Things to Do in Umbria
With its placid waters lined by rolling vineyards and olive groves, Lake Trasimeno (Lago Trasimeno) is one of the most picturesque corners of Umbria and a popular day trip destination. Take the ferry to one of the lake’s three islets, relax on its beaches, or explore the lakeside towns of Castiglione del Lago and Passignano sul Trasimeno.
Birthplace of St. Francis and one of Italy’s most atmospheric hill towns, Assisi is best known for its glorious Basilica of St. Francis. The UNESCO-listed pilgrimage site is a treasure trove of medieval art. Visit the soaring upper church, the somber lower church, and Francis’ tomb in the crypt.
Orvieto’s magnificent cathedral (Duomo di Orvieto) can be seen from miles around, its soaring facade and spires towering high above the rooftops of the clifftop town. Once you get closer, you can take in its intricate external mosaics and stonework, rose window, bronze doors, and sumptuous Signorelli frescoes inside.
Francis may be more famous, but Assisi was the birthplace of another extraordinary saint: Clare, founder of the Order of Saint Clares and one of the most ardent early followers of Francis. This soaring basilica dedicated to this important female saint is one of the most magnificent in Assisi, and home to her remains and sacred relics.
Set in Perugia’s elegant Piazza IV Novembre, the 13th-century Fontana Maggiore is one of the most important examples of medieval sculpture in Italy, and a symbol of this hilltop city. Built between the cathedral and Palazzo dei Priori, the intricately carved pink-and-white marble fountain is a highlight of the historic center.
Like the architectural version of a Russian doll, the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli is a church within a church. The grand basilica, one of the largest in the world, was built over and around the tiny 13th-century Porziuncola, a humble stone chapel where St. Francis founded his order and began the first Franciscan community.
A unique sight in Orvieto, the Pozzo di San Patrizio (St. Patrick’s Well) is a remarkable feat of hydraulic engineering dating from the 16th century. Descend the double-helix staircases down almost 200 feet (more than 50 meters), and admire the ingenious design aimed at providing the clifftop city with water in times of siege.
The medieval hill town of Assisi is best known for the magnificent Basilica of Saint Francis, but this UNESCO-listed landmark isn’t the only important church. Despite its name, Chiesa Nuova (or New Church is one of Assisi’s most historically significant churches, constructed in the 17th century to mark Saint Francis’ birthplace.
The clifftop town of Orvieto sits above a hidden warren of tunnels and caverns dug through soft tufa bedrock from the time of the Etruscans to the 20th century. Discover this underground network with a visit to Pozzo della Cava, an Etruscan well enlarged in the 16th century that leads to ancient caves, kilns, and a cistern.
Part of the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli complex, the Porziuncola Museum (Museo della Porziuncola) is a repository of artwork and archival documents related to St. Francis. Pilgrims, art aficionados, and those wanting to take a deeper dive into the saint’s life and teachings will enjoy this small but exceptional collection.
More Things to Do in Umbria
Set in Perugia’s gothic Palazzo dei Priori, the 15th-century Nobile Collegio del Cambio was once the seat of Perugia’s exchange guild, the most powerful in the city during the Middle Ages. The Collegio’s three magnificent halls are lavishly decorated with frescoes by Perugino and others, a testament to the guild’s wealth and influence.
Long before Saint Francis was born in Assisi, ancient Romans inhabited Asisium, as the town was known for millennia. A striking testimony to these Roman roots is the handsome Temple of Minerva, which has the most intact Roman temple facade in Italy and is a must for Roman architecture enthusiasts.
The Basilica of St. Francis (Basilica di San Francesco), a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Assisi, is a popular European pilgrimage site. The complex of two churches commemorates Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order, who is buried here. Plans for the basilica commenced upon his death in 1226 and were completed in 1253.