Italy Umbria (Assisi, Perugia, Orvieto, Todi, Spello, Gubbio, Montefalco, & Lago Trasimeno)

Italy Umbria (Assisi, Perugia, Orvieto, Todi, Spello, Gubbio, Montefalco, & Lago Trasimeno) (4/18-24/2018)

Umbria Italy

Beautiful Umbrian Countryside Italy
Beautiful Umbrian Countryside
Located north of Rome and just east of Tuscany, Umbria is an absolutely charming region in Italy to explore offering interesting well-preserved ancient walled towns rich in history about Christian religion beliefs, good food, beautiful countryside, and unique historic bed & breakfast accommodations. Although Umbria is becoming more popular, it still offers a more relaxed atmosphere as well as a more affordable option than neighboring Tuscany.

Map Umbria Italy
Map Umbria Italy
Umbria can be an affordable vacation. Rooms with breakfast in a traditional guesthouse can be found for $60US/night, bottles of good wine for $10-12, and delicious hearty Italian dishes for $10 for lunch and less than $20 for a two-course dinner. And Italians don’t expect a tip. Of course, more upscale options are available (see below to see where we stayed in a luxury renovated hilltop castle!).

Reminder Travel Tip: Visiting the medieval towns of Umbria is one of the main reasons to visit this area. Remember these are ancient hilltop towns with cobblestone roads and some uneven services to walk on with some elevations to climb at times. Wear Good Walking Shoes!

Italian Food Italy
Italian Food - Yum!
VERY IMPORTANT UMBRIA TRAVEL TIP! Yes, the travel guides point out the wonderful ancient buildings and churches. There is so much more to enjoy during your trip to Umbria. The Italians know how to live life well – follow their example! Slow down and take your time. Stop at a café or restaurant in a picturesque piazza, have some wine and pasta, and let the world entertain you Italian style... trust us – you will not be disappointed. And also see some wonderful sites, picturesque streets and alleyways, and unique shops.

Here are some of the towns we visited in Umbria that are generally considered some of the most interesting and fun...

Assisi

Hilltop Assisi  Umbria Italy
Hilltop Assisi - Umbria, Italy
Assisi is the most well known and one of the most visited towns in Umbria... and well worth the visit. You should plan to spend a good part of a day in Assisi. We loved wandering through the medieval streets exploring the very unique shops. Assisi can be crowded during the busy season so you may want to plan to arrive early.

Basilica di San Francesco Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi Italy
Basilica di San Francesco 
(Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi)
Assisi is famous for being the birthplace of Saint Francis (San Francesco) who founded the Franciscan religious order in 1208. Many visitors to Umbria go to Assisi on pilgrimage to visit his tomb located in the Basilica di San Francesco (Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi). Completed in 1253, the church can be seen from miles around (see photo). The frescoes inside are impressive.

Wayne Dunlap Wants His Ice Cream Assisi Umbria Italy
Wayne Wants His Ice Cream - Assisi
Assisi’s Basilica is divided into two churches (Basilica Superior above and Basilica Inferiore below). Both are beautiful and interesting to visit. The Tomb of Saint Francisis located beneath the church.

Pat Dunlap Cafe in Assisi Umbria
Pat Enjoying Cafe in Assisi
The whole town of Assisi was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are several other interesting places to explore in Assisi including churches, museums, Roman ruins, medieval sites, ancient castle on top of the hill, and many shops and restaurants in its walled medieval center. There are nice walks from town to the nearby Umbrian countryside. After exploring the medieval streets, fun shops, and the Basilica of Assisi, we took a seat in a café in the main square (Piazza del Comune), ordered a nice glass of local wine and a cup of Italian gelato (thick ice cream), and people watched European style (see photo) – so much fun!

Charming Area in East Side of Assisi Umbria Italy
Charming Area in East Side of Assisi
Travel Tip: Do not miss the east side of Assisi (to the right as you look up the hill). This area has more interesting shops and restaurants (see photo). A large number of the shops near the Basilica di San Francesco on the other side of Assisi offer religious items and the area is much more touristy. Many people visiting Assisi miss this charming area because tours, etc. generally cover the west side.

Orvieto

Beautiful Orvieto Duomo Cathedral
Beautiful Orvieto Duomo Cathedral
Orvieto is a lovely Umbrian town – one of our favorites. When arriving (see below for parking and transportation to town) we were overwhelmed by the beautiful Orvieto Duomo Cathedral (see photo). Amazing dating back to 1330, the very colorful gleaming mass of mosaics on the outside make it one of the most beautiful we have seen (see photo). 

Orvieto Underground City Umbria Italy
Orvieto's Underground City
One of the oldest towns in Italy, Orvieto also boasts an interesting underground city sitting on top of over 1,200 Etruscan-era caves, wells, and tunnels. Starting almost 3,000 years ago, some were dug for expansion of workshops when the city grew while others were quarries for materials to make the buildings above. Guided tours of the medieval caves show remains of an ancient olive press and pigeon coops where the birds were raised for food. You can buy tickets for this “Orvieto Underground” tour next to the information room across from the Duomo.

Leading off Orvieto’s main square, we liked the unique shops along the main streets Via del Duomo and Corso Cavour displaying beautiful Italian designs and local crafts. There are some very inviting restaurants on Corso Cavour – stop, have some Italian food and wine and watch the world go bye. The ice cream in Orvieto is truly wonderful – try some.

Important Travel Tip: Parking in Orvieto can be limited. When arriving follow the signs to the “Funiculure” cable car next to the train station. Parking your car is free here. Purchase your tickets at the coffee shop. Two tickets are given for each person – one for the trip up and the other for down. At the top of the funiculure you can take the free shuttle to Orvieto’s Duomo in the heart of Orvieto. Reverse the process to get back to your car.

Travel Tip: Nearby Todi is a smaller town in Umbria located a short drive from Orvieto allowing the chance to visit both in a day.

Todi

Todi Street Umbria Italy
Todi's Beautiful Streets
We liked Todi! If you want to visit a smaller medieval town in Umbria, we recommend picturesque Todi. The shops were fun with well-priced unique items.

Although Todi is a hill town, its center at the top of the hill is flat. Sights are close together to enjoy the ambiance and the views. Originally a Roman forum, Todi’s central square (Piazza del Pepolo) is a good place to start your exploring. 

Todi Piazza del Popolo Umbria Italy
Todi's Piazza del Popolo
Todi’s Piazza del Puopolo (people's square) is a large central square built above Roman cisterns (open for visits). Here you will find the cathedral and three public buildings from the 13th century. Palazzo del Popolo is one of Italy's oldest public buildings restored in the 19th - 20th centuries.

Just down the street we enjoyed the impressive church Tempe di San Fortunato at the top of some stairs.

Spello

Hilltop Town Spello
Hilltop Town Spello
We loved the small Umbrian medieval town of Spello! Dating back over 1,000 years, this special Umbrian town of art and flowers is not to be missed. 

Spello City of Flowers Umbria Italy
Spello - City of Flowers
Spello is a wonderful photogenic town! Around every corner is another picture perfect alleyway full of flowers and medieval arches, ancient stone buildings, and cobblestone streets. Also exciting is the friendliness of the people and the quaintness of the shops. 

Because Spello is not on most of the Umbrian tour group trips, there is a feeling of Italian authenticity about this town. Amidst the wonderful tourist opportunities, Italians are enthusiastically living their lives. Join in with them and enjoy your life while in Spello. 

Spello Il Molinoin in Piazza Matteotti  Umbria Italy
Spello's Il Molinoin in Piazza Matteotti - Umbria, Italy
We stopped at the wonderful restaurant Il Molinoin the Piazza Matteotti and had some great pasta and wine (see photo). What a delightful way to spend your afternoon in Spello!

OK, there also are some great sights to visit in Spello. It has about two dozen small churches – most dating back to medieval times. Some of the important ones are Santa Maria Maggiore (1159), Sant’Andrea(1025), San Lorenzo (12thcentury), San Claudio (11thcentury), and Tega Chapel (14thcentury). 

The Infiorata, Flower Festival of Corpus Chisti, is held in May and June. The streets of Spello turn into a spectacular carpet of flowers.

Perugia

Streets Perugia Umbria Italy
Streets of Perugia Umbria, Italy
To experience Umbria’s largest town, a visit to Perugia, the capital of Umbria, is interesting. Perugia's massive walls and bastions were constructed 22 centuries ago when Rome was little more than an encampment of huts.

Fontana Maggiore Piazza IV Novembre  Perugia Umbria Italy
Fontana Maggiore in Piazza IV Novembre - Perugia, Umbria
A place not to miss is Perugia main square, the Piazza IV Novembre. It is one of the important squares in Italy where you will find the city’s symbol, the Fontana Maggiore (see photo), constructed in the 13thcentury. Check out the 50 tiles decorating it representing Perugia's history – some real and some mythological.

San Lorenzo Cathedral Perugia Umbria Italy
San Lorenzo Cathedral
In Piazza IV November, don’t miss visiting Perugia’s huge beautiful San Lorenzo Cathedral built in 1345 (see photo). Across the square, you can also visit Palazzo dei Priorito see a good example of an Umbrian public building constructed 600 years ago.

From Piazza IV Novembre begins Perugia’s main street (Corso Vannucci) with its shops, cafes, and great people watching. We stopped at the restaurant Ferrari located in the middle of the street and had a wonderful lunch with wine (see photo below) idling the afternoon away. Perugia is famous for its chocolate– do try some, it is excellent!

Rocco Paolina Perugia Umbria Italy
Rocco Paolina - Perugia, Umbria Italy
At the end of Corso Vannucci a visit to Rocco Paolina is nice (see photo). Here you can watch a movie of Perugia’s history and visit the old town of Perugia buried beneath the current city. Rocco Paolina is where you can also start the decent down to the parking at Piazza Partigiani.

Breathtaking views  of Umbria’s countryside can be found from Perugia’s Giardina Carducci, Porta Sole, and the Aqueduct Stairs.

Lunch Ferrari Perugia Umbria Italy Italian Food
Lunch at Ferrari - Perugia, Umbria Italy
Travel Tips: Convenient parking is located at the Piazza Partigiani parking lot – pay with Euros when you leave. To get there, type “Piazza Partigiani” in your GPS system. From there, take the six escalators up to town to Rocco Paolina. From there you can walk Perugia’s main street (Corso Vannucci) to the main square (Piazza IV Novembre). Perugia’s visitor center is located off Corso Vannucci at the end of Via Fani.

Gubbio

Because there are a couple of unique things to do, Gubbio is another interesting ancient hilltop town we enjoyed visiting in Umbria. Follow the directions below for the best place to park in Gubbio to access the elevator up to town. By doing this, you will arrive in Gubbio’s main square (Piazza Grande).

Gubbio Funivia Birdcage cable car Umbria Italy
Gubbio's Funivia
First, for some good fun, you can take the open-air Funivia (‘birdcage’ cable for one or two people) up to the top of the surrounding mountain for a stunning view of Gubbio’s well-preserved buildings as well as viewing the beautiful Umbrian countrysideYou can reach the Funivia by walking to the end of town to the right or by driving following the signs. Note: the Funivia closes at 1PM for 1 ½ hours.

Gubbio Express Palazzo dei Consoli Museum Umbria Italy
Gubbio Express & Palazzo dei Consoli Museum
Second, and worth the price, from Piazza Grande the Gubbio Express is a motorized ‘train’ (see photo) that takes you on a 40-minute tour of the streets of Gubbio where you listen to and watch stories about Gubbio’s rich history.

Wayne Dunlap Certified Mad Gubbio Fountain of Madness
Wayne Being Certified Mad - Gubbio
Also, for those who want to be certified ‘Mad’ you can run around Gubbio’s Fountain of Madness (see photo) three times. It is located by walking from the main square (Piazza Grande) to the left of town. 

For lunch, the restaurant Ll Bargello located near the Fountain of Madness has nice Italian food served from an outdoor patio. 

Gubbio Corsa dei Ceri
Gubbio's Corsa dei Ceri
You might be asking... what’s up with this madness thing?The people of Gubbio are proud of the reputation of doing crazy things like the birdcage cable mentioned above. Another example, for centuries, a famous event in Umbria, the Corsa dei Ceri, is held every year in Gubbio on May 15th consisting of three teams, each carrying a large wooden statue, race through the streets and up much of the mountain from the main square. Huge crowds of supporters dressed in colors of yellow, blue, and black show up to cheer them on. The Corsa dei Ceri is one of the best-known folklore events in Italy and attracts large crowds.

Gubbio is known for its medieval churches, palaces, and cathedrals. There are plenty of Gothic style buildings built in the 14thand 15thcenturies -originally occupied by rich merchants. 

Roman Theatre and Hill Town of Gubbio Umbria Italy
Roman Theatre and Hill Town of Gubbio
Gubbio also has many interesting sites like the Roman Theater built in the 1stcentury BC. The 14th-century Palazzo dei Consoli houses Umbria’s largest collection of Roman artifacts as well as the Iguvine Tablets that the Romans used as base of their laws. The Duomo Cathedral was built in the 14th century.

Gubbio  Funivia Birdcage Cable
Gubbio from Funivia Birdcage Cable
Travel Tips: The best place to park in Gubbio to access the elevator up to town isin the parking lot near the train station next to Piazza 40 Martiri. When you arrive to Gubbio turn right at the city wall going past the Roman Amphitheatre located to your right. Follow Via Matteotti to the parking lot a couple of blocks down the road. Take the colored plastic ‘coin’ when entering the lot. Before exiting, go to the pay machine, enter your coin, pay the amount shown (Euro coins are helpful), and then take your coin for the exit gate.

Walk up Via della Repubbica about 3-4 blocks to the elevator that takes you up to Gubbio’s main square (Piazza Grande). You can purchase a map of Guggio for .50Euro in the Palazzo dei Console museum at the other end of the square.

Smaller Umbria Towns

Pat Dunlap Medieval Streets Montefalco Umbria Italy
Pat Medieval Streets of Montefalco
If you have more time in Umbria, you may consider visiting a couple of smaller towns. Montefalco and Bevagna are located a few miles from each other and both can easily be explored in a day. We discovered they have little going on at these smaller towns but if you want to wander medieval towns without the crowds, they are nice.

From Montefalco, the sweeping panorama view of the Umbrian countryside is amazing. You can see many of the famous Umbrian hilltop towns from here. Museum lovers will like visiting the San Francesco Museum built in 1338. Montefalco is known for its wines. Try some of the Sagrantino wine grown here - nice.

Lago (Lake) Trasimeno

For some nature, you can visit Umbria’s Lago Trasimeno, one of Italy’s top lakes. Three scenic islands can be visited by ferry. There is very pretty lake town, Castigione del Lago including a medieval center and castle. A great restaurant on the lake is the Hotel ristorante De Fallero.

Relais il Canalichhio Umbria
Relais il Canalichhio 
Where We Stayed in Umbria: We had a wonderful experience staying in a fairy tale medieval city inside a castle - the luxury hotel Relais il Canalichhio (see photo) located south of Perugia. It is a medieval castle and enclosed village turned into a 4-star hotel with fully remodeled rooms with bathtubs, outdoor pool, full-service spa, tennis courts, A/C, good Wi-Fi, TV, safe, and restaurant. Wake up to birds singing and enjoy breakfast in a lovely setting overlooking the breathtaking green Umbria hills from the Relais’ top of the hill setting. 

Our Room in Umbria  Relais il Canalichhio Pat Dunlap
Our Room in Umbria - Relais il Canalichhio
Although tastefully renovated, the Relais il Canalichhio still has a castle-like feel with lovely arches and stonewalls. The Relais il Canalichhio is centrally located to easily visit the towns in Umbria as well as several in Tuscany. The friendly English-speaking staff will help you plan your daily excursions with very helpful suggestions, maps, and information. Popular wine tasting tour and cooking class are offered. Try the restaurant La Locanda del Colle at the bottom of the driveway – very nice.

Relais il Canalichhio Hilltop Castle Hotel  Umbria
Relais il Canalichhio Hilltop 'Castle' Hotel - Umbria
After our daily explorations, we enjoyed a bottle of nice Umbrian wine on the Relais il Canalichhio’s flower-covered balcony overlooking the green hillsides of Umbria while listening to music and birds singing joyfully. Bring back some good Umbria wine, cheese, etc. or order a glass from the bar and have a relaxing afternoon on the back patio overlooking the Umbrian countryside... then enjoy a hot bath or a visit to the spa – just heaven!

Umbria Beautiful Countryside
Umbria's Beautiful Countryside
Travel Tips: The best times to visit Umbria for nice weather and lesser crowds is May through June and September through October. Summer (July and August) is the high season with higher prices and temperatures (sometimes very hot) as well as much larger crowds. May is very nice with spring flowers and vibrant green hillsides. Having a car is good to expand your exploring options – getting a small one is best. Gas stations (regularly available on the highways) require credit cards with a PIN number at the pump but many have someone inside with a regular card reader. They do take cash (Euros). Having a GPS system is extremely advisable!

Helpful Travel tip... Some common Italian words:
Grazie– Thank you
Prego- you’re welcome
Mi scusi- excuse me
Si – yes
No– no
Bello, Bellissimo– beautiful
Entrata- entrance
Uscita- exit
Banca– bank
Citta– city
Ristorante– restaurant
La Polizia– police
Parla inglese - Do you speak English?

We wish you an enjoyable trip to Italy’s wonderful Umbria!

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1 comment:

  1. Such a great share! I've never thought of going to Umbria. Am considering now :)

    ReplyDelete

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