My 7-Day Umbria Itinerary: Car-Free and Carefree

Often overlooked in favour of Tuscany, Umbria is a lush wonderland of rolling hills crowned with medieval hilltop towns of pink-grey stone. Its churches and museums contain soulful artworks to rival those of its more popular neighbour, from early Peruginos to glittering Pinturicchios.

It’s one of my favourite Italian regions.

Although most Umbria itineraries assume you will be renting a car, driving is not for everyone and certainly isn’t for me. But the good news is that you can explore Umbria by train and bus.

Here’s how to put together your car-free Umbria itinerary and what to include.

rooftops of the town of spoleto in umbria with mountains in background

Getting Around Umbria by Train and Bus

At first glance, Umbria does not seem like the easiest region to navigate by public transport.

Only larger cities like Orvieto and Perugia are connected to the main Italian rail hubs of Rome, Florence and Bologna. And it goes without saying that you won’t step off the train in the centre of Umbria’s hilltop towns. Typically, the train station is at the foot of the hill and you will jump on a bus or funicular to reach the town.

But once you master which trains connect which towns and how buses fill in the gaps, it’s pretty easy. The key is picking the right base.

Popular Umbrian towns that have a train station

Distance from townGetting from station
PerugiaSeveral stations in town  Walk or bus
Assisi3kmBus
OrvietoAt the foot of the hillFunicular or bus
Spoleto3kmWalk + elevator or bus
Spello2kmSteep uphill walk
Castiglione del Lago2kmTaxi or gentle uphill walk
Passignano sul TrasimenoTown outskirtsFlat walk
Citta di CastelloIn townFlat walk
Todi3kmBus

Umbria by train

Umbria is served by an array of railway lines.

Trenitalia services on the main line running north-south between Florence and Rome stop at Orvieto and Castiglione del Lago on Lake Trasimeno. You can change trains at Terontola-Cortona for other Umbrian towns and cities, such as Foligno and Assisi.

As Italo trains do not make any stops between Rome and Florence, they are not an option for travelling around Umbria.

A second Trenitalia service connects Florence with Perugia, Assisi and Foligno. You can take a look at a rail map of Trenitalia services here.

There are also two private lines, operated by Busitalia Sita Nord, operating out of Perugia. One travels north to Sansepolcro, and the second goes south to Terni, with stops in Todi, Umbertide and Città di Castello.

red and white trenitalia train in italy

Umbria by bus

Buses reach the parts of Umbria not touched by railway lines. But it’s worth checking the bus schedule even if a town has a train station as the journey time might be shorter.

I recommend checking Flixbus – they were the best option for the journey between Siena and Perugia for me – and Sulga, which operates services between Rome and Perugia.

For bus travel within Umbria, go to BusItalia.

Buses will be your best friend if you are hauling luggage up a hill from the train station to the town. In my experience, they run regularly from the train stations to the towns, usually timed to depart shortly after the arrival of the incoming train.

Umbria.GO

It’s not often you are served a travel bargain so grab this one with both hands.

Umbria.GO is your golden ticket to transport across the length and breadth of Umbria. It’s good for unlimited travel throughout the region, extending to Orte, Chiusi and Terontola railway stations. It is valid on urban and extra-urban buses, the Perugia Minimetrò, boats on Lake Trasimeno, regional trains and the Orvieto funicular for 1, 3 or 7 consecutive days or a calendar month.

In 2024, a one-week pass costs €45. You can buy it at Busitalia and Trenitalia ticket offices in Umbria.

man walking down a narrow street in an umbrian town

How to Spend a Week in Umbria

If you are exploring Umbria by bus and train, pick a base and stick with it. You don’t want to change accommodation every one or two nights, hauling luggage to the next hilltop town.

I’ve used Spoleto and Perugia as bases in the past. Both worked well but on balance, Perugia is the better option.

Although Perugia may lack Spoleto’s charm and beauty, it is a major transport hub, making it easy to reach Northern Umbria’s tourist destinations without a car. All the places I suggest in this itinerary are within an hour’s train ride of the city, many 30 minutes or less away.  

Orvieto in Southern Umbria is one of Italy’s loveliest cities and deserves a few days of your itinerary.

My one-week Umbria itinerary includes destinations in the north and south of the region and uses Perugia and Orvieto as bases. If you don’t have seven days to play with, pick a side (so to speak), or cull some of the destinations visited as day trips from Perugia.

My Suggested 7-Day Umbria Itinerary

Day 1: Perugia

Spend the first day of your week in Umbria exploring your home base.

Perched on a hill above the River Tiber, Perugia seamlessly blends the best of a medieval hill town with the modernity of a cosmopolitan city. Umbria’s capital is also famous for its chocolate and I was lucky to be there for its phenomenal annual chocolate festival a few years ago.

Day 2: Day trip to Assisi

Typical train journey time: 20 minutes

cityscape of the stone buildings and rooftops of assisi in italy

Assisi was made famous by St. Francis, Christianity’s favourite saint who rallied against the decadence of the Church by adopting a simple lifestyle whilst embracing nature. A ruined castle crowns this beautifully preserved walled town, which spills downhill to the Basilica of St. Francis and its dazzling frescoes by the leading artists of the early 13th Century.

Day 3: Day trip to Spello

Typical train journey time: 35 minutes

Rosy-hued Spello was the former Roman town of Hispellum and retains its main gate, the Porta Consolare. Art lovers beat a path here to see Pinturicchio’s frescoes in the Capella Baglioni and Santa Maria Maggiore.

Day 4: Day trip to Spoleto

Typical train journey time: 1 hour

cathedral with mosaic and bell tower in main square of spoleto in umbria

With a rich history dating back as far as 241 BC, Spoleto is one of Umbria’s most attractive towns and one of the least touristy. It is famous for its annual Festival dei Due Mondi, Italy’s most important performing arts festival, held in July each year.

Day 5: Day trip to Passignano sul Trasimeno (Lake Trasimeno)

Typical train journey time: 30 minutes

Sleepy and placid, Trasimeno is Italy’s fourth-largest lake after Lombardy’s big three. Take the boat from Passignano to pretty Isola Maggiore and follow the path that encircles the island.

Day 6: Orvieto

Typical train journey time: 1 hour 30 minutes

gothic facade of orvieto cathedral under a stormy sky

This dreamy hilltop city is one of my favourite places in Italy. Orvieto Cathedral is one of Italy’s best, and it has an underground city and top-notch museums. If you plan to max out your sightseeing, consider buying the Orvieto Card.

Day 7: Orvieto

Continuing exploring the city or go wine tasting in Orvieto. It’s a fun way to become better acquainted with the city’s most famous export, Orvieto Classico Bianco. Made from at least 60 per cent local Grechetto and/or Trebbiano grape varieties, it has delicate flavours of citrus and ripe pear.

Saluti!

glass of Orvieto Classico white wine with a small bowl of crackers

And That’s a Wrap

I hope that this itinerary gives a framework for your car-free Umbrian vacation. If you have less time in this gorgeous region, check out my 3-day Umbria itineraries.

Happy travels!