The 5 Best Places to Visit in Umbria and Abruzzo: Exploring the Heart of Italy

Italy is a treasure trove of iconic destinations, but tucked away beyond the usual tourist circuit lies Umbria and Abruzzo, regions sometimes overshadowed by their more popular neighbors. Yet, these charming regions offer an authentic Italian experience, and below we’ve outlined the best places to visit in Umbria and Abruzzo that are truly worth making the trip for. 

But First, Where Exactly is Umbria and Abruzzo? 

Picture Italy as a boot, well, Umbria lies right in the middle of that boot. Sandwiched between Tuscany, Le Marche, and Lazio, this region is the cozy, hidden gem of the country. Just south of Umbria lies the region of Abruzzo. With rolling hills, picturesque towns, and historic sites, Umbria and Abruzzo embody the essence of Italy’s rustic charm right in its geographical core.

When to Visit Umbria and Abruzzo

We recommend visiting Umbria and Abruzzo during the spring and autumn seasons when the weather is mild, and the landscapes burst into vibrant colors. Spring (April to June) brings blossoming flowers and pleasant temperatures, while Autumn (September to November) offers cooler weather, perfect for outdoor activities.

Gran sasso mountain in Abruzzo peaks over a smaller mountain range and is reflected in a still lake
Europes largest man made waterfall Cascade Delle marmore cascades down amongst lush green fauna in Umbria

Where to go in Umbria and Abruzzo

L’Aquila

L’Aquila is the small but vibrant capital city of the Abruzzo region that offers a gateway to stunning surrounding mountainous landscapes, host to a range of activities for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Hit by a devastating earthquake in 2009, the city and its historic sights are being carefully rebuilt. 

The nearby Gran Sasso National Park offers mountain biking and hiking adventures in the spectacular alpine country of the Apennine Mountains, where you will feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of Rome just one and a half hours away. We took an e-bike tour through this region with Higher Gran Sasso and were blown away by the grandeur of the landscapes and the history of this countryside. 

Haz and Loz pose on their mountain bikes on some grass in front of the Grand Sasso mountain in Abruzzo
Hai and Loz pose infranti of the dramatic Rocca Calascio in Abruzzo. the castle sits high atop a mountain with 360 panoramic views.

Marmore

Venturing further, the quaint town of Marmore boasts the awe-inspiring Cascata Delle Marmore, the world’s largest man-made waterfall at 165 meters tall, it is truly an engineering marvel. Created by the ancient Romans to divert the Velino River, it flows down in three cascades, which you can see from various points with pathways and hiking trails offering captivating panoramas. 

Haz and loz Pose candidly in a brick archway that looks out over the cascara Delle mar more in Umbria
A Drone shoot of the Cascade Delle marmore in Umbria

The flow is regulated, gushing on specific schedules that vary by season so we recommend checking the schedule ahead of time here. While the falls are still worthwhile to visit when the flow is ‘off’ the power is far more impressive when it is opened.

Assisi

One of the must-visit spots in Umbria is Assisi, renowned for its spiritual significance and stunning landscapes. This picturesque medieval town sits perched on a hill and is home to the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy. It is free to wander around the levels of the Basilica, just remember to wear modest clothing (long sleeves and pants). 

drone view of the historic town of Assisi, the Basilica of St Francis can be seen prominently in the foreground
The Basilica of St Francis Assisi, Umbria  sits prominently above the nearby field with white flowers blurred in the foreground

Another draw card of Assisi are the wineries that sit on the plains surrounding the hillside. We highly recommend booking the picnic experience at Saio Assisi Winery, where you can enjoy regional produce and wine amidst sprawling vineyards with a view of the town above. Assisi is widely considered one of the best places to visit in Umbria and is a must-do in your Umbria itinerary. 

Vineyards frame a photo of the Basilica of St Francis in Umbria, Italy
the travel couple haz and loz sit enjoying a picnic amongst the vineyards  at the base of Assisi in Umbria. The Basilica of St Francis can be seen in the background

Spello 

Spello, often referred to as the “city of flowers,” is a picturesque medieval town with intact city walls, meandering cobblestone streets, and flower-bedecked balconies. Visiting this town at any time of the year is wonderful, wandering the streets admiring the flowers and browsing the artisanal shops is a memorable experience in itself but if you can, we recommend timing your visit here with one of their traditional festivals. 

Loz Walks down a flower lined alley way in the town of Spello in Umbria, Italy
Loz sits on the doorway at the front of a brick house in the town of Spello, in Umbria. The front of the house is decorated lavishly with flowers of many colours.

The most renowned festival is the annual Infiorate festival held on the 9th Sunday after Easter each year, where the town becomes a canvas of intricate floral carpets adorning the streets. For a more local experience, we visited during the Festa dell’Olio e della Bruschetta, aka the ‘Olive Oil and Bruschetta Festival’ held annually in late November. Here, local farmers proudly display their produce, children dress up for traditional dances in the streets and there is an abundance of delicious local produce to sample. This was one of our most treasured experiences when visiting Umbria so we could not recommend this more! 

Traditional Italian musicians play in the town of Spello Umbria. Children dressed in traditional garb dance in the foreground and offerings on a wagon can be seen in the background
An old man from Spello, Umbria Poses for a photo during the Festival of olive oil and bruschetta. He has a long white beard and a gnarled walking stick. Traditional wares are scattered behind him

Perugia

The largest city of Umbria, Perugia, is a vibrant town that is home to one of Italy’s oldest universities boasting a rich cultural heritage. A network of cobblestone alleyways gives this old town a Harry Potter like charm and with its winding stairways and historic churches you can spend hours walking through the streets here. 

A short train ride away is the largest lake in central Italy, Lake Trasimeno. With picturesque villages surrounding the lake’s edge, boat tours to its islands and a number of watersports available this is a peaceful escape from the city buzz and a worthwhile addition to your itinerary when visiting Perugia. 

Haz from Haz and loz walks casually across an ancient city bridge in the town of Perugia, Umbria. An ancient roman aqueduct can be seen behind him and the colourful facades of the high packed houses can be seen sprawling off into the disntace
A busy town is bathed in the glow of an afternoon sunset. the town skirts the banks of Lake Trasimeno .and the waters can be seen oil the foreground.

Suggested 5 Day Umbria and Abruzzo Itinerary:

Day 1: L’Aquila

Start your journey with an adrenaline filled day exploring the alpine region of L’Aquila’s Gran Sasso National Park. Whether you choose to hike or bike ride, this is guaranteed to be an awe-inspiring start to your tour across the best places to visit in Umbria and Abruzzo.

Spend the night in the town of L’Aquila. 

Tip: If catching a Flixbus from Rome, pre-order your taxi into L’Aquila town centre from the L’Aquila bus terminal in advance. 

Day 2: Marmore

Catch the train 1 hour and 40 minutes to the town of Marmore and visit the cascading falls of Cascata Delle Marmore. Be sure to check the opening times of the waterfall so you can see the maximum flow. 

Spend the night in the town of Marmore.

Day 3: Assisi

The next day will be spent in the famous hilltop medieval town of Assisi. Hop on the train from Marmore for around 2 hours and make your way to the town centre to wander the meandering streets and through the ancient Basilica of Saint Francis, or taste some local wine and produce in the picturesque surrounding countryside. 

Spend the night in Assisi. 

Day 4: Perugia

Time to stop into the bustling hub of Umbria, Perugia. A short 20 minute commute on the train, followed by a small journey on the town’s ‘mini metro’ and you will arrive in Perugia’s historical centre. Choose to spend the day wandering the ancient streets, eating delicious pasta and sampling their famous chocolate or escape the crowds and head further along the train line to the tranquil Lake Trasimeno. 

Spend the night in Perugia.  

Day 5: Spello

Finish your tour of the best places to visit in Umbria in the quaint medieval town of Spello, known for its residents’ beautiful flower displays. Meander through the cobblestone walkways, pop in to the artisanal stores and enjoy the slower pace of life in this idyllic Italian town. 

Traveling from Rome to Umbria and Abruzzo

From Central Rome: 

If you’re in central Rome and planning a trip to Umbria and Abruzzo, trains serve as the most convenient and eco-friendly mode of transportation. The Rome train route connects major cities like Perugia, Assisi, and Spello efficiently, offering scenic views and comfortable travel, making it an enjoyable way to reach your destination. We recommend booking train tickets to and from Umbria or Abruzzo in advance as some services do book out, you can book at the TrenItalia website here.

Buses are also available but often take longer than trains due to multiple stops along the way; however, they provide a budget-friendly option if you are seeking flexibility in your schedule. Renting a car is feasible but less sustainable and may be a little more stressful due to navigating the unfamiliar roads and finding parking in urban areas.

From Rome Airport:

If you are arriving at Rome’s airports, the most efficient way to reach Umbria and Abruzzo is by train. Both Fiumicino (Leonardo da Vinci) and Ciampino airports have direct train connections to Rome’s main train stations, from where you can easily catch a train to the regions as outlined above. Buses are available directly from the airport as well, with services provided by multiple providers, we traveled with FlixBus to L’Aquila and had no issues but we do recommend booking these tickets in advance of your arrival. 

Loz from Haz and Loz walkss along a train station platform in the morning light in Umbria
Two stand up paddle boarders move slowly across the still waters of Lake Trasimeno in Umbria

Getting Around Umbria and Abruzzo:

Trains are also a great option for transport once you are in the Umbria and Abruzzo regions, with each of the recommended spots listed in this article connected by regular train routes. Be sure to check the TrenItalia timetables for your days of travel, as some connections run more frequently than others. We booked train tickets as we went and had no issues, however you can book these in advance if you know your schedule. 

Want to read more about our time exploring Italy’s hidden gems? Read our reflections over at Visit Europe here.

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