Guide to Umbria

The green heart of Italy

This small, centrally located region is often called the ”green heart of Italy”. Umbria is frequently compared to Toscana, as the two regions have a great many similarities – Umbria is a miniature Toscana, blessed with a wilder, rougher charm of its own.

The paths of many different cultures and peoples have crossed in Umbria down the centuries – Etruscans, Lombards, Romans and Byzantines – all of them leaving traces and ensuring a rich treasure of historical artefacts. Anyone travelling to this region for the first time should make a point of visiting: Perugia, the Umbrian capital with its beautiful medieval town centre, home of one of Europe’s oldest universities; Assisi, the birthplace of Saint Francis (1181-1226) with the basilica in his honour that houses gorgeous frescos by Giotto and Cimabue; Spoleto, with its magnificent Romanesque cathedral; Città della Pieve, the birthplace of the painter Pietro Vannucci, known as Perugino (1450-1523); Città di Castello, the birthplace of the modern painter Alberto Burri (1915-1995) with two art collections dedicated to his works: the Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini and the Burri Collection, the latter housed in converted tobacco-curing barns in a former industrial complex – also a great example for successful preservation of significant industrial sites. Other interesting places include Norcia, the home of the delicious black truffles, and Orvieto with its impressive cathedral, one of the most beautiful examples of Italian gothic architecture, and its underground paths with grottoes, walkways, wells, shafts and furnaces of a once flourishing ceramics industry. And according to a study by the University of Kentucky, Todi, the birthplace of the mystical poet and Franciscan monk Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306), is currently the ”most sustainable city in the world” and one of the best places to live.

This small inland region, along the Apennines, has a varied climate with substantial differences depending on altitude. In the hills and on the plains summer can be particularly hot with temperatures exceeding 30 °C. During the winter months snow rarely reaches the lower lands. July is generally the driest month. Autumn sees the most rain, especially in the Apennines in October and November. The area around lake Trasimeno enjoys a mild climate throughout the year.

The region has many varying attractions for visitors: small villages with a medieval flair alongside significant cultural cities; soft hills as well as steep mountain peaks such as the 2476-metre Monte Vettore, as well as lakes such as Lago Trasimeno. Umbria is rich of small, pretty villages such as Panicale, Bevagna and Deruta, natural beauty such as the waterfalls of Marmore and the Monti Sibillini national park, a refuge for wolves and golden eagles. There are plenty of perfect routes for cycling tours as well, for example the 30-kilometre route through the rolling landscape of the ”Terre delle Acque” between Acquasparta, Avigliano Umbro, Montecastrilli and the fossil forest of Dunarobba.

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