Things to do in Umbria, Italy
Umbria is a central region of Italy that borders Tuscany nevertheless, it’s far less touristy. This is mainly because its infrastructure is less developed, with far fewer trains and highways, but also because of its remote location. However, this makes it even better than Tuscany, as it has just as beautiful landscapes but without lots of tour groups and vacationers.
1. Gubbio and its Festa dei Ceri
Gubbio is a beautiful medieval city, most famous for its annual event, Festa dei Ceri (Candle Race)—one of the top things to do in Umbria. The event is held every year on May 15th to celebrate the 3 patron saints: St Ubaldo, St George, and St Anthony.
On the day, each saint is represented by a candle (a huge wooden monument) given to a team and carried on their shoulders. Each team then races through the streets of Gubbio, all the way up to the Basilica on top of Mount Ingino. It’s an incredible spectacle to witness as you watch the crowds cheering and musicians filling the streets. What’s more, there is a banquet with dancing and food following the event. It’s one of the craziest festivals we’ve ever seen!
Things to do in Gubbio
If you’re not visiting during Festa dei Ceri, there are still many things to see in this charming town. For example, you can visit the ancient Roman Theatre or the beautiful Piazza Grande. You can also discover the famous Iguvine tablets that date back to the 3rd century BC!
Once you’ve seen some historical sites, walk through the terraced streets that slope up Mount Ingino and end at the Basilica. If you don’t feel like the steep walk to the top, you can take the town cable car.
Hotels in Gubbio
2. Lago Trasimeno, Umbria
Umbria’s answer to Lake Como is the remarkable Lago Trasimeno, a vast lake with 3 islands and small medieval towns on its edges. The lake sits close to the border of Tuscany and the hilltop town of Cortona and is surrounded by rolling green hills, sunflower fields, and woodland. It’s the perfect day out in Umbria!
Jump on a boat and tour the small islands (Isola Maggiore and Isola Polvese. Isola Minore is private). As you go, stop to do watersports like wakeboarding or kayaking on the glistening blue water. At the end of a day of activities, have dinner on one of the islands, sitting at lantern-lit tables overlooking the water and a magical lake sunset.
One of the best things to do in Umbria and Lago Trasimeno is to visit Maggiore Island. The island is home to only 12 people, one ancient street, a small beach, and a few restaurants. If you walk to the other side of the island through the olive groves, you’ll also find an abandoned castle looking out over the lake.
The small paths that worm across the island are great for exploring, particularly as the island is so green. You’ll even see lots of rabbits hopping among the grass (there is no hunting allowed on Isola Maggiore). It’s truly idyllic!
3. Marmore Waterfall
Marmore Waterfall is one of the highest waterfalls in Europe and one of the top things to do in Umbria. The two-tiered waterfall is 165 meters high and was manufactured by the Romans, making it the second-largest man-made waterfall in the world! Initially, the Romans created the falls to divert unsanitary water away from the local town. However, these days, it’s used to generate electricity.
Please note: When the waterfall generates electricity for the power plant, you cannot access it.
How to get to Marmore Waterfall
To get to Marmore Waterfall, walk through the stunning parkland surrounding it, and enter a unique walkway. Here you’ll be able to access multiple viewpoints close to the waterfall.
The waterfall’s power is absolutely sensational (at full capacity between 10-5 PM) and isn’t dissimilar to waterfalls you might see in Costa Rica; you have to pinch yourself to remember you’re actually in Umbria, Italy!
Tip: Although you need to prepare to get wet from the spray off the waterfall, be aware that it’s not possible to swim at Marmore Waterfall. Make sure to also check the timetable for the power schedule of the falls.
4. Visit Spoleto: Top Thing to do in Umbria
Spoleto is often thought of as one of the most beautiful cities in Umbria, and it’s hard to argue! The typically Italian town sits among rolling hills and has an eye-catching icon: the beautiful aqueduct named Ponte Delle Torri. The bridge is 80 meters high and 230 meters long and is an impressive example of Roman engineering.
Please note: Ponte Delle Tori is currently closed for entry due to maintenance.
Once within the town, there are many beautiful things to see and do, including the incredible Duomo, with its impressive archways, symmetry, and interior frescoes (by the famous Filippo Lippi). Afterward, head for the San Salvatore Basilica, built in the fourth century and relatively unchanged since. This remarkable` building is perfectly preserved and is a UNESCO world heritage site, so it’s a must-do on your trip to Spoleto.
While in Spoleto, don’t forget to visit the Gelateria Crispini, winner of the Gelato World Tour (2017). Try the pistachio gelato—delicious!
5. Explore Rasiglia
Rasiglia is a storybook stone village dating back to the Middle Ages that sits at the foot of the beautiful Apennine Mountains, surrounded by green woodland. It’s most famous for the small rivers, canals, and waterfalls that flow through the town, carrying the most crystal clear water between the mossy mountain banks. Visitors can cross the water via sweet wooden and stone bridges, which have earnt the village the nickname ‘Venice of Umbria’.
Rasiglia is tiny; there are only around 50 houses here! It used to be much larger, back when the water was used to power mills for textile production. When modern energy methods were introduced, many people left the town. However, these days the waterways and mills have been restored, and some even turned into museums so that people can learn all about the importance of hydropower.
6. Go for a Hot Air Balloon Ride
A hot air balloon ride in Italy is a bucket list activity—and one of the most extraordinary things to do in Umbria! Wake up in time for sunrise, for a unique way to start the day, rising above the clouds. From this height, you can see everything that makes this region special; stunning villages, green fields, vineyards, and charming cities like Assisi and Perugia. It’s a magical way to gain a birdseye view of the extraordinary landscapes of Umbria.
Good to know: Most hot air balloon tours take around 1-2 hours and offer a delicious Italian breakfast after the flight.
We visited Lungarotti in Torgiano (they also have another winery in Montefalco), one of the most impressive wineries we’ve ever seen! You can learn all about the process from grape to glass, with fantastic explanations from very knowledgeable guides and winemakers.
Walking among the cypress trees under the Umbrian sun is a dream come true. Plus, when you’re finished, you’ll get to taste the wine and olive oil made here. They are also known as the producers of the best red wine in Italy (2016)!
The approach to Assisi is spectacular as you watch the sun hitting the warm stone of the houses. The town is a historical treasure in Umbria, Italy, and an important pilgrimage site, home to many incredible religious buildings and beautiful architecture.
The main thing to do in Assisi is the St Francis Basilica, two cathedrals built on top of each other, with one of the most mind-blowing interiors we’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take photos inside, so it’ll be a nice surprise for your trip!
When you’re finished at the Basilica, take a small tuk-tuk through the tiny narrow streets of Assisi, getting lost in the labyrinth of alleys and finding beautiful squares where you can grab a gelato or a drink.
Out of season, Assisi truly is one of the most peaceful cities, so visit outside of the summer months to see it at its absolute best.
Hotels in Assisi
Are you visiting in May? Check out the Calendimaggio festival, which celebrates the arrival of Spring. During these days, locals dress up in medieval costumes and reenact life in Assisi from this time. It’s a remarkable historical event in Umbria, Italy!
9. Assisi Viewpoint + Horses
After a day in Assisi, drive to a beautiful viewpoint that overlooks the city and the rest of Umbria. At a height of 1200 meters, this has to be one of the most fantastic views in the region. It’s also the perfect chance to see the sun go down over the hills, mountains, vineyards, and medieval cities of Umbria.
Best of all, if you travel to the top, you can find lots of wild horses roaming free across the lands and roads (although be aware they’re not always there. Still, you might get lucky!). Here is the location of the viewpoint.
Tip: On your way down from the viewpoint, stop at the village of Collepino, where there was once a medieval castle. These days, a few towers, arches, and gateways still stand. Plus, you’ll get to see more great views of the valley below.
10. Gorges of Nera & Vasca Profonda
The Gorges of Nera are a hidden gem and one of the best things to do in Umbria! The area is relatively unknown and the perfect chance to get to know the region’s beautiful countryside. For example; visit the town of Narni (which inspired the film The Chronicles of Narnia).
Follow a 5km path on a former railway track that follows the River Nera. Start from the Augustus Bridge at Narni, which has been painted by many impressionists. People walk, run, and cycle here, with some even taking to the river for canoeing. The landscape is stunning as you pass through luscious green meadows and fairytale woodland, admiring the surrounding mountains and the beautiful birds that fly among the trees.
Stifone, Umbria (Italy)
Along the trail, you’ll find the small village of Stifone. Here you can see crystal clear waters and the ruins of old water mills in the Vasca Profonda (‘deep tub’). You can also discover the remains of an ancient Roman port and shipyard. Although it is prohibited to bathe, you’ll find plenty of pools nearby to swim in if you wish. It’s the perfect place for a cool down in the heat of summer!
Tip: At the weekends, the trail can get busier with locals. Because of this, visit during the week if you want to enjoy the peacefulness of nature.
11. Visit Perugia
Perugia is the capital city of Umbria and an absolute must-visit on your trip to the region. It’s a lively city with lots of students and a bustling atmosphere. Plus, there are plenty of great restaurants and bars for an aperitif.
Perugia is also known as the city of chocolate! This is because the famous Perugina chocolate factory is located here. Plus, a world-famous chocolate festival is held here every October, named ‘Euro Chocolate’.
Hotels in Perugia
Underground City of Perugia
Apart from eating chocolate and absorbing the atmosphere of this great university town, you can find plenty of excellent historical sites. One of the absolute must-dos is to see the underground streets from medieval times. In fact, there is even an underground escalator system that allows you to pass through the buried city and escape the summer heat.
Tip: For an aperitif with a great view, head to Punto di Vista
12. Taste Truffles
In recent years, truffles have become incredibly popular, a delicacy that tops everything from pasta to pizza. Umbria is a particularly famous region for truffles, known for the many different types that are picked by local truffle hunters and supplied to restaurants. This means you’ll see plenty of truffle dishes on the menu!
Join a tour and head into the Umbrian countryside, led by an expert truffle hunter. They’ll teach you how to find truffles and the different varieties, and there will be a tasting at the end.
Spello is another beautiful hilltop town nestled in the region of Umbria. However, this gorgeous stone town has a twist; it’s known as the ‘city of flowers’ and famous throughout Italy.
As you walk through the narrow, cobbled streets, you’ll see every house has climbing flowers or fragrant displays in colorful pots outside. It makes for a very bright atmosphere and a lovely place to explore for a morning. It’s no surprise it’s named one of ‘the most beautiful villages of Italy’!
Like many Umbrian villages, you’ll also find beautiful Roman ruins here. The remains in Spello can be found at the edge of the town, where you’ll see the old walls, and the ancient gates.
Hotels in Spello
Spend half a day learning how to cook delicious Italian food at a typical country estate. This is one of the most fun things to do in Umbria! You’ll learn how to prepare a 4-course meal using Italian cooking methods and freshly picked ingredients from the estate. Best of all, you’ll get to eat everything at the end, accompanied by local wine from the vineyard. It’s a beautiful way to spend a morning, but also, you’ll learn skills you can take home with you.
Set on a cliff overlooking the valley below, Orvieto is one of Italy’s most important historic cities and a top thing to do in Umbria. The city has many ancient tales and legends dating back to the Etruscan era (the beginning of which is thought to be 900 BC). You can discover some of these among the city’s 1200 underground caves!
While in Orvieto, don’t miss the stunning Duomo, with its incredibly intricate exteriors covered in mesmerizing stonework and mosaics. Alternatively, head for the Albornoz Fortress on the edge of town with its beautiful viewpoint overlooking the Italian countryside.
Hotels in Orvieto
Umbria has a super relaxed atmosphere, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of adrenaline-pumping activities! Try rafting on the Nera River as a fun activity with friends or family; float on fast water, fall down rapids and jump into the river from the rocky gorge above. Not only will you have fun but it’s a great way to see the beautiful scenery, as you pass along wild, crystal clear rivers, through lush forests and high cliffs. This has to be one of the top things to do in Umbria!
What do you need for rafting in Umbria, Italy?
The whole experience takes 2-hours with all the gear provided. All you need to bring is swimwear, a towel, and maybe a waterproof camera or GoPro if you want to get some fun photos.
Where to Stay in Umbria
The bigger cities and towns of Assisi, Spello, and Perugia are all great places to stay on your trip to Italy. You’ll find lots of lovely hotels at various prices, all of which are a great jumping-off point to visit all the things to do in Umbria.
We stayed at Borgobrufa in Brufa, a beautiful resort with a pool overlooking the countryside (super relaxing after a day of sightseeing!). From here, we did day trips in our Italian rental car, which were never more than a 1-hour drive.
If you want to experience the landscapes of Umbria, staying in an Agriturismo (farm accommodation) is also a great idea.
How to Visit Umbria
You can visit Umbria by flying into Perugia airport (Rotterdam and Barcelona both have direct flights this summer season). Alternatively, fly to a larger airport like Rome or Florence and take the train or rental car to Umbria.
Another large city in Umbria is Terni, which also has a small airport. However, it only has domestic flights to other cities in Italy, like Rome. For more information about getting to Umbria, check out this page.
Getting Around Umbria
Part of Umbria’s beauty is its untouched feel, with far fewer tourists and a less-developed infrastructure. Because of this, there are very few public transport options, so it’s recommended to rent a car in Italy.
Rent a car from the capital of the region, Perugia, and from here, all destinations in Umbria will be within 1-hour drive.
How Much Does Umbria Cost?
Umbria is the hidden gem of Italy and, as such, remains off the radar for most tourists. Because of this, it’s far cheaper than other destinations in Italy, like Tuscany or Venice. Plus, most of the things to do in Umbria are free. For example, walking among the towns, seeing the historical sites, swimming in rivers, or watching the sunset from a viewpoint.
The price is still very reasonable for the activities and tours, although this can change depending on the season.
- Hotels: 70 – 250 USD / night
- Hostels: 20 – 65 USD / night
- Price per meal: 5 – 30 USD
- Entrances: 5 – 15 USD
- Transport: 20 – 35 USD per day
Best Time to Visit Umbria
Umbria is relatively quiet all year round, although it does get much busier in the summer when Italians are on their holidays. Because of this, we recommend visiting in April/May (choose May if you want to see the Festa dei Ceri) or September/October. Both these times will still be warm, and you’ll have plenty of sunshine to enjoy the fantastic landscapes of Umbria!