Travel bucket lists almost undoubtedly always include charming cities in Italy, and when we think of visiting, we think of iconic places like Tuscany or Florence. We want the rolling vineyard views, olive groves, medieval structures and authentic food. But did you know there is another region neighboring Tuscany that has its own captivating allure, considered more of a hidden gem? We are here to tell you a little about a place called Umbria, which sits centrally in Italy and may very well make it on your next must-see list in Italy.
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Most everything in Umbria is similar to Tuscany, so you won’t be missing out on many of the iconic visual treats notable to Italy’s more mainstream towns. Umbria is known as the “Green Heart” of the country, and when seeing it in person, you’ll know exactly why.
Being lesser known can be a huge perk for travelers looking for something more immersive and disconnected. Umbria is home to charming Italian towns that are more of a hidden treasure versus those in well known Italian regions. You can really immerse yourself into the country’s history while feeling like you’re in a different time period all together.
Ideally located right beside the picturesque Tuscany region, Umbria’s proximity to many prominent destinations like Rome and Florence make it appealing. Taking a car to many of your desired stops is relatively easy, and an efficient train system is at your disposal. So being located centrally, and having many transport options makes Umbria quite convenient.
Villa Estia above the Tiber River is a stunning farmhouse in the picture perfect countryside of Umbria. The pool is accented by mountains, and traditional touches like terra-cotta tiling meshed with a light, modern feel. Red Savannah, who operates the lovely slice of heaven, can even arrange experiences like wine tasting and hot air balloon rides to elevate the experience. In general, travelers can find luxury lodging for less in Umbria, whether it be in a local hotel or snug bungalow.
There’s No Coast, But...
You have Lake Trasimeno, known as the “Blue Heart of Umbria”, located in Perugia. Making up for the lack, or absence, of ocean access, there are spacious beaches and even islands which can be reached by ferry. Surrounding the water are many villages accessible for food, shopping and site seeing, and of course, you can see the same olive grove landscapes available through all of Italy.
Agriturismos are working Farms that accommodate travelers with bed and breakfast style lodging, offering a more local, real experience than booking a big name hotel and is considered to be more sustainable. This unique way for farmers to increase their income came about when the industry was in crisis and now has turned into something quite magical for visitors. Just be sure you have an easy way to traverse to and from where you’re staying to the sites and places you’ll want to visit. Agriturismos can be surprisingly swanky, like the Agriturismo La Montagnola just five minutes from Torgiano.
Smaller but Vibrant Wine Scene
Sagrantino di Montefalco is the sought after wine in the region and can be found in the province of Perugia. What connoisseurs will find to be most exciting is that the quality of winemaking mirrors Tuscany, Prosecco or Trentino. Only the best grapes are used and are grown at optimal elevation in pristine soil that creates a balanced flavor and acidity. Antonelli San Marco cultivates white and reds while making a wonderful grappa, and Castello della Sala in Orvieto blends Chardonnay and Grechetto for an unparalleled flavor balance. While the wine scene is smaller than Tuscany, it’s renowned none the less.
Any place with forests, hills and lakes serves as an optimal base for adventurists looking for thrilling activities. Of course, the lovely wooded areas are prime for hiking or biking, but a handful of other outdoor excursions add to the appeal of Umbria’s more adrenaline infused side, including caving, paragliding and rock climbing. Trek underground via Pozza della Cava in Orvieto or explore the caverns of Grotte dell’Abbadessa.
Umbria’s towns and cities hold a little tighter to the past and remain more authentic and untouched than ones in places with more traffic. Visit Perugia’s cliffside location to see the historic city from the top of an escalator, see the birthplace of St. Francis at Assisi or go back in time completely along the streets of Gubbio. Spoleto and Orvieto aren’t to be missed either.
How could we overlook the culinary offerings of Umbria? Of course, Umbria’s food scene is heavily influenced by authentic Italian cuisines such as cured meats, prosciutto, pasta and meticulously crafted cheeses, but truffles, the curiously garlicky underground fungus typically located by pigs who sniff them out, are a major component in many dishes. Stop by Bibenda in Assisi, a charming nook which pairs regional wines with out of this world charcuterie.