There is little talk about Umbria. It is a small region that rarely appears in glossy magazines with pictures of footballers and models.
Umbrian towns are incredibly old, perched on breeze-stroked hills and floating on a sea of peaceful olive groves. The region has far more to offer than just the world-famous towns of Assisi, Perugia, Gubbio, Spoleto, Todi, Orvieto, Spello, Monefalco, gems of unchallenged beauty; off the beaten track, dwell an unnumbered amount of equally charming old villages and small hill-towns.Umbria is the land of Saints, soaked with a sense of mysticism that permeates the skin and fills the spirit with joy, the same joy pervading S. Francis’ wonderful Canticle of All Creatures.
Farming heritage still remains well visible, here, in the green heart of Italy; the country is alive and offers tasty, genuine products, laid on the tables of the many restaurants, inns, taverns, markets and ancient village festivals
Umbria is a land of magic, an enchanting place where to settle or, simply, where to spend some time for vacations. It is a land of hills, woods, vineyards and olive groves, a land where the wind whispers through the leaves, a land of lakes, silence, starry nights, good food and excellent wine, art, culture, history, a land of ancient traditions and simplicity. Umbria cannot just be described in few words.
Are we biased? Perhaps we are, nonetheless Umbria is beautiful! And not dear. Buying a house in Umbria can be a very smart choice in terms of value for money: in most of the region, aside from some expensive areas around Lake Trasimeno, Assisi and Todi, prices are still affordable, nothing to do with the sky-rocketing levels reached in Tuscany.
We bet this gap will eventually fade out. And you?
The ancient city of Perugia stands perched on a hill in the centre of the region, with its 5 historic quarters closed by the Cyclopean Etruscan walls, put in place 22 centuries ago and still visible for long stretches. When the city of Rome was little more than an encampment of huts, in Etruscan Perugia one could enter through as many as 7 gates, including, particularly impressive, the Porta d’Augusto. The steps that access the city acropolis are usually steep, both those dating back to the most remote ages and those traced in more recent times. For about twenty years, however, some very comfortable escalators have been created that greatly facilitate the ascent to the highest part of the historic centre
In this small hill-town, peacefully spread out on the slopes of Mount Subasio, everything seems to speak about Saint Francis.
The peace that reigns here, combined with the mystical memories of the Saint and his artistic treasures, makes Assisi one of the most enchanting tourist centres in Italy and the destination of devoted pilgrimages from all over the world. The Basilica of San Francesco is visible from afar, supported as it is by cyclopean arches that overhang the valley; it consists of two superimposed churches having in common a very high apse. The lower church contains the tomb of the saint in the crypt, a place of undeniable suggestion. The interior shows us wonderful frescoes by Giotto, Cimabue, Pietro Lorenzetti, Simone Martini.
An ancient Etruscan town, it stands austere on top of a cliff of yellow tuff rock (a type of stone) that dominates the valley of the river Paglia. All around you can see a large agricultural region formed by a valley bottom that corresponds to the river basin. Underground cavities are dug under almost all Orvietan houses, in which the famous wine of Orvieto is preserved; in these cavities have been found significant amounts of very fine ceramics produced from the Middle Ages onwards, allowing the city to recover the ancient tradition of ceramics production. Connected and integrated into an underground city created in the same tuff-rock mass, where walkways, tunnels with works of art can be found.
Spoleto is a city of ancient origins: inhabited since prehistoric times, it saw its nucleus founded by the ancient Umbrians around 1000 BC. C. While showing in the urban layout evident influences of the Roman era, the city of today reveals a typically medieval appearance, acquired during the period when it was first flourishing Longobard Duchy and then important center of the Papal State. To the ancient origins of Spoleto belong the arch of Druso of 23 d.C. (near the Romanesque church of Sant’Ansano), the Roman Theatre, whose construction dates back to the early years of the Empire, in addition to the early Christian basilica of the fourth century of San Salvatore (about 1.2 km north).
The origins of the city of stone, as Gubbio was not wrongly renamed, are lost back in history; in fact there are traces of prehistoric settlements in the area of the Eugubino since the Paleolithic period. Gubbio today reveals an exquisitely medieval character, incredibly preserved over time. Perched on the slopes of the Ingino, protected by solid walls that surround it for about three kilometers, encloses public and private buildings, churches and convents, houses and craft shops in an urban structure crossed by parallel streets, located at different levels on the mountain slope and connected to each other by steps and alleys so steep and tiring but that, among glimpses of buildings, houses, portals, arches, offer a magnificent scenic effect.
There are various myths about the origins of Todi, but history tells that the city was founded by the Umbrians in 2700 BC. Later, the Etruscans first and then the Roman people took possession of it, leaving numerous testimonies. The celebrity enjoyed by Todi internationally is also due to academic research of the 90s. Levine, of the University of Kentucky, based on a series of quantitative and qualitative parameters, decreed that Todi represented the Ideal City, the place where nature and man, history and tradition constituted a point of world excellence. Todi was elected the most livable city in the world.
Excursions and nature:
Umbria offers a large number of nature trails, to be covered on foot, by bike or on horseback, with very different and equally beautiful views.
In Umbria there are several natural parks and naturalistic oases. We report in particular the following, both located in mountainous areas and often neglected by tourists with little time.
Parco del Monte Cucco: it winds through the territories of Gubbio, Gualdo Tadino and Sigillo and is renowned for those who love trekking, mountain biking, paragliding, caving and cross-country skiing
National Park of the Sibillini Mountains: embraces the provinces of Perugia, Macerata, Fermo and Ascoli Piceno, on the border between Umbria and Marche. The landscapes of the Piano Grande of Castelluccio di Norcia are spectacular, with Monte Vettore (2476 m) in the background. Wildlife abounds, including the wolf, golden eagle and hawk. You can practice trekking, horse riding, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, rafting, climbing, canyoning. The city of Norcia, home of St. Benedict, certainly deserves a visit.
There are many possibilities for trekking between the hills and the Umbrian mountains. We report in particular, in addition to the aforementioned Monti Sibillini and Monte Cucco
Monte Subasio, between Assisi and Spello, with 14 marked paths;
Monti Martani, between Spoleto, Montefalco and Terni;
Cascata delle Marmore and Ferentillo, between Terni and Valnerina;
Franciscan Path of Peace Assisi-Gubbio, a path between mysticism and spirituality;
European path E1 in the Umbrian section, divided into 11 stages;
Monte Peglia e la Selva di Meana, which cover a vast territory between Orvieto and Marsciano;
Via Francigena da Perugia a Piediluco: from Perugia to Piediluco: a fascinating journey between faith and nature articulated in 16 stages.
Umbria offers throughout the year a great variety of events, exhibitions, village festivals, popular festivals, some of great suggestion. We list only the main ones:
ASSISI – first days of May
Calendimaggio is an accurate re-enactment of the costumes and of medieval and renaissance life with theatrical performances, concerts, songs and choirs, dances, parades, performances by archers, crossbowmen and flag-wavers.
Festivale dei Due Mondi
SPOLETO – end of June / beginning of July
The Festival dei Due Mondi was established by Gian Carlo Menotti with the aim of creating a moment of encounter and exchange between Italian and European culture and the American one. Today it is one of the most prestigious international events and offers prose, dance, opera, concerts, art and film shows. During the festival there is also Spoletoscienza, conferences and debates open to the public, with the participation of authoritative figures from the world of science, some of which are Nobel Prize winners.
Corsa dei Ceri
GUBBIO – May 15th
The Festa dei Ceri has centuries-old roots, which link back to the mysteries of the ritual celebrations of the ancient Umbrians.
The Ceri are three gigantic wooden machines weighing about four quintals each, surmounted by the statues of Sant’Ubaldo, San Giorgio and Sant’Antonio, carried from the historical center to the peak of Mount Ingino, where the basilica of the saint rises. patron. The route sees the ceraioli engaged in a wild ride through the streets of the city and in the arduous, difficult climb to the mountain, followed by an exalted and cheering crowd.
The party is one of the most singular manifestations of Italy, impregnated with a very strong mystical emotion that drags the audience. The Ceri di Gubbio are the emblem of the Umbria region.
Palio della Balestra
GUBBIO – end of May
The Palio della Balestra is a shooting competition with the medieval crossbow from a position. Participate in the Società Balestrieri Eugubina and that of San Sepolcro, two cities that have practiced this sport for centuries. The crossbowmen wear the ancient historical costume, while the flag bearers compete in games of skill.
PERUGIA – 8/18 July
Umbria Jazz is one of the most important jazz events in Europe, born back in 1973. It has hosted and continues to host in its editions the greatest modern jazz musicians. The show lasts ten whole days: from morning to night in the historic center of Perugia, between squares and ancient buildings, non-stop jazz concerts are held.
Perugia becomes a meeting point for tens of thousands of young people from all over Europe and the United States.
Giostra della Quintana
FOLIGNO – June (18/19) and September (18/19)
The carousel, taken in 1946, is inspired by a race at the turn of the seventeenth century which was intended to determine the order of priority for a knight of honor in fidelity to the prince or the lady of the heart. Today, ten riders on horseback, one for each district of Foligno, measure their ability by trying to insert a series of rings with an ever smaller diameter. The race has highly spectacular results and takes place at night. The evening before the competition, a procession of 600 costumed characters parades through the streets of the city.
Orvieto con gusto
ORVIETO – 2/10 October
A prestigious eno-gastronomic event whose objective is to rediscover and safeguard traditional tastes and products that risk getting lost due to increasing approval.
A walk with taste is a slow itinerary to discover flavors and fragrances walking through streets, squares and historic buildings. The taste workshops are guided tastings to choose and compare foods and wines mainly Umbrian, but also Italian. The program includes conferences, study meetings and initiatives of the Slow Cities, the cities of good living, associated on an international network.
PERUGIA – 16/24 October
A great fair dedicated to chocolate lovers, who transforms the city of Perugia every year into a lively outdoor pastry shop.
Amateur and semi-professional workshops, tastings, exhibitions and other events alternate in the historical center of the city. A unique and varied festival that sees as protagonists the most prestigious Italian and foreign confectionery reality.
Food and wine
The quality of Umbrian cooking is really excellent. Wherever you might go, village festivals or 5 stars restaurants, you will undoubtedly taste simple and delicious products.
Olive oil, truffle, wine, “norcineria”, spelt, lentils, chickling vetch, saffron, “torta al testo”, “strangozzi”: these are only some of the ingredients of the regional cooking.
Don’t miss the experience of going to a village festival: any one you might decide to go, from the wild board festival to the onion one, you will taste for sure typical Umbrian products in their original context
The roads of wine
A separate chapter has to be dedicated to the roads of wine, ways to go along by car, motorbike, bike or on foot among the sweet Umbrian hills, with visits to the wine cellars:
La Strada del Sagrantino
Since centuries, one of the most precious Italian vine is cultivated in the nearby of Montefalco: the Sagrantino. 27 footpaths available in the area.
La Strada dei Colli del Trasimeno
5 itineraries winding around Lake Trasimeno, among woods, abbeys and good wine.
La Strada dei vini etrusco romana
Viaggio nelle più antiche terre da vino dell’Umbria, tra Orvieto e Amelia.