It is not only the solemn concentration of enchanting villages, artistic masterpieces and superb panoramas even by the standards of the Peninsula that make the “Green Heart of Italy” a first-rate destination. And so, if you demand a density of experiences from a trip that goes beyond the more usual meaning of ‘holiday’, prepare yourself for authentic special effects.
Visiting Perugia is always exciting. Doing it during Umbria Jazz, however, means living an unforgettable experience: the music that flows along the medieval alleys, the squares that overflow with festive joy, the clubs where people dance from morning to late at night give the city an electrifying atmosphere . After reaching the milestone of 50 editions, and awaiting the winter interlude in Orvieto, Perugia is already looking forward to the July 2024 edition.
In the same period, the other traditional event of the Umbrian summer will take place, that Festival dei Due Mondi which, thanks to the composite schedule that ranges from dance to theatre, from performance to opera, has made Spoleto one of the places with the most marked cultural vocation in all of central Italy.
But in Umbria you will be able to witness shows no less sensational than the artistic ones: when the blooming of poppies and daffodils, cornflowers and lentils cloaks it in its multicolored floral geometries, the plain of Castelluccio (at an altitude of 1400 metres) becomes the theater of a a performance so moving, that not even the most inspired of screenwriters could ever match. And between festivals and religious re-enactments with a thousand-year history (above all the Corsa dei Ceri in Gubbio), you will have plenty of fun whatever time of year you end up in these parts.
The flavors of Umbria
The party continues at the table, because from a food and wine point of view the regional offering is simply amazing. You understand this even before sitting down in one of the many trattorias, which evoke those ‘homemade’ atmospheres in many parts of Italy which are now extinct. Just look at the landscape: the oceanic expanse of olive trees that envelops the Umbrian Valley, for tens of kilometers, unequivocally declares that the Umbrians really know a lot about oil production. The sense of wonder impressed on the visitor by the vineyards around Montefalco, touching languid villages gently nestled on the slopes, seems to suggest that the character of Sagrantino, one of the great wines of our peninsula, must be equally exuberant. And again, the farms and livestock farms that dot the surroundings of Norcia reveal the sublime production of cured meats and hams that have ennobled the territory for millennia. It is not difficult to imagine that truffles hide in great abundance in the wild woods that cover the length and breadth of the region. Without forgetting the lentils from Castelluccio, the onion from Cannara, the fish from Lake Trasimeno, the red potatoes from Colfiorito…
A region to be experienced outdoors
Start your journey now by downloading your free copy of our guide: art, food, outdoor life and the unique vocation that this region has for living well will win you over.
48 hours in Umbria: journey through the artistic wonders of Umbria from Assisi to Perugia
The city of San Francesco and the regional capital are two destinations with a shocking concentration of pictorial masterpieces. Add a few stops here and there around the region, and you have a dream tour for even the most insatiable art lover.
No erudite arguments are needed to define Assisi as one of the capitals of world art. Ultimately, the fact that the city hosts the Basilica of San Francesco is enough: it was here, between the second half of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th, that the history of painting underwent a decisive turning point, thanks to Giotto’s frescoes, to their perspective complexity, to the volumetric realism of the figures and the unprecedented psychological investigation of the characters. Without forgetting the contribution in the decorations of the other painting superstars of the time, from Pietro Cavallini to Cimabue, from Simone Martini to Pietro Lorenzetti.
To give a measure of the overflowing urban heritage, it should be considered that even without the solemn building that houses the remains of Saint Francis, Assisi would still have all it takes to make travelers sensitive to the lure of the arts fall in love: the temple of Minerva , dating back to the 1st century BC and among the most coveted symbols of the Grand Tour era, the Cathedral of San Rufino, one of the pinnacles of Romanesque architecture in central Italy, the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, which houses works by Federico Barocci , by Pomarancio, and an extraordinary Crucifix by Giunta Pisano (in the adjoining Museum), have the overflowing personality of the most prestigious monuments. But the city is able to enchant anyone, with the pink stone alleys that sparkle at sunset, the atmosphere imbued with a spirituality that is both ethereal and tangible, the enchanted gardens that dialogue with the surrounding green hills.
Renaissance and contemporaneity at their maximum splendor
The artistic proposal of Montefalco is in direct continuity with the artistic genius of Assisi: the Museum Complex of San Francesco houses in the apse of the church of the same name one of the most important cycles of frescoes dedicated to the saint, created by Benozzo Gozzoli in 1452. he is an up-to-date artist, who drew heavily on the innovative solutions that were spreading from Florence to the rest of the peninsula. However, to fully celebrate the Renaissance season in Umbria, the destination not to be missed is Orvieto: in the Cathedral, the frescoes on the Last Judgment of the Chapel of San Brizio by Luca Signorelli (of whose death the five hundredth anniversary occurs in 2023) represent one of the most significant paintings of the time, as well as an imaginatively unbridled work, worthy of the setting of a futuristic video game. And what about St. Patrick’s Well, built by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger starting from 1527? Descending for more than fifty meters along the steps of this structure, designed to supply the city in the event of a siege, with its large windows and the small bridge at the bottom, you will have the sensation of finding yourself in an Escher painting.
At that point, you will also have to make a stop in Città di Castello: only by visiting the two locations of the Burri Collection, where the genius of one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century is expressed in all its eloquence, in fact, will you be able to ascertain how in Umbria the noblest tensions of the human soul continue to vibrate even in the contemporary world.
Grand finale in Perugia
The tour ends in Perugia, and it couldn’t be otherwise, because the city was the main stage of the most iconic artist of the region, that Perugino who in 2023, also for the five hundredth anniversary of his death, was at the center of one boundless schedule of events. And even today that the great exhibition in his honor at the National Gallery of Umbria is over, the museum remains the ideal place to retrace the artistic events of a painter who during his lifetime was able to exercise such a vast influence that he had few terms of comparison in art history. Bear in mind, however, that the Collegio del Cambio, where you can admire Perugino dealing with unusual classical themes, is really just a few meters away, and that it would be a real shame not to also visit the San Severo Chapel, to put it directly comparison with his most famous pupil, Raphael, for whom in 1521 he completed the lower part of a fresco left unfinished.
Once the Perugian feast is over, the city will certainly not have finished bestowing its gifts, and from the Cathedral to the Fontana Maggiore, from the Hypogeum of the Volumni to the Oratory of San Bernardino, you will still have them for days on end. But, perhaps, now it will be time for you to return to everyday life. And maybe start organizing another trip to Umbria, because there are also many artistic wonders in Spello, Gubbio, Todi, Narni, Spoleto…
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