As the green heart of Italy, Umbria is full of parks, landscapes, and scenery to explore. It is host to excellent farm to table restaurants, and it offers travelers a chance to explore a more unique sort of history. Unlike Tuscany's Renaissance glories, Umbria has relics from the Etruscan era, towns from which saints were born and even died, and entire villages dedicated to specific arts or foods. Towns are often dotted with Roman settlements and Etruscan artifacts, and there is much to see in even the smallest villages.
The most popular stops include:
The home and birthplace of "St. Francis of Assisi" who was born Giovanni di Bernardone in the late 1100s, and died here in the early 1200s. At that time, a monastic church was constructed, and today this complex remains one of the loveliest imaginable. A Giotto fresco is found here, and though an earthquake did severe damage to the property, all of the art has been fully restored. Be aware that this is a heavily visited site, but well worth the trip. Visitors will also want to visit Rocca Maggiore, the Basilicas of Saint Clare, Saint Peter and Saint Stephen nearby, as well as the town's lovely cathedral. This is most definitely a walking town with some steep ascents. Many wonderful cafes and gelateria are available…don't hesitate to indulge. Shoppers will also appreciate the artisan goods available near the cathedral complex, including leather goods, olive wood products, and lovely jewelry.
A wonderful walker's town, it is a jumble of periods and styles. It is an art lover's paradise and the national Gallery is a must. The San Pietro church is a medieval masterpiece often overlooked, and the Etruscan fort is now easy to reach thanks to a recently installed escalator. If you have time, the world-famous Perugia chocolate factory offers classes that travelers may take when they have more than a single day in the city. Be sure to get out in the evening as the city's residents enjoy their passseggiate along the Corso Vannucci. Here you'll find plenty of places to sample local wines, but well-informed travelers know to grab a table at Osteria a Priori. This is an award-winning spot that makes all of the "best of" lists. You may also want to pay a visit to Vecchi Perusia while in the city as here too you find some of the best food in the city. If you are more of the Michelin star type, however, you must book a table at Il Postale to enjoy what is sure to be the finest meal of your journey. Keep in mind that it is also a university town with a lot of nightlife.
Just outside of Perugia is the enormous lake that is almost as popular as the northern lakes. While driving your car may be fun, renting a Vespa is even more so. Those in the know will plan their exploration of the lake to allow time at the Trattoria de Faliera, which is one of the most famous stops in the region for its regional specialties and impressively scenic location. You will find Castiglione del Lago here as well, and this is a top spot for upscale shopping and wonderful dining.
North of Perugia is this Roman town that is long known as one of the best preserved in the country. A day here is a wonderful and rare treat, combining history and amazing scenery.
If you are hoping for a traffic-free day of walking, this is the city for you. Walled and preserved from the Roman era, it offers iconic steep and narrow streets, excellent fortifications, and beautiful Roman gates. It is home to the annual Infiorate flower festival, as well.
This is home to some of the best Etruscan sites in all of Italy as well as boasting an amazingly beautiful cathedral. The top white wines in the world are known from coming from this region, and Orvieto Classico is a must-sip.
Of course, this list could comprise scores of other names, and each one would have a list of excellent things to see, do, or taste. Wherever it is that you are staying while in Umbria, it is certain that any nearby village will have something wonderful to discover or experience. Do not hesitate to wander into even tiny towns as the residents are remarkably friendly and encouraging wherever you go, and most want travelers to see the "best" they have to show.