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How Umbria Changed My Mind About Italy


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Billy Leech



Italy – a land of enchanting beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. When most people think of Italy, they envision the bustling cities of Rome and Florence, the picturesque canals of Venice, or the glamorous Amalfi Coast. However, there is a hidden gem in the heart of the country that often goes unnoticed – Umbria. Nestled in the central part of Italy, Umbria is a region that captivates with its stunning landscapes, medieval towns, and warm-hearted locals.


Having explored various parts of Italy, I must admit that I had reservations about visiting Umbria. I had heard very little about the region and wondered if it could live up to the charm of its better-known counterparts. However, from the moment I set foot in Umbria, my doubts were quickly dispelled, and I found myself falling in love with its unique allure.


Umbria offers a refreshing change of pace from the hustle and bustle of traditional tourist destinations. It boasts an untouched beauty that enchants the senses and invites you to immerse yourself in its authentic atmosphere. From the rolling hills and vineyards to the awe-inspiring medieval hilltop towns, every corner of Umbria tells a story that dates back centuries.


In this article, I will take you on a journey through Umbria, delving into its natural beauty, rich history, local culture, tantalizing cuisine, and warm hospitality. Join me as we explore this captivating region and discover why Umbria is an absolute must-visit destination for anyone seeking an off-the-beaten-path Italian adventure.


The Beauty of Umbria

Umbria boasts a natural beauty that is simply breathtaking. As soon as you arrive, you are greeted by rolling green hills, dotted with picturesque vineyards and olive groves. The landscape is a tapestry of vibrant colors, from the vibrant green of the fields in spring to the golden hues of the autumn foliage.


One of the highlights of Umbria’s beauty is its serene lakes. Lake Trasimeno, the largest lake in central Italy, offers mesmerizing views and tranquil waters. Whether you choose to embark on a boat ride, hike along the surrounding trails, or simply relax on the shore, the peaceful ambiance will leave you feeling rejuvenated.


Umbria is also known for its charming hilltop towns that seem frozen in time. Perched high above the valleys, these medieval towns offer panoramic views that are simply awe-inspiring. The cobblestone streets, ancient fortresses, and charming squares create a magical atmosphere that transports you back in time.


One of the most iconic hilltop towns in Umbria is Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis. The town is not only renowned for its religious significance but also for its stunning architecture. The Basilica of Saint Francis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses priceless frescoes by renowned artists.


Another gem is Orvieto, perched atop a volcanic cliff. Its magnificent Duomo, with its intricate façade, is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. As you stroll through the town’s narrow alleys, you’ll stumble upon hidden corners and charming shops selling local handicrafts.


Umbria’s natural beauty extends beyond its towns and lakes. The region is home to captivating waterfalls, such as the Cascata delle Marmore. This enchanting waterfall cascades down a series of rocky steps, creating a mesmerizing spectacle that is sure to leave you in awe of nature’s wonders.


Whether you’re exploring the vibrant countryside or wandering through the ancient towns, Umbria’s beauty is bound to leave an indelible mark on your heart. From its rolling hills to its picturesque lakes and captivating waterfalls, you’ll find yourself constantly surrounded by nature’s grandeur.


Uncovering the Rich History

Umbria is steeped in history, with traces of its fascinating past found in every corner of the region. As you explore its towns and villages, you’ll uncover a wealth of historical treasures that offer a glimpse into Umbria’s rich heritage.


One of the most significant historical sites in Umbria is the town of Perugia. As the region’s capital, Perugia is a vibrant hub of art, culture, and history. It is home to numerous archaeological sites, such as the Etruscan Arch, which is a testament to the ancient civilization that once thrived in the area.


Another remarkable historical site is the city of Spoleto. Situated on a hillside, Spoleto showcases a blend of Roman, medieval, and Renaissance architecture. The iconic Ponte delle Torri, an imposing bridge that spans a deep valley, is a testament to the engineering prowess of the past.


Umbria is also known for its rich religious history. Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, attracts pilgrims from around the world. The Basilica of Saint Francis is a pilgrimage site and houses exquisite frescoes depicting the life of the patron saint.


But Umbria’s history is not limited to its towns alone. The region is dotted with ancient ruins and archaeological sites, testament to the Etruscan and Roman civilizations that thrived here. The Roman theater in Spello and the Etruscan walls in Todi are just a few examples of the historical wonders waiting to be discovered.


Throughout Umbria, you’ll also find beautifully preserved medieval fortresses and castles. These imposing structures, such as the Rocca Maggiore in Assisi and the Castello di Montegiove, offer a glimpse into the region’s turbulent past and the strategic importance it held.


Visiting Umbria is like stepping back in time, where history comes alive and whispers its stories to those who are eager to listen. With each historical site you encounter, you’ll gain insights into the region’s captivating past, leaving you with a deeper appreciation for its cultural heritage.


Exploring Medieval Towns

Umbria is a treasure trove of medieval towns, each with its own distinct charm and historical significance. Exploring these towns is like stepping into a fairy tale, with their cobblestone streets, ancient walls, and well-preserved architecture.


One of the most well-known medieval towns in Umbria is Gubbio. Its medieval ambiance is palpable as you wander through its narrow streets, lined with Gothic palaces and ancient towers. The town’s main square, Piazza Grande, is a bustling hub where locals and visitors gather to soak in the atmosphere and admire the impressive 14th-century Palazzo dei Consoli.


Another gem is Spello, a perfectly preserved medieval town with a rich artistic heritage. As you stroll along its winding streets, you’ll come across beautifully adorned doorways and flower-filled balconies. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, with its stunning frescoes by Pinturicchio.


Todi is yet another enchanting medieval town that exudes charm at every turn. Its main square, Piazza del Popolo, is the heart of the town and features a stunning medieval palazzo. Climb to the top of Todi’s hill and be rewarded with panoramic views of the countryside, vineyards, and olive groves.


But it’s not just the well-known towns that capture the imagination in Umbria. Hidden gems like Montefalco and Bevagna are treasures waiting to be discovered. Montefalco, known as the “Balcony of Umbria,” offers breathtaking views from its medieval walls. Bevagna, with its well-preserved Roman remains and medieval architecture, takes you on a journey through time.


Exploring these medieval towns is like walking through living history. They allow you to immerse yourself in a world where time seems to have stood still. You’ll encounter charming shops selling local handicrafts, cozy cafes tucked away in narrow alleyways, and friendly locals who are proud to share the stories of their towns.


Whether you’re wandering through the grand squares or meandering along the labyrinthine streets, each medieval town in Umbria offers a unique experience. The combination of architectural wonders, artistic treasures, and the sense of stepping back in time will undoubtedly leave you with lasting memories.


Experiencing Local Culture

Immersing yourself in the local culture is an essential part of discovering Umbria’s true essence. The region is known for its warm hospitality and proud preservation of traditions, offering visitors a chance to experience authentic Italian culture.


One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the local culture is by participating in festivals and events that take place throughout the year. From ancient cultural celebrations to vibrant food and wine festivals, there is always something happening in Umbria. The Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, for example, attracts music lovers from all over the world with its captivating performances in stunning settings.


Umbria is also home to numerous artisans, whose craftsmanship has been passed down through generations. From ceramics and pottery to textiles and leatherwork, you’ll find exquisite handmade products that showcase the region’s artistic heritage. Visiting the workshops and studios of these artisans gives you the opportunity to witness their skills firsthand and even take home a unique souvenir.


Food and wine are integral parts of Umbrian culture, and exploring the local culinary scene is a must. Indulge in traditional dishes like porchetta, a succulent roast pork, or truffle-infused delicacies that are renowned in the region. Visit local markets to savor the flavors of fresh produce and artisanal cheeses, and don’t forget to pair your meals with a glass of Umbrian wine, known for its high quality and rich flavors.


Umbria is also a place where ancient traditions are still alive. The Sagre, traditional food festivals that showcase local specialties, are a window into the region’s cultural heritage. From the medieval festival in Bevagna to the flower festival in Spello, these events offer a chance to witness traditional costumes, music, and dance that have been preserved for centuries.


Interacting with the locals is another way to truly experience Umbrian culture. Italians in this region are known for their warm hospitality and friendly demeanor. Strike up a conversation at a local café, join in a lively market conversation, or simply embrace the Italian spirit of “la dolce vita” as you soak in the atmosphere.


Experiencing the local culture is not just about seeing the sights and trying the food, but also about connecting with the people and traditions that make Umbria so unique. By embracing the customs, traditions, and flavors of this region, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of its cultural richness.


Sampling Umbrian Cuisine

When it comes to culinary delights, Umbria is a food lover’s paradise. The region’s cuisine is deeply rooted in tradition, offering a rich tapestry of flavors and ingredients that reflect the land’s bounty.


One of the most iconic dishes of Umbria is porchetta, a succulent roast pork that is slow-cooked to perfection. The tender, flavorful meat, infused with aromatic herbs and spices, is often enjoyed in a crusty bread roll for a satisfying and mouthwatering experience.


Truffles are another star of Umbrian cuisine. The region is known for its treasure trove of black and white truffles, which are often shaved generously over pasta dishes or used in risottos and sauces. The earthy, intense flavor of truffles is a true delight for the senses.


Umbria is also famous for its lentils, particularly those from the town of Castelluccio di Norcia. These small, flavorful legumes are a staple in many traditional dishes, adding a hearty and nutritious element. Try them in a comforting soup or alongside grilled sausages.


Wild boar is a beloved ingredient in Umbrian cuisine. The rich, gamey meat is used in various dishes, such as slow-cooked stews and savory ragùs. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the classic dish of cinghiale alla cacciatora, a braised wild boar prepared with tomatoes, wine, and aromatic herbs.


Cheese lovers will be delighted by the variety of artisanal cheeses available in Umbria. Pecorino, a sheep’s milk cheese, is a popular choice, ranging from mild and creamy to sharp and aged. Pair it with a drizzle of local honey for a perfect balance of flavors.


No meal in Umbria would be complete without a glass of wine. The region is known for its excellent wines, with Sagrantino and Orvieto being the most renowned varieties. Whether you prefer red or white, you’ll find that Umbrian wines perfectly complement the flavors of the local cuisine.


To truly immerse yourself in Umbrian cuisine, make sure to visit the local markets. The colorful stalls brim with fresh produce, vibrant fruits, vegetables, and aromatic spices. Engage in conversations with farmers and vendors, who will gladly share stories and recipes, giving you a deeper appreciation for the region’s gastronomic heritage.


Sampling Umbrian cuisine is not just about satisfying your taste buds, but also about experiencing the authentic flavors and traditions that have been passed down through generations. From the earthy notes of truffles to the robust flavors of wild boar, each bite tells a story of the land and its people.


Immersing in Natural Beauty

Umbria is a region of unparalleled natural beauty, where lush landscapes, rolling hills, and picturesque lakes create a breathtaking backdrop. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or simply seeking tranquility, Umbria offers an abundance of outdoor wonders to explore.


The region is blessed with an impressive network of nature reserves and parks, providing ample opportunities for hiking, biking, and immersing yourself in the great outdoors. The Monti Sibillini National Park, with its rugged peaks and pristine wilderness, is a paradise for adventure seekers. Lace up your hiking boots and explore the countless trails that wind through this stunning landscape.


Umbria is also renowned for its charming hilltop towns, each offering a unique vantage point to soak in the natural beauty that surrounds them. From the medieval town of Spoleto to the enchanting Assisi, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views at every turn.


Lake Trasimeno, the largest lake in central Italy, is a haven for water lovers and nature enthusiasts. Embark on a boat trip to explore its tranquil waters, or simply relax on the shore and admire the shimmering reflections. The lake is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, attracting a variety of species throughout the year.


For those seeking a more active adventure, Umbria offers a range of outdoor activities. Test your skills with a thrilling rafting or kayaking excursion on the Nera river, surrounded by stunning gorges and cascading waterfalls. Or, set off on a horseback riding adventure through the rolling hills, vineyards, and olive groves.


Nature lovers will also be captivated by the region’s enchanting waterfalls. The Cascata delle Marmore, located near Terni, is one of the highest man-made waterfalls in the world. Witness the cascading waters as they plunge into the surrounding lush greenery, creating a truly awe-inspiring sight.


Umbria’s natural beauty is not limited to its parks and landscapes, but can also be found in its charming gardens and vineyards. Visit the Gardens of Palazzo Comunale in Spello, where colorful flowers and peaceful serenity create a harmonious oasis. Or explore the vineyards, where rows of grapevines stretch as far as the eye can see, producing some of Italy’s finest wines.


Immersing in Umbria’s natural beauty is a soul-stirring experience that rejuvenates the spirit and reconnects you with the wonders of the earth. Whether you’re exploring its national parks, relaxing by the lake, or venturing into the wild, the region’s natural treasures are sure to leave an indelible impression.


Adventures in Outdoor Activities

Umbria is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, offering an array of thrilling activities that allow you to embrace the breathtaking landscapes and engage in exhilarating adventures. From mountain peaks to winding rivers, the region caters to all interests and skill levels.


If you’re a fan of hiking, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Umbria. The region is home to a vast network of trails that wind through its rolling hills, dense forests, and picturesque valleys. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a challenging trek, there is a route for everyone. Discover hidden gems, encounter stunning viewpoints, and immerse yourself in the peace and tranquility of nature.


Cycling enthusiasts will find endless possibilities in Umbria. The region offers a mix of flat countryside routes and challenging mountainous terrains, making it ideal for all types of cyclists. Pedal through vineyards and olive groves, pass by charming medieval towns, and revel in the sense of freedom as you explore the countryside on two wheels.


For water enthusiasts, Umbria’s lakes and rivers provide plenty of opportunities to indulge in outdoor activities. Take to the waters of Lake Trasimeno for a sailing or windsurfing adventure, or grab a paddle and kayak along its serene shores. If you’re up for a more thrilling experience, head to the Nera river for a white-water rafting excursion that will get your adrenaline pumping.


Umbria is also a fantastic destination for those seeking climbing and via ferrata experiences. The rocky peaks of the Monti Sibillini National Park and the Valnerina region offer a perfect playground for climbers of all levels. Ascend high, conquer challenging routes, and be rewarded with breathtaking views from the summit.


Adventure seekers can also try their hand at paragliding and hang gliding, taking to the skies and enjoying a bird’s-eye view of Umbria’s stunning landscapes. Soar through the crisp, clean air, and marvel at the beauty that unfolds beneath you.


If you prefer a more relaxed outdoor activity, why not embark on a peaceful horseback ride through the rolling hills and picturesque countryside? Explore winding trails, pass by ancient ruins, and connect with nature as you bond with your equine companion.


Umbria’s diverse outdoor activities cater to all ages and skill levels, offering something for everyone. Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline rush or a peaceful encounter with nature, the region’s outdoor adventures will leave you with unforgettable memories and a sense of connection to the natural world.


Umbria’s Charming Wineries

Umbria is a region renowned for its excellent wines, and exploring its charming wineries is a must-do for wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs. Nestled amidst rolling hills and picturesque landscapes, Umbria’s wineries offer not only exceptional wines but also a glimpse into the region’s winemaking traditions and rich viticultural heritage.


From family-owned estates to larger-scale vineyards, Umbria boasts a wide variety of wineries to suit every taste. These wineries are often located in idyllic settings, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, creating a serene and captivating environment.


One of the most famous wine regions in Umbria is Montefalco, known for its robust reds made from the Sagrantino grape. Visiting Montefalco’s wineries allows you to sample these bold, full-bodied wines that are unique to the region. Take a tour of the vineyards, learn about the winemaking process from passionate vintners, and taste the fruits of their labor in atmospheric tasting rooms.


Orvieto is another important wine-producing area, known for its crisp and refreshing white wines. The wineries in this region offer not only tastings but also tours of the underground cellars where the wines are aged in ancient volcanic rock caves. Delve into the complexities of Orvieto’s white wines and immerse yourself in the history and tradition that has shaped their production.


During your visit to Umbria’s wineries, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the vineyards, observe the harvesting process, and even participate in grape stomping if you’re lucky. Wine tastings are often accompanied by traditional local cuisine, allowing you to savor the perfect pairing of flavors.


What makes Umbria’s wineries truly special is the warm hospitality extended by the winemakers. They passionately share their knowledge, stories, and love for the land, making the experience even more enriching. Engage in conversations, ask questions, and deepen your understanding of the complexities that go into creating a fine bottle of Umbrian wine.


As you sip and savor each glass of Umbrian wine, you’ll discover the distinctive characteristics that make them stand out. From the earthy and complex notes of the Sagrantino to the crisp and elegant flavors of Orvieto, each wine tells a story of the region’s terroir, traditions, and dedication to producing exceptional vintages.


Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or simply appreciate a good glass of wine, a visit to Umbria’s charming wineries is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the region’s viticultural heritage and create lasting memories of the flavors and aromas that define this enchanting part of Italy.


The Hospitality of Umbrian People

One of the most memorable aspects of visiting Umbria is the warm and welcoming hospitality of its people. Umbrians are known for their genuine friendliness, generosity, and love for sharing their region’s treasures with visitors.


From the moment you arrive in Umbria, you’ll be greeted with open arms and a contagious zest for life. Locals are always quick to offer a friendly smile, strike up a conversation, and share their recommendations for the best places to visit, eat, and experience the true essence of the region.


Whether you’re exploring a medieval town, visiting a winery, or simply strolling through the countryside, you’ll often find yourself engaging in conversations with locals who are eager to share their stories, traditions, and deep-rooted connection to their land.


The Umbrian people have a strong sense of community and take great pride in their regional identity. They are deeply rooted in their cultural heritage and are more than willing to share their knowledge and customs. You may find yourself invited into someone’s home to experience an authentic family-style meal or witness a traditional celebration or festival.


Umbrian hospitality extends beyond offering recommendations and sharing stories. It’s about the genuine care and attention that the locals show towards visitors. You’ll find that people go out of their way to ensure you feel welcomed and comfortable, whether it’s helping with directions, offering assistance, or simply engaging in lighthearted conversations to make you feel at ease.


Umbrians take pride in their local traditions, and events such as sagra food festivals provide the perfect opportunity for locals and visitors to come together. These lively celebrations are not only a chance to taste regional delicacies but also a window into the heart and soul of the Umbrian people. Prepare to be embraced by the festive atmosphere, dance to traditional music, and be treated as one of their own.


The hospitality of Umbrian people goes beyond cultural encounters. It extends to the local establishments, from cozy trattorias and family-run osterias to boutique hotels and charming bed and breakfasts. Regardless of where you stay or dine, you’ll be greeted with warmth, attentive service, and a genuine desire to ensure your experience exceeds expectations.


Umbria’s hospitality creates a sense of connection and leaves a lasting impression on those who visit. It is this warm and genuine welcome that adds an extra layer of magic to your journey, making you feel like a part of the Umbrian family and inspiring you to return again and again.



Umbria, with its natural beauty, rich history, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality, is a region that captivates the heart and soul of every visitor. From the rolling green hills and picturesque lakes to the enchanting medieval towns and bustling festivals, Umbria offers an authentic and immersive experience that showcases the best of Italy.


Exploring Umbria allows you to uncover a hidden gem, away from the crowds and well-trodden tourist paths. It is a place where time seems to stand still, where ancient traditions are preserved, and where the beauty of nature takes center stage.


Throughout the region, you’ll encounter the genuine warmth and genuine warmth and friendliness of the Umbrian people who are eager to share their love for their land and its traditions. Their hospitality enhances every experience, whether it’s tasting the superb wines, savoring the delicious cuisine, or immersing yourself in the rich history and culture.


From the picturesque hilltop towns with their stunning views to the serene lakes and captivating waterfalls, every corner of Umbria tells a story. It is a region that invites you to slow down, embrace the simple pleasures, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


So, whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast seeking adventure, a history buff delving into centuries-old tales, a food and wine lover indulging in the flavors of the region, or simply a soul in search of tranquility and beauty, Umbria will delight and enchant you at every turn.


Embrace the spirit of Umbria, immerse yourself in its natural beauty, connect with the warm-hearted locals, and let this captivating region change your perception of Italy. Allow Umbria to steal your heart and leave an indelible mark on your soul.


Experience Umbria – the hidden gem that will forever hold a special place in your heart.