Perugia is the capital city of the region of Umbria. Its beautiful historic centre hinges around Corso Vannucci, named after the local painter Pietro Vannucci (Perugino). At its northern end lies Piazza IV Novembre, dominated by the Fontana Maggiore, a 13th-centruy fountain by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano.
To the rear rises Perugia's 15th-century Duomo. Perugia is a notable artistic center of Italy. A visit to the Galleria Nazionale dell' Umbria is highly recommendable. It features Umbria's greatest collection of paintings. Amongst works of local 13th – 18th century artist, the highlights are altarpieces by Piero della Francesca and Fra Angelico.
Further important sights are the remaining of the Rocca Paolina (a Renaissance fortress build 1540 – 1543), the Etruscan Arch and Well give evidence of the city's founders. Perugia hosts many shows and events among these Umbria Jazz and Eurochocolate.
MONTEFALCO AND BEVAGNA
Montefalco, whose name (Falcon's Mount) draws inspiration from its lofty position and sweeping views, is the best of the fascinating villages in the Valley of Spoleto overlooking the vineyards were the famous DOCG red wine Sagrantino di Montefalco is cultivated.
The highlight of the new Museo Civico is Benozzo Gozzoli's Life of St. Francis (1452), a radiant fresco cycle that borrows heavily from Giotto's cycle in Assisi.
The least known village in the Valley of Spoleto is Bevagna. Like Spello, it sprang to life as a way-station on the Via Falminia (the Roman road that ran through this part of Umbria). The medieval Piazza Silvestri is the setting for two Romanesque churches San Silvestro (1195) and San Michele (late 12th century).
ASSISI AND SPELLO
Located on the western flank of Mount Subasio, the beautiful medieval town of Assisi, with its geranium hung streets, lovely views and fountain-splashed piazzas, is heir to the legacy of St. Francis (c.1181 – 1226), who is buried in the Basilica di San Francesco, decorated with important frescoes by Giotto and Lorenzetti.
Nearby, situated on the southern flank of Mount Subasio, another gem of central Italian towns can be found. Spello is one of the better known villages in the Valley of Spoleto. It is renowned for a fresco cycle by Pintoricchio in the Cappella Baglioni (also referred to as the Cappella Bella) of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore (12th – 13th century).
ORVIETO AND TODI
Orvieto is magnificent from any angle. Perched on a 300m plateau of volcanic tuff, it looks down from its cliff-edged balcony over a vineyard-spotted plain. Visitors flood into the town to admire the Duomo, among the greatest of all Italy's Romanesque-Gothic cathedrals.
At 37km distance from Orvieto, Todi - one of the most strikingly situated of Umbria's famous hill towns - is looking down over the Tiber valley from its hilltop eyrie. An ancient Etruscan, and then Roman settlement, it still preserves an uncorrupted medieval air, with several tiny churches, three austere public palaces and many sleepy corners.
Founded by the Umbrians, Spoleto became one of central Italy's most important Roman colonies. It was situated on the eastern branch of the Via Flaminia (a Roman road leading from Rome to Rimini, and at that time the most important route to the north).
Within its wooded setting, it is the loveliest of the Umbrian hill towns. Its urban atmosphere is enhanced by its superb monuments and by the Festival dei Due Mondi, one of Europe's leading arts festivals held annually in June and July.
Gubbio was founded by the Umbrians in the 3rd century BC and vies with Assisi for the title of Umbria's most medieval town. Its historical center is of decidedly medieval aspect: the town is austere in appearance because of the dark grey stone, narrow streets, and Gothic architecture.
A fair number of the terracotta-tiled houses in twisting streets date to the 14th and 15th centuries, and were originally the dwellings of wealthy merchants. The towns beauty is enhanced because located amidst the forest-swathed Apennines.
Today Gubbio is best known for its palio, the Corsa dei Ceri, a spectacular run with strong devotional, civic, and historical overtones, held every year on May 15th and one of the best-known folklore manifestations in Italy.
LAGO TRASIMENO AND CORTONA
Edged with low hills and gentle farming country, this is Italy's fourth-largest lake. Its miles of placid water and reed-lined shores have a tranquil, melancholy beauty and many smaller medieval towns and villages are worth a visit like Citta della Pieve, Castiglione del Lago, Panicale, Paciano, Passignano and San Feliciano.
In 217 BC the Romans suffered on of their worst military defeats on the shores of lake Trasimeno against the Carthaginian General Hannibal. Today you can explore the battlefield with over 100 mass graves near Tuoro sul Trasimeno.
Cortona, located a few kilometres north from lake Trasimeno, was founded by the Etruscans and apart from being one of the oldest hill towns in Tuscany, it is also one of the most scenic embracing a view of the whole of the Valdichiana. You will find a charming maze of old streets and medieval buildings, like the 13th-century Palazzo Comunale.
MONTEPULCIANO AND PIENZA
Montepulciano is a medieval and renaissance hill town of exceptional beauty. With an elevation of 605 m, it sits on a high limestone ridge. Its walls and fortifications offer broad views over Umbria and southern Tuscany. The streets are brimming with Renaissance palazzi.
Montepulciano is a major producer of food and drink, the vineyards providing the Vino Nobile wine that has made its name famous, is considered among Italy's best by wine connoisseurs.
Located between Montepulciano and Montalcino, Pienza is a delightful village whose intimate little centre was almost completely redesigned in the 15th century by Pope Pius II, who intended to rebuild his birth place into a model Renaissance town. Intended as a retreat from Rome, it represents the first application of humanist urban planning concepts.
In the past Chiusi was one of the most powerful cities in the Etruscan league, reaching the height of its influence in the 7th and 6th centuries BC. Numerous Etruscan tombs lie dotted in the surrounding countryside, partly source of the exhibits in the town's Museo Nazionale Etrusco situated in the historic city centre.
It is one of the most important repositories of Etruscan remains in Italy and provides for plenty exhibits and vivid descriptions of the Etruscan and Etrusco-Roman culture.
Part of the exhibition is set in the so-called Labyrinth of Porsenna, a series of tunnels under the town, built in the 6th-5th century BC and probably utilized in Etruscan-Roman times for drainage of rain waters.
Arezzo is set on a steep hill rising from the floodplain of the river Arno. In the upper part of the town are the cathedral, the town hall and the Medici Fortress (Fortezza Medicea), from which the main streets branch off towards the lower part as far as the gates.
Arezzo is one of Tuscany's wealthiest cities. Its prosperity based on a thriving jewellery industry. The town preserves some outstanding sights: foremost are Piero della Francesca's famous frescoes in the church of San Francesco. A visit to the monthly antiques market held in the historic city centre around Arezzo's Piazza Grande is highly recommendable.