A Weekend in Umbria: Exploring the Treasures of Central Italy

Landlocked Umbria is less well-known than its neighbour, Tuscany, but is one of the most enchanting Italian regions.

Its undulating landscape studded with silver olive trees, chestnut woods and vineyards is one of the country’s most beautiful. Orvieto, Perugia, Gubbio, Spello and Spoleto are just a few of Umbria’s captivating towns. And if that’s not enough, there’s lovely Lago Trasimeno, the fourth largest lake in Italy.

A weekend in Umbria is enough time to get a taste of this historic region and its artistic legacy. In this article, I share my sample itineraries for three unforgettable days in Umbria.

birds flying over a small town in umbria italy

Getting Around Umbria

Most Umbria itineraries assume you will be renting a car, and this offers the greatest flexibility. But driving is not for everyone – and certainly isn’t for me – and you can explore the region by train and bus. The key is picking the right base.

Umbria is served by an array of railway lines and larger cities like Perugia and Orvieto are connected to the main Italian rail hubs of RomeFlorence and Bologna. Lake Trasimeno and many of the region’s hilltowns have train stations, although those serving the towns are a few miles from town at the foot of the hill. Check Trenitalia for routes and timetables.

For the parts of Umbria that railway lines don’t reach, there are buses. Check BusItalia for routes and timetables.

The region has an affordable travel pass, Umbria.GO, which offers unlimited travel throughout the region. It comes in four sizes: 1, 3 or 7 consecutive days or a calendar month.

Spending a Weekend in Umbria: Suggested Itineraries

My itineraries assume you will be in Umbria for four nights / three full days and use one town as a hub.

map of the places to visit during a weekend in umbria

#1 Ancient Hills and Modern Thrills

DAY 1: PERUGIA (BASE CITY)

Umbria’s prosperous capital has a historic centre packed with character and blends the best of a medieval hill town with the modernity of a cosmopolitan city.

It is home to one of the oldest universities in Italy and the birthplace of Pietro Perugino, who taught Raphael. Many of his paintings are in the National Gallery of Umbria, in Perugia’s Palazzo dei Priori.

Are you a chocoholic? Perugia 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: ASSISI

Typical train journey time: 20 minutes

cityscape of the stone buildings and rooftops of assisi in italy

Assisi was the home of Christianity’s favourite saint, St. Francis. Born in 1181, he rallied against the decadence of the Church by adopting a simple lifestyle whilst embracing nature.

This small medieval town is in a gorgeous rural setting with olive trees grazing its wall. In the Basilica of St. Francis, there are dazzling frescoes by the leading artists of the early 13th Century, including Cimabue, Giotto and Simone Martini.

DAY 3: GUBBIO

Typical bus journey time: 75 minutes

Clinging onto the slopes of Mount Ingino, gorgeous Gubbio is one of Italy’s best-preserved small medieval towns with a history stretching back to the 3rd century BC.

Its maze of streets follows the hillside’s contours and is lined with buildings made from local light grey stone. Notable sites include the Palazzo dei Consoli, home to the celebrated Iguvine Tables, the Duomo (Cathedral of Gubbio) and the Palazzo Ducale.

And to help you climb Gubbios’s steep hills, lifts for Piazza Grande and the Fuomo were discretely installed in 2000.

#2 Historic Gems and the Scenic Shores of Lake Trasimeno

DAY 1: PERUGIA (BASE CITY)

DAY 2: LAKE TRASIMENO

To reach Lake Trasimeno from Perugia, you have a choice of two train stations: Castiglione del Lago (1 hour 10 minutes by train; change at Terontola-Cortona) or Passignano sul Trasimeno (30 minutes by train).

Historic Castiglione del Lago on Lake Trasimeno’s western shore is home to Rocca del Leone (Lion’s Fortress), a pentagonal fortress with impressive towers and walls, and the Palazzo della Corgna, a Renaissance palace with beautiful frescoes. From Passignano on the lake’s north-eastern side, you can take the boat to pretty Isola Maggiore and follow the path that encircles the island.

DAY 3: TODI

Typical bus journey time: 1 hour 25 minutes

Relaxed and beautiful Todi is a warren of steep old streets and interesting medieval buildings. It was the former Roman colony of Tuder but its heyday was in the 13th Century when the Palazzo del Popolo was built.

I love Todi for its authentic Umbrian charm, one of Italy’s most beautiful squares and gorgeous setting. It’s a photographer’s dream.

#3 The Heart of Umbria

DAY 1: SPOLETO (BASE CITY)

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

I used Spoleto as my base on my last visit to Umbria.

It’s a picture-perfect small hilltop town with a rich history dating back to the Romans and more than enough monuments to occupy you for a day. These include its 12th-century Duomo and the Rocco Albornoziania, the magnificent 14th-century fortress that dominates Spoleto.

DAY 2: SPELLO

Typical train journey time: From 30 minutes. Most journeys are longer and you’ll need to change trains at Foligno or Assisi.

Rosy-hued Spello is considered by many to be one of Umbria’s most beautiful medieval towns. Flanking the southeastern slope of Monte Subasio overlooking the Valle Umbria, the buildings of this well-preserved town are decorated with fragrant flowerpots.

DAY 3: NORCIA

Typical bus journey time: 55 minutes

Historic Norcia in the scenic Sibillini Mountains is a foodie’s delight. It is famous for its cured meats and sausages and is the birthplace of norcineria, the traditional art of pork butchery. It is also known for its black truffles, celebrated in local dishes.

#4 Wine and Architecture in Southern Umbria

DAY 1: ORVIETO (BASE CITY)

gothic facade of orvieto cathedral under a stormy sky

Orvieto is one of my favourite places in Italy.

Perched on a pedestal of tufa rock more than 1,000 feet above a valley carved by the winding Paglia River, Orvieto’s history stretches back to the Etruscans. Its medieval cobbled streets and artistic and historic treasures are a joy to explore, not least the show-stopping Orvieto Cathedral.

DAY 2: ORVIETO

Orvieto deserves two days of your Umbria weekend itinerary.

If you are an oenophile, why not go wine tasting in Orvieto? The celebrated Orvieto Classico wine is soft and dry white with delicate flavours of citrus and ripe pear.

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

DAY 3: CIVITA DI BAGNOREGIO

Typical bus journey time: 1 hour. Alight at Bagnoregio. There is no bus service on Sundays or holidays.

people walking along a footbridge to the old town of civita di bagnoregio on the top of a hill

Although I have cheated here, I hope you will thank me. Civita di Bagnoregio in Lazio is a rewarding day trip from Orvieto.

This is a magical, almost surreal, destination. But its beauty is fragile. Teetering on a plateau of unstable volcanic rock above a vast canyon, it is also known as la città che muore, “ the dying town”.

Fun fact; the town is home to more cats than humans.


And that’s a wrap!

I hope this helps you have a perfect car-free weekend in Umbria. If you have more time to spare, check out my suggestions for spending a week in Umbria. Finally, before you leave, take a look at a few of my other guides related to destinations recommended in this article:

Happy travels!