Umbria Under-the-Radar: 4 Towns to Visit

by Christopher Atwood


Italians consider Umbria Italy’s undiscovered cuore verde (green heart). Bordering the world-famous Tuscan wine country, Umbria embodies Italy's quiet side — dotted with family farms, hilltop towns and rustic wineries. Equal in beauty to its tourist-filled neighbor, Umbria has emerged from Tuscany's shadow – attracting travelers to Italy who want to go beyond the postcard sites and connect with a slower way of life.

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No matter what season you're visiting Umbria, this hilly and forest-draped land will leave you swooning for another trip to Italy. In the fall months, Umbria's dense woods blaze red and yellow with foliage. During the winter, historic towns -- like Assisi and Gubbio -- celebrate Christmas with local festivities and flair. And, in the spring and early summer, wildflowers burst to life near Castelluccio di Norcia.

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Like Tuscany, Umbria is graced with natural marvels. Blanketed in picturesque boschi (woods), Umbria's rolling hillsides shift hues with the changing seasons. Food lovers can savor Italian regional culinary specialties like wild black truffles or cave-aged pecorino cheese. Active travelers might enjoy a hiking through Umbria's hillsides or guided bike tour past historic vineyards. Small-batch wineries here are family-owned for generations, producing local varietals like Sagrantino di Montefalco (red) and Orvieto (white).

Are you looking for a crowd-free Italian destination without venturing too far off the beaten path? Look no further than Umbria -- easily reached from Florence or Rome. Below you'll find our Italian travel experts' four must-visit places in Umbria -- an antipasto (sampling) of the under-the-radar beauty that awaits in this Italian hidden gem:

PERUGIA

The town of Perugia, the hilltop capital city of Umbria, stands guard over the vineyard-rich valley below. Perugia is a quilt of cobblestone streets, medieval alleys and historic piazzas. Wandering Perugia, you’ll spot centuries-old palazzi (mansions) alongside arch-framed stairways. Food lovers will drool for Perugia’s handmade chocolates – famous throughout the world.  Every October, in fact, Perugia is home to the 10-day Eurochocolate Festival – an event honoring the many forms of cocoa. During the festival, you can sip cocoa-infused grappa or be awed by sculptures carved from giant blocks of chocolate.

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ASSISI

Perhaps most famous as the birthplace of St. Francis, the beauty of Assisi needs to be seen to be believed.  Like many towns in Umbria with medieval origins, Assisi is perched atop a hill.  Here, visitors can tour the massive Basilica of St. Francis – adorned with the 13th-century frescoes and art of Italian masters like Cimabue and Giotto.  The Rocca Maggiore is the city’s fortified citadel – dating to 1173. From the citadel’s perch atop the city, you can drink in sweeping views of the foliage-filled valley below.

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ORVIETO

Orvieto is consistently ranked one of Italy’s most beautiful towns. Built atop a flat bluff overlooking a valley, Orvieto rises from the cliffs below. Visible from far in the distance, Orvieto commands the gaze of any and all onlookers.  Inhabited since the time of the Etruscans, Orvieto became a center of power during the medieval period – frequently visited by Popes between the 12th and 16th centuries. Strolling the city’s medieval streets, visitors will notice Orvieto’s striking cathedral – featuring black and white stone and an ornate façade.

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SPOLETO

Spoleto is a tapestry of histories – from a Roman theater to the city’s stone bridge (built in 1350). Capped in the 14th-century Rocca Albronaziano fortress, Spoleto is a hilltop jewel surrounded by the lush Apennine Mountains. You can discover the highpoints of Spoleto in the company of a local guide raised in the area – exploring major sights like Piazza del Duomo, the city’s medieval walls, and the Arco di Druso.

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Interested in spending a relaxing week in Umbria's quiet countryside? Contact us here to set up a free consultation with an Italian travel expert. Your trip will be designed specifically to your interests and style of travel!

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