As I recently discovered, Umbria is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. Often overshadowed by her famous sister to the north, Umbria has everything Tuscany has – stunning countryside, history, culture, art, and phenomenal regional cuisine and wine – without the mass tourism and commercialization!
1) Less Commercialized/Exploited
I am not going to use the phrase “more authentic” to describe Umbria verses Tuscany because the notion of “authentic” is exactly what has stunted the culture of much of Tuscany. For too long Tuscany has played into touristic notions of authenticity, which often depicts Italy as traditional, frozen in time, and incapable of progress. Things do not have to be old-fashioned to be authentic. Umbria gets this, and rather than become what they think tourists want, the region welcomes tourists to part take in and enjoy the actual culture and cuisine of Umbria – a culture and cuisine that is both traditional and innovative.
2) More Bang for Your Buck
Because the region as a whole is less know and exploited by tourists, you will get so much more for your money in Umbria. Take Villa Louise for example. You can stay in a luxurious villa with all the modern conveniences for the same price per night as a sub-par, 3-star hotel in Rome or Florence (that I can guarantee will not have the same fabulous amenities like a pool, air conditioning, and large comfortable beds). You can also eat like a king on a budget, but more on that in number 5.
3) The Gorgeous Countryside
Tuscany isn’t the only region of Italy that boasts movie-worthy countryside scenery. Rolling green hills, olive groves, vineyards, dancing wheat, cyprus trees, and fields of sunflowers define the Umbrian landscape. Set within this idyllic landscape you will find old churches and monasteries, pastures, and medieval hill towns to explore.
4) The Adorable Hill Towns
Todi, Gubbio, Spello, Orvieto, Assisi, Perugia, and Spoleto are simply magical. All are fairly close to one another and easy to visit. Each is packed with charm and history and can be explored slowly or quickly, one after another. And unlike more famous tourist centers, these towns retain their local character. While technically just across the Umbrian boarder in Lazio, Bangoregio is another amazing medieval hill town and is close enough to include in your Umbrian adventures.
5) The Food and Wine
Umbria leads the way in the organic, slow food movement. Sticking to traditional agricultural production, Umbria protects its heritage but approaches food and wine with a modern sensibility. This produces a rich gastronomic culture that seamlessly blends tradition and innovation. Expect to be surprised by just how unique (and yummy) the traditional dishes and wines are. Honestly, I had some of the best meals of my life while in Umbria!
6) The Region’s Rich History
Situated in the middle of the Italian peninsula, Umbria has a long and important history. You can explore ancient Roman and Etruscan ruins such as tombs, amphitheaters, roads, baths, aqueducts, and homes in cities like Spoleto, Gubbio, and Perugia. The history and power of the church is on display in Assisi and Orvieto, while towns like Spello and Todi retain their quaint medieval charm. Under the rule of the Pope in the sixteenth century, the region became a center of learning, art, and culture, and officially joined the Italian state in 1860.
Trust me, you are going to want to visit Umbria before everyone else finds out just how amazing it is!