Known as the green heart of Italy, Umbria is a region in Central Italy that begs to be discovered. Keep reading to find out why in our Umbria travel guide.
Best known for the city of Assisi, the region has much more to offer than simply being the birthplace of Saint Francis. It’s a little more wild than its Tuscan neighbor, and a trip to the area leaves you with a sense of deep, inner relaxation.
Whether you’re a lover of truffles, shimmering lakes, lush mountains, full bodied red wines, hilltop towns with incredible vistas, sagra (unique food festivals), or simply searching for a lesser traversed part of Italy, you’ll find it all right here in Umbria.
Where is Umbria
Umbria is located in Central Italy and borders Tuscany, Lazio, and Le Marche. Whilst it’s a landlocked region, there are many beautiful lakes to discover including the best known Lake Trasimeno. It’s south of Florence, Milan, and Venice and north of Rome.
By car, it takes just under two hours to reach the capital, Perugia, from Florence and an hour and a half to reach Orvieto from Rome.
Map of Umbria
Main cities and towns in Umbria
There are so many beautiful cities and towns to discover when visiting Umbria. Have a listen to our podcast episode with author Michele Damiani on some of her favourite Umbrian towns to discover. Some of the most important or interesting towns to add to your trip include:
- Orvieto: This beautiful hillside city is famous for its magnificent Duomo. Hop on an underground tour to explore more of Orvieto’s Etruscan roots or simply relax at one of the many restaurants and enjoy the local food and wine.
- Assisi: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can’t miss a trip to the Basilica di San Francesco. It’s been on the pilgrim route since the 13th century as the birthplace of St Francis. Assisi is another great place to try Umbrian cuisine. The best meals are to be had on an outdoor terrace as the sun casts a glow over the valley below.
- Perugia: The Medieval capital of Umbria is well-known for its fantastic chocolate, and University for Foreigners of Perugia where many come to study the Italian language. Each year the city’s famous jazz festival is a highlight of the region’s calendar.
- Spello: This town is seriously flower-obsessed. So much so that they host the Infiorata festival every year where the town is decorated in flower tapestries created by competing teams from the community to celebrate the feast of Corpus Domini.
- Todi: A gorgeous Medieval hillside town dating back to the 8th century BC, Todi is rich in art and nature and gloriously free from crowds. It’s a great place to shop for artisan made wares like linens and ceramics.
- Gubbio: One of the most ancient towns in the region, Gubbio is renowned for its Roman ruins, Medieval aqueduct and charming hillside streets. Take the birdcage chairlift to the Basilica of Sant’Ubaldo for wonderful views over the town.
Top things to do in Umbria
There are a broad range of activities to suit every kind of traveler in Umbria. Whether you’re a foodie, a history buff, or nature lover, prepare to be wowed with the kinds of experiences you can have in the area. Some of the best activities on a trip to Umbria include:
Explore hilltop towns
Get lost in the Medieval streets in one of the many hilltop towns in the area like Gubbio, Todi, and Orvieto. Make sure your camera is handy at golden hour to capture the incredible views and magical light.
Go truffle hunting
Did you know Umbria is famed for its black truffles? Book a trip with a truffle hunter for an unforgettable experience watching the hunter and his trusty dog hunt through the forest for delicious truffles in the Umbrian hills. Then enjoy your finds shaved over pasta.
Enjoy tasting local wines
Umbria is renowned for its full bodied Sagrantino red wines and Montefalco Rosso. Head to one of the many wineries around Montefalco for a tasting, like biodynamic Fongoli or if you prefer white wines, try Grechetto and Trebbiano near Orvieto at family-run Cantine Zanchi.
If you like your wine tasting with a view, check out this picnic experience at Saio Assisi.
Visit incredible churches
Take a guided tour and admire the architecture and splendid art of the Duomo (Cathedral) of Orvieto, the Basilica of St Francis, the Duomo of Spoleto, and so many more.
Go swimming in Lake Trasimeno
Umbria gets very warm in the summertime so there’s nothing better than a refreshing swim in the cooling waters of Lake Trasimeno. There are nine beaches around the lake to swim at however try those near Castiglione del Lago for the best options.
Pull on the boots and go hiking
If you want to make the most of Umbria’s breathtakingly beautiful landscape, it’s a perfect destination for hiking. Try the hike along the Roman Aqueduct between Collepino and Spello or hire a mountain bike! Discover some of the many hiking itineraries you can enjoy on the Umbria Tourism website.
Go Olive Oil Tasting
Besides truffles and wine, the Umbria is renowned for their delicious liquid gold, aka Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Visit a frantoio, or olive mill, whilst visiting Umbria to learn more about why oil is so important to Umbrians, how it’s made, and of course to taste the final product. Try Frantoio Guadenzi near Trevi for award-winning oil!
Enjoy Ceramic shopping
If you love ceramics or artisan made products, then you absolutely need to include a stop in Deruta. It’s the major centre for the production of maiolica (painted tin-glazed earthenware) with a ceramic history dating back to the Middle Ages. Consider a visit to Grazia Maiolica – the oldest ceramic store in town.
What to eat and drink in Umbria
The style of food in Umbria is very rustic, hearty, and all round delicious! There is an abundance of tasty Umbrian dishes to try with the best local produce including pork sausages and cured meats, legumes, farro, truffles, olive oil, fantastic cured meats, Pecorino cheeses, great bread and interesting wines.
When visiting Umbria, don’t miss trying the following dishes:
- Stringozzi with truffles: The typical pasta of Umbria is made with no or little eggs and paired with a delicious shaving of black truffles when in season.
- Porchetta: Suckling pig is everywhere in Umbria. Try it in a tasty panino with a glass of Umbrian craft beer
- Cacciatore chicken: hunter-style chicken with no tomatoes. Think tender braised chicken with onion and garlic, juniper berries, sage, rosemary, wild fennel (seeds if you can’t get fresh), capers, olives, and some white wine and a squeeze of lemon.
- Ciaramicola: Known as “fiancé cake” this sweet treat is shaped into a ring. The dough is made with a special liquor called Alchermes and coated with lemon meringue that signifies purity.
- Torta al Testo / Crescia: A thick flatbread cooked on a cast iron skillet filled with grilled sausages and cooked spinach or other steamed vegetables and prosciutto.
- Sagrantino or Montefalco Rosso: The typical wine of Umbria is a full bodied red, tannin rich Sagrantino best known for its savoury and spicy red berry notes. Otherwise look out for Montefalco Rosso DOC, which is a blend of Sangiovese and Sagrantino.
Where to stay in Umbria
Given Umbria is a lesser known region, there can be somewhat limited accommodation options in the smaller towns. Whilst the region offers a range of choices including bed and breakfast, luxury hotels, Relais spa hotels, and agriturismi, you won’t necessarily find the full suite of choices available in each town. For that reason, the best bases include Perugia, Orvieto, and Todi.
If your trip includes visiting Assisi, Spello, Gubbio, and the lakes, a home base in Perugia is the perfect choice. There are many great accommodation options to choose from in the city and a variety of comfort and price points. Try the luxurious Sina Brufani, for a 5 star experience in the city centre.
Alternatively, if your trip takes in Tuscany, consider staying in Orvieto as you’ll find easy access to the Val d’Orcia in the Southern part of Tuscany. There are a few hotels in town like 4 star Hotel Palazzo Piccolomini as well as a range of farmhouse and B&B style accommodation.
Or, if you’re looking to be immersed in a smaller hilltop town, consider basing yourself in Todi. There’s the fantastic Tenuta di Canonica, Residenza D’Epoca San Lorenzo Tre and boutique B&Bs like Il Ghiottone who also offer marvelous cooking classes.
To soak up the beautiful countryside, stay in an agriturismo off the beaten track in the Umbrian hills.
When to go to Umbria
The real question is when not to go to Umbria – it’s fabulous at any time of year! Umbrian people are famed for their love of flowers which makes Spring a beautiful time to visit before the weather gets too warm.
The hilltop towns come to life during the summertime and this is one of the best times of year to experience the sagre or ‘food festivals’ in the region. In particular watch out for the Infiorata in Spello, the Umbria Jazz Festival held in Perugia in July or the medieval festivals in Bevagna. The summer season does get very warm, so consider staying somewhere with pool access to cool off.
If you want to experience Umbria in June, our small group summer tours of Umbria depart from Orvieto and visit hilltop towns and Medieval cities, meeting wonderful local people and experiencing the best Umbrian food and wine along the way.
Autumn is another beautiful time to visit with the wine harvest in September and the olive harvest in October/November. A very particular sagra to visit is the Black Celery Festival in Trevi which runs for two days in October. Don’t miss the L’oro di Spello in late November where they celebrate with the new olive oil on bruschetta!
We love the region so much at this time of year and are excited to take you on a cosy fall tour of Umbria to enjoy truffles, chocolate making and more. If you’re interested in the harvest processes and connection to the land, it’s the perfect time to visit.
Christmas time is another marvellous period to consider visiting Umbria. There is the largest Christmas Tree in Italy to see in Gubbio, markets in Perugia and sparkling illuminations in Assisi. Whilst it does get cold, it enjoys a Mediterranean climate so it’s not freezing temperatures to contend with. If you’re hoping for snow, January is your best bet.
How to get to Umbria
Getting to Umbria is easy to reach by plane, car, or train. For travelers coming from Rome, you can reach Orvieto in just a short hour and ten minute train ride, or the capital Perugia, in a couple of hours by car. If you’re traveling south from Florence, it takes just two hours by car to reach Perugia.
There is one main airport in Umbria giving you the option to take a connecting flight from other key cities in Italy like Rome, Florence, Milan, or Venice. Travelers coming from London or other European cities will find it easiest to fly directly into the Perugia International Airport.
How to get around Umbria
Generally speaking a car is the best way to get around Umbria and visit some of the smaller towns, wineries and olive oil mills. Take a look at Auto Europe or Rentalcars.com for car rental options – consider picking up your car from Perugia Airport, or the Orvieto train station. Whichever you choose, make sure to check out our guide to renting a car in Italy for useful tips.
For those not keen on driving, it is possible to use trains and local buses to access some of the main towns including Orvieto, Perugia, and Assisi. The train from Rome to Orvieto is very quick and will see you there in just over an hour. You can check the latest schedules and pricing on the Omio website and app.
Meanwhile, regional trains run from Perugia to Orvieto with the quickest taking just under two hours. The train ride from Perugia to Assisi is a very quick 20 minutes, however, you’ll need to take a local bus or taxi to reach the city centre as it’s 5kms away. Check out this article for more information on traveling by train in Italy.
Let’s go to Umbria!
Inspired to visit Umbria? Learn more about the region with our podcast episodes Wine and Wandering in Umbria, Uncovering Umbrian Towns and Villages, and Dishes of Umbria.
Want to discover Umbria with us? For a deeper local connection, why not join one of our Umbria small group tours.