About Umbria







Italy's Green Heart

The Umbrian region of Italy has a rich history of delicious food, printing, and beautiful ceramics. At the landlocked center of Italy, and roughly two hours from both Rome and Florence, the region has been able to comfortably host a thriving tourism industry while still fervently maintaining its cultural heritage and traditions.


Geography: Umbria is the centrally located region East of Tuscany and West of Le Marche. Its Eastern area hosts the Apennine mountain range and the majority of its topography is otherwise influenced by its relation to the Tiber River, the third-longest river in Italy, and its tributaries. Because of the Tiber river basin, Umbria is considered the fertile, "green heart of Italy." The region is able to produce magnificent crops of olives, grapes, and wheat every year.

History: Like much of Italy, Umbria's rich history began long ago. The Umbri people (one of the oldest indigenous groups in Italy) had founded most of their major cities in the 9th-4th centuries BCE. Also like much of the rest of Italy, Umbria was taken then overtaken again many times after until 1861, when the Kingdom of Italy was created, uniting all of the Italian states. The interaction between the developed medieval towns, the influence of the Catholic Church during papal reign, and the eventual fight for unity in Italy allowed Umbria to develop into the culturally rich region we know today.

Ceramics: The fine art of ceramic-making is popular throughout Italy, and Umbria is no exception. It is one of Umbria's most traditional art-forms, having been practiced as far back as the Estruscan reign over the region. Umbria is home to many workshops, particularly in Deruta and other cities along the Tiber river, where there's a lot of excellent clay for pottery-making. Deruta is renowned for ceramics that are high in quality, brightly-colored, and feature fresh, new designs integrated smoothly with the more traditional patterns.

Wine: Umbria has long produced reasonable-quality wine, and in the past 15-20 years, the overall quality has steadily improved. Part of the reason Umbria is now home to such excellent vino is the diversity in its production. Umbrian vineyards range from the very small to the very large, and most wine comes from vines originally brought by Estruscans from Greece. Some of the most recently renowned wines from Umbria are the Orvieto, Orvieto Classico, and Sagratino di Montefalco. These towns (Orvieto and Montefalco) and some others (notably Torgiano) already rely on wine in their local economies, and as they craft higher-quality wine, wine-production is becoming an even larger part of the economy and culture of Umbria.

Truffles: One of the best and most common reasons to visit Italy in the off-season is the elusive and delicious black truffle. Umbria is lucky enough to have a wonderful climate for growing truffles. Unfortunately, truffles aren't grown on farms, or harvested like other cash crops. The curious fungi grows wild October-March and are brought to our plates by truffle-hunters, who, with the help of specially trained dogs, seek the white truffle from October through December and the black truffle from October through March. While the weather may not be as warm, this period is truly the only time to get truffles; simply put, truffles aren't particularly good out of season. So when you visit Umbria in the summer, the only truffles you'll find are in an oil.

Olive Oils: Umbria adheres to fairly strict quality standards in its olive oil production. The label DOC, or "denominazione di origene controllata" (denomination of controlled origin), indicates that the oil conforms to the quality standards of the region in which it was produced. Umbria is divided into five such regions, the strictest being centered around Trevi. Olive oil production is a highly respected trade in Umbria, making it a great place to buy oil.

Towns of Interest:



One of the best-preserved medieval cities in the world, Assissi is home to the basilicas of St. Francis and St. Clare. Both basilicas alone could bring quite a few visitors to the city, but Assissi is also home to beautiful medieval streets, numerous other churches and cultural points, gorgeous piazzas, and picturesque sunsets. One could spend days just exploring the frescoes and churches of Assissi, but there are also picturesque views, gorgeous streets, and mountains of history to experience.


The town of Bevagna has a history quite unlike most of the others on this list. It experienced a commercial and cultural spike during the period of Roman rule and walls were erected around the town (like many other Roman towns), helping the town flourish. However, when the Lombards controlled the region, Bevagna was vastly ignored and so the town dwindled into disarray, only to pull itself into another cultural spike in the 12th century. Then, the walls were replaced and the town acquired the appearance it maintains today. Worth noting are the lovely churches in this town, as well as the Museo Comunale, which features an interesting section about local artists of the 16th and 17th centuries.


Bettona is small, quiet village south of Assissi. Known for its remarkable views of the Umbrian countryside, it's also one of the few outposts of Etruscan civilization East of the Tiber. The evidence of Etruscan life is clear in the marvelous medieval structures throughout the village. The Pinacoteca Comunale art gallery is also in Bettona, featuring works from the school of the great Perugino, and arguably some from the artist himself.

Citta di Castello

What used to be the commercial hub of Northern Umbria is now the home of numerous historic castles and works of art. Citta di Castello is located just east of the Tiber river and is the first large town in Umbria for travellers coming from the North. Because of it's location, it was a fairly affluent city in the Middle Ages, allowing for construction of many palazzos, including the Palazzo Comunale, the Palazzo del Podesta, and the Palazzo Vitelli a Porta Sant'Egidio. In Citta di Castello, one can also find several churches and cathedrals of note, such as the San Francesco, San Domenico, and the Duomo.


A town known for its ceramics, Deruta was populated long before many of the other towns in this region. Because of that, it has a cultural tapestry dominated by its highly refined and innovative ceramics industry. The town now houses 200+Bettona is small, quiet village south of Assissi. Known for its remarkable views of the Umbrian countryside, it's also one of the few outposts of Etruscan civilization East of the Tiber. The evidence of Etruscan life is clear in the marvelous medieval structures throughout the village. The Pinacoteca Comunale art gallery is also in Bettona, featuring works from the school of the great Perugino, and arguably some from the artist himself. ceramics studios. The Museo Regionalle della Ceramica is in Deruta, close to the Palazzo dei Consoli (the historic town hall and art gallery) and the gothic-style church of San Francesco.


The town of Foligno was expertly built on the crossroads of two major commercial roads, making in an industrial hub in Italian history. Despite the flow of visitors travelling through the city, it has managed to maintain a wonderful cultural charm that holds through today. Like many other cities, it's home to many marvelous churches and medieval civic buildings, but Foligno also was the birthplace of three historically important Italian artists-- Ottaviano Nelli, Niccolo Alunno, and Antonio Mezzastris-- whose works still exist in Foligno today.


Gubbio is one of the better-preserved medieval cities in Italy, and also has some Roman ruins, built during the period of relative peace, the pax romana, in the Holy Roman Empire. While the town is a wonderful place to explore on foot (it's home to many churches, works of architecture, and other medieval structures), one must be sure to visit the Palazzo dei Consoli. This palazzo is a particularly excellent example of the gothic style that was pervasive in Italy and much of Europe around 1400. In the palazzo, there is also a museum and art gallery.


This town is named for the eagle on the crest of emperor Frederick II, who stayed in Montefalco during battles with the papacy to take control of the town. It is home to many wonderful churches, and particularly to many beautiful frescoes on the church walls. Of special note is the church of Santa Chiara (Clare of Montefalco, not Clare of Assissi), where the walls are completely covered in frescoes depicting scenes from the lives of Saints Clare, Catherine, Blaise, and of the Virgin Mary.


The word "norcia" in Italian translates roughly to "pork," which is fitting for this little town known throughout Italy for it's high-quality meat products. Norcia is also an excellent place to pick up fresh black truffles and other local produce. Norcia, historically, was mainly a trading post for the Roman empire, but still the area produced two important saints- St. Benedict and St. Rita. St. Benedict is now the patron saint of Norcia and Europe.


The city of Orvieto sits high atop a tufa, an outcrop of rock left from ancient volcanoes, looking over the Umbrian landscape. While it's home to numerous churches, museums, and Estruscan ruins, one of the most interesting things about Orvieto is the network of caves beneath the city. The residents of Orvieto have the luxury of living on top of a rocky rise that's perfect for cellars and basements, and they have made use of it for centuries. While today's citizens and shopkeepers still use their cave-like basements primarily for storage, their forefathers used them for much more. For example, the remains of the oldest ceramics kiln known to man were found in the cave below an antiques shop. Because of this, and other finds, this network of caves is open for tours offered by private companies in Orvieto. Orvieto also has an amazingly well-preserved duomo featuring high-quality frescoes and a particularly intricate facade.


By far the largest city in Umbria, Perugia is the home the largest art museum in Umbria, countless works of amazing architecture, a growing foods industry, the world-renowned music festival Umbria Jazz, and the Perugina chocolate factory, among other many other worthwhile stops. The city was long under papal rule, and so features numerous religious works of note, such as the churches of San Domenico and San Pietro and the Rocca Paolina. One of the most beautiful works of architecture, though, was originally a civic building: the Palazzo dei Priori, which now houses the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria. It's a relatively unassuming from the front, but inside is simply remarkable. Close by is the extraordinary Fontana Maggiore, which features some 49 different sculptures representing Biblical figures as well as representations of the Labors of the Months and Liberal Arts.


Ownership of Spello changed hands numerous times before Italy was united and this is quite evident in the town. There are pieces of the Roman empire, the Lombards, the papacy, and the feudal system of the Baglioni family. The city sits near Monte Subasio, and each of the different rulers has used the pinkish rocks from the mountain to help piece together a warm, inviting city full of numerous churches and civic buildings of interest, as well as the wonderful Pinacoteca Civica gallery.


A relatively small town 15 km south of Perugia, Torgiano has a rich history in wine production. The Lungarotti family, one of the best-known wine-producers in Umbria, is based out of Torgiano and maintain the Museo del Vino there.


Trevi, whose name comes from it's location at the intersection of three roads ("tre vie"), is one of the first towns in Umbria to convert to Christianity, and as such had a particularly long period under Papal rule. The city is an interesting combination of traditional medieval town and a more contemporary interpretation of such a town. It is home to the wonderfully restored churches of Sant'Emiliano (the Armenian martyr) and St. Francis, as well as beautiful frescoes in the Raccolta d'Arte di San Francesco, adjacent to St. Francis' church. However, the town also has distinct flair, as demonstrated by the Flash Museum of modern art. Another interesting facet of the town is it's location: Trevi was built on a hill, with the town center at its peak, allowing the streets of the city to spiral down the hillside into the picture-perfect olive groves below. The innovative city planning gives Trevi a whimsical feel that seems to match the warmth of its citizens.



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