Umbria is fast becoming what Tuscany was several decades ago – popular with tourists, but not yet completely overrun. That’s not to say you won’t find thousands of people visiting Umbria, but you’re still likely to find fewer tourists in Umbria than in neighboring Tuscany, or in Rome or Venice, for that matter. So far, this region just hasn’t made it onto the “must-see” list of most first-time tourists to Italy.
In some ways, Umbria feels similar to all the things we’ve come to expect from (and love about) Tuscany – including the rolling hills and medieval hill towns. The crowds are typically smaller, and there are fewer world-famous sights, but every town has something to offer the curious tourist.
Umbria’s capital, Perugia, is home to a large university and the biggest chocolate festival in Italy. Assisi is the birthplace of the Franciscan religious order and remains a pilgrimage site to this day. The town of Spoleto hosts an annual music festival that draws top entertainers from all over the world. There are several towns with notable art museums and galleries, churches with beautiful frescoes, Roman and Etruscan sites, and excellent food and wine to be had. Not only that, the region is also known for its outdoor sports like paragliding, hang gliding, mountain biking, hiking, rafting, and horseback riding.
Umbria is smaller than neighboring Tuscany, and although it’s similar in many regards it’s more mountainous overall – so even if it looks like two towns are fairly close together on a map, it may take awhile to get between the two. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend two weeks in Umbria and explore quite a bit of the region – it just means you’ll want to double-check things like drive times or train journey times before you plan out your whole day.
While Umbria is gaining in popularity with visitors and expats alike, it’s got a long way to go to catch up to the sheer number of people who visit Tuscany each year. What you get in Umbria is a region that’s used to welcoming visitors, but hasn’t yet grown weary of them. And that sounds just about perfect.
The major cities in Umbria are mentioned above, but for convenience here’s a completely non-exhaustive list of some of the better-known cities and towns in Umbria: