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A Journey through Umbria in 11 steps

There are many corners of Italy I have yet to discover but the region of Umbria keeps pulling me back. After countless visits, I am still discovering new places, new activities, and delicious delights. By no means am I an ‘Umbria expert’ but the information below is a good place to start if you have never visited Il cuore verde d’Italia.

Which airport?

If you have a choice, land at Perugia San Francesco d’Assisi Airport. It is tiny and you will be out in no time. I have found car hire prices here to be somewhat on the expensive side, so do compare. My second option would be one of the Rome airports; Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport or Ciampino Airport. This means a 1.5 to 2 hour drive to Umbria but honestly, it does not bother me. Rental car prices, tend to be cheaper and it’s not an unpleasant drive.

Assisi

Walking down the airplane steps at Perugia Airport (told you it’s a small airport!), you will glimpse the holy town of Assisi on a hill with Monte Subbasio standing guard in the background. Religious or not, one cannot keep the city of St Francis off an Umbrian itinerary. Wherever your base is, Assisi is easily reachable. Of course, St Francis Basilica is a must-visit; head down to the crypt where the saint’s remains rest and spend a few minutes in silence. For the religious, there are many other churches to visit including Santa Maria Maggiore and St Claire’s Church. Sit for a drink in Piazza del Comune and wander along the narrow streets to find a good restaurant. Our most recent lunch was at Ghiotto Restaurant – food and service were equally sublime.

Perugia

Park your car at the Piazza Partigiani parking and take the escalator up to the old borgo through what can easily be described as an underground city. You will wander through Corso Pietro Vanucci, Perugia main street, ending up in Piazza IV Novembre with its iconic fountain. Palazzo dei Priori and Cattedrale San Lorenzo are worth a visit. Stop for a tagliere at La Prosciutteria Perugia in Piazza Giacomo Matteotti. Top off your Perugia visit with a tour of the Baci Perugina chocolate factory – a must for all chocolate lovers.

A tour of the Baci Perugina Chocolate Factory is a must.

Orvieto

An extremely important city in Umbria, your first stop in Orvieto should be the Pozzo di San Patrizio (St Patrick’s Well). An architectural marvel with distinct and independent spiral passages, wide enough for mules and carts.

Walk up to Piazza del Duomo and its impressive cathedral with a wonderful gothic facade. Inside spend some time studying frescoes by Signorelli.

Marmore Falls and Lake Piediluco

La Cascata delle Marmore is located in southern Umbria and is the largest man-made waterfall in the world. Part of a hydroelectric power plant, the falls operate at a set schedule, so time your visit well or you may end up disappointed. Lago di Piediluco is a short drive away. In fact, this lake acts as a reservoir for the waterfalls. Here, you have a good choice of waterside restaurants and I highly recommend hiring a paddleboat or canoe to explore the lake.

Norcia, Pian Grande and Castellucio

Devastated by the October 2016 earthquake, Norcia is still finding its feet. Numerous buildings are still a pile of rubble; the Basilica of St Benedict is slowly being reconstructed. Norcia is famed for its pork and wild boar products. So for lunch choose a norcineria and get a taste of local produce.

Next, take the SS685, and drive up the mountain to visit the stunning Pian Grande di Castelluccio. This is a vast plateau in the Apennines mountain range. The best time to visit is between the months of May and July when the plains are covered with flowers, such as daisies and lentils. Speaking of lentils, these are a gastronomic excellence of the area; keep space in your luggage and take a few packets home with you (along with salami and wine!)

Pian Grande, Umbria