Called “Tuscany without tour buses,” Umbria boasts a rich history, picturesque villages, and beautiful countryside. Our outing combines the mysticism of the Franciscan Trail with the history of an influential Italian family. We will be introduced to the region by its locals: a respected priest, a titled contessa, and an assortment of villagers who approach the world with a medieval perspective.
We will walk parts of the Franciscan Trail and discover Umbria’s most enchanting – but lesser known – places, explore a few regional and national parks, and possibly view one of Gubbio’s medieval festivals from the balcony of our guide’s palazzo. Our tour includes a day on Trasimeno Lake visiting a bird sanctuary and a special island nature preserve. We will stay in small hotels and an agriturismo (countryside cottages with pool and sauna) and sample the regional cuisine. Hikes will be three to six miles a day, with gains of 2,000 feet at the most – a moderate trip.
*Please click on each day to view daily itinerary.
We meet this afternoon at our hotel in central Rome. Here we'll have our introductions and orientation meeting, then walk to dinner at a nearby restaurant. Our central location makes it easy for you to arrive a day or two early and explore Rome on your own.
From our hotel in Rome, we will be transported by private bus to the beautiful village of Orvieto, a picturesque hill town built high on a plateau of tufa rock. Besides its spectacular cathedral, Orvieto is known for its mysterious Etruscan caves and delicious wine. We'll have time to explore the town on our own, perhaps visit the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, and sample local cuisine at a small restaurant in town. Hiking distance: 2 miles, +/- 700 feet.
This morning we will explore the beautiful, crumbling, historic village of Civita Bagnoregio, and hike through the countryside to enjoy the stunning landscape. We will also sample typical bruschettas and local wines, returning to enjoy Orvieto's duomo (cathedral). We will then try the region's best gnocchi (potato dumplings) at a local restaurant. Hiking distance: 5 miles, +1,650 feet, -1,500 feet.
An early departure from Orvieto will take us to Parco Fluviale del Tevere, the Tiber Park area, where we will enjoy a hike and learn how the locals are preserving two separate river basins. If time allows, we will visit Todi, another exquisite Umbrian hill town. Then we will drive to our picturesque new home for the next seven nights, situated in the peaceful Umbrian countryside near Gubbio, and retire after another delicious dinner. Hiking distance: 5 miles, +/- 800 feet.
Today we will enjoy Gubbio, one of the best preserved medieval villages in central Italy, located at the base of the Apennines. By special invitation, we will visit an ancient palace, now an historical monument, where our hostess Alessandra will transport us back in time and tell us how the locals used to live, eat, pray, and die. She will also explain Gubbio's famous Ceri Festival and what the people from Gubbio are doing to protect their cultural identity and traditions. A direct descendent of the first person to preserve St. Francis's basilica in Assisi, Alessandra will share the history of St. Francis and describe the various trails walked by the saint in his lifetime. We will then hike the local mountain, Monte Ingino, and visit the St. Ubaldo Monastery. From this point on, we will be on the Franciscan Trail. Hiking distance: 2 miles, +500 feet, -1,300 feet.
Visiting the highest mountain in Umbria, Monte Cucco, we hike on its slopes and enjoy incredible views of surrounding mountains. The flower varieties here are diverse and, on a clear day, we may see the Adriatic Sea. The park has mineral springs, healthy beech forests, and deep caves accessible only to small groups of travelers. It is also home to wolves and golden eagles. After our walk we can enjoy the quiet of a tiny church where St. Francis frequently prayed. Hiking distance: 4.5 miles, +/- 1,700 feet.
Assisi is a mountain town situated just above the setting where the Franciscan movement started. We will climb to the mystic Eremo delle Carceri, a monastery hidden among holm oaks. This is the single most important part of the Franciscan Trail, and the birthplace of the modern Italian environmental movement. In the 1970s, the World Wildlife Fund launched its Operazione San Francesco to save the very last wolves in the country, a tribute to St. Francis's love of and devotion to nature. During our tour of Assisi we will see the treasures that adorn St. Francis' basilica, including the tomb of the saint and Giotto's frescoes. We will enjoy the evocative atmosphere of Assisi's roads and piazzas, and a panoramic view of the Umbrian plains. Hiking distance: 2 miles, +1,500 feet, -350 feet.
Today we will walk the trail of Monte Ingino into town through the prettiest unspoiled countryside in Umbria. The trail winds through a forested canyon and past a small stone shrine and chapel that in 2016 were used in filming a movie about St. Francis. We follow a stream through a rocky area of exposed (calcare) limestone. At the end of the hike, it's possible to enjoy time on your own at the unique Gubbio shops in the afternoon. Hiking distance: 3 miles, +1,600 feet, -700 feet.
We will drive by bus to the beautiful hill town of Spello, where we will see incredible frescoes and walk through the cobblestone streets. We will then go to La Spella church, on top of a hill, to start a very scenic walk on the hillsides of Monte Subasio, the mountain of St. Francis. On our way back to Gubbio, we will stop at Santa Maria delgi Angeli, a pilgrimage site, where a tiny church sits within a large cathedral, all dedicated to St. Francis. Hiking distance: 3 miles, +400 feet, -1,200 feet.
Today we explore a mystical abbey and one of the most important monasteries in Italy. Surrounded by chestnut trees and wildlife diversity, the Fonte Avellana was an important learning center at the time of St. Francis. It is regarded today as the place where history was remembered by monks who worked long hours transcribing ancient documents. Hiking distance: 5.5 miles, +/- 1,800 feet.
Moving from Umbria to Tuscany, the region of Italy that's most familiar to Americans, we will visit Trasimeno Lake, part of Trasimeno Park, which is also home to the Oasi Naturalistica La Valle, a bird sanctuary and environmental research center. We will also visit what is arguably the best olive oil production center in Italy. After tasting here, you will never think the same way about olive oil again. After leaving the lake, we continue to Cortona, the town made famous by “Under the Tuscan Sun.” Here we have time for a short walking tour of this charming town. Tonight we will sleep in a small hotel.
Today we will walk the Franciscan Trail to La Verna, the other famous Franciscan center of Italy. Here you will visit the site where St. Francis received the stigmata. After a visit to the monastery where we will see the art of della Robbia, we will drive back to our hotel for our farewell dinner and prepare for train departure the next day. Hiking distance: 4.5 miles, +1,300 feet, -1,800 feet.
After breakfast, participants can depart from Arezzo to Rome, Florence, or other cities to either fly home or further explore the wonders of Italy.