, hearty cuisine, and fantastic wines. Don’t miss the black truffles and red wine from Montefalco!
Start at Rocca Albornoz, the symbol of the city, and admire the views across Spoleto. These views compete with those from the 13th-century Ponte delle Torre (Tower Bridge), which connects the San’Elia hill with Monte Luco.
Other notable sites include the 12th-century Romanesque Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral, the Mauri Palace, the Church of San Ansano and San Gregorio Maggiore, the St. Isaac Crypt, and the Arch of Drusus and Germanicus. Don’t miss the 1st-century AD Roman theatre – perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to catch a ballet performance!
Gubbio is a medieval town in north-eastern Umbria. Despite being so close to Assisi, it’s surprisingly set off the main tourist track. Surrounded by avocado countryside and connected to Mount Ingino via a scenic cableway, this hillside Italian town is undeniably magical. When it comes to authenticity, architecture, and atmosphere, Gubbio has it all.
Dating back to pre-Roman times, Gubbio is one of Umbria’s oldest towns. The town center is a pleasing mix of medieval, gothic and Renaissance architecture built from grey limestone. It’s known as the “City of Fools” because you can obtain a “madman’s license” (and Eugubina citizenship!) by merely circling the small fountain in Largo Bargello three times.
Start with a visit to the Gothic Consoli Palace. Built in the 1300s, it’s now one of the town’s most prominent icons, home to the “big bell” and the seven Eugubine Tables, dating back to the 3rd-century BC.
Other must-do activities include a visit to Gubbio Cathedral with its 16th-century paintings and baroque chapel, the 15th-century Dukes Palace, the 1st-century AD Roman ruins just outside the city walls, and a cable car ride up to Basilica of Sant’Ubaldo. Ranghiasci Park, set along the old walls, offers one of the best views of Gubbio!
While you’re here, fill up on dishes cooked with white truffles and brustengo – fried bread served with meat, onion, and rosemary. Leave room for the local dessert – the Ganascioni of the Sisters of St. Lucia, which are served with Barcarolle (barley coffee and anisette).
3. Perugia Where to Stay
Nestled within central Umbria, Perugia is the region’s thriving capital. This picturesque Etruscan town is charmingly medieval, with a backdrop dominated by Italy’s largest fortress, the Rocca Paolina. Believed to be older than Rome, Perugia definitely lives up to its steadfast reputation.
Explore Perugia’s attractive center overflowing with Etruscan ruins, including the third-century Sorbello Well. Visit Piazza IV Novembre, where the Fontana Maggiore fountain forms the centerpiece. Other sights include the Italian art museum, La Galleria Nazionale dell’ Umbria, the church of Sant’Angelo and the monastery of Sant’Agnese. You’ll also find the Universita per Stranieri, an excellent Italian language school, as well as the first wine school in the world in Perugia!
As if all that wasn’t enough to tempt you to Umbria, Perugia is also the ‘Chocolate Capital of Italy.’ It’s home to world-famous chocolatier, Perugina, creators of the legendary Baci chocolate kisses. Visit in October and immerse yourself in the Euro Chocolate Festival with its theater and music performances, cooking demonstrations, and chocolate art exhibitions!
Perched dramatically on top of enormous tufa cliffs, the hillside town of Orvieto is picturesque. Easily reached by train or car, it’s the perfect day trip from Rome. But, there’s so much to see and do that you should allow plenty of time.
Dating back to Etruscan times, Orvieto is split in two: the old-town hilltop and the new town at the base, connected by escalators and elevators, as well as a cable car (the most scenic form of transport).
Sprinkled with ancient monuments, tombs, a necropolis, and a network of underground passageways dating back to the Middle Ages, there’s much to uncover in this hillside town. Visit the 16th-century Saint Patrick’s Well with its historic spiral staircase, discover ancient artifacts inside two archaeological museums, explore the Albornoz Fortress, and admire the Gothic Duomo Cathedral with its glittering, mosaic-adorned façade and impressive frescoes.
Sightseeing and history lessons aside, Orvieto is everything a typical Italian town should be – quiet, unassuming, and blissfully traffic free. It’s a popular location for shopping, wining, and dining; you can browse local handicrafts and ceramics along Via del Duomo and explore the nearby vineyards for the finest Classico wines. Whatever you do, don’t leave without admiring a view of the Umbrian valley from the Torre del Moro!
Assisi is a captivating commune. With its medieval streets, sacred shrines, entrancing churches, and a spellbinding castle, it’s no surprise it’s Umbria’s most famous town for tourists and pilgrims alike. It was the city where Italy’s Patron Saint, St. Francis, lived and prayed, so it’s a spiritual experience for many.
Admire the views from the fortress of Rocca Maggiore and get great shots of Basilica di Santa Chiara and Santuario San Damiano. The two-thousand-year-old ancient Roman Temple of Minerva is also a fantastic photo opportunity. Take a moment to reflect at Eremo delle Carceri, where St. Francis prayed in isolation. Explore the Roman Forum, stroll along Via San Francesco, and see St. Rufino Cathedral, the church dedicated to Assisi’s Patron Saint, Rufino, which is home to the 12th-century crypt of Basilica Ugoniana.
You’ll need plenty of time to uncover all of Assisi’s hidden finds – they vary from Roman ruins and medieval sites to countryside walks along the alpine trails of Monte Subasio. Get a taste of local history and culture with a visit to the 13th-century Romanesque and Italian Gothic Basilica of St. Francis, which consists of two parts – the lower and the upper church. It’s here that you’ll find St. Francis of Assisi’s final resting place.