Known as the Green Heart of Italy, Umbria is the third smallest region in the country, but its strategic position, exactly in the center of the peninsula has made it important for communication lines since Roman times, religious pilgrimages and economic traffic between the Papacy and the North.
It was marginalized after the unification of Italy (1861) when the economic activities mainly involved the North and the coasts. This relative isolation has preserved it from mass tourism and the feeling of time being stopped is much stronger here than elsewhere; thus offering visitors glimpses of ancient times. Umbria is a pleasant region, where you don’t have to look for spirituality, you can live and breathe it everywhere.
Its landscapes and art have been written about by all the major Italian poets and beyond. Artists, writers and travelers of the Grand Tour deviated from their itinerary between Florence and Rome to come and visit this land, so horribly beautiful (cit. Lord Byron). Umbria is for connoisseurs, the true italophiles; you come with purpose, to find authentic, hospitable, beautiful and varied Italy.
- Cities of art of Umbria
- Nature, landscapes and parks
- The small villages of Umbria
- The flavors of Umbria
Capital of the region, Perugia is considered one of the centers of the Renaissance. Working inside its walls were some of the Italian masters including Perugino and Raffaello. Here you will find one of the most important galleries in the world, also called the little Louvre because of its concentration of masterpieces. Perugian squares that summarize the architecture of the fourteenth century and Etruscan and Roman monuments take you back in time. Also sweeping views and gobal festivals like Umbriajazz and Eurochoccolate attract annual visitors from all parts of the world.
World capital of Peace, Assisi is home to what is considered the second most important catholic church in the world after Saint Peters, the Basilica of San Francesco (Saint Francis of Assisi). A religious treasure chest where Giotto experimented with a new pictorial technique that actually inaugurated the Italian Renaissance.
This is not only a city of art considered among the most beautiful in Italy, it is an open-air scenography. Since it became one of the capitals of the Lombard kingdom, it was embellished with the works of the greatest artists and architects of Italy, becoming the ideal city of art. So beautiful and well articulated that in 1958 Gianfranco Menotti chose it as the venue for the most important art festival in Italy and one of the most important in the world: Festival Dei Due Mondi, to help foster an artistic and cultural connection between Italy and America.
Appears as a mirage to the foreign traveler; an example of how in Italy the impossible can become a work of art. Perched on a tuffaceous block of ancient volcanoes, it houses what is considered to be the most beautiful cathedral facade in the world.
There are four main landscapes: to the east the mountain range of the Apennines, very green and covered with forests and summit pastures. Only apparently wild, they are steeped in history and traditions, the Umbrians already inhabited them before the Romans and then the following generations who shaped their agricultural landscapes, castles, fortresses, small villages, still abbeys, monasteries and hermitages.
Hills and Plains
The foothills in Umbria consist mainly of vast expanses of olive groves (candidates to join the Unesco heritage) that characterize the landscape, giving it a sophisticated green-silver hue. In the plains you find large commercial centers around the Tiber River, their connection to Rome. Around the cities are the typical isolated rural houses, where you can still see the agricultural ways of the Romans first and the medieval monks later. To the west, on the border with Tuscany, the hills on whose peaks rise picturesque fortified villages and on whose sides stretch oak forests and vineyards.
National and Regional Parks
A culture so well integrated into nature offers visitors the beauty of a National Park and 9 Regional Parks, which lend themselves perfectly to all types of outdoor sports: superb hikes and bike tours, but also rafting, canyoning, paragliding and even caving.
It is precisely in this respect that the region is at its best. There is an association called The most beautiful villages in Italy that promotes small villages of historical and artistic interest and, although Umbria is the third smallest region in Italy, it is the most awarded because it contains 14, while many others are candidates for the title.
The area around Foligno with Trevi, Montefalco, Bevagna and Spello contains in a few kilometers the essence of italic beauty with such a concentration of art difficult to find elsewhere. Not least are the villages of Valnerina, a river valley that could lend its name to a specific shade of green. Here, the dramatic, vertical limestone walls topped by forests plunge into the clear waters of the Nera River creating a poetic landscape interrupted only by towers, abbeys and medieval villages such as Scheggino, Vallo di Nera, Ferentillo or Norcia.
Truffles, Cured Meats and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
In Umbria you will be amazed by the richness of its specialized local products. Umbria has the largest production of truffles in the world in quantity and quality, since it is possible to find all the edible varieties of this hypogeous mushroom, so delicious and rare.
Another excellence for which Umbria is recognized is the production of extra virgin olive oil, harvested from the same family farms which lend the oil its unique blend of minerals and flavors.
If you like ham, prosciutto, and other sausages, you may be surprised to know that this gastronomic specialty was born right here, in an abbey in the mountains near Norcia. For this reason the art of pork processing is still today called norcineria.
The wines, little considered in the national market until a few decades ago, thanks to the foresight of some local producers, now is recognized for two choice varietals, the Sagrantino and the Trebbiano. Sagrantino is an especially Umbrian wine, and little known outside of Italy. It comes from Montefalco, has a very dark, almost ink like color and a fruity, earthy taste. If you are one of the lucky few to taste this local delight, you should feel honored.
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