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Tucked between Rome and Florence is the Italian region of Umbria. Besides the geographical location Umbria can be considered the heart of this multifaceted country as it holds all the best of ancient, medieval and modern Italy. In fact, Umbria is often referred to as Italy’s Green Heart for the abundance of green space, nature parks and mind-blowing views of lush hillside towns. 

The region of Umbria is where you’ll find fortified villages so well-preserved you’ll think you traveled back to Medieval times. Umbria is home to famous cathedrals and is the birthplace of many saints, including Saint Valentine, Saint Benedict and, of course, Saint Francis of Assisi. 

Umbria is a land of epicurean delights. Truffles, cheeses, cured meats and luscious Porchetta, a traditional Italian entree that’s celebrated throughout the country. Umbrian olive oil is coveted by chefs far and wide and, then., of course there is the always delicious Umbrian wine selection.

But, perhaps what makes Umbria so spectacular for visitors and residents alike, is the fact that it is a lesser-known tourist destination. The crowds you find in Rome, Tuscany and other regions of Italy are not present in Umbria. That lends charm to the Umbrian region as you are able to really get to know the warm and welcoming people and the many gifts this lovely region has to offer.

Orvieto

In the southwestern part of Umbria, high atop a rocky butte of volcanic rock, sits the town of Orvieto. The town’s ancient roots go as far back as Etruscan times. Stroll the narrow streets of Orvieto and you’ll see monuments and buildings that go back a few millennia. The natural fortification of Orvieto from the impenetrable rock made the town quite popular in the middle ages and Orvieto grew to be a major cultural center in the 13th century.

Orvieto is home to one of the Seven Wonders of Italy, The Duomo or cathedral of The Assumption of The Virgin Mary. This 14th century Roman Catholic Church is perched on a volcanic plug. It is a classic example of religious architecture and exhibits elements of design from the 14th century through the 20th century. There are three huge bronze doors in the church, a large rose window, golden mosaics and the cathedral’s two frescoed chapels display the work of some of the most famous Italian painters. The cathedral’s five bells date back to the Renaissance. There’s literally a stunning example of art and architecture at every turn, culminating with La Pieta by Ippolito Scalza in the late 16th century.

Beneath Orvieto lies a series of caves and tunnels. These caves, tunnels, wells and cavities form an underground fortress once utilized by the Etruscans for protection from the Romans. As the city grew above ground there was a secret city underground containing just about everything necessary to medieval life. 

Spoleto

The walled medieval hill town of Spoleto dates back to prehistoric times. In fact, the lower portions of Spoleto’s wall were constructed in the 6th century BC. Spoletium was actually the very first Roman settlement and dates back to 241 BC.

Spoleto is built on a hillside and the most interesting sites are located in the compact upper portion of town. There is a rock fortress (Rocca) above Spoleto and spanning the gorge is one of the most famous sites, the Ponte Delle Torri, or Bridge of Towers. 

Spoleto is the largest town in Umbria and, as you might imagine, boasts plenty of scenic spots and historic sites. There is a 12th century Duomo which was erected on the site of a very primitive Christian temple, the central square, Piazza del Mercato, once the site of the Roman Forum, where you can grab a gelato and check out the fountain and the Arch de Drusus, entrance to the Forum and built in 23 AD.Spoleto is also home to many museums, a Roman Theatre and the 4th century San Salvatore Church, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Assisi

Assisi is known as the birthplace of one of the most revered figures of the Christian faith, Saint Francis, or San Francesco, Italy’s patron saint. The Saint Francis Basilica in Assisi houses a tomb which is the resting place of beloved Saint Francis and is a popular pilgrimage destination. 

The town is also recognized for the spectacular views it offers. Assisi sits high above the valleys below, adjacent to Monte Subasio. Stroll the cobbled streets and you’ll find some points of interest including museums, medieval sites and Roman ruins. Or take a walk to the nearby countryside and take in a bit of nature. Shopping in Assisi is also a fun pastime!

Bevagna

Bevagna is one of the most picturesque villages in Italy. Time truly slows down the minute you step into Bevagna with its fairytale ambience and medieval vibe. There are Romanesque churches, stunning artwork, and remains of temples, a theatre and a complete circuit of medieval stone walls.  There is even a recreation of a medieval merchant’s house which replicates a similar structure from the 14th century.

Spello

With the charm of brightly colored flowers spilling over staircases and stone buildings, sweeping vistas of verdant valleys, narrow picturesque lanes and very few tourists Spello is pure delight. Dating back to ancient times Spello rivals Bevagna as one of the loveliest villages in Italy. The town has steep medieval streets, stairways, arches and angles that make the town itself the point of interest for those who visit.

Warm and Welcoming

Umbria is chock-full of charming villages, warm and welcoming people and so many beautiful photo-ops yet there are none of the crowds you’ll find in other parts of the country. Umbria is possibly the finest example of real Italian life, past and present. When you visit Umbria you aren’t simply a tourist, you are a part of the heart of Italy.

If it sparked your interest tale a look at Culinary Paradise itinerary. We also have a shorter version that is a great add on to a tour in Tuscany or Amalfi.

 

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