There are some wonderful towns and cities across Umbria, all of which are worth a visit during your stay.
With the growth of Ryanair, holidaymakers visiting Umbria are increasingly flying into Perugia. Make sure you take the time to visit the city itself rather than just heading in and out of the airport! The university town is vibrant, with life revolving around it’s main street – the Corso Vannucci which has at one end the Piazza IV Novembre (home to the Duomo, the stunning 13th century Fontana Maggiore and the Palazzo dei Priori) and at the other end the Piazza Italia. The Palazzo dei Priori is one of Italy’s largest and most impressive civic palaces. It contains the Sala del Collegio della Mercanzia, the Collegio del Cambio, the Sala dei Notari and the Galleria Nazionale dell’ Umbria. The latter is one of Italy’s best art galleries with works by, among others, Perugino, Fra Angelico and Piero della Francesca. If you can break away from the cultural delights of the city, make sure you set aside some time to also enjoy the shops and markets. The Corso Vannucci has some great shops whilst the Merato Coperto is also worth visiting. Situated just off the Piazza Matteotti, the permanent food market is a great place to stock up on picnic supplies!
Another town worth a visit is Gubbio, one of Italy’s best preserved Medieval cities. Another Medieval town but on a much smaller scale is Citta di Castello. The town contains an outstanding art collection and trio of fascinating museums.
Todi, Montefalco, Bevagna, Spello, Trevi, Norcia, Narni, Orvieto, Assisi and Foligno are also all worth a trip.
Bevagna has very much preserved it’s medieval appearance but it’s clear to see it’s Roman roots in the layout of the streets and the glimpses of the Roman outer walls. The ruins of the Roman temple were also transformed into the church of the Madonna della Neve. There are a few small boutiques worth visiting in the town, a couple selling some wonderful cashmere goods and it’s also worth visiting the Churches of San Silvestro and San Michele Arcangelo. The city’s museum is housed in the Palazzo Lepri.
Montefalco is a town at the heart of wine production in this region, with the cultivation of vines dating back to Roman times. If you fancy learning more about the wines, try and time your visit to coincide with the ‘Terre del Sagrantino’ held at Easter time. You’ll not only be able to sample all the wines at this event but also all the other wonderful products of the area including honey and olive oil. Alternatively, come on the last Sunday in May when you can enjoy ‘Cantine Aperte,’ a chance to taste the wines directly in the vineyards and cellars where they are produced. Or come during ‘Montefalco August,’ three weeks of celebrations in the area, or during the ‘Festival Calici’ in December, a series of events revolving around Italian passiti (raisin wines).
Trevi is a town set on top of a hill surrounded by olive groves and very much views itself as the ‘oil capital’ of Umbria. The October Sagra festival is worth seeing here where you’ll also get the chance to taste another of the area’s gastronomic treats – a unique variety of black celery. Also held in Trevi in October is the Palio dei Terzieri. This is a unique event held annually, where over 300 participants dressed in costumes from the 1200s, race 3 wagons through the streets. The winners are the team that reach the keys to the civic Tower first and ring the bell. It’s a great opportunity to experience the local culture and understand one of Italy’s great traditions.
Spello is a town dating back to ancient times and still retains archways dating back to the Augustan era. Like Trevi, it also has some extremely interesting annual events. The most impressive artistically is surely the Infiorata of Corpus Domini when artists gather in the streets to produce stunning works of art using only flower petals and leaves. Artists start work at the same time on the Saturday and work on through the night to complete their masterpieces with an award then granted for the best creation.
Just a few miles from Spello, Assisi is a town popular with holidaymakers who flock to visit the Basilica of St Francesco. It’s worth heading there either first thing or last thing in the day to avoid the peak of the crowds. There are car parks both at the bottom of the city near the basilica or at the top of the city, from where it’s then a pleasant walk from here down to the basilica through the streets and past the Roman temple. If you want to visit the basilica then make sure you are wearing clothing that comes just below the knee and that your shoulders are covered to ensure that you are allowed entry.
Near both Spello and Assisi, Foligno offers an extensive list of annual events for vistors to enjoy throughout the year. The renowned Palio della Quintana at Foligno is a colourful and exciting event, re-enacting a jousting tournament with knights on horseback. Ten horsemen, each representing one of the city’s wards, face off in a ring joust. On three successive runs, the horsemen must gallop along and insert their lance into the rings shose diamater shrinks with each run. There are three joust events each year – the Baroque Carnival in February, the June Challenge and the Rematch in September. Foligno also holds, among other events, the ‘First Courses of Italy’ across September and October each year, where top chefs, food critics and maunfacturers all converge on the town in a celebration of Italy’s favourite foodstuff – pasta. In June the town holds a jazz festival, in July there is the ‘Canti and Discanti’ music festival and across February and March, the Sant’ Eraclio carnival.