Umbria is home to so many ancient cities and villages that you can not drive for more than 5 miles or there is another village or city to admire. To make things a bit easier for you, we summed up the best-known cities within Umbria. If you want to travel a little bit outside of Umbria, Florence, Rome, Pisa and Siena are within a 2-hour range from the villa by car.
Assisi is best-known as the place of birth of the Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) and the gorgeous basilica that was erected in his honor. In the catacombs you can still find his final resting place and those of his closest helpers. No wonder that Assisi is a place of pilgrimage for members of his order of the Lesser Friars and that of his female counterpart Saint Clare, that both still exist today. You don’t need to be a pilgrim though to enjoy the beautiful frescoes by Giotto and other famous painters. The beauty of Assisi speaks to all.
But there’s more to Assisi than Saint Francis. The hill tops of the Mount Subasio have seen Etruscans, Umbrians and Romans settle and leave their traces in the many churches, temples, castles and city walls in this picturesque town.
The vibrant capital of Umbria is only a good half hour drive away from Bacio del Lupo. In summer the town is flooded with students from all over the world taking an Italian language course at the Università per Stranieri. In July the city turns into Europe’s largest jazz festival Umbria Jazz, featuring world famous artists like George Clinton, Herby Hancock, Sting and Prince. For those who understand Italian, the summer-long outdoor cinema festival may be a nice option. But even if you’re not into film or jazz, there’s more.
Built by the Etruscians, taken over by the Romans and later the Umbrian Italians, Perugia has a trove of centuries-old architecture to admire. You will probably find the famous Piazza IV Novembre with its stunning medieval fountain on your own. This Fontana Maggiore was erected by the people of the thriving city of Perugia in the 1,300’s even before they erected the Duomo or the Palazzo dei Priori. Don’t forget to pop into the Palazzo to gaze at the beautiful fresco’s in there. At the main street Corso Vannucci left of the Palazzo you’ll find the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria with an important collection of Italian fine arts.
Go beyond the Piazza IV November and get lost in the wonderful alleys and streets. Every corner you’ll turn will reveal more churches, parks, views and restaurants. Done with the arts? Go on a shopping spree on the Corso Pietro Vannucci and treat yourself to an Italian aperitif including the complimentary stuzzichi that many bars offer free of charge. Wait until the sun sets and have a nice long dinner out on the terrace.
New York Times: 36 hours in Perugia
Monte Castello di Vibio
This beautiful gem is part of Italy’s network of ‘i borghi più belli d’Italia’ the most magnificent villages of Italy. And for good reason. Its history dates back to the Roman Empire. Nowadays you’ll mostly find well-conserved late-medieval architecture when you visit Monte Castello. The smallest theatre in the world ‘La Concordia’ is worth a visit. Napoleon had it erected in 1809 and as of today, it still serves as a theatre and it stages intimate events like weddings. The elevated construction of Monte Castello di Vibio allows 360 degrees stunning views on the surrounding Umbrian hills and villages.
The medieval city of Todi has one of the best-kept medieval piazza’s or market squeares. This beautifu. Piazza del Popolo features the Duomo that was probably built on top of the remains of a Roman temple. Todi’s history starts well before Christ when the Italian tribe of the Umbri settled there and called their settlement Tudere, which means border. The old settlement bordered the area occupied by the Etruscians at the time.
The cities’ first two walls remind us of Etruscan and Roman occupation. The most outer wall has medieval origins. Todi hosts a trove of beautiful architecture. To name just a few: Palazzo del Capitano, Palazzo dei Priori and the San Fortunato Church. But most streets, houses and alley’s are just as picturesque and worthwhile to explore. You can get pretty hungry in the face of so much beauty. No worries. Todi is also a slow food city and there’s lots of great food to enjoy.
You can not possibly miss Orvieto. Driving up you will see the mediaval town towering from it’s tufa volcanic bed offering a spectacular view from the valley. Once you’re up there, you’ll enjoy majestic views on its surroundings. Orvieto is well-known for a lot of things, the gorgeous Cathedral or Duomo (1290) built with white travertine and green basalt that give the Duomo its’ beautiful stripes.
But before the Italians and the Romans arrived, Orvieto was a stronghold of the Etruscans and the archaeological museum has may artifacts that come from the immediate neighborhood. There is also the Etruscan Necropolis – the City of the Death – that can be visited. The city has an underground labyrinth of 1,200 or so tunnels where the nobles used to hide when their city was under siege that can be explored with a guide.
Apart from the best-known sites like the Cathedral, the Necropolis, Palazzo del Popolo, the Saint Patrick’s Well, the churches and museums, Orvieto is is Citta Slow, member of the slow food movement.