Home Destinations 36 Wonderful Things to do in Umbria, Italy (PLUS Map of Umbria)

36 Wonderful Things to do in Umbria, Italy (PLUS Map of Umbria)

From medieval hilltop hamlets to the world's tallest man-made waterfall, here are the very best things to do in Umbria - Italy's Green Heart

by Michele
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Things to do in Umbria Italy - Scheggino at sunrise
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One thing’s for sure is it’s practically impossible to run out of things to do in Umbria. From exploring walled medieval hamlets to hiking in beautiful nature parks, it’s less about finding things to do than narrowing your list down!

So, where do you start in this magnificent Italian region? Don’t worry, I’ll share everything you need to know. In this comprehensive travel guide, I’ve gathered a bucket list of 36 of the best things to do in Umbria. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to fit them all into one trip, which is a great excuse to plan anotlher one.

To help you plan your Umbrian adventure, I’ve included a map of Umbria indicating all the places and activities mentioned in this guide. Make sure you save it in your Google account so you can easily access it during your trip.

Why you should visit Umbria

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Scheggino quiet roadLocated in the middle of Italy, surrounded by wild mountains and sweet green hills and bright fields of sunflowers, Umbria is an excellent destination for explorers, adventurers, foodies, and art lovers. Though well inland, the beauty of the landscape and the quality of life make up for the lack of coast.

Across this corner of Italy, you’ll uncover exceptional natural beauty, fresco-clad churches, plates piled with cured meats, and a never-ending list of festivals. And the great thing is that, unlike its rockstar neighbour Tuscany, Umbria still maintains a wild, untouched feel, perfect for those who enjoy a slower, more laid-back pace.

How to visit Umbria and travel around

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Sunflower field

Fields of sunflowers dot the Umbrian landscape

By plane

Umbria is a relatively easy place to travel to and around. The San Francesco d’Assisi international airport in Perugia ensures connections with major European cities. Alternatively, you can fly into Rome or Florence and reach Umbria by train or with a rental car. Check availability and rent your car here.

By car

The easiest way to explore the region is by car. This will allow you to make the most of your time there and give you the freedom to see all the best things to do in Umbria at your own pace. You can rent a car in Perugia; from here, all key places in Umbria are within a 1-hour drive.

By public transport

Another way of travelling around the region is by public transport. There’s a good local bus network connecting the main towns and villages. Routes and timetables are available on the FS Busitalia website. Trains, too, are good options. The Frecciarossa high-speed line connects Umbria with major Italian cities. At the same time, regional trains ensure connections to all the main destinations within the region. Take a look at either the Trenitalia website or Trainline for more details and to book your journey.

You can purchase the UMBRIA.GO travel ticket which gives you unlimited trips throughout the Region. This includes urban and suburban buses, Minimetrò of Perugia, Trasimeno Lake ferry service, regional trains and the funicular in Orvieto. To get your travel pass, visit any Busitalia and Trenitalia ticket offices in Umbria or visit any of the authorized resellers here.(Note: this page is in Italian. Click on the “DOVE SI ACQUISTANO” [WHERE TO BUY] tab for details)

By guided tour

Alternatively, if you’re based in any of the surrounding regions and short on time, you can join a guided day tour like this one from Rome which will ensure you see the highlights of Umbria without the fuss of organising it all yourself.

Map of Umbria

To help you plan your trip, here’s a map of Umbria that highlights everything listed in this article. You can also download it to your phone and take it with you.

Top things to do in Umbria

Umbria has so much to offer, but I’ve narrowed the list down to 36 of my favourites. You’ll find a good mix of the best natural, cultural, and historical attractions to be explored in Italy’s green region. So, here are the best things to do in Umbria that will help you make the most of the region.

1. Visit Perugia, the capital of Umbria

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Perugia - Piazza IV Novembre

Piazza IV Novembre in Perugia

In the centre of Umbria, Perugia is the region’s main town. It boasts an impressive cultural history, with roots in its Etruscan past. The old town is packed with interesting sights, including the Palazzo dei Priori located in Piazza IV Novembre which hosts the prime art collection of Umbria’s National Gallery.

With one of Italy’s most prominent academic institutions and the first wine school in the world, the town has a cosmopolitan student population that makes it truly lively. Also, chocolate is an essential ingredient on local tables. The famous Perugina brand is based here and Eurochocolate, the biggest European festival dedicated to chocolate, takes place here every October.

Don’t miss: visit the Perugina Museum (Casa del Cioccolato Perugina), not just for the chocolate but to learn about the history of one of Italy’s beloved brands.

2. Discover Orvieto’s stunning cathedral

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Orvieto CathedralPerched atop a tufa hill, Orvieto is an enchanting walled town with some 3,000 years of history, lovely medieval streets lined with honey-coloured buildings, and a unique system of underground tunnels – 1,200 to be precise.

The town’s Gothic cathedral definitely calls attention to itself, adorning the main piazza with a grand display of spires, elaborate carvings, and stained glass, making it one of Italy’s most beautiful churches. Plus, its mosaicked facade is a visual treat.

Don’t miss: St Patrick’s Well (Pozzo di San Patrizio) is a unique piece of Renaissance engineering 200 feet deep and 42 feet wide, it was built in the 16th century to ensure the water supply was protected if the town was besieged. You can climb into it and admire the ingenious helix system of steps designed to make traffic flow efficiently. The round trip is 496 steps.

3. See Lake Trasimeno, the “sea” of Umbria

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Lake Trasimeno Fortress from the air

Isola Polvese Castello

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Lake Trasimeno Aerial viewIn Umbria, Lake Trasimeno (Latin tras-minas meaning ‘between the mountains’) is Italy’s fourth-largest lake and adds a splash of blue to a landscape awash in green. It’s been inhabited since the Etruscans, and it’s here that Hannibal drove the Romans’ army into the lake in 217 BC, causing their greatest military defeat.

Today, all is calm and blissful here. The area was made a regional park in 1995 and is now the habitat of many fish and bird species. All around the lake, olive groves, sunflower fields and vineyards frame quaint medieval towns such as Passignano and Castiglione del Lago, which are well worth a visit.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Lake Trasimeno - Monastero di San Secondo

Monastero di San Secondo

Take a boat from the medieval village of Passignano site of the 14th-century Ponente tower, to reach Maggiore Island (which is still inhabited). This magnificent place with a fishing village dating back to the 15th century is also the location of the Romanesque church of San Salvatore (12th century), the church of San Michele Arcangelo (14th century) and Villa Isabella of the Marquis of Guglielmi.

Maggiore Island can also be reached from Tuoro sul Trasimeno, an ancient Etruscan city that became well-known as the battleground for the decisive stages of the battle between Hannibal and Caio Flaminio. Renaissance Palazzo Capra was erected precisely on the tomb of the Roman commander.

The largest island on the lake (there are three) is Polvese (from ‘pol vento‘, meaning ‘covered by wind’), which is not inhabited and is now a public park. It is also the location of the S. Secondo monastery, the Church of San Giuliano and a 14th-Century castle which was recently restored.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Lake Trasimeno - Chiesa di San Giuliano

San Giuliano Church

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Map of San Feliciano transport

Ferry around Lake Trasimeno

Don’t miss: hop on a ferry and explore two of the beautiful islands dotting the lake. Check the ferry timetable here to plan your visit.

Extend your stay and spend a night or two at Villa Polvese Resort. Each suite is elegantly designed and furnished and comes with a cosy king-sized bed. Bathrooms are spacious and luminous, with hand-decorated majolica and a wide shower cabin. After waking up to lake-side views, enjoy a continental breakfast on the sun terrace before spending your day exploring the island on foot or bike. In the evening, tuck in for a delicious meal at the on-site restaurant, Dolce Agogia, for an opportunity to taste the flavours of the Lake. Check availability and book your stay here.

4. Experience traditional net fishing with a local fisherman

For a fascinating insight into Lake Trasimeno’s fishing culture and history, head to the village of San Feliciano, home of the Museo della Pesca sul Lago Trasimeno and join the fishermen of the Trasimeno Fishermen Cooperative (Cooperativa Pescatori del Trasimeno) for a memorable fishing adventure at dawn.

Here there are just 28 fisherman who engage in passive fishing, which has changed in 1,000 years. One of them, the charismatic Aurelio Cocchini (pictured below in blue), has been fishing on Lake Trasimeno since 1980. Aurelio explained to me, they simply lay down the nets and allow the fish to be caught without enticing them or rounding them up. This means each catch varies in quantity. They are then cleaned and filleteèd by hand. This is because the fish vary in size so industrial machines can’t be used even if they wanted to. This also allows for less waste, all supporting their ethos for the sustainability of the lake.

Aboard a traditional wooden boat, you’ll learn everything about lake fish and fishing techniques based exclusively on handmade nets called giacchi. The beautiful scenery around the lake provides the perfect backdrop to the experience.

Don’t miss: If you are in San Feliciano at the end of July, don’t miss the Sagra del Giacchio (Giacchio Festival). It’s a popular event where you can enjoy delicious lake fish-based dishes.

5. See Polvese Fortress on Polvese Island Nature Reserve

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Lake Trasimeno Fortress

Isola Polvese Castello

Hop on a ferry from San Feliciano and visit Polvese, the largest of the three islands dotting the placid waters of Lake Trasimeno. In just 10 minutes, you’ll feel like you’re in a green paradise surrounded by wildlife, lush oak woodlands, and millenary olive groves. Check the ferry timetable here to plan your visit.

The island was first inhabited by the Romans, as evident from the remains of opus reticulatum in the small church of San Giuliano. It’s guarded by a big 15th-century fortress, whose perimeter walls are all that’s left. Following the path to the top of the hill, you’ll also find the ruins of San Secondo, an ancient monastery dating from the 11th century.

Don’t miss: Enjoy a unique dining experience at Impact 0 Beach Bar, the first place on the lake that lives off the land’s energy. Raw food is on the menu to reduce CO2 emissions, and the sound system runs entirely on solar power. Ferries run daily and depart every 40 minutes. Free parking is available at San Feliciano.

6. Explore the pretty hamlet of Monte del Lago

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Monte del Lago - Houses overlooking lakeOn the lake’s eastern shore stands a hilltop hamlet of brick houses that is a delight to explore: Monte del Lago. This was once the seat of the lake’s government, but now it’s just a cute, sleepy town where only the daily rituals of its 200 residents break the silence. A steep road cuts the village in half, revealing stunning lake views.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Monte del Lago - Poem by Vittoria Aganoor Pompilj

Poem by Vittoria Aganoor Pompilj

There are a lot of stories to tell for such a small center. Monte del Lago is where Bartolomeo Borghi wrote the first Italian geographical atlas, and where the love story of Vittoria Aganoor and Guido Pompilj took a tragic turn; after Vittoria died of cancer, Guido, very dramatically killed himself, just hours after her death. The village was also a favourite destination of composer Giacomo Puccini, who often stayed at Villa Palombaro.

Don’t miss: the Church of Sant’Andrea is worth a look if you find it open. It boasts valuable frescoes dating from the 15th century and attributed to an artist from Perugia.

7. Sample local wine at the Decugnano dei Barbi winery

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Decugnano dei Barbi vineyard and accommodationUmbria is a land of great wines, and when touring the region, you won’t want to miss a visit to the Decugnano dei Barbi historical winery just outside Orvieto. Wine here first appeared in records in 1212 when it was made for the clergy. After that, it almost became extinct until the Barbi family saved it from disappearing in the 1970s. Today, Decugnano dei Barbi produces 120,000 bottles a year and export around 30,000.

Decugnano is the name of the hill on which it’s located while dei barbi is the family name of the owner. The family are the winemakers who were the first to introduce sparkling wines to Umbria back in 1978. Today, they make elegant blends from a terroir that was initially an ocean floor millions of years ago and give the wine a distinctive character.

During your visit be guided by Maurizio who will take you on a journey as you savour their rose, white and red wines. He also explains the Etruscans who lived in the area created 18 caves which were most likely tombs. These were later used to store wine which slowed the second fermentation, creating something closer to a beer or cider, it was much sweeter and this sweet taste is a characteristic in Umbrian wines.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Decugnano dei Barbi - Etruscan caves

Etruscan caves

Since this area was once on a sea bed some 3.5 million years ago, when you visit the repurposed caves, you can actually spot sea shells in the layers of the walls as the sea bed rose and rose throughout the Millenia.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Decugnano dei Barbi seashells in wall

Spot the sea shells in the walls

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Decugnano dei Barbi GuesthouseDon’t miss: this is more than just a vineyard, you can also stay here! There is a large stone guesthouse, called Villa Barbi which can host up to 10 guests. With a sparkling pool, it’s the perfect spot for a relaxing break amidst the peacefulness of the woods and vineyards. Check availability and book your stay here.

For more information and to book a tour, visit: decugnanodeibarbi.com

8. Visit an olive oil mill

What would Italian cuisine be without olive oil? And since the one produced in Umbria is appreciated worldwide for its quality and texture, visiting a local oil factory is one of the best things to do while touring the region.

The best place to learn about Umbria’s “green gold” is Frantoio Fattoria Luca Palombaro, an olive mill and farm that’s been producing high-quality extra-virgin olive oil from its estate in Monte del Lago for almost a century. The whole process is handled personally by the family, who only use olives grown on their property. The Fattoria has approximately 12,000 olive trees that reach across 200 hectares of these splendid hills that surround Lake Trasimeno in the heart of Umbria.

They produce Trasimeno DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) extra virgin olive oil, and dolce agogia which is only produced here. It’s dolce (meaning, sweet) which means it’s perfect to consume with fish dishes over meat.

Don’t miss: After the mouthwatering olive oil and wine tasting, visit the ziraia, a room filled with stone mill-wheels, antique presses, and century-old oil jars all representing Italian olive oil made according to tradition.

9. Visit the Olive Oil Museum in Torgiano

To learn about local olive oil in more detail, book a visit to the Olive Tree and Olive Oil Museum housed in an old olive oil mill in the village of Torgiano. Using archaeological finds, books, and other materials, it retraces the history of the olive tree and olive oil.

The exhibit covers the mythological origins of this plant, its production, diffusion, and different uses. There is also an extensive collection of oil lamps, with some dating from pre-Roman times, and a section dedicated to the use of oil in traditions and folklore.

Don’t miss: one of the top pieces on display is an Attic alabastron from the 5th century BC decorated with a beautiful red pattern. For more information visit: muvit.it/museodellolio

10. Enjoy old-school local cuisine at Relais La Fattoria in Castel Rigione

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Castel Rigione

Castel Rigione at sunset

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Castel Rigione - Relais La Fattoria - Pesto tortellini

Relais La Fattoria is the kind of place that evokes nostalgia for the past. It’s located in the hilltop village of Castel Rigone, on the remains of an ancient stronghold that once guarded the entire valley, and with gorgeous views of Lake Trasimeno. Its restaurant, evocatively called “Da Lidia, the kitchen of the past”, serves traditional staples of Umbrian cuisine made according to tradition. On the menu, you’ll find delicacies like tagliatelle with Umbrian ragout, lamb cooked in Rubesco wine, and Norcia-style fusilli pasta.

Don’t miss: the most indulgent treat on the menu is the Perugina chocolate salami, a true delight for sweet-toothed guests.

11. Journey to the Middle Ages in Bevagna

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Visit Bevagna

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Bevagna - Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo

Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo

Bevagna is one of the best towns to visit in Umbria for its Medieval character and ancient Roman roots. There are beautiful stone buildings, atmospheric alleys, and ancient monuments revealing hundreds of years of history – including a mosaic floor from a Roman public bath dating from the first century AD during the time of Emperor Hadrian.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Bevagna - Monastero Delle Agostiniane Di S. Margherita at end of street

Monastero Delle Agostiniane Di S. Margherita

In June, the village celebrates its old crafts such as hemp, money, silk and candle production with the Mercato delle Gaite, a unique festival that takes visitors on a journey into medieval daily life through the reconstruction of workshops and locals dressed in period customs.

Don’t miss: treat yourself to a delicious plate of stringozzi pasta with artichokes, pork jowl, and pecorino cheese at Le Barbatelle, a wine bar in the centre of Bevagna specialised in seasonal dishes paired with natural wines.

12. Visit Scheggino and go truffle hunting

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Scheggino and river at sunrise

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Visit Scheggino Things to do in Umbria Italy - Scheggino alley and arches In the heart of Valnerina, on the left bank of the Nera River, Scheggino is a lovely hilltop village with a distinctive triangular shape. Schiaginum, its original Latin name, was the old hamlet built during the twelfth century as an outpost, and a strategic and economic centre near the Duchy of Spoleto. The centre of the village “Capo la terra” developed in the 13th century around the fortress. You can still admire the structure of the medieval castle, protected by triangular walls and a square-plan watchtower.

The old town is a little jewel of stone houses and colourful alleys. A steep path leads to an ancient fortress that dominates the village from above. A top sight in Scheggino is the 12th-century Church of San Nicolò, which has frescoes by Spanish painter Giovanni di Pietro, who trained under Perugino.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Arch and alley in Scheggino 2Truffle is the king of local tables and is celebrated with a museum in the town centre. There is also the grand Black Diamond festival in April when a record-breaking truffle omelette is made with 70 kilos of truffles! Foodies will love Piermarini, a family-run local restaurant offering truffle hunting expeditions, cooking lessons, and delicious lunches. Join one of their tours led by Primo, his son Pier Marco and their team of friendly dogs who seek out truffles right before your eyes. Then head back to the restaurant for a front row seat in their kitchen and watch his chefs prepare a range of truffle-based dishes and other specialities. Find out more here.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Piermarini Truffle hunting with dogs

Don’t miss: Visiting the town of truffle isn’t complete without some truffle-based meals, and you can’t go wrong with ristorante del Ponte Scatolini. The menu offers a great selection of truffle dishes, from classic tagliolini to trout and omelettes. Another great truffle-filled menu is Borgo 209, located in Piazza Carlo Urbani it has lovely views of Scheggino from its front terrace.

Why not stay the night? Boasting beautiful views of Valnerina, Torre Del Nera Albergo diffuso & Spa is a hotel with each room and apartment spread throughout the town. I stayed here for two wonderful nights in one of their country-style rooms. There are also 16 independent “houses”, each named after the original inhabitants and featuring their family crest. Apartments feature a log fire, rustic furnishings in wood and stone, and a fully fitted kitchenette. Two apartments are located in a former 13th-century lookout tower. Check availability and book your stay here.

13. Become a cheesemaker for a day

Simple, genuine, and characterful, Umbrian cheeses are a staple of local cuisine and boast an ancient history. Local pecorino, for example, was already mentioned by Pliny the Elder in the 1st century AD when describing the various cheeses known in Rome.

Visiting a cheese factory is definitely one of the best things to do in Umbria. Many organic farms and artisanal workshops open their doors to visitors who want to learn how cheese is made. One is Caseificio Broccatelli, a family-run business that has been making cheeses since the 1950s.

Don’t miss: stock up on pecorino and caciotta, the region’s most popular cheeses. These make for wonderful gifts and souvenirs! Plan your visit here

14. Explore Valnerina with a memorable mountain bike experience

Featuring ancient abbeys, medieval hamlets, and spectacular waterfalls immersed in pristine nature, Valnerina is a stunning mountain valley bordering Le Marche in southeastern Umbria. Crossed by the Nera River, it offers timeless sights like the Plain of Castelluccio di Norcia and the Marmore Waterfalls.

SpoletoNorcia MTB Experience, the biggest cycling event in central Italy, is a great way to explore this part of Umbria. Hundreds of bikers and nature lovers come here every September to ride the four different routes around the old Spoleto-Norcia railway, which range from 10km to 65km.

Don’t miss: If you can’t make it to the event, you can explore the beauty of Valnerina at any time by using the permanent trails. You can easily rent a bike at this handy bike point or bring your own and move around with the Bus & Bike service.

15. Explore Umbria on two wheels

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Borghi più belli d’italia - Vallo di NeraIt’s possible to get around Umbria by bus or car, but if you really want to appreciate the region’s beautiful sceneries, get on a bike. Umbria is one of the best regions for cycling in Italy. To be honest, there’s nothing like pedalling through flowery plains, panoramic hills or along lake shores. There are tons of trails for mountain bikes and road bikes. From easy rides like the 50km Assisi-Spoleto path to more serious hard biking like the trail to Monti Martani from Spoleto, there’s something for everyone.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Vallo di Nera alley - View of village and mountains

Exploring Vallo di Nera on a bike tour

While there are do-it-yourself options, I actually recommend joining a tour with Ciclostazione who offer everything from half-day to multi-day bike tours along the old railway between Spoleto-Norcia and the Green Way of Nera River. For something more personalised, you can get a customised cycling route and itinerary based on your needs and preferences, including historical, cultural, and culinary delights. Choose from mountain bikes, and e-bikes and if you’re a family you can add a child seat. I joined a 3-hour afternoon tour along the old railway with Luca where our group chose to visit Vallo di Nera one of the borghi più belli d’italia (most beautiful villages in Italy) and wow is it beautiful! For more details, book your trip here.

Don’t miss: the cycling trail around the medieval town of Bevagna and the small village of Torre del Colle is a real treat.Things to do in Umbria Italy - Borghi più belli d’italia - Vallo di Nera alley - Pink flowers in streets

16. Take the Gorges of River Nera trail

There is no better introduction to the great outdoors of Umbria than taking the Nera Gorges trail. This pathway winds along the Nera River, revealing enchanting corners. You’ll find it near the town of Narni and is one of the best things to do in Umbria for nature lovers.

The trail unfolds through the old railway tracks running along the Nera River for 5km. You can do it in many ways: trekking, running, mountain bike and horseback rides, and canoeing. All around, the landscape is fabulous and reveals exciting attractions such as the remains of a Roman harbour and caves once inhabited by hermits.

Don’t miss: Along the trail, you can see an ancient Roman port and shipyard as well as the ruins of old water mills at the hamlet of Stifone.

17. Sleep in a former monastery in Ferentillo

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Church of the Abbey of San Pietro in Valle - Inside

Chiesa dell’Abbazia di San Pietro in Valle

Ferentillo is a village of very ancient origins. Located in Valnerina Park, it’s perfect for outdoorsy types who want to try their hand at free climbing, canoeing, and rafting. There are also interesting sites to explore including the Museum of the Mummies below the Church of Santo Stefano. 

Ferentillo’s history is closely tied to that of the Abbazia San Pietro in Valle (Abbey of San Pietro in Valle), a medieval monastery built on the site of a cave where hermits lived between the 4th and 6th centuries. The Abbey Church of San Pietro in Valle is one of the most important monuments in Umbria. Here you’ll find three tombs of hermit saints and the largest collection of Roman sarcophagi of Umbria and Romanesque frescos which inspired Giotto’s work in Assisi. Thanks to its location, it boasts commanding views of the valley below.

The former monastery has been completely restored and offers luxury lodgings to travellers seeking a peaceful retreat. What could be more unique than staying in a former monastery? Now home to Relais Abbazia San Pietro In Valle, a residenza storica (historical residence), this hotel is run by three sisters (Federica, Letizia and Chiara) and is a popular choice for weddings and special events thanks to its gorgeous panoramic garden. Offering everything from standard rooms to family and decadent suites, there is something to suit all budgets. Note that the hotel is only open from April to October. Check availability and book your stay here.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Abbey of San Pietro in Valle - Entrance

18. Go underground in Narni

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Sunset in Narni

Located east of the Tiber river is Narni. This fine and unspoilt hilltop town is located above a bend in the River Nera and is the geographical centre of Italy. Its origins date back to the Umbri people, who founded Nequinum. The settlement was conquered by Rome in 299 BC and was renamed Narnia, after the nearby river. Its importance under the Romans derived from the fact that it was the birthplace of Emperor Nerva, in AD 32, and also a major stopping point on the Via Flaminia. The Via Flaminia was an important Roman consular road that connected Rome to Rimini.

Beneath the streets of Narni, the town that inspired “The Chronicles of Narnia”, there’s a tangle of underground tunnels and rooms that feel like another world. You’ll find remains of a Roman home, a church covered in frescoes, a cistern used to collect rainwater, a torture chamber, a Tribunal of the Inquisition and a cell with graffitied walls with a chilling message.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Chapel at Narni Sotteranea

Benedictine church

Covered or purposely hidden for centuries, this fascinating complex was re-discovered in 1979 by Roberto Nini and his friends when he was just 17 years old! Becoming his life work, Nini established Narni Sotterranea (Narni Underground) and wrote a book about his long journey that took him to the Vatican and Trinity College in Dublin to piece together the truth behind these forgotten rooms. Roberto now offers guided tours which must be booked in advance. For more information, visit narnisotterranea.it

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Roberto Nini at Narni Sotteranea

Roberto Nini at Narni Sotteranea

Inside cell of the condemed

Tribunal of the Inquisition

Like many other towns and villages in Umbria, Narni preserves a strikingly medieval appearance, with stone buildings and narrow cobblestone streets. Its attractions include one of the largest Roman bridges ever built and the Eroli Museum with an altarpiece by Domenico Ghirlandaio. Outside the city walls, Ponte Cardona marks the precise geographical centre of Italy. To learn more about Narni during your visit, consider joining this private guided tour.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Narni Festival performance

Narnia Festival performance

Don’t miss: Every year in July, Narni hosts the famous Narnia Festival, which celebrates arts, music and culture with shows and performances by international artists.

19. Visit Cascata delle marmore – the world’s tallest man-made waterfall

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Cascata delle Marmore - Marmore Falls from Sentiero 4 Things to do in Umbria Italy - Cascata delle Marmore - Marmore Falls from below Located 15-minutes outside Terni city centre is the Cascata delle Marmore (or Marmore Falls), an alleged man-made waterfall created by the ancient Romans. With a total height of 165 m (541 feet), it is the tallest man-made waterfall in Europe and possibly the world! I say alleged with good reason. But I’ll explain more about that in a moment.

In ancient times, the Velino river flowed through the highlands that surround the city of Rieti and fed a wetland in the Rieti Valley that was thought to bring illness (probably malaria). To remove this threat, in 271 BC, the Roman consul Manius Curius Dentatus ordered the construction of a canal (called the Curiano Trench) that diverted the course of the river and formed the Marmore Falls.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Cascata delle Marmore - Marmore Falls Rainbow

View from trail 2

From there, the water fell into the Nera river below. However, that solution created a different problem: when the Velino river was in flood, its water flowed toward the city of Terni, threatening its population. Over the next 300 years, other measures were taken to prevent additional flooding thanks to the construction of the Curiano Trench and in 1787, Pope Pius 6th ordered architect Andrea Vici to modify the leaps below the falls, giving the falls their present look, and finally resolving the majority of the problems.

In 1896, the newly formed steel mills in Terni began using the water flow in the Curiano Trench to power their operation. In the following years, engineers began using the water flow to generate electricity. Most of the time, the water in the canals above the Cascata delle Marmore is diverted to a hydroelectric power plant, so the flow in the falls themselves is heavily reduced.

The waterfall is controlled by a power plant and is “switched on” only at certain times during the day. Make sure you check the website before you go. Check the published schedule here.

Today, you can admire the waterfalls from different angles with a series of paths immersed in greenery by following any of the 6 scenic sentieri (paths) around the valley and area above the waterfall. Trails 1, 2, 3 and 4 are the most impressive and shouldn’t be missed. 

  • Trail 1 will take you to a belvedere (viewpoint) towards the top of the waterfall with a view looking down towards the valley. Allow a 30-minute round trip.
  • Trails 2 and 3 are connected and take you along the lower falls. Look out for a stunning reflection rainbow caused by the heavy flow of water and spray in the air. Allow a 15-minute round trip.
  • Trail 4 is located across the road outside the main waterfall complex area. Show your ticket to a member of staff and then take the 10-minute walk up the mountain which will give you fantastic views of the waterfall.

Entrance is 10 euros and for another 3.5 euros, you can visit il balcone degli innamorati (the lover’s balcony) as part of a small guided tour. A small corridor built into the mountain opens up to a small terrace that puts you right in the waterfall. If it’s not a hot day or you don’t want to get soaked, I recommend picking up a poncho for 2 euros at the shop at the base of the waterfall. Click here for a full map of the park and paths.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Cascata delle Marmore - Marmore Falls - Upper FallsIt was during my guided tour of the balcony that my enthusiastic guide Aldo, debunked the claim that it is the tallest man-made waterfall in the world. He explained that 100,000 years prior to the Romans coming along, an earthquake forged the two rivers together, which formed a small waterfall. The Romans simply made it more grand and impressive with their additional engineering, but the foundations of the waterfall were already present. Nonetheless, it’s still an impressive waterfall that even Lord Byron visited during his Grand Tour, describing it as “Horribly beautiful”. For more information and to plan your visit, go to: cascatadellemarmore.info

20. Dine and stay the night at Borgo dei conti Resort Relais & Chateaux

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Borgo dei Conti Resort Relais & Chateaux

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Borgo dei Conti Resort Relais & Chateaux - Terrace and hillsJust a 30-minute drive away from the capital of Perugia is Borgo dei Conti Resort Relais & Chateaux, a gem overlooking the Nestore Valley in the Umbrian countryside. Some 600 olive trees surround this 20-hectare castle and estate which boasts an impressive 15-hectare park, outdoor cinema, sauna, Turkish bath, spa facilities, gym and tennis court that allow you to experience this fortified 17th-century mansion in more ways than one.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Stay at Borgo dei Conti Resort Relais & Chateaux - Room with view

This residence was erected on the site of an ancient fortress, which dates as far back as the 13th century when it was then inhabited by about 500 people. The name borgo dei conti translates to ‘village of the counts’ and as its name suggests, over the years it was owned by a succession of nobles from counts to aristocrats.

There is also an imbarcadero a kind of jetty which historically gave underground access to a stream which the Countess took to reach a lake and her private hideaway where she painted and took refuge.

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Borgo dei Conti Resort Relais & Chateaux - Tunnel to an ancient lake

imbarcadero – an ancient jetty

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Borgo dei Conti Resort Relais & Chateaux - Countess' private refuge

The private refuge of the countess on what was once a lake

Today, this converted castle offers its guests a free spa and gym, billiards room, and an on-site restaurant serving Umbrian specialities. Each room is elegantly furnished with designer bathrooms, dark-wood furniture and fine fabrics. You can even choose to stay in either the Count and Countess’ suites. Check availability and book your stay here.

21. Go whitewater rafting

Though Umbria looks peaceful and idyllic, it offers its fair share of adrenaline too. For example, there are some great spots for whitewater rafting on the Nera River, under the waterfall Marmore – the kind of adventure that any adrenaline junky visiting Umbria shouldn’t miss. Check availability and book your experience here.

Depending on your level, there are different courses you can pick, and even beginner rafters are guaranteed some seriously accelerated heartbeats. Added bonus: the river winds through some of Umbria’s most stunning scenery.

Don’t miss: besides rafting, there are tons of other sports you can practice in the area, including canyoning, hydrospeed, and thrilling river walks at night. For more information visit: umbriaexperience.it

22. Discover Umbria’s wine routes (and bring a bottle or two home)

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Lake Trasimeno - Impact 0 beach bar - WineOenophiles usually flock to neighbouring Tuscany, but Umbria, too, produces some great wines that are gaining recognition in Italy and abroad. Whether you’re a seasoned wine expert or just a casual wine drinker, exploring local wines is definitely one of the best things to do in Umbria.

A total of four wine routes have been designed to guide visitors through excellent wines, marvellous landscapes, and enchanting villages across the region. These are: “Strada del Sagrantino” on the slopes of Montefalco, “Strada del Vino dei Colli del Trasimeno”, “Strada dei Vini del Cantico” in central Umbria, and “Strada dei Vini Etrusco Romana” through the hills of Orvieto.

Don’t miss: Whatever route you take, make sure you stop at Arnaldo Caprai, a fantastic winery famous for its Sagrantino red. You can tour the cellars and enjoy lunch on a beautiful panoramic terrace.

23. Tour Rasiglia, Umbria’s little Venice

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Rasiglia - Little Venice of UmbriaThings to do in Umbria Italy - RasigliaAt the border with Le Marche, Rasiglia is one of the best places to see in Umbria. A picture-perfect mountain village with stone buildings and pristine nature. There are plenty of attractions to keep you busy, including a chapel with frescoes from the 13th century, ruins of a castle, and waterfalls.

Rasiglia welcomes you with the soothing sound of flowing water. This town gets its nickname – “Umbria’s little Venice” – from a fascinating system of creeks and canals that wind through the streets, providing enchanting views. Cute wooden and stone bridges are all over town, perfect for photos.

Don’t miss: In June, you can watch re-enactments of historic activities and participate in traditional workshops at “Penelope a Rasiglia”, the town’s main event.

24. Take an Umbrian cooking class

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Umbrian cooking classUmbrian cuisine is truly unique, blending rustic ingredients with prestigious products like truffles. Traditional dishes are often passed down from generation to generation, and cooking classes give you a chance to get a real feel for regional gastronomy. After all, what would a vacation in Italy be without a deep dive into local food?

Among the many options on the market, Percorsi con Gusto in San Gemini stands out for keeping traditions alive. Home cooking is the focus of its courses, which take place in a beautiful 16th-century private residence. Another top-rated cooking class is this one where you’ll enjoy a five-course meal along with wine from the estate, as you learn about traditional recipes from Umbria. Plus you get a recipe book to take home. Book your class here.

Don’t miss: Don’t leave without visiting the village after the cooking class. San Gemini is included in the list of Italy’s most beautiful villages and offers important attractions, including a Roman archaeological area.

25. Discover the great outdoors in the Monte Cucco Regional Park

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Monte Cucco at sunrise

Monte Cucco at sunrise

The Monte Cucco Regional Park is the ultimate paradise for nature lovers in Umbria, on the border with Le Marche. It’s got pristine woods, waterways, and spectacular gorges. There are also some incredible underground caves where others have left their traces through the centuries.

This park is full of hermitages and quaint hamlets rich in history and culture, such as Fossato di Vico, where every year in May the Feast of the Statutes brings the village’s 14th-century Municipal Statutes back to life.

Don’t miss: Featuring 30km of tunnels, the Monte Cucco Cave is an underground system of great importance in Europe.

26. Explore the Sibillini Mountains National Park

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Sibillini mountains

Sibillini mountains

Stretching over 70,000 hectares between Le Marche and Umbria, the Sibillini Mountains National Park is Umbria’s natural wonderland. Legends about the Prophetess Sibyl haunt the area, making a visit all the more thrilling.

Hiking, biking, or paragliding are the best ways to see the park’s natural treasures. There are also old hamlets to explore, like Visso, which is thought to have been founded 907 years before Rome, and Arquata del Tronto, Europe’s only territory with two national parks (Monti Sibillini in the north and Gran Sasso in the south).

Don’t miss: Visit between May and July, when the lentil fields around Castelluccio di Norcia are in full bloom, turning the valley into a beautiful mosaic of colours.

27. Visit the earthquake-stricken town of Norcia

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Norcia

Despite being hit by earthquakes that destroyed many of its treasures, Norcia remains firmly on Umbria’s map as a prime spot for hikers and foodies. The town is surrounded by the stunning landscape of the Sibillini Mountains National Park, which you can explore on foot, bike, or horseback. This way, you won’t feel guilty about stuffing yourself with its delicious tasty pork-meat products and cheeses.

Norcia’s historic centre is surrounded by walls and develops around Piazza San Benedetto, the saint born here. Part of it is still inaccessible to the public, but you can see what’s left after the quakes, like the facade of the 13th-century basilica and the statue of St Benedict. But what makes this little Umbrian town so special is its people, who are fighting hard to rebuild it.

Don’t miss: Pay a visit to the earthquake-stricken shops housed inside prefabricated wooden buildings along Via della Stazione. They were moved here from the historic centre, and our support is vital for their survival.

28. Treat yourself to a fancy meal

Why not try one of Umbria’s three Michelin-starred restaurants while in Norcia? The restaurant is called Vespasia and you’ll find it inside the 16th-century Palazzo Seneca Hotel in the historic centre. Promoting an ethical, sustainable cuisine, the restaurant uses strictly seasonal ingredients from a network of local suppliers. The result is dishes that showcase local specialities without shying away from sacrificing innovation.

Don’t miss: the restaurant has three tasting menus, but if you can only pick one dish, go for the homemade Umbricelli with Norcia’s black truffles – pure heaven! For more information visit: vespasianorcia.com

29. Visit the birthplace of St. Francis in Assisi

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi

Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi

A classic stop in Umbria, Assisi is a hilltop town best known as the birthplace of St Francis, one of Italy’s most famous patron saints. Its centrepiece is the stunning 13th-century Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, which hosts the saint’s remains and boasts a beautiful fresco cycle depicting his life. Plus, the views of Assisi’s skyline from the Basilica’s upper square are unbeatable.

While the Basilica is the main draw, Assisi also has a magnificent historic center that contributed to the town’s UNESCO listing. Other attractions worth exploring include the Temple of Minerva, the Basilica of St Chiara, and the 14th-century castle.

Don’t miss: The Calendimaggio festival in May celebrates spring and nature’s awakening with three days of historical reenactments and ancient traditions.

30. Walk the Franciscan Peace Path

One of the most interesting things to do in Umbria is walking in the footsteps of St Francis along the trail that connects Assisi to Gubbio. It follows the same route the saint took several times after returning his possessions to his father.

The trail is well marked and extends for about 50km (31 miles), perfectly capturing the spirit of young Francis. Whatever your reason for taking the walk, you’ll be surrounded by peace and beauty.

Don’t miss: look out for the small Church of Vittorina, the legendary spot where St Francis tamed the wolf of Gubbio.

For more information visit: ilsentierodifrancesco.it

31. See Todi, one of the best things to do in Umbria

Things to do in Umbria Italy - TodiTodi is an elegant hilltop town scenically wrapped in three concentric sets of walls, each belonging to a different era – Etruscan, Roman, medieval. These walls say a lot about the historical heritage you’ll find here. Todi has remained largely untouched by tourism, so you’ll get a real taste of Umbrian life.

The impressive Temple of Santa Maria della Consolazione is a great place to begin your exploration. The old town is full of monuments and museums, but if you can visit only one place, make it to the Duomo to see the beautiful fresco of the Last Judgment by Farraù di Faenza. It’s inspired by Michelangelo’s more famous work in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Don’t miss: Todi is famous for its grilled meat paired with a glass of Grechetto di Todi DOC, a fine white wine produced in the area for centuries.

For more information visit: visitodi.eu

32. Stroll around Spoleto

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Spoleto CathedralSpoleto is another great Umbrian town off the main tourist track. Its labyrinthine historic centre has it all: scenic cobbled alleys, sunny piazzas, buzzy little cafes, and ancient churches hiding stunning frescoes.

This town in the foothills of the Apennines also features a 1st-century AD Roman theatre often hosting ballet performances. The grand Ponte delle Torri bridge, built as an aqueduct in the 13th century, is one of the symbols of Spoleto. Possibly built on Roman foundations,  today you can walk along its elevated path to the sacred wood of Monteluco, a spot of pristine natural beauty. 

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Spoleto - Ponte delle Torri

Ponte delle Torri

Don’t miss: between June and July, Spoleto stages the Festival dei Due Mondi, an annual summer music and opera event that attracts artists from all over the world.

33. Visit Spello and its flower festival

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Spello - Plants and flowers in narrow streetNestled in the foothills of Mount Subasio, the walled town of Spello is as picturesque as it gets, with winding medieval streets, crumbling churches, and old houses of honey-coloured stone. It’s no wonder then, that it’s part of “The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy” trail.

In Spello, you can see perfectly preserved Roman walls and some magnificent frescoes by Pinturicchio inside the 11th-century Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. Another highlight is the 500-metre mosaic-paved area inside Villa dei Mosaici just outside the town centre.

Don’t miss: if you visit in June, you might catch Spello’s famous Infiorata. This flower festival turns the streets into canvases for locals who create beautiful displays using thousands of petals.

For more information: visitspello.it

34. Get a “fool’s licence” in Gubbio

Things to do in Umbria Italy - Gubbio and Roman amphitheater

Gubbio and Roman amphitheater

Not only is Gubbio one of Umbria’s oldest towns, but it’s also its craziest! It’s traditionally known as the “City of Fools” because of the ancient practice of awarding honorary citizenship in the form of a “fool’s license” to those who circle the Bargello fountain three times.

Crazy is also how passionate locals are about their biggest festival, the Race of the Candles, which takes place on May 15th. Three massive wooden structures (5m x 300 kg) are carried by the shoulder to the Basilica on Mount Igino. Unlike what you might think, there’s no actual race since they must follow a precise order.

Don’t miss: hop on the scenic cableway connecting Gubbio to the top of Mount Ingino for some wonderful views. Keeping with the town’s crazy vibe, the cable cars are open-air human-sized birdcages!

35. Enjoy the Umbria Jazz festival

The Umbria Jazz Festival is held in July every year in Perugia. A must for jazz lovers, it’s also one of the top music festivals in Italy. It’s been going on since the early 1970s and attracts jazz experts and music enthusiasts from across the globe.

Over ten days, every corner of Perugia’s historic centre becomes the stage for exciting Jazz performances of all kinds. The performers’ lineup is also impressive, with past editions featuring stars like Tony Bennett, Elton John, Alicia Keys, and Carlos Santana.

Don’t miss: take a look at the official program, as there are always some great free outdoor concerts around town to complement the main stage performances.

For more information visit: umbriajazz.it

36. Go on a hot air balloon ride

Among the top things to do in Umbria, taking this top-rated hot air balloon ride is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating. Flying over the verdant valleys and mountain peaks of Italy’s green heart aboard a balloon basket is certainly an adventure you’ll never forget. Tours typically take off at sunrise or sunset and last approximately a couple of hours. The ride is often complemented with a delightful breakfast or aperitif.

Don’t miss: Make sure you pack your best camera because hot air ballooning 2,000 feet up offers fantastic photo opportunities. Check availability and book your ride here.

Ready to plan your trip to Umbria? To discover more delights and get more details visit umbriatourism.it. I wish you safe travels and buon viaggio! (Have a great trip!)

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36 Wonderful Things to do in Umbria Italy

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