Classic Umbrian day trips: scenic drives, crafts, wine tasting and authentic rustic-style restaurants
Umbria is a small region, you can visit most of its marvelous hill-towns during a day trip from one central location in the region.
You will need a 4-5 days visit to see the highlights, but you can easily spend a couple of weeks and enjoy the slow life. The itineraries presented here have Assisi as a starting point and can be done by car in one day. From here, Orvieto and Norcia are the furthest away attractions in the region, about 1 and 1/2 hr. drive (100 km/ 62 miles). All the rest is within 30-50 min drive.
Day 1 – Assisi
Day 2 – Gubbio and Perugia
Day 3 – Museums in Perugia
Day 4 – Valnerina and Spoleto
Day 5 – small villages: Bevagna, Montefalco, Foligno
Day 6 – more small villages: Spello, Trevi, Castello di Campello
Day 7 – Deruta and Torgiano
Day 8 – Visso, Piano Grande di Castelluccio and Norcia
Day 9 – Orvieto and Todi
Day 10 – Trasimeno Lake round trip: Castiglione del Lago, Panicale Passignano
Even if using a GPS, make sure to have a 1:200 000 map of Umbria, available free at every tourist office. Some GPS get completely lost in the countryside and so will you! Google maps works better in our area than other GPS implements. Do worry too much about road numbers. They are present on the maps but they will generally not be indicated on the roads. Just follow the signs to the town/village you are going to and, to avoid mistakes, learn a couple of names of places that are in the opposite direction.
Here I don’t intend to present into the details of touring each location because this is well covered in any good guidebook. However, I have included updated parking information for the larger towns. Parking lots of historic towns are often located outside the city walls. If you enter the gates you will be faced with some difficult driving through the narrow lanes. In addition, parking inside the city walls is often forbidden or reserved to residents.
To reach Assisi from other locations, take highway E75 and exit at Santa Maria degli Angeli Nord. You will encounter a series of roundabouts most of which are numbered. At roundabout nr. 2 follow Santa Maria degli Angeli, a small village at the foothill of Assisi. Here is where you will arrive if you come by train. Once in Santa Maria degli Angeli drive along the huge church with a golden statue on the top of the facade. Drive straight on, initially along the church, then pass the railway and continue without taking any turn until roundabout nr.5 (approx. 3.5 km from the Church). Turn right uphill and park at Porta Nuova.
The Basilica of Saint Francis with the magnificent Giotto’s frescoes is the main but not the only reason to visit our town. Stroll through the narrow medieval alleys to the the Basilica of Saint Claire, Piazza del Comune, romanesque San Rufino, the Rocca maggiore fortress. If the weather is nice drive to Eremo delle carceri on the Subasio Mountain and back downhill to the Porziuncola chapel inside the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
- Trattoria degli Umbri. Andrea and Roberta do their best to welcome you in their small restaurant like it was their own home. Piazza del comune 40, closed Thu. Tel 075 812455
- Pallotta, inside the beautiful Volta Pinta is a guarantee of quality and tradition.Closed Tue. Tel +39 075 815 5273
- Osteria San Vittorino. Just opened and down the road from us, the owners are lovely and the food is good, I hope they stay. Tel. 075 813279 Viale Giovanna di Savoia Regina dei Bulgari, 14
In Santa Maria degli Angeli:
- Ristorante Basilica, reliable family business well known among locals, delicious fried appetizer, pizza available for dinner. Via Protomartiri Francescani 11, opposite the apse of church, closed Tue. Tel. 0758044491,.
- Terra Umbra, a reliable gourmet shop for all Umbrian delicacies. Offers olive oil tasting, chocolate, cheese, cured meats, truffles. Pick up your picnic foods here. Via Patrono d’Italia 10.
- Umami Beer. If you need a break from pasta, pizza and sausages, head to this modern, small hamburger joint popular with the locals. Roberto and Monia offer a delicious menu of hamburgers made with high quality meats, cooked to perfection, and accompanied by a top shelf selection of craft beers from Italy as well as from around the world. Via Los Angeles, 145, open from 7:00 p.m. Tue to Sun. Tel. +39 392 204 3500
- The Sportoletti winery offers lovely reds, a basic Assisi Rosso and their famous Villa Fidelia. It’s on the way from Assisi to Spello through the hamlets of Viole and Capitan Loreto Mon-Sat. 8:00-13:00 14:30-17:30
- Saio is a family-run small winery at the foothill of Assisi run by the adorable sisters Agnese and Irene. Contact them for their fun and inexpensive picnic in the vineyard. Via Campiglione, 94/A Tel. +39 075 812940
Day 2 – Gubbio and Perugia
If you are in the Assisi area and feel for a scenic route, drive from S.M. degli angeli towards Assisi or from Assisi towards Perugia until roundabout nr.5.
At the roundabout follow direction Perugia (SS 147), pass the Ponte San Vittorino (a bridge close to a bus and camper parking lot) and turn immediately to the right in Via San Fortunato. Do not take sharp right along the parking lot, but take the Via San Fortunato that goes uphill (other signs are for Pieve San Nicolo’, Paganzano, San Fortunato). Follow this road until Valfabbrica. Make sure not to take any turns into unpaved roads. Once in Valfabbrica turn left onto the main road then right towards Ancona. Follow signs for Gubbio. Once you have reached Gubbio, park at Piazza 40 Martiri, just below the old center. Free parking is available in the area of the Roman amphitheatre.
At Piazza Grande, enter the Museo Civico within the Palazzo dei Consoli. Enjoy its labyrinthine medieval rooms and the great views from the upper loggia. Walk to the Duomo and after the visit, enter the tunnel that is across the entrance of the church, just a few steps below to your left. You will find a small cafe’ overlooking the beautiful old town. After lunch, go to porta Romana and take the funicular to Monte Ingino for more views, it’s a thrilling 5 min. ride. Back from the mountain ride, visit the microscopic museum of the Ceramica a lustro (luster-ware pottery) in the tower of Porta Romana, above the tobacco shop. Return to the Fontana del Bargello (the Fountain of the Mad) and then turn left along the river in Via Camignano which is the most picturesque way back to the parking area.
- Locanda del Cantiniere. At the Locanda the service is friendly, the food is lovely, well presented and reasonably priced. Via Dante 30 Tel 075 9276851 or cell 345.8352749
Directions and parking
The road from Gubbio to Perugia, SS 298 -well signposted from the center of Gubbio- is one of the most scenic of the region. When you reach Bosco take E45 and then E 75 to Perugia. Bypass industrial Ponte San Giovanni and exit at Perugia-Prepo. After this exit turn left at the first traffic light and then right, steep uphill, at the second traffic light, Via Fonti Coperte. This is a one-way road that ends into Via XX Settembre. Keep going uphill until you see on your left a large blue sign indicating the underground parking lot at Piazza Partigiani. If you end up at a roundabout with a statue of Garibaldi in the center of it, you have missed the entrance to the parking area. Keep turning left until you find another entrance of it. From the cashier area of the parking lot take the escalator which takes you to the old city center.
If you go to Perugia and plan to come back before 21:00 it’s much easier to park near the minimetro station. To find the station, drive on E75 and exit at Madonna Alta. Turn right and follow direction “stadio” (soccer stadium). Go straight for approx one Km after which you will see the stadium on your left and the entrance of a free parking area on you right. The parking is marked by a red and white bar preventing the entrance of high trucks. This parking is used for a major market on Saturday mornings when you might find the place busy but entertaing for a brief stroll. The minimetro station is the red building. Take the minimetro until the last stop (Pincetto)
From the escalators or the minimetro station walk to Corso Vannucci and Piazza IV Novembre, one of the most beautiful medieval piazzas of Italy. The piazza is dominated by Palazzo dei Priori hosting the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, a medieval painting museum. Even if you do not have the time to see the museum, make sure to visit the frescoed Collegio del Cambio e della Mercanzia and Sala dei Notari, all accessible from outside the Palazzo. Walk towards the back of the Duomo, visit the delightful Palazzo Sorbello ♥ in Piazza Piccinino, then the Etruscan well (Piazza Danti nr. 18) and continue on through via delle Prome. Enjoy the views atop and walk down by the wonderful zig-zagging stairs until the 2200 years old Etruscan Gate, one of the few remnants of Etruscan civil architecture. If time allows, from this area and by Via Fabbretti make sure to visit the ♥ Giuditta Brozzetti textile workshop in the Church of San Francesco delle Donne (call in advance 07540236).
Return through via C. Battisti along the Etruscan walls for views of the old town and of the XV century aqueduct which is now a picturesque raised walkway and arrive back to Piazza IV Novembre by Via Maesta’ delle Volte.
For more information on Collegio del Cambio visit a Journey of a Thousand miles
• You can have a simple meal at Osteria a Priori in Via dei Priori 18, modern cuisine, closed Sun. Tel. +39 075572 7098 or at Antica Trattoria delle volte in Via Volte Della Pace, 6 -Tel. +39075.5733779, closed Mon.
• For great coffe, sweets and pancakes enjoy a break at Pinturicchio cafè+kitchen Via Pinturicchio, 26. Tel. +39 340 461 0715
• If you are in Perugia for dinner, try Nadir inside the Zenith Cinema in via Benedetto Bonfigli 11, open every day from 7:30 p.m. – Tel. +39 0754659516.
Day 3 – Museums in Perugia
Visit the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, for an extraordinary collection of medieval and renaissance Umbrian and (some) Tuscan painters, including Perugino, Fra’ Angelico, Piero della Francesca e Arnolfo di Cambio. If you like portraits of the Virgin Mary, this is your day. After the museum, walk by Piazza Matteotti, Via San’Ercolano, Corso Cavour. Here you will find the huge Church of San Domenico which houses the Museo Archeologico dell’Umbria with an extensive Etruscan collection. Continue by Borgo XX Giugno to gothic San Pietro and the panoramic Medieval garden.
- A visit at the Montevibiano Vecchio winery is an opportunity to taste some interesting Perugia’s wines in a beautiful as well as environmentally conscious setting. Make sure to call to book a tour. Vocabolo Bocca di Rigo, Mercatello di Marsciano, Tel +39 075 878 3386
Day 4 – Valnerina and Spoleto
Take SS75 direction Spoleto and exit at Cascia. After the long tunnel follow signs for Scheggino and San Pietro in Valle. After Scheggino do not take the first turn for San Pietro in Valle. Instead turn further on at sign “S.Petro in Valle Relais”. Visit the Abbey, founded in the 4th century, for its magnificent archaic frescoes. Ask the guardian to see the cloister and the garden which are part of the Hotel. The scenic road trough Montefranco brings you back to Spoleto.
In Spoleto follow signs for the Spoleto Sfera parking lot, near the Api gas station. If coming from North, e.g. from Perugia or Assisi, take the second exit for Spoleto, immediately after the tunnel.
Spoleto is is well known because for nearly 50 years it has been the site of Gian Carlo Menotti’s Festival of Two Worlds, with rich offerings of music, dance, theater. Make sure to visit the Piazza del Mercato, Piazza della Liberta’, Piazza del Duomo, Romanesque Sant’Eufemia, the spectacular Ponte delle Torri.
- In Valnerina, Ristorante del Ponte Scatolini in Scheggino is specialized in truffle dishes and trout. Also, they have mint green walls. closed Mon., Tel. 0743 61253
- Bar Ristorante Canasta. Piazza della Libertà 14. Simple place with authentic home food. Take the carbonara or amatriciana or some of their light and crispy fried foods. All is good and the prices are honest.Clo sed Wed. Tel. 074340205
- Il Tempio del gusto Via Arco di Druso (near piazza del Mercato) is a pleasant alternative for those who like contemporary cuisine at reasonable prices. Closed Thu., Tel 0743/47121, Cell 33939288
Day 5 – small villages: Bevagna, Montefalco, Foligno
- Antiche Sere. A simple place, overlooking a dreamy piazza, offers inexpensive home food. Piazza Garibaldi 10, Tel 0742 361 938 or Cell 3384359575
- Tagliavento. Pretty trattoria owned by the legendary Tagliavento butchers delicious tagliata (seared sliced steak) and nice desserts. Corso Matteotti 67, Tel. 0742 361832
It’s tiny but has a splendid little piazza, and even more splendid frescos of Benozzo Gozzoli in the church of San Francesco, which is part of the museum. After the frescoes walk downhill to the viewpoint outside the town walls. This is a particularly inspiring at sunset.
- the hills around Montefalco are dotted with excellent wineries offering the local Sagrantino red, Grechetto, and Passito. Driving around and stopping for wine tasting especially at smaller estates like Scacciadiavoli, Romanelli, Dionigi or Di Filippo makes for a wonderful day.
Foligno is not really a small village, but a lively economic hub in the region sorrounded by a busy commercial area. The historic part, centred around Piazza della Repubblica is nice for a stroll and for the excellent eateries and cafes’, like Caffe Barbanera. It’s not easy to figure out where to park. Two parking areas are available near the old hospital (Ospedale Vecchio). If you can’t find them, just follow signs for centre. Once you cross the river into the old town, just park in any area marked by blue stripes and walk to the piazza, it’s not far. Do not forget to put a few coins in the parking meters!
- Osteria del Teatro. This is a quiet place where you find seriously delicious food. If I go to heaven the first thing I will ask is Pierino’s magical chocolate suffle. Ask him to see the 500-years-old round cellar, it’s as amazing as the food. I will tell no more, you just need to try. Via Petrucci, 8 Tel 3473401778 Closed Sun. dinner and Mon. lunch
Day 6 – more small villages: Spello, Trevi, Castello di Campello
I could not have a better description for Spello, than those of Michelle Damiani author of Il Bel Centro: A Year in the Beautiful Center a wonderful tale of her year of “intensive” Italian life in this adorable medieval hill-town.
BTW, Michelle’s book is a treasure trove for those who are planning to move to a village in rural Italy for a sabbatical or forever. If you plan such an adventure with your family, you will especially enjoy the high and low of bringing children to a different planet.
“Spello perches like a queen atop a mountain, clad in pink with a train that trails down the slope. Carved from rosy stone tugged thousands of years ago from Mount Subasio, Spello retains a glimmer of Roman heritage and a hefty dose of Medieval whimsy, spangled with more flowers than one can imagine. It’s magic. In the spring, when the fields below Spello explode in a baroque explosion of poppies. In the summer when the azure sky is searing and the town is bustling with people in search of gelato or an Aperol spritz. In the autumn when the alleys are empty save for the scent of pork caramelizing over flame. In the winter, when the fog threads through the ancient cobblestone streets. Magic, I tell you. By design, there’s an energy in Spello often lacking in small, Medieval towns. The township has insisted on keeping the police station, the post office, and the school, in the heart of the village, which means twice daily the streets swell with a burble of children and parents. And so locals sit and play cards next to the art gallery and grandmothers buy their young charges anise scented cookies at the old-world bakery on their way home. This is a town not for show, but a town alive with flowers, scents, and people ready to welcome strangers into Spello’s storied pink walls.” Please don’t forget to visit the splendid frescoes of Pintoricchio in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore make it worth a stop.
An other tiny village with a dramatic setting on the mountain and an interesting, if small, Flash Art museum with contemporary works of local and international artists
Castello di Campello alto
To find this recently restored hamlet, drive to Campello sul Clitunno and then follow signs for Pettino, turn left when you see a fortified hamlet, the Castello. It is a timeless place with sweeping views over the Umbrian valley and endless olive groves.
- Ristorante Le Casaline it’s near Campello sul Clitunno, on the way to Pettino, between the turn for Poreta and the turn for the Castello di Campello alto. They have a large sign on the right when you go uphill to the Castello. Take the “antipasto della casa” which includes delicious cured goose meat, it is so large and varied that it is a meal in itself. Tel. 0743521113
- The aptly named Enoteca Drinking Wine is a good place for a simple meal in Spello. Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 20
Day 7 – Deruta and Torgiano
Drive on E75 initially direction Perugia-Florence, then Rome. Exit at Torgiano one of the major wine centers of Umbria.
Visit the Museum of wine and oil for an outstanding display of the history of oenology, wine and olive growing since antiquity.
Proceed to Deruta, 10 min South of Torgiano, which is since centuries one of the most important centers of production of ceramics in Europe. The village has an old town uphill, where the only point of interest is the regional Ceramic Museum. On the Via Tiberina, which runs parallel to the highway, you will find more than 100 workshops producing pottery and other ceramics artifacts of every form, size and price.
Our favorite artists are ♥ Ubaldo Grazia and ♥ Franco Mari. To find Franco Mari, exit the highway at Deruta Zona Industriale and follow signs for Centre. Turn left at the traffic light. Franco Mari’s shop is at nr. 152 on the right inside. His pieces are characterized by dark backgrounds, bold colors and intricate Renaissance patterns like in the picture above. Ubaldo Grazia’s family is in the ceramic business since 1500. You can visit the factory museum and see the painters at work. This workshop produces for royalties and movie stars and for all the well know luxury shops worldwide. Prices are high but still a fraction of what you can find abroad and the quality and variety is stunning. Across Grazia’s shop, visit the lovely Rolando and Goffredo Nulli who will let you throw your on piece on the wheel.
All ceramic artisans ship reliably all over the world. Make sure however to take detailed pictures of what you order and beware if the fact that delivery times are often optimistic. Delays of weeks and months are not unheard of. In addition, even if you are given an e-mail address, please note that not all artisans are computer savvy. Should your stuff not arrive when expected, the best thing is to call the cell phone of the person that took your order, that’s still the best way to get something done in Italy!
NB: this area has been hit by an earthquake in 2016. The works to bring people back into their homes will probabaly last a few years but I want to leave this chapter here because we should all support the people in the area in any possible way. I want to hope that people will soon be able to return. Eat truffles, buy lentils, pecorino and prosciutto from Norcia. And above all don’t forget!
This is definitely the most spectacular drive in the region. Take E75 direction Foligno and then n.77 direction Colfiorito. This is a natural reserve, an upland plain of undulated landscape surrounded by mountain peaks. After Muccia take 209 to Visso a pretty village named the “pearl” of the Sibillini Mountains and seat of the national park. The piazza is lined with elegant 15th- and 16th-century buildings and distinguished by two pre-eminent edifices: the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria and the Church of Sant’Agostino. The Collegiate church’s original structure, in Gothic-Romanesque style, dates back to the 12th century.
From Visso, Via Castelsantangelo drive to the Piano Grande di Castelluccio, a wildly beautiful meadow surrounded by the bare green Sibillini. Continue on to medieval Norcia well known for the extravagantly decorated cured pork and wild-bore shops [NB. Norcia has been hit by an earthquake in 2016, even though most of the city has not been seriously da. To go back follow signs for Spoleto which will lead you to E75.
- You definitely need to stop for lunch in Visso at Trattoria da Richetta in Piazza Garibaldi 7. This simple family run restaurant offers the freshest river trout from the nearby river. Make sure to reserve in advance as soon as you arrive in Visso, this restaurant is popular with the locals and always full. Tel 0737 972033, closed Mon.
Day 9 – Orvieto and Todi
From Assisi, drive on E75 initially direction Perugia-Florence, then Rome. Exit at Todi-Orvieto. The road to Orvieto is slow and windy, it is preferable not to drive it at night.
In Orvieto park at Piazza Cahen or at Parcheggio di Foro Boario, a large underground parking lot located a few hundred meters before the city gate.
From the parking lot in Orvieto, take the elevator which will take you in Via Ripa Medici. Walk atop the impressive city walls to the archaic Church if San Giovenale. Its first restoration dates to the year 1004. Turn east and reach the Piazza del Duomo. After contemplation of the polychrome façade of the Duomo, make sure to see the Luca Signorelli frescoes in the San Brizio chapel. Buy tickets in the tourist office opposite the Duomo where you can also book the fascinating “Orvieto Underground tour”.
Should you be keen on quirky architecture, you might like to trek the two 248-step spiral staircases of the Pozzo di San Patrizio.
- Trattoria dell’Orso. An atmospheric place offering traditional dishes like truffled pheasant and the most delicious farro soup. Via della Misericordia 18-20. Tel. 0763 341642 Closed Mon and Tue., January and a couple of weeks in July.
- Trattoria del Moro Aronne. A friendly small place where you need to go if not only to try their famous “nidi di rondine”, twirls of lasagne paper thin sheets filled with fresh pecorino and drizzled with honey, to die for! Booking essential especially on weekend. Via San Leonardo 7. Te. 0763 342763, Closed Tue.
On your way back from Orvieto stop by Todi, even only to see the magnificent central square. Once in town, follow patiently the several signs for “Lifts/Ascensori” which will take you at the parking lot in Viale Montesanto from where you can ascend to the town using the convenient cable car. The little town has a beautiful setting, high up on the hill. Don’t miss the delightful Ab Ovo ♥ , a contemporary art gallery where you will find an extraordinary display of fine jewellery, sculpture, glass and ceramics.Via del Forno 4, near Via Ciuffelli, Tel. 075 8945526
Day 10 – Trasimeno Lake round trip: Castiglione del Lago, Panicale, Passignano
The Trasimeno lake is a large laminar lake, not ideal for swimming as it is only 7 mt/21 ft deep. It is pleasant area with mellow views of the surrounding hills and the little islands floating on the peaceful waters.
Take SS 75 Dir. Florence. Exit at Castiglione del Lago and visit the Rocca del Leone, an imposing fortress along the lake shore. Continue South to Panicale, a delightful fortified hamlet. Ask locally if it’s possible to see the Perugino’s fresco in the Church of San Sebastiano, someone has the keys. Continue to Passignano by the Southern side of the lake and via Magione. In Passignano enjoy a gelato along the shore and then take the early afternoon ferry to Isola Maggiore (daily from March to October), a small island with a tiny fishermen village.
- Ristorante Miralago offers basic but authentic home style cuisine. In the spring – if you are lucky – you can even get wild asparagus. They do not have a restaurant sign. While driving from Magione to Passignano, turn left when you see the sign for Montecolognola. The restaurant is on the left where you see a sign of a bar, just past the entrance of the fortified hamlet of Montecolognola. Tel. 075 843150
- Osteria del Carro. The ambiance is modern-rustic but the service is quick and kind and the food is good and varied. A good option in touristy Passignano. Via della Libertà 6. Closed Tue. in winter. Tel. 075 3748460
More ideas about what to do during your holidays in Umbria:
- If you happen to be here during the first week-end of the month, visit the Antiques fair in Arezzo. Here’s a video
- Visit Urbino in the Marche region, or Siena and Cortona in Southern Tuscany, all within 1 and 1/2 hr drive from here
- If you need a place to visit on your way to Rome airport, visit Villa D’Este in Tivoli. The gardens are magnificent. You find some pictures here
Not enough? see more pictures for inspiration or watch this beautiful videos: