Umbria - an unspoilt beautiful region of Italy
Umbria - an unspoilt beautiful region of Italy
A good selection of villas and apartments in Umbria, with some stunning locations, we highly recommend a visit to this region
The rich combination of countryside, magnificent medieval towns and not forgetting the lake, give Umbria its own identity and make it a great destination for a relaxing holiday surrounded by history and culture.
In the centre of Italy sits Umbria, one of the few landlocked regions, with Tuscany to the north, Le Marche to the east and Lazio to the west. Often referred to as the "il Cuore verde dell' Italia" ("Italys green heart:). Heart is an excellent choice of words to describe the region, the 4th smallest region of the Apennine Peninsular with landscapes that exert the most lasting charm; rolling hills, ancient villages, valleys, lakes and woodland make it gentle and serene.
Dotted with splendid medieval hill towns and offering the chance to escape the crowds in Tuscany, the region presents a great alternative for those wanting to visit their own little piece of Italy. Umbria has certainly emerged from the shadows of its most famous neighbour and has some great attractions and is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful regions in Italy. To the east, the rolling hills escalate into a more rugged terrain and the dramatic scenery of the Valnerina and the mountain landscapes of the newly appointed National Park Status of the Sibilini Mountains.
What you find in Umbria, is a wealth of impressive towns, many with unrivalled views of the surrounding area and their own little piece of history, culture and architecture. To thenorth of the regionyou have the Apennine Mountains that border Le Marche with the city of Gubbio at their base. They stretch down to the south of the region to the Monte Sibilini where you can enjoy winter sports and a handful of ski resorts. To the west is situated the city of Orvieto and Lake Trasimeno and finally in Umbria's heart are its most well known of cities Perugia, the regions capital and stunning Assisi.
Assisi is beautiful with an array of cobbled streets, impressive piazzas, geranium filled window boxes, wonderful architecture and great views. Its heart is dominated by the world-famous Basilica di San Francesco and in peak season pilgrims will flock from near and far to pray and pay homage to the famous Saint. However, don't let this put you off, the crowds still fail to spoil this beautiful and tranquil spot. The old town of Assisi is best to be explore on foot, particularly in the evening when daytime crowds have disappeared back to their hotels or villas, leaving one to amble through the cobbled streets and immerse yourself in its eerily tranquil persona, in which we find very rare to find in any other hill town in Italy.
Spoletto a delightful town, particularly at night where you can marvel at the many monuments that light up the night sky as you wander around its gravity defying streets in its heart. Surrounded by thick walls and a breath-taking gorge, which attracts its own set of visitors, it is perhaps Umbria's most charming of towns. Widely recognised for its summer festival of "Two Worlds" which is visited by science and music lovers alike who can immerse themselves in an array of concerts from opera, drama, visual arts and science.
Perugia the regions capital, is a star attraction; a stylish and bustling hill city with a strong cultural tradition and some splendid monuments. A renowned University town, particular for overseas students, gives the city a cosmopolitan vibe. In the summer during the Umbrian Jazz festival, Perugia takes centre stage with a range of events but aside from that, Perugia is probably most famous around the world for its Chocolate in particular, Baco "Kiss" and its impressive long-standing Baci Perugina chocolate factory, an excellent day out for the family with children. The Carducci Gardens are not to be missed, built on the remnants of the Paolina Fortress with breath taking views over the valley and the Subasio Mountains.
Gubbio is one of the most striking hill towns with medieval architecture and surrounded by rugged and wooded landscapes. Many have classed this town as the 'Siena of Umbria'. This gorgeous mountain locked town could be classed a one if Italy's most resolutely medieval centres with its centuries old palazzos and treeless streets dabbled with its most famous offering of its many ceramic shops that pay homage to this local trade. The town feels more like a huge museum rather than a town, well worth a visit to wander around the historical medieval streets.
Todi is a sophisticated little place with its impressive Piazza del Popolo and medieval public buildings set on top of a craggy hill. This trendy town is a draw for the coolest of foreigners as it has an air of prosperity which is definitely reflected in its grand central square. Consistently voted "one of the world's most liveable towns" by the University of Kentucky and therefore attracts the jet setting Americans purchasing holiday homes.
Orvieto, a remarkable town of layers built upon a volcanic plateau, with an extraordinary cathedral which it is probably most famous for, which is truly magical, but not to be missed is the extraordinary array of underground chambers within its volcanic base. The town looks down from the perch purveying the vineyard spotted countryside and farmlands with a spectacular elegance from its cliff edge. Being located between Rome and Florence ensures it is a great base for exploring both regions whilst also having the countryside on your door step.
Lake Trasimeno has a subtle and sleepy charm and is a great location for swimming, fishing, water sports and horse riding. Italy's 4th largest lake takes an hour to drive around its 35-mile circumference and is surrounded by gentle hills covered with olives and vineyards. There are a number of interesting resorts around the lake. Passignano is a lively and modern resort with shops, fish restaurants and bars. The enticing Castiglione del Lago on the West shore is dominated by a 14th century fortress and has some pleasant beaches. Tuoro and San Feliciano to the south are pleasant as is Panicale which is picture postcard.
Other towns well worth a visit in this green and pleasant land are Spello, which is often referred to as Assisi's little sister, Bevagna, a sleek and welcoming little gem of a town and the almost unknown Trevi. The dominating hill town of Montefalco, which is often referred to as "the balcony of Umbria" is definitely worth a trip.
Top things to do in Umbria
Shopping - Umbria is probably most famous for its ceramics. This ages old traditional craft dates back to the Etrucion times. Many of the towns and villages have a local ceramic craftsman but the best for ceramic shopping is Gubbio. Other famous crafts include gold working, which is still practiced in the region and fabrics work, Umbria is home to the Assisi stitch and is world renowned for its cashmere too. For a shopping day out, Perugia is the best city for a day. It holds the main shops while still maintaining old traditional crafts shops too. If you love a good market day then Perugia's in on a Tuesday morning for general produce and clothing and the first Sunday of every month, they have a great Antiques Fayre.
Events and Festivals - Umbria has some of Italy's liveliest festivals most hosted around spring to early summer and centred around local traditions, crafts and of course food and drink. If you happen to be in the region later in the year, in particular - October, the Chocolate festival in Perugia "Euro chocolate" in a must visit. Home of the "Bacio" the streets of the city become a chocolate lovers dream and is said to be the largest chocolate festival in Europe for the sweet treat indulgence. If you visit in May, the Candles race in Gubbio is definitely worth a visit too.
Walking - The nature of the landscape of Umbria makes it a walker's dream, whether you want to follow the network of paths in the footsteps of St Francis, Italy's patron saint, or enjoy the mountains and gorges of the Sibilini Mountain range. The good news is, there's a lot to explore on foot and even getting lost would prove enjoyable as the scenery is so breath-taking you would not mind. However, please bear in mind, it can be very rural with miles and miles of absolutely nothing around, making it quite easy to get lost. For an easier but most exhilarating walk with a map we love the remote area of natural beauty of Norcia, you can pick up a well guided map from the town and follow the well-worn paths up through the wonderous Monte Sibilini.
Wine tasting - With its rainy winters and sunny dry summers Umbria has the perfect climate for great regional wines. Despite only producing a 3rd of the amount of its neighbouring region of Tuscany, the wines of Umbria are internationally recognised, notably the king of Umbrian wines, Orvieto and Orvieto Classico, with their delicate dry pallet. Equally popular are the Montefalco and the Sagrantino DOC and not surprisingly the area around Orvieto is the largest production zone of wine. The proud locals are happy that the crowds flock to Tuscany with their huge queues, whereas in complete contrast, Umbria vineyards allow people to simply explore by themselves in peace & quiet, sampling some truly irresistible wines in a serene countryside experience.
We had an amazing day at the Moretti Omero Vineyard where they host "Wine Picnics" for their visitors. Is there a better way to enjoy a glass (or 2, or 3) learning about age old local traditions of wine making, than in the middle of the vines themselves overlooking some of Umbria's best views? Alongside the delights of fresh local produce, that complements each bottle laid out to our delight. Unquestionably, one of the most memorable wine-tasting tours we have experienced and all organic too.
The arts, museums & history - For history lovers, you are spoilt for choice - the region is endowed with many spectacular medieval hill towns offering the chance to step back in time and learn about its history. If you are looking for culture, Umbria is awash with art exhibits, drama, opera, classical music, and performances, many of which are outside or take place in the magnificent piazzas. Perugia's old part of town situation on the top of the hill with cultural and architectural masterpieces and one of the most extensive museum collections in Italy. There's Orvieto with its famous and magnificent Duomo Cathedral resplendent in Italian Gothic art and finally Assisi, the place that brings together art and spirituality and unsurprisingly recently awarded the UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Food & drink - Umbria's cooking is uncomplicated, hearty and excellent. Often referred to as "cucina povera" or peasant cooking and relying on seasonal ingredients all prepared and cooked in very traditional methods. The towns markets are awash with local produce and the region produces great olive oil, wheat and truffles. The Umbrians love their pasta and you will find a great selection in local restaurants. Norcia, classed as one of Italy's gastronomic centres and renowned for its truffles, salamis, lentils and cheeses and also famous for its pork butchery and preparation of cured meats. A gem of a town for food lovers who can visit this small city and immerse themselves in in a variety of meats from cojoni di mulo to wild boar sausages.
Sports & activities - The region is a true paradise of lovers of outdoor sports. From hiking, sailing, mountain biking to horseback riding and hunting and not forgetting the ski resorts in the winter, definitely something for everyone at any time of year. If you have a love of caves and have ever been potholing a trip to the Cave of Monte Cucco is a great experience. A fairy-tale world underground and has been studied by geologists and botanists for years. You can simply walk through its many cavities with amazing rock formations and all around you are small lakes and streams, the Gallery of the Bones - Pharoahs chamber, houses an abundance of animal bones that lived more than 20,000 years ago. For an even deeper adventure and not for the faint hearted you can book on a guided potholing tour.
Getting around and to Umbria
There are three main ways to access Umbria from outside Italy. Its regional airport is in Perugia, the San Francesco d'Assisi, however, it is easily possible to visit the region via nearby Pisa Airport & the Toscana Aeroporti in Florence. In addition, the Rome airports in Lazio and Ancona is also a possibility in Le Marche. When getting around in Umbria by far the best way is by hiring a car but if you can pre-plan and have patience it is possible to travel on public transport. Train services are limited but Busitalia can help you navigate around - from a central point of Perugia to visit the many towns in the area.
Umbria weather & best time to visit
Umbria is named after the Greek word Ombrikoi, which means rainy and this is partly true but luckily only in a few of the winter months. Generally, in Spring, summer and autumn it is sunny and dry. The best and quieter time to visit the region is April to Jun or September to October. Not only is it cooler and usually good weather but also fewer tourists that crowd the main towns and sights.
Why visit Umbria?
Umbria does have it all: wonderful countryside, excellent hill towns, lively Perugia for shopping and nightlife, Lake Trasimeno for swimming and water sports, mountains for walking, excellent culture, unrivalled food and drink and strong traditions. The rich combination of countryside, magnificent medieval towns and not forgetting the lake and mountains, give Umbria its own identity and it won't take long for this green heart of a region to steal your own. Combining this with the draw it offers as a quieter alternative to its busy neighbouring regions makes it the perfect tranquil spot for some genuine relaxation. Due to its popularity as a holiday destination, Umbria does have a great selection of properties to rent and ranging from the typical Umbrian farmhouses to apartments in Borgos, villas, townhouses, village apartments and houses.
To summarise, whether it's a holiday steeped in medieval tradition and touring the regions many towns, churches and fortresses, an adventure filled vacation of trekking mountain paths, paragliding, horseback riding and cycling or a foodie's excursion hunting for truffles and sampling the local salamis - Umbria is definitely for you. However, if you simply need a relaxing holiday by the pool, we offer a splendid selection of Villas in Umbria where you can soak up the rustic Italian landscape of rolling hills that will take your breath away.