Introductions to various aspects of the history, languages and peoples of Tuscany in Italy
Umbria is a Region (the Italian equivalent of a US State or UK County) in central Italy is essentially rural and characteristically presents vistas of verdant green countryside dotted with hilltop towns, and is packed with interesting things to see and do. The not-to-be-missed towns of Umbria are Perugia (population about 170,000 and the largest town in Umbria), Assisi, Orvieto, Gubbio, Todi, Spoleto and Norcia. Each has enough to keep you busy for a day or more, and none is more than a few miles from the next, making Umbria manageable and straightforward to explore. Smaller and very rewarding towns and villages of Umbria include Montefalco, Bevagna, Spello, Trevi, Narni, Bettona, Città di Castello, Città della Pieve.
Umbria is well-known for its many churches, a few of them going back to Roman times (notably in Assisi, home of Saint Francis), many of them Romanesque, many of them with beautiful frescoes or sculpture. The frescoes by Giotto in the Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi mark a turning point in the history of Western art. Roman remains are far more common in Umbria than in neighbouring Tuscany, due, obviously, to the greater proximity to Rome and to the presence of the via Flaminia running from Rome through Umbria to the Adriatic at Rimini. Roman remains include some fine bridges, the Roman bridge at Narni being the largest Roman bridge ever built.
The pastoral scenery of Umbria – the olive groves, vineyards and cypress forests – and the high mountain landscapes such as the Monti Sibillini are a major part of the appeal of Umbria to visitors from abroad.
Much of the countryside of Umbria is at its best in May, when the wild flowers are out and the weather is already warm. The exceptions are the mountains in the east, where the weather during May can be cooler and the Monti Sibillini are often still streaked with snow. We recommend early June for a hill country hike or see to the famous wild flowers of Sibillini and the Piano Grande, a vast upland plain above Norcia.
It’s often a good idea to decide on the kind of location and what type of vacation accommodations you prefer before booking and certainly before visiting Umbria, to avoid consuming your valuable vacation time searching for a place to stay. Booking in advance has the same advantage: making the decision to find a place while you’re travelling can definitely waste a huge amount of time. In a similar vein, it’s recommendable to select a base and stick to it. Changing your accommodation every 3-4 days can wipe out a whole day with each change.
The types of holiday accommodation offered all over Italy are well described here – in summary: hotels, villa hotels, villas, farmhouses, apartments and rooms, including B&B rooms. There is sometimes confusion about what constitutes a “villa” in Italy – this subject is clarified here and here. but, in brief, a true villa is a large structure with numerous rooms, while a family-sized, stand-alone house is basically going to be a farmhouse, a casa colonica. What type of accommodation you pick for your stay in Umbria basically hinges on how many of you there are, on whether you want a swimming pool and/or garden or not and on your budget.
Location, aside from the town you want to be near, is basically a choice between town or countryside (there are no beaches in Umbria!). Your mode of transport will play a role in this decision, as will whether you plan to eat and spend your evenings where you are staying or to be out and about.