Umbria, Italy: top 20 things to see and do

Explore the top 20 things to do and see in Umbria, one of Italy most fascinating regions, surprisingly still off the mainstream touristic itineraries. Discover Umbria charming town such as Perugia, Assisi, Gubbio, Todi, Spoleto and Orvieto.

Umbria, Italy, is one of Italy best kept secrets. It displays fascinating towns and villages, tons of culture, beautiful sceneries, fantastic food, cultural events and much more. And, despite that, it’s still ignored by mainstream tourism. Therefore, you won’t find the tourists crowds that will give you a hard time in Florence or San Gimignano. On the contrary, you will enjoy an atmosphere of bygone times, among the medieval paths, the palaces, the castles and the fortresses of charming villages.

This post is aimed at disclosing the best things to see and do in Umbria. I’m sure that after reading it you will want to squeeze Umbria into your Italy trip plan!

So here we go with the top 20 things to see and do in Umbria, Italy.

Umbria see and do # 1 – Visit Perugia and its medieval art collections

Perugia is Umbria, Italy regional capital. It’s a fairly big city, with modern outskirts, but his medieval historical center, built up on a cliff as usual in Umbria, is fairly intact and keeps all its medieval charm.

If you are passionate about art, you shouldn’t miss Palazzo dei Priori, one of the most beautiful and imposing buildings in Perugia. It is home of  Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria , a superb gallery of Umbrian medieval and renaissance art.

Other top sights not to be missed are:

  • Piazza IV Novembre, Perugia monumental city center, and its beautiful  Maggiore Fountain, carved by  Giovanni and Nicola Pisano
  • San Lorenzo cathedral, and its San Bernardino’s Pulpit, from where the saint used to preach
  • The Basilica of San Domenico, where many statues and valuable works by local artists are housed.

Click here to find the best places to stay in Perugia

Umbria see and do # 2 – Enjoy the Umbria Jazz festival

Umbria Jazz is one of the main Italian music events, and takes place in Perugia in the middle of July. It features artists like Quincy Jones, Gilberto Gil and David Byrne.  Click here for more info and to purchase tickets.

Umbria see and do # 3 – Discover Assisi, the town of San Francesco

Assisi is one of the most famous Italian towns, since it is home of San Francesco, who was born here in 1181 and it is one of Italy’s World Heritage Unesco sites.

But Assisi is much more than that. Regardless if you believe or not, you could hardly avoid feeling the mysticism of this town  and being overwhelmed by the beauty of its ancient white stone streets and palaces. Build over the centuries on the slope of mount Subasio, Assisi overlooks the valley and offer astonishing views, especially at sunset.

The most famous sight in Assisi is the Basilica di San Francesco , where he was buried. Actually you will find two overlying churches, the lower and the upper, both filled with astonishing frescoes by Giotto, Cimabue and others.

On the opposite side of the town you will find Assisi Duomo and its splendid Romanesque facade, dedicated to the other saint of Assisi, San Ruffino.

Try to sleep in Assisi, so that you can visit it when all the day pilgrims are gone.

Click here to find the best places to stay in Assisi

Umbria see and do # 4 – Enjoy Assisi Ester Stations of the Cross

The tradition of moving around the Stations to commemorate the Passion of Christ (“Via Crucis” in Latin) began with St. Francis of Assisi, and has continued century after century since the middle age.

Today, Assisi still hosts one of the most poignant Stations of the Cross of Italy.

Have a look here at my Assisi Stations of the Cross post.

Umbria see and do # 5- Spend a couple of hours in lovely Spello

Spello is a delightful tiny medieval town, ranged on terraces above the Spoleto Valley. There aren’t many major monuments to visit apart from Santa Maria Maggiore church, and its gorgeous frescoes from Pinturicchio.

What makes Spello special is the town itself, with its narrow alleys, the white stone century old buildings and, of course, the laid back atmosphere and the small town charm. The best think to do here is to sit on a café terrace under the tress, order a glass of local wine and enjoy life.

Click here to find the best places to stay in Spello

Umbria see and do # 6 – Assist to Spello “infiorata”

What makes Spello really famous is the tradition of the “Infiorate”, the christian tradition of covering the streets with flowers on the day of Corpus Christi.

Ephemeral works of art, the Infiorate are completed the early morning of Sunday and only last until the religious procession.

Umbria see and do # 7 – Leave your heart in Spoleto

English poet Shelley used to say that Spoleto was “the most romantic city I ever saw”.

Spoleto is worldwide known for its festival, but it doesn’t really need it to attract visitors. It displays tons of beautiful medieval buildings, Umbria’s prettiest cathedral displaying a major Renaissance fresco cycle (1467) by the Florentine Filippino Lippi. an impressive a Roman and medieval aqueduct and bridge that spans a picturesque gorge and a massive fortress. Isn’t that enough?

Click here to find the best places to stay in Spoleto

Umbria see and do # 8 – Assist to Spoleto Festival dei due Mondi

The Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of the Two Worlds) is an unmissable annual summer music and opera festival held each June to early July in Spoleto. It has been going on for 60 years, and it’s now a worldwide known event.  It features a vast array of concerts, opera, dance, drama, visual arts and roundtable discussions on science.

More on 2018 Spoleto festival.

Umbria see and do # 9 – Unveil Todi, one of Umbria prettiest cities

Some years ago, the Italian press reported on Todi as the world’s most livable city. Not hard to guess why!

Todi stands  on the top of the hill overlooking the beautiful Tevere Valley. It is limited by three rings of walls (Etruscan, Roman and medieval) that contain the ancient city center. The main square is so perfect that it is often used as a movie set.  It hosts most of Todi medieval monuments: the co-cathedral church (Duomo), the Palazzo del Capitano, the Palazzo del Priore and the Palazzo del Popolo.

The whole square is built over some huge ancient Roman cisterns, with more than 500 pits, which remained in use until 1925.

Click here to find the best places to stay in Todi

Umbria see and do # 10 – Get amazed in Orvieto

Inhabited since Etruscan times, Orvieto’s monuments and museums cover millenniums of history. Its stunning cathedral is one of the best medieval monuments in Italy and the  astonishing St Patrick’s well will leave you appalled.

It’s a delightful town, which deserves at least half day in your Umbria trip.

Want to know more? Have a look at my Orvieto post.

Click here to find the best places to stay in Orvieto

Umbria see and do # 11 – Walk up Gubbio ancient streets to Piazza Grande

Gubbio is the oldest town in Umbria, and one of its most beautiful destinations. It’s relatively small, and its main attractions, such as the magnificent Palazzo dei Consoli (Consular Palace),  the renaissance The Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace) and the cathedral can be easily visited in half a day and are a perfect day trip from Perugia or Assisi.

Piazza Grande, overlooked by Palazzo dei consoli, offers astonishing views on the countryside.
Read my full post about Gubbio.

Click here to find the best places to stay in Gubbio

Umbria see and do # 12 – Assist to Gubbio traditions

One of the most crazy and exciting traditions in Umbria (and I would say in Italy) is Gubbio corsa dei ceri (race of the candles). It takes place every year around the 15th of May, day of St Ubaldo. The traditionhas been going on uninterruptedly from 1160.

The candles are three tall heavy wooden artifacts, surmounted respectively by statues of Saint Ubaldo, Saint George and Saint Antonio Abate. With a height of nearly 5 meters, the “Ceri” are impressive to look.  In addition to the parade through the streets of the city, during the competition the candles are carried on shoulders and the “ceraioli” go through Gubbio to reach the  Basilica of St. Ubaldo, located on the top of Mount Igino that overlooks the city.

Here you can find a nice video of the corsa dei ceri.

Umbria see and do # 13 – Enjoy Norcia and its mountain scenery

Not only Norcia is a lovely mountain town, it is also one of Italy’s leading gastronomic centers, offering an amazing selection of truffles, ham, salamis, lentils and cheeses.

The 2016 earthquakes heavily hit Norcia, causing great damages especially to the San Benedetto church. Nonetheless, the town is recovering and is still a great destination. Norcia is also a great hub to viist Piano Grande and the Parco dei Monti Sibillini.

Click here to find the best places to stay in Norcia

Umbria see and do # 14 – Browse Norcia “Norcinerie”

Norcia is so famous for pork meat delicacies like sausages, tasty hams and salami, that in central Italy the characteristic shops that produce and sell them are commonly called “Norcinerie” (litterally “coming from Norcia”).

For sure, in Norcia you can find some of the best Italian pork meat products, as well as famous lentils and delitious cheeses.

In the picture you can see the Norcineria fratelli Ansuini, one of the most reputed in Norcia.

Umbria see and do # 15 – Get amazed at Marmore waterfalls

The Cascate delle Marmore (Marmore waterfall) is the tallest waterfall in Italy, with a total 165 meters height. It is located in the beautiful Nera river park, rich of green meadows, thick forests, teeming streams and hidden gorges. It’s arguably one of the most beautiful areas in Umbria.

Many trails are available in the park, where you can also enjoy rafting, canoeing and canyoning.

Umbria see and do # 16 – Discover Umbria wine routes

There are 4 wine routes in Umbria. They are the ‘Strada del Vino dei Colli del Trasimeno’, the ‘Strada dei Vini del Cantico’, the ‘Strada dei Vini Etrusco Romana’ and the ‘Strada del Sagrantino’. They will allow you to discover Umbria excellent wine production, and to spend an enjoyable day around wineyards and cellars. Click here to find your wine routes map.

Whichever route you decide to explore, don’t miss the tenute Lunelli estate, and it’s amazing cellar “il carapace” designed by world famous artist Pomodoro (it’s the one in the picture)

Umbria see and do # 17 – Discover Bevagna

Bevagna has been (rightly!) included among the most beautiful hamlets in Italy. It has been built in the middle age over an ancient Roman road, which is now Bevagna main street. Bevagna has a lovely central square, piazza san Silvestri, and two beautiful Romanesque churches:  San Silvestro, from 1195, squat and dark with age and San Michele on the other side of the square, known for the wonderfully macabre gargoyles over the main doorway.

Click here to find the best places to stay in Bevagna

Umbria see and do # 18 – Admire the flowering of poppies in the Sibilini national park

Tired of churches, ancient towns and art? Need for some physical activity in a beautiful scenery? Well, the Monti Sibillini is what you are looking for in Umbria.

Monti Sibillini provide great opportunities of  trekking along the many marked trails, with some themed tours like the Zafferano (Saffron) trail. Rock climbing fans will find many opportunities on the slopes of Monte Bove and mountain bikers several marked bike path.  Rafting and canyoneering are also practiced in the Forca Canapine area.

That said, what makes Monti Sibillini unique is the wonderful poppies flowering, which takes place between May and July in the Piana di castelluccio di Norcia.

Umbria see and do # 19 – Walk the mystical Franciscan path of Peace

This is a path that links Assisi to Gubbio, and it follows the route covered many times by Saint Francis after 1206 when he renounced his father’s properties. It’s a religious path and an important pilgrimage destination, so expect loads of mysticism (on top of the exquisite views).

Click here for more info and for the map (unfortunately only in Italian), local tourist office in Assisi can provide further guidance.

Umbria see and do # 20 – Raft on the Nera River

Just downstream Marmore waterfalls, the Nera river offers some of the best rafting spots in Italy. Operators offer experiences with different level of thrill, so this could be a funny completion of a day visit to the waterfalls.

Rafting Marmore is a well known operator who also offers hydro speed and canyoning experiences.

Click here to know more about exciting experiences in Umbria

Enjoy beautiful Umbria!

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Delightfullyitaly.com is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discoveredVenice , Rome , Florence , the Amalfi coast, but still want more, delightfullyitaly.com is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures. And if you like what you read, why not follow delightfullyitaly.com and get free updates?

 

 

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Gubbio, medieval perfection in Umbria

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The Roman Theater and the old town of Gubbio

Discover Gubbio, a medieval jewel in the heart of beautiful Umbria

Are you looking for the perfect medieval town? Cobblestone streets, Gothic palaces and churches, centuries of history behind every corner? Oh, and you want it in a beautiful natural setting, but far from the mainstream tourist flows?

Well, don’t look any further, and get a ticket to Gubbio!

Gubbio is the oldest town in Umbria, and one of its most beautiful destinations. It’s relatively small, and its main attractions, such as the magnificent Palazzo dei Consoli (Consular Palace),  the renaissance The Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace) and the cathedral can be easily visited in half a day and are a perfect day trip from Perugia or Assisi.

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Delightfullyitaly.com: Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path

Delightfullyitaly.com is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, delightfullyitaly.com is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures. And if you like what you read, why not follow delightfullyitaly.com and get free up.

The astonishing Orvieto cathedral and the incredible St Patricks’ well

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Explore Orvieto Corpus Domini astonishing cathedral and descend the impressive staircases of St patrick’s well.

 

Sitting atop a high volcanic cliff, the hill town of Orvieto makes an impressive sight.

Inhabited since Etruscan times, Orvieto’s monuments and museums cover millenniums of history and its stunning cathedral is one of the best medieval monuments in Italy.

One hour train from the Capital, Orvieto is a perfect destination for a day trip from Rome, and a convenient location to leave your rental car after a self driving Tuscany tour. A funicular connects the train station to the old city, up on the cliffs. I can’t think of anything easier!

Two are Orvieto absolute Must Sees: the Duomo and St Patrick Well. That said, Orvieto is a delightful town, with lots of things to do and see (what about exploring its 440 Etruscan caves?), and if you are not on a tight schedule you can spend one or two days in town, or use it as a hub to explore the southern part of Umbria and of Tuscany (click on the image below to access Google maps and get a feeling of the distances).

Orvieto MAP

Let’s start by the Duomo. Symbol of the city of Orvieto itself, the Duomo is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Italy.

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Started in 1290, Orvieto’s duomo was originally planned in the Romanesque style, but as work proceeded and architects changed, it became more Gothic.

The black-and-white marble banding of the main body of the church is surpassed and complemented by the polychrome mosaics of the façade.

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But why such a marvelous cathedral in a rathe small town? Well, as usual in Italy, because of a miracle. The Miracle of teh Corpus Domini (“Body of the Lord”).

In the 1260s, a skeptical priest — who doubted that the bread used in communion was really the body of Christ — passed through Bolsena (a few miles from Orvieto) while on a pilgrimage to Rome. During Mass, the bread bled, staining a linen cloth. The cloth was brought to the pope, who was visiting Orvieto at the time. Such a miraculous relic required a magnificent church.

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Inside the Duomo, you can’t miss Luca Signorelli’s fresco cycle, Il Giudizio Universale, in the Cappella San Brizio, to the right of the altar.

Signorelli began work on the series in 1499, and Michelangelo is said to have taken inspiration from it for the Sistine Chapel. Indeed, to some, Michelangelo’s version runs a close second to Signorelli’s work…

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To the right of the altar, the Cappella del Corporale houses, of course, the Corporale (admirable work of the goldsmith Ugolino di Vieri) and the tabernacle containing the Holy Body of linen stained by the blood of Jesus at the Miracle of Bolsena (the “Corpus Domini”).

The frescoes by Ugolino di Prete Ilario admirably depict the miracle.

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St Patrick’s Well is an architect marvel, and a perfect integration of engineering audacity and architectural décor.
When in 1527, during the sack of Rome, Pope Clement VII had to take refuge at Orvieto, the town looked destined to become a place of regular papal refuge. Hence the need for a reliable water supply in case of siege: not easy for a town build on top a f a high tufa cliff!
Antonio da Sangallo the Younger was then commissioned the construction of a Well designed to tap the water veins underlying the cliff.

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Sangallo created an ingenious system of two spiral staircases that never meet. They create a way to get in and out of the Well (about 53 meters deep and 13 meters wide) without any traffic problems for the long donkey lines that transported water bags in and out the well. Actually the 248 steps are large enough to accommodate the donkeys.
Seventy windows cut into the wall light the stairs from the central shaft.

Going down the well is a really fascinating experience you shouldn’t miss.

Funny enough, spendthrifts in Italy are said to have pockets as bottomless as “il pozzo di San Patrizio” (this was what my grandma used to tell me when I kept asking for gifts!)

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When you are done with your visit, just loose yourself in the delightful medieval streets, for a Gelato or a dinner in one of the many delicious restaurants. For a bit of creative cuisine, try the Altro Vissani restaurant

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Delightfullyitaly.com: Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path

Delightfullyitaly.com is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, delightfullyitaly.com is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures.

And if you like what you read, why not follow delightfullyitaly.com and get free updates?

Mystical Stations of the Cross in Assisi

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The Stations of the Cross in Assisi: a mystical Easter tradition

 

It’s Good Friday night.

You’re in Assisi, one of the most sacred and mystical places on earth. Street lights are turned off. Torches hung to the ancient stone walls provide a yellowish, feeble light.

A multitude of believers and pilgrims wait in the dark, in silence. In front of you, the majestic white columns of a roman temple, transformed in a catholic church centuries ago.

Suddenly, you here the sound of a drum, coming down from San Rufino Church. It’s a desperate drum, that resounds in the dark. A funeral drum.

Dum. Dum Dum.

No one says a word. The silence is unreal.

The sound of the drum gets closer.

Dum. Dum Dum.

Then you see it. The sad procession that commemorates the passion and death of Jesus Christ.

First comes the drum. Then the priests. And then the penitents, bare footed, a hood covering their head. They hold large, heavy wooden crosses on their shoulders. You can count tens of them. Behind them, the Virgin Mary effigy, her heart stabbed by seven daggers to commemorate her “seven pains”, carried on shoulders.

The procession moves forward slowly, stopping from time to time. They head to St Francis Basilica, where they will find the effigy of the dead Christ.

Behind them a multitude of believers walk slowly, in silence, and noiselessly disappears in the dark.

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The Via Crucis (the Stations of the Cross), depicting the final dramatic moments of the Passion of the Christ, is a medieval tradition that makes reference to the Gospels and is also known as Calvary, in reference to the mount of Jesus’s Crucifixion.

Assisi’s Via Crucis is less famous and well known than Rome’s, which is celebrated personally by the Pope. But for this reason, it is far more spiritual and the atmosphere is just unbelievable. Assisting to it, a few days ago, was a touching experience.

I would like to share some pictures of the procession. I shot them without flash, trying to capture the mysticism of the procession.

I hope you will like them.

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Delightfullyitaly.com: Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path

Delightfullyitaly.com is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, delightfullyitaly.com is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures.

And if you like what you read, why not follow delightfullyitaly.com and get free updates?