Umbria, facts and travel tips
Lying between Tuscany, Le Marche, and Lazio, Umbria makes up Italy's green heart.
It's a beautiful and often mysterious place of dense pine forests interspersed with medieval villages and hill towns. Full of history and culture, Umbria is also characterized by gastronomic delicacies like truffles and cured meats as well as by its fine wines.
What are the best things to do in Umbria?
Umbria is full of romantic hill towns that keep watch over the countryside below while the stunning scenery of that countryside shines out whatever the season.
The region's compact size makes it manageable to explore with the capital Perugia being a good place to start your Umbrian adventure.
City life here focuses on the Corso Vannucci, a great place for morning coffee while you plan your day's itinerary. The medieval Palazzo dei Priori is a highlight of Perugia and home to the region's National Gallery of Art. An easy drive from Perugia's historic streets is Lake Trasimeno. This tranquil place of reed beds and water lilies is surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards and teems with a wildlife that includes cormorants, kites, and kingfishers.
One of Umbria's most famous sons was St Francis of Assisi and the Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi is a focal point for both tourists and pilgrims. Built in the mid-13th-century this beautiful building dominates the landscape of its hilltop town. Be prepared for crowds during the day in Assisi but if you're lucky enough to stay overnight, you'll find a sense of peace descends over this fascinating town.
Dating from just a few years later than Assisi's Basilica is the lavishly decorated cathedral at Orvieto. Frescoes, mosaics and intricate masonry greet its visitors. The tiny town of Bevagna provides a serene contrast to Umbria's larger cities and if you have a fascination for the Ancient Romans you'll find plenty to admire here with its temple, amphitheater and stunning mosaics.
In the depths of Umbria and away from the cultural trail is the mountainous town of Norcia, famous as the birthplace of St Benedict. If you love Italian gastronomy, then Norcia should be part of your plans. Ham, salami, cheese, and truffles are at their best here while the countryside of Piano Grande and Sibillini are perfect for outdoor adventures.
Enjoy hiking and horse riding along with the acres of colorful flowers that bloom every spring. The perfect medieval piazza at Todi has been the star of many swashbuckling films over the decades and makes a backdrop for a true gem of a town that looks both beautiful in the distance and provides much to admire on arrival. In the town's Museo e Pinacoteca di Todi, paintings and artifacts trace Umbria's history back to its Etruscan roots.
What is the best time of year to visit Umbria?
Every part of Umbria has its saint's day and religious festivals and these are always popular times with both locals and visitors.
Assisi, in particular, draws great crowds of pilgrims for Easter's Holy Week. While the weather is colder in winter with some risk of snow, you'll find the main cities much quieter while the historic attractions and museums can be enjoyed in tranquil peace.
For a real taste of medieval life, visit Gubbio's Palio della Palestra in May. This is a vibrant and thrilling exhibition of jousting, archery, and horse racing. The renowned Spoleto Festival of art, theatre, film, and ballet takes place every June or July and draws great crowds from across the world. If attending, we recommend booking accommodation well in advance.
What is the weather and climate like in Umbria?
The climate in Umbria is characterized by marked seasons with warm, dry summers and winters that can be cold and snowy in higher regions.
In fact, although Umbria isn't immediately associated with skiing holidays, you will find some excellent Alpine skiing and snowboarding, especially around Norcia. To see the countryside at its glorious best, visit in spring or autumn.
The mountainsides and meadows are a cascade of colors in May when the spring flowers and sunflowers bloom while the changing leaves in October and November create swathes of bright russets and reds.