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The landlocked region of Umbria sits right in the heart of Italy. Winding roads lead to fortified battlements and medieval hilltop towns, while the countryside is a patchwork of vineyards, sunflower fields, olive groves and cypress trees. At the heart of the region sits its capital, Perugia, the narrow streets of its centro storico lined with elegant palazzi and linked by sunny piazzas. The city's large student population give it a lively atmosphere, along with the many festivals held here, including the chocolate festival every October.
Half an hour's drive from Perugia is the hillside town of Assisi, home to the famous Basilica di San Francesco; pilgrims and visitors flock from around to world to view the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi and to admire the spectacular frescoes adorning the walls and ceilings. The town's narrow streets are edged with shops, cafés and restaurants set in traditional stone houses, and a number of viewpoints offer panoramic vistas over the surrounding countryside.
Throughout the rural landscapes are dotted plenty of picturesque towns and villages, including Todi, with its grand main piazza and fantastic sunset views; Gubbio, which features a mountaintop basilica; and Spoleto, home to a medieval fortress and Romanesque cathedral. Perhaps the most renowned is the beautiful town of Orvieto. Here you'll find a stunning Gothic cathedral, an underground network of Etruscan caves and tunnels, and the famous white wine, Orvieto Classico.
Perugia might be the capital city of Umbria, but Assisi is the region’s most famous town. Church-hop with pilgrims between the towering Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, the 13th-century Assisi Cathedral and the rose-tinted Basilica di Santa Chiara.
Perugia is only a half-hour drive west of Assisi. This rambling regional capital follows the curve of the hills, so every bend reveals a fresh church, piazza or trattoria. Start your explorations at the triangular Piazza IV Novembre, which has been a gathering place since pre-Roman times.
Want to get stuck into the countryside? Castiglione del Lago is a chilled-out castle town that climbs up the hilly western shore of Lake Trasimeno. Or there’s always Umbria’s flourishing agriturismo tradition. Even rustic medieval villages are well-supplied, with everything from white wine to the much-celebrated truffles, thanks to the surrounding patchwork of orchards, vineyards, forests and farmland.
The majority of international flights arrive into Rome Fiumicino airport (FCO). Direct flights to Fiumicino are available from Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Jersey, Leeds Bradford, London City, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton, Manchester and Newcastle and take approximately 2 hours 30 minutes.
Direct flights to Perugia (PEG) depart from London Stansted and take approximately 2 hours 30 minutes.
Umbria is predominantly a summer destination, with the season generally running from April to early November. The spring and autumn months are warm and have less crowds, making May, June and September the ideal months to visit. Temperatures are at their hottest in July and August and this is also when Umbria is at its busiest. However, Umbria also enjoys a mild climate in spring and autumn with temperatures rarely going beneath 20 degrees which makes it perfect for visiting at the beginning or end of season too.
Like its neighbour Tuscany, Umbria is well known for its cuisine. Elusive truffles are used in abundance, whether grated over pasta or served on top of a simple omelette. Rustic dishes, often called cucina povera (peasant cooking) are popular, too, incorporating lots of inexpensive seasonal ingredients like grains and local vegetables. As for meat dishes, you'll find plenty of pork, along with spicy Umbrian sausages made from wild boar.
For wine lovers, Umbria's rolling hills are striped with vineyards producing some fantastic varieties. Orvieto's renowned white wine is not to be missed, and for those who prefer a red, Montefalco Sagrantino hails from the Umbrian hilltop town of Montefalco.
Umbria is a region rich in history having been occupied many times over since its settlement by the Umbrian's in the 6th century BC. From the Romans and the Byzantines, to the Lombards and the Etruscans its chequered past is still evident in many towns and villages which feature ancient Roman roads, medieval palaces, and museums filled with ancient treasures.