Umbria is a region situated in central Italy, it’s frequently named 'the green heart of Italy' for its stunning natural beauty and for its position.
Umbria is the only Italian region which is completely surrounded by Italian lands: all the other regions are bordered by other states (France, Germany and so on) or by the Mediterranean Sea as well as by other Italian regions. The adjective 'green' is due to the incredible landscape, where green is the dominant colour thanks to the hilly terrain and the abundance of water in the region, which is rich in rivers and lakes.
The main cities in Umbria are Perugia, Spoleto, Assisi, Terni, Gubbio and Orvieto.
Perugia is the regional capital of Umbria, it's a beautiful Etruscan town, rich in history and art; and it is also the Italian capital of Chocolate: every year in Perugia the biggest chocolate festival in Europe takes place, the 'Eurochocolate', where people can try the amazing creations of the best maîtres chocolatier of Europe.
San Benedetto di Norcia
The region of Umbria is also a very famous destination all around the world for catholic spiritual tourism. Umbria was the site of the first monasteries: San Benedetto da Norcia founded the order of the Benedectines, and all around the region there are many important monasteries which you can visit (in some of them you can also sleep).
Two great figures of Catholicism were born in Umbria: San Francesco and Santa Chiara, to whom are dedicated two of the most beautiful Medieval churches (Basilica di Santa Chiara and the Basilica di San Francesco, both in Assisi). These two sites are not just of religious importance, they represent a great expression of the Italian medieval architecture and art: in the inside of the churches there are frescos painted by Giotto, Cimabue, Lorenzetto and Martini.
If you’re interested in medieval architecture and art, Umbria is the ideal destination for your trips: all around the region there are the greatest churches, monasteries and basilicas erected during the middle ages, perfectly preserved, and they are all situated in little medieval and Etruscan towns, rich in folklore and amazing to visit!
Duomo di Orvieto
If you visit Umbria you can't miss the Duomo di Orvieto, one of the greatest examples of Gothic Architecture in Italy, with a very interesting history: it was first built during the middle ages, but it was renewed during the Renaissance, and today shows a fabulous mixture of the two styles only found in this particular church.
If you want to retrace the path of San Francesco, you can walk on the 'Via Franchigena', the road that the ancient pilgrims walked to go from Rome to Canterbury, which even San Francesco walked. It's a modern kind of pilgrimage, in which you can also admire the beauty of nature, as the road is surrounded by amazing landscapes. On the via Franchigensa it is possible to travel by foot or by bike, and it is well organized: there are many stops along the road where you can eat and sleep.
Marmore Falls - Photo: Luca Deangelis
Umbria is not only about art and religion: if you’re looking for unspoilt nature, you can visit the stunning Marmore falls, at around 165 metres high, they are amongst the highest waterfalls in Europe. The falls are situated in southern Umbria, close to Terni; they're included in a large national park, where it is also possible to visit caves eroded by the flow of water from the falls.
Another great destination for nature tourism in the region of Umbria is Lake Trasimeno, described by Lord Byron as a 'Silver veil'. This is the largest lake in central Italy; there you can even sail on a cruise to visit the little islands situated in the middle of the lake or you can relax on the beach as well.
Umbria is also a famous destination for fine food and wine: olive oil, red wine and truffles are the most famous products of this region; there are even some organized itineraries which will allow you to visit the most important vineyards and oil mills of Umbria.
festival dei Ceri - Photo: Brunettini
In common with other medieval cities in Italy, Umbria maintains many interesting traditions from the past: in the little town of Gubbio, they celebrate the 'festival dei Ceri' (literally festival of the candles), a tradition that dates back to 1160. On 15th May, they celebrate the Day of San Ubaldo with the race of the 'Cerioli'. The Cerioli are people who carry extremely large 'Ceri'. These are wooden structures, topped by the statue of a Saint (overall, the structures are 7 metres tall and weigh approximately 300 kg). There are three 'teams' of Cerioli, which match three statues of Saints: San Ubaldo (who's Cerioli are dressed in yellow), San Giorgio (who's Cerioli are dressed in blue), and San Antionio (who's Cerioli are dressed in black). The teams have to run through the roads of Gubbio, until they reach the basilica di San Ubaldo (situated on the top of a mountain).
This festival is one of the most famous of Italy, for its strong religious and civic overtone (comparable only to the Palio di Siena).
If you're visiting Italy, you should plan a trip to Umbria: it’s the perfect region for every kind of tourist: nature, art, history, culture, relax and amazing food all in one territory!