Most private jet vacation dreams of Italy involve walking down quiet, cypress-lined lanes while vineyards and 14th-century hilltop villas bask in the sun nearby. That dream is Tuscany, and the province is well-suited to please even the most jaded of traveler.
But next door, in Umbria, lies a land with many of the same charms, and a fraction of the hub-bub. Even if you’ve flown in a private jet to Florence or the Tuscan countryside, the splendors of Italy’s most rural province are worth a closer look.
Assisi: Spiritual Sanctuary
As the birthplace and home of St. Francis of Assisi, this quiet hilltop town receives most of Umbria’s visitors. Despite this attention, the town remains quiet and peaceful, as if to honor its favorite son, whose love of nature and animals is remembered to this day. The two-level Basilica is a pure wonder for the faithful as well as aficionados of art and architecture. The frescos in the Upper Basilica seem to radiate off the walls.
Driving distance from Florence: 2 hours; 173 km
Orvieto: Hilltop Splendor
Best known for its crisp white wine, Orvieto also beholds a storybook beauty that cannot be duplicated. Crowning the cliffs of a 100-foot-tall plateau, the city was created in part because of its defensible position. The garish exterior of the town’s cathedral betrays its cold, modest insides, and the fascinating Pozzo di San Patrizio — a 60-foot spiral water well that bores into the heart of city’s plateau — is a must see.
Driving distance from Florence: 1 hour, 40 minutes; 165 km
Lake Trasimeno: Staggering History
The arc of Italian history is so long and grand, that at times, the only way to comprehend it is to see it for yourself. Between Perugia and Siena lies the beautiful Lake Trasimeno, where you can hop aboard a ferry and tour the splendid, fairy-tale like inhabited island of Isola Maggiore, a sanctuary for even St. Francis. But as tranquil and delightful as the lake seems, it is the site of one of the bloodiest battles in the Roman Empire’s history. It was on the lake’s northern shore in 217 BC that Hannibal’s forces ambushed a Roman legion, killing an astounding 15,000 soldiers. Rather than a Gettysburg-like national monument, you’ll simply find the lovely town of Passignano sul Trasimeno and fields of sunflowers.
Driving distance from Florence: 1 hour, 20 minutes; 122 km
Other Sites to Consider
At more than 3,000 square miles, Umbria is massive. But oddly enough, it is the only Italian province that doesn’t touch an international border or the sea, making it intensely Italian in culture. While Assisi, Orvieto and Lake Trasimeno are the most logical daytrips from Florence and Tuscany, several other towns make for easy exploring. Head to Gubbio for Gothic architecture to rival Siena, Norcia for slow-food favorites such as cured meats and truffles, or romantic Todi for no other reason but its hilltop beauty.
Published with permission from Inspirato.com
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