One of the great aspects about the place we stayed in Umbria was our close proximity to many interesting sites, towns both big and small. While I won’t go into detail about them, I thought it was worth a quick blurb on each since there were aspects of all of them that were unique and enjoyed.
Montone – We visited Montone on our first day in Umbria as an excuse to get out after lying around the pool for most of the day. The fact that we visited during the afternoon when many of the shops were shuttered made the town seem almost abandoned but there were signs of life in the main square where we enjoyed a gelato and picked up dinner provisions at the local butcher. We were able to drive and park just a couple hundred metres from the town’s centre – and this town really drives home how impressive ‘hill-towns’ are throughout Italy. The town is perched on a huge hill and had truly spectacular views all around.
Umbertide – This was the closest town of any size to our place, just a few minutes up the road, and we visited here on Market Day which was great fun to see. The middle of the town was full of vendors, we feasted on porchetta sandwiches, bought way too much cheese, and loaded up with vegetables for dinner. Oh, and the big guy tried to take home a pet chicken.
Perugia – Known as the cultural capital of Italy, or also as ‘the place where Amanda Knox lived’, we found Perugia to be an endearing city. With a large university population, it is culturally diverse and we all enjoyed taking the new MiniMetro up into the city. The beautiful historic centre and square give way to little streets and alleyways as you work your way down the hill. While in Perugia, we also scheduled and enjoyed a trip to the Perugina chocolate factory; a hit with both the kids and the adults! This was really one of our favorite spots – a very accessible city if you preferred to stay in an urban setting rather than a rural one.
Gubbio – Another beautiful city that climbs up a giant hill ( I hesitate to call any of these mountains ), we wound our way through the beautiful streets of Gubbio up to the Cathedral that overlooks the valley. Along the way, the big guy also picked up his favorite souvenir of the trip, a wooden ‘Gubbio’ sword that he happily swung through the streets. Although a gondola exists that goes even further up the mountain, we didn’t really scope out where this was and we ended up a fair walk from it before we decided to try. I’m not convinced we would have got Lil’ E on there anyway!
Assisi – We had heard from many people that Assisi was the most touristy spot in Umbria and that the crowds could be quite unbearable. Despite the warning, our curiosity got the best of us and we set out one afternoon to see the hometown of St. Francis. Perhaps the most impressive part of this town is the view coming in from the flat countryside – upon turning around a bend on a secondary road, the monastery and church come into view perched on the side of the hill. If you were choosing a fortress to attack, I don’t think this would be your first choice, it is quite imposing. We visited mid-week, and parked at the top of the village, walking down to the cathedral through the small laneways and streets. Despite an abundance of kitschy souvenirs closer to the cathedral, and our most expensive gelato of the trip, it was a really enjoyable afternoon and I was happy we visited. The cathedral and the monastery were very impressive and demanded complete silence but the kids did quite well. I could actually go back here and spend more time exploring parts of the town away from the main attractions…but I could say that about almost anywhere we visited!