Towns of Umbria

Interesting cities, towns and villages of Umbria



Art Cities of Umbria

Towns of Umbria

Sights of Umbria

History of Umbria

Art and architecture of the towns of Umbria

The verdant Region of Umbria in central Italy is well worth exploring over the course of several days. The Region is small enough that most of the towns of Umbria are each easily reached during a day trip from a single base, and it's not difficult to plan one-day sightseeing routes that take in several towns and villages. The larger towns each have a splendid cathedral (duomo) and some of these are world-famous architectural and artistic wonders. In addition, even the smaller places are well-endowed with works of art, including Umbrian Renaissance masterpieces. The Umbrian countryside is diverse and beautiful, with the Sybilline Mountains providing the most spectacular panoramas. Umbria also provides excellent food and wine, especially in the town of Norcia. Here we mention just a few of the towns of Umbria of interest to visitors.


Assisi, Umbria

Assisi Umbria

Assisi is world-famous both as a Roman Catholic pilgrimmage destination and a destination for lovers of Italian art. The Basilica dedicated to Assisi's most famous son, Saint Francis, dominates the view of the town from some directions but in fact the old town Assisi itself is extremely charming and is the location of several well-preserved remnants of Roman Assisi.

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Città della Pieve, Umbria

Città della Pieve, Umbria

Città della Pieve is located in the province of Perugia, Umbria, near the borders with Umbria, Tuscany and Lazio. Città della Pieve makes a good base for visitors who plan to visit the neighbouring Regions in part because it surrounded by some of the most beautiful places of these three Regions, including the Tuscan cities of Montepulciano and Cetona, Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, the Lake of Bolsena and the city of Viterbo in Lazio.

Città della Pieve is a mediaeval town, surrounded by 14 C red brick walls. The town reputedly posses the narrowest alleyway in Italy, Via Baciadonne, and is famous for being the birthplace of Pietro Vannucci, called Il Perugino, considered to be the highest exponent of 15 C Umbrian painting.

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Deruta, Umbria

Deruta entry archway

Deruta is a major centre for the production of painted ceramics in Italy and this is the main reason to visit this attractive town in the Province of Perugia. Nevertheless, in Deruta there are a fine gothic church and an art museum housing a fresco by Perugino. The Deruta majolica museum is excellent and there are of course a considerable number of ceramics shops. Note that some of the larger outlets are outside and below the town. Don’t come here expecting bargains: derutaware is hand-painted, high quality and produced in many small factories and homes. Deruta majolica is not a mass-produced product.

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Gubbio, Umbria

Gubbio Umbria

Gubbio is beautifully situated at the foot and on the slopes of Monte Ingino and Monte Calvo, with a wonderful view out over the Umbrian plains. Gubbio is austere in appearance because of the dark grey stone from which the majority of its buildings are constructed, as well as the narrow streets and Gothic architecture. A considerable proportion of the houses in Gubbio date to the 14 C and 15 C.

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Narni, Umbria

Narni Umbria

Narni is an interesting Umbria hill-town located very close to the geographical centre of Italy and was once the Roman village of Narnia. The Albernoz castle above the town, Il Rocca, was built between 1360 and 1378. The climb up, though arduous, is worthwhile for the architectural surroundings, inside and out, and the collection of art works. The views of the valleys below are stunning.

Narni has an interesting "underground" set of monuments in the form of a Roman aqueduct, the Formina, and Roman cisterns, two of which are below Santa Maria Impesole. Below the Church of San Dominic there is also a prison cell, which housed the unfortunate prisoners of the Inquisition.

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Norcia, Umbria

Norcia Umbria

Norcia is the birthplace of S. Benedetto and his sister S. Scholastica who were born here in the year 480. A statue representing the Saint stands in the main piazza outside the Basilica bearing his name. Nearby are the splendid Palazzo Comunale and the Loggia dei Mercanti. Among the sights of Norcia is the Oratory of St Agostinuccio which, despite its simple exterior, should not be missed. The inlaid, gilded and painted wooden ceiling is a masterpiece of local 16 C craftsmanship. Opposite the Palazzo Comunale stands the Castellina, a fortress built by order of Pope Julius III, to designs by Vignola (1554-63), to house the Prefetto della Montagna. The Castellina stands over what was once the Palazzo del Podestà and the ancient Pieve di Santa Maria Argentea. The first floor houses the Museo Civico-Diocesano, which contains works from Norcia and its surrounding area from the 13 C to the 18 C.

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Orvieto, Umbria

Orvieto Umbria

Orvieto is has been an inhabited city from at least the time of the Etruscans in the 9th century BC, making it one of the most ancient cities in Italy. Orvieto is located spectacularly on the flat top of a huge tufa massif in Umbria and its surroundings are famously home to some of the most important vineyards in Italy, producing an eminently quaffable white wine based on Procanico, Verdello, Drupeggio, Grechetto and Malvasia grapes. The most spectacular landmark of Orvieto is its magnificent cathedral. This duomo was built, beginning in 1285, in a gothic style peculiar to itself with a dramatically mosaicked facade and walls that are constructed of layers of light Travertine marble and dark basalt. The interior is intensively frescoed. While the cathedral is the dominent architectural wonder of Orvieto, there are several other interesting and beautiful churches and civic structures and museums, plus the famous St. Patrick's well which winds deeply down into the massif. Orvieto has also become famous for its restaurants. Orvieto is worth at the very least a full day of exploration.

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Panicale, Umbria

Panicale Umbria

Panicale is famous for its magnificent views out over Lake Trasimeno and the Umbrian hills beyond. It is a small town of great charm in itself and well worth a visit. The outermost houses follow the line of the original walls and in fact incorporate parts of the walls into their structures. Panicale still has two ancient gates and previously was surrounded by a moat.

Two or three concentric streets spiral in to the Piazza Grande. Although documented as early as 907, Panicale in its current forms dates from the 15 C when it came under the sway of Pope Martin V. The fine fountain in Piazza Grande dates back to the 15 C, as does the nearby Palazzo Comunale.

The best starting point for visiting Panicale is the Church of Saint Sebastian which houses the very beautiful fresco of ‘The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian’ by Perugino (1505). The fresco takes up the entire rear wall of the Church and its sense of lightness is part of what makes it a masterpiece. The landscape in the background of the painting is the same as that visible from outside the church.

The 14 C Palazzo del Podestà, in Lombard-Gothic style, is located at the highest point in the town, Piazza Masolino, and not far away is the Ceasare Caporali Theatre which was originally built in the 18 C. It was redecorated by the architect Caproni in 1858 and remains one of the smallest Umbrian theatres with 154 seats, only 20 of which are in the pit. The theatre is, unusually, a wooden structure, decorated with stucco, and it still preserves the curtain painted in 1859 by Mariano Piervittori, dedicated to the handing over of the keys of Perugia to Boldrino Paneri.

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Perugia, Umbria

Perugia, as a city, was founded by the Etruscans in the 6th century B.C. The Etruscans were followed by the Romans and Roman Umbria is well-represented by paved roads, a forum, water cisterns, a Roman amphitheatre outside Porta Marzia, thermal baths and a mausoleum, located under St. Peter’s bell tower. The present old city of Perugia is largely mediaeval. From Porta San Pietro, the nearest museum is the Basilica of San Domenico, which houses many statues and other beautiful works of art by local artists. The nearby cloisters and monasteries are now home of the National Museum of Umbrian Archaeology, which houses archaeological finds from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages discovered in excavations in and near Perugia.

The ancient Piazza Sopramuro, inevitably renamed Piazza Matteotti, is the site of the Palazzo dell'Università Vecchia, dating from the 15 C, and the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo. Next to it is the Piazza IV Novembre, the monumental and social centre of the Perugia, location of the Fontana Maggiore, a sculptural masterpiece by Giovanni and Nicola Pisano. Also located here is the Palazzo dei Priori built between the 13 C and 14 C, the centre of civil power at the time and now housing the National Gallery of Umbria, and contains the most important collection of paintings of the Umbrian Renaissance, including a number of pieces by Perugino. The main façade of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo looks out onto Piazza Danti, while the façade looking onto Piazza IV Novembre is the site of San Bernardino’s Pulpit, from which the saint used to preach.

Perugia is also the home of two large, well-regarded universities, the University of Perugia, founded in 1944, and the Università per Stranieri (University for Foreigners) providing an element of "student life" to the city.

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Spello, Umbria

Spello Umbria

Spello is an Umbria hill town, or rather a hillside town, much like Spoleto, situated on a spur of Monte Subasio, with almost intact Roman walls enclosing the centro storico. There are three well-preserved Roman gates, including the impressive Porta Venere, an Augustan-era gate flanked by two 12-sided towers, standing in magnificent isolation on the west side of town. The Roman settlement was named "Hispellum", and was located on the extremely important Roman Via Flaminia, close to the strategic junction for Perugia.

There are several interesting sights to be viewed and/or visited along Via Cavour, the main street of Spello, starting with with the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. This church has a splendid mediaeval portal, and the principal sight inside is the Cappella Baglioni side-chapel which is decorated by one of the most famous fresco cycles by Pinturicchio, painted in 1501 for the powerful Baglioni family and centred on the birth and childhood of Jesus.

The inhabitants of Spello take a special pride in the potted flowering plants with which they decorate their balconies and the lanes of the old town. This is just one feature that makes Spello a place of great charm and tranquility.

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Spoleto, Umbria

Spoleto Umbria

Spoleto is an ancient city that still reveals traces of pre-Roman and Roman walls, as well as a Roman theatre, an amphitheatre, a bridge, and an arch of Drusus (AD 23) with a ruined temple beside it. The mediaeval town clusters picturesquely on the hillside and is dominated both by the massive Rocca (fortress), built in 1355–64 on the site of the ancient citadel, and by the cathedral, consecrated in 1198 and extensively remodelled in 1634–44. The cathedral, with eight rose windows and a central mosaic by Solsternus (1207), contains a magnificent fresco of the "Coronation of the Virgin" by Fra Filippo Lippi and pupils, as well as Fra Filippo’s tomb. Other notable churches include Santa Eufemia (10 C), San Pietro (13 C), San Gregorio Maggiore (12 C), and San Salvatore, an elaborately decorated monument, usually assigned to the 5 C but possibly dating from the late 8 C. The town is supplied with water by an aqueduct that crosses a ravine on the famous arched Ponte delle Torre bridge built in 1364.

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Todi, Umbria

Todi Umbria

Todi is an Umbrian hillside town located in the southernmost part of the Province of Perugia in the Region of Umbria, Italy. Todi was important to both Etruscans and Romans and is the location of several interesting Gothic and Renaissance buildings, including the 11 C cathedral and several 13 C palazzi. Its triple walls are still easily discerned. The innermost is Etruscan, the middle wall is Roman, and the outside wall dates from the 6 C or 7 C. Todi's most striking church is the domed Renaissance Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione beautifully located just outside the city walls.

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Art Cities of Umbria

Towns of Umbria

Sights of Umbria

History of Umbria

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