Umbria - Abbey Travel, Ireland



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Welcome to Umbria


Umbria sits in the shadow of Tuscany, its better-known northern neighbour, but is becoming a favoured destination for those who want to discover rural Italy away from the crowds. The area is predominantly rural, with no major cities and a small population of under a million. Umbria is landlocked, situated in the heart of Italy, north of Rome, with the Marches region to its east, Latium to the south and Tuscany to its north.

The region is dotted with remarkably unspoilt medieval hill towns and villages, ancient castles, Roman ruins and a rolling countryside of forests, olive groves and vineyards. The famous Tuscan towns of Florence, Sienna and Pisa are all within driving distance, but Umbria also has many of its own magnificent sights. These include the cathedral facade in Orvieto, the Roman theatre in Spoleto, and the town of Assisi, whose Basilica ranks among Italy's must-see sights along with Pompeii, St Mark's Square and the Colosseum.

Perugia is the region's main city and is the place to head for shopping, bars or any nightlife, although visitors are more likely to visit Umbria to hike through the unspoilt countryside, slumber by the pool and enjoy the delicious local wine and food.

Umbria is only one or two hours' drive from either the Rome or Pisa airports, and can be accessed via the A1 toll road which runs through the region from Rome to Florence.

Information & Facts

The official language of Italy is Italian. English is understood in the larger cities but not in the more remote parts of the country.

The Euro (EUR) is the official currency, which is divided into 100 cents. Those arriving in Italy with foreign currency can obtain Euros through any bank, ATM or bureaux de change. ATMs are widespread. Travellers cheques can be exchanged with ease in the large cities, not so in the smaller towns. Credit cards are accepted in upmarket establishments and shops around the cities. Banks are closed on weekends, but tend to have better rates than casas de cambios.

Located just 50 miles (80km) from the region of Umbria, the city of Genga's Frasassi Caves complex is considered to be one of the most wondrous in Italy. A remarkable karst cave system - that is, a system comprised of limestone that has been dissolved over millennia - the site has been well-prepared for visitors over the years. Known as a 'show cave', the complex is fitted with safe, comfortable walkways and theatrical lighting to bring the otherworldly stalactites and stalagmites into even greater relief. You will experience a genuine thrill as the you make your way down into the 'centre of the earth', as the temperature drops and your breath begins to mist, and the overwhelming silence is broken only by the resonant sound of dripping water. One of Italy's most talked-about tourist attractions in recent years, if your travel itinerary includes a stop in Umbria, be sure to make the short trip to the Frasassi Caves.

The medieval fortressed town of Orvieto is perched on a hilltop overlooking the Umbrian countryside, just over an hour north of Rome by car and also accessible by train. The town remains almost unchanged since medieval times, and even in summer is not too packed with tourists. The 13th-century Duomo of Orvieto, with its magnificent facade and frescoes, dominates the skyline. The cathedral is Orvieto's must-see sight, but visitors should also take time to wander around the town's backstreets to find hidden gems and amazing views over the city walls and battlements. The best restaurants are tucked away in the side streets off the main square.

Siena is one of Italy's best-preserved medieval cities, and one of the major drawcards for visitors to the popular regions of Umbria and Tuscany. The city's historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is only accessible on foot.

Siena's peak as a wealthy city-state dates back to the 13th Century, when the Duomo di Siena was completed along with the distinctly scallop-shaped Piazza del Campo, regarded as one of the finest public spaces in Europe. The town's university was founded in 1240, and to this day ranks as one of the most prestigious in Italy, while its student population enlivens the traditionally conservative local population.

Amid the winding lanes of the medieval city are many gorgeous churches and museums, filled with artistic riches. Chief among these are the 13th-century Gothic-styled Chiesa di San Domenico and the imposing Fortezza Medicea; while the Sanctuary of St. Catherine's of Siena is a pilgrimage site for many seeking benefits from the reputedly miraculous crucifix it houses.

The beautiful town of Spoleto was established by the Romans in the 3rd Century BC, and many Roman sights remain, including the Coliseum and the Church of San Salvatore which dates from the 4th Century, making it one of the oldest churches in the world.

The Lombards made Spoleto their capital in the 8th Century, and from here ruled most of central Italy until the town fell into papal hands in the 12th Century. The medieval castle and the cathedral dominate the well-preserved Upper Town; the Lower Town was badly damaged in World War II and has had to be extensively rebuilt. The Duomo di Spoleto has a lovely facade with eight rose windows, while inside there are beautiful frescos by Filippo Lippi.

The church of San Pietro can be found in the wooded hills a short trip out of town. This church served as the cathedral of Spoleto until 1067, and sports some of the best Romanesque carvings in Italy.

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