4 Cities in Italy to Beat the Crowds: the Umbria Region
If you’re looking for a more authentic Italian experience, diverging off the beaten path in Italy is a must. Cue in the lesser known region of Umbria, the quiet yet equally magnificent neighbor of Tuscany. Did you know that the easiest (and most scenic) way to travel between cities in Italy is by train? These 4 hilltop towns in the Umbria region are some of my favorite Italian cities. They’ll certainly give you a more local feel of the Italian culture.
Cities in Italy: The Umbria Region
Perugia is the capital of Umbria and I truly believe it’s one of the most underrated cities in Italy. Period. What makes Perugia so special? The ancient medieval architecture, the grand archways, the abundance of trendy cafes and cheap eats, the attractive main square perfect for people watching, its strategic location perched upon the top of the Umbrian hills, and the futuristic “mini-metro” that feels like a timewarp capsule. Oh, and did I mention this is where Baci chocolates come from? Enough said.
Perugia is the perfect base to explore the Umbria region. A few days is needed to experience it fully. It can be reached by train from Rome in 2.5 hours and from Florence in 2 hours. For train times, check out the Eurail Timetable.
Insider tips: Don’t miss walking along the famous Arch of the Aqueduct; trying to spot the 7 historical gates allowing access to the city; and the Living Bar cafe for the best panoramic views of the countryside.
Spoleto is one of the most unique Italian cities in the Umbria region due to its Tower Bridge, or “Ponte delle Torri”. This magnificent structure is actually a remnant of an aqueduct that was built in the 13th century. You can walk across the bridge for stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Another cool feature of this city is the underground escalators. They can take you from the city center directly to the bridge. A modern twist in an ancient city indeed.
Spoleto can be reached by train in a little over an hour from Perugia. A whole day is recommended to enjoy all the history and nature it has to offer.
Insider tips: There’s a hiking trail at the other side of the bridge that you can continue on if you’re interested in great photo ops from the hilltop. If you fancy some wine after the hike, head back to the center to a local wine tasting shop called Le Spezie, where they offer tastings for 2 euros along with local meats and cheeses.
If there’s one thing you’ll notice while traveling around the cities in Italy, it’s that they have an undeniable obsession with decorating their balconies, windows, and porches with colorful flowers. In Spello, this decorating skill is taken to a whole new level. It’s unlike any town you’ll ever see. You won’t be able to resist stopping at each and every little alley and side street to admire the dozens upon dozens of gorgeous floral arrangements. It’s like a photographer’s dream!
Spello is a delightful 30 minute train ride from Perugia and a half day is all you need.
Insider tips: May is the best time of year to visit as the flowers are all in full bloom. Spello is also full of numerous cozy wine bars. You could spend a whole afternoon hopping from one to the other, losing track of time.
One of the best reasons to visit Umbria is to witness the sacred city of Assisi. Assisi is the birthplace of the beloved St. Francis. The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s also one of the most significant places of pilgrimage for the Christian people in Italy.
Assisi can be reached in a quick 20-minute train ride from Perugia. A whole day is highly recommended to see everything.
Insider tips: Walk the parameters of the city overlooking the hillside; wander away from the main attractions and get lost in between the endless narrow alleys; and explore both the upper and lower parts of the city. The city is very steep so don’t attempt it without good walking shoes.
Not only is traveling by train between these 4 Italian cities very easy and convenient, but the scenery along the way is worth the trip alone. For more details on train travel in Italy, check out our helpful Eurail guide to Italy. Explore Italy by train with a Eurail Italy Pass!