28 December 2023

The “heart of Italy” is the central part of this country, but its name holds more value than its mere geographical location. The rolling hills of Tuscany in the Chianti wine region, adorned with vineyards, cypress trees, and charming mediaeval towns, further contribute to the region's heart-like allure, inspiring countless artists and poets throughout history. However, the neighbouring regions, Umbria and Marche, also have a special place in the country's cultural and historical fabric, providing an authentic and enchanting experience.

Umbria, often called the "Green Heart of Italy", exudes a sense of tranquillity and spirituality, with its serene landscapes dotted with vineyards, olive groves, and sunflower fields. Marche, located east of Umbria and along the Adriatic Sea, boasts sandy beaches and majestic mountains. This region is often referred to as "Italy in one region".

Lazio is part of central Italy as well and is home to the country's capital, Rome. This well-known "Eternal City" is a major tourist destination, attracting millions of people who come every year to experience its vibrant environment, but it also offers picturesque countryside towns and beautiful lakes.


A route through the heart of Italy

Beyond the famous towns of Florence and Bologna, there is a world of tranquil and magnificent Italian villages located in central Italy. So, we gathered some of the towns that constitute the warm and fascinating heart of Italy. Embrace yourself for a peaceful journey, filled with wonderful art, delicious food, and kind-hearted people that just make the ever-lasting allure of Italy even more evident.


The historic town of Perugia

2 - The historic town of Perugia

The capital city of the Umbria region, Perugia's lively spirit is complemented by its welcoming and friendly locals. The warm hospitality, combined with the city's captivating beauty and rich history, make it an unforgettable destination.

Situated on a hilltop, one of the city's most striking features is its well-preserved Etruscan walls, which encircle the historic centre, providing a glimpse into Perugia's ancient past and a scenic walk along the city's perimeter. The central square, Piazza IV November, is the heart of Perugia. Here, the magnificent Gothic-style Palazzo dei Priori stands proudly, serving as the town hall and housing the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria. Adjacent to the palace is the stunning Fontana Maggiore, a mediaeval fountain adorned with intricate sculptures. The University of Perugia, which contributes to the city's lively and youthful atmosphere, brings an international student population and a vibrant cultural scene.

Make sure to try the high-quality olive oil, truffles, and chocolate, as Perugia is particularly famous for its chocolate production. If you happen to be in Perugia around July, attend the Umbria Jazz Festival, which attracts internationally renowned jazz musicians.


Admire the colourful flower displays of Spello

3 - Admire the colourful flower displays of Spello

One of the most distinctive features of the tranquil hidden gem of Spello is its floral displays. Throughout the town, vibrant flowers cascade from balconies and adorn the narrow streets, creating a colourful and fragrant ambience. The highlight of Spello's floral tradition is the Infiorate, a yearly event held on the occasion of Corpus Christi, where the streets are carpeted with intricate flower petal artworks, forming breathtaking floral tapestries.

The town's Roman heritage is evident in the mosaic floors of the Villa of Mosaics, a remarkable archaeological site that showcases beautifully preserved ancient artworks, and for architecture lovers, the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore is a must-visit, displaying remarkable frescoes by the Renaissance artist Pinturicchio, including the renowned Baglioni Chapel. The Church of San Claudio features a beautiful rose window and houses the tomb of Saint Clare, the founder of the Order of Poor Clares.

This town is situated on the slopes of Mount Subasio, offering scenic views of the surrounding valleys and olive groves. Embark on hiking trails that lead to the summit of Mount Subasio, where you can enjoy panoramic vistas and explore the beautiful Parco del Monte Subasio.
Indulge in Spello's culinary scene, sampling traditional dishes such as porchetta (roast pork), handmade pasta, truffles, and hearty local wines.


Ride the Funivia Colle Eletto

Ride the Funivia Colle Eletto

Gubbio's history dates back to ancient times, and its origins can be traced to the pre-Roman era. As you wander through the town's narrow, winding streets and impressive mediaeval buildings, you will be transported back in time. While you explore, you will discover hidden gems such as the Church of San Francesco, known for its stunning 14th-century frescoes, and the Roman Theater, an ancient amphitheatre that speaks to the town's historical significance.

Gubbio's centrepiece is the Piazza Grande, which is surrounded by the Palazzo dei Consoli. It houses the Museo Civico where you will find the famous Iguvine Tables, ancient bronze tablets inscribed with one of the longest surviving texts in the Umbrian language.

For picturesque views, ride the Funivia Colle Eletto, a cable car that takes you to the top of Mount Ingino. At the summit, you'll find the Basilica of Sant'Ubaldo, dedicated to Gubbio's patron saint. Inside the basilica, the preserved body of Sant'Ubaldo is displayed and revered by locals and pilgrims alike.

Similar to all Italian towns, Gubbio has a rich culinary tradition. The town is renowned for its truffles, which are celebrated in various local dishes, so enjoy dishes such as pasta with truffles, roasted meats, and delicious regional wines.


Discover the vibrant Deruta

5 - Discover the vibrant Deruta

Deruta has become synonymous with high-quality, hand-painted majolica pottery, attracting art enthusiasts, collectors, and visitors from all corners of the globe. The town's ceramic tradition can be traced back to the Middle Ages when Deruta's skilled artisans began crafting unique, vibrant and intricate ceramics.

Exploring Deruta, you will discover countless workshops and stores where artisans display their creations. The artists are often happy to share their techniques and passion for their craft, allowing visitors to gain insight into the intricate process of creating these works of art. Many pieces reflect traditional designs and motifs that have been handed down through generations, while others embrace contemporary styles and innovative approaches to the craft.

Deruta has a charming historic centre that invites exploration. As you wander through the town, you'll encounter notable landmarks such as the Church of San Francesco and the Palazzo dei Consoli, which houses an art gallery featuring works by local artists.

Deruta’s Festa della Madonna dei Bagni, celebrated in May, is a vibrant event where the town comes alive with processions, live music, and colourful decorations.


Indulge in Italian wine and culinary delicacies

Indulge in Italian wine and culinary delicacies

Perched on a volcanic plateau, as you approach Orvieto you will be greeted by its most iconic landmark, the Orvieto Cathedral (Duomo di Orvieto). This magnificent Gothic cathedral, adorned with intricate marble and mosaics, is considered one of Italy's most impressive religious structures. Inside the cathedral, you will discover stunning frescoes by renowned artists such as Luca Signorelli, depicting scenes from the Last Judgment.

Orvieto's underground city is fascinating. The town sits atop a labyrinth of ancient Etruscan tunnels and caves, many of which can be explored through guided tours. They showcase ancient wells, wine cellars, and even a church.

Culinary delights await in Orvieto's charming trattorias and restaurants. From handmade pasta dishes to truffles, cured meats, and locally produced olive oil, the town offers a delightful gastronomic experience. To complement these delicacies, quench your thirst with Orvieto Classico, a typical white wine that is crisp and refreshing, produced from vineyards that surround the town.

The Corpus Domini procession, held in June, is quite a sight, as you will see the town adorned with colourful tapestries and flower petals, creating a stunning display as the religious procession passes through the streets.


Have a coffee at the Piazza del Popolo

7 - Have a coffee at the Piazza del Popolo

Perched on a hill overlooking the Tiber River Valley, Todi boasts breathtaking views, well-preserved mediaeval architecture, and a rich cultural heritage. At the heart of Todi is its Piazza del Popolo, which boasts elegant mediaeval buildings, you can sit at a delightful café, enjoy the atmosphere, and observe daily life unfold.

Some of this town’s architectural splendours include the Gothic-style Cathedral of Todi, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria Annunziata, a magnificent structure that showcases stunning artwork and breathtaking views from its bell tower; and the Church of San Fortunato, with its beautiful rose window and Romanesque bell tower. For art enthusiasts, Todi is home to the Todi Municipal Art Gallery, housed in the Palazzo dei Priori, which features a collection of artworks by local and international artists.

Todi’s surrounding countryside offers beautiful hiking and cycling trails. This town’s slower pace of life, coupled with its rich history and natural beauty, provides a tranquil retreat for those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation while enjoying the beauty of the Umbrian landscape.


Take in the same superb views St. Francis of Assisi did

8 - Take in the same superb views St. Francis of Assisi did

Assisi is synonymous with the patron saint of Italy and the founder of the Franciscan Order. Unsurprisingly, the town's most prominent landmark, the Basilica of San Francesco, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an important pilgrimage destination. The basilica consists of two magnificent churches, the Upper Church and the Lower Church, both adorned with stunning frescoes that depict scenes from the life of St. Francis, made by renowned artists, including Giotto and Cimabue.

The town's historic centre, protected by its intact city walls, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety. The breathtaking landscapes that surround Assisi are just stunning, as the town is located in the foothills of Monte Subasio, a nature reserve with hiking trails and panoramic views. The town is also home to several museums and art galleries that showcase works of art from various periods. The Museo Diocesano presents a collection of religious artefacts, while the Pinacoteca, housed in the former Palazzo Vallemani, has an extraordinary collection of Renaissance and mediaeval paintings.

Assisi is also famous for its wine production, and visitors can indulge in tastings of regional wines, such as Sagrantino and Grechetto.


Where ancient architecture meets heavenly nature

9 - Where ancient architecture meets heavenly nature

Ancona's strategic location on the Adriatic Sea has made it an important maritime hub throughout history. The city's harbour, known as Porto di Ancona, is one of the largest and busiest ports on the Adriatic coast, connecting Italy to destinations across the Mediterranean.

Exploring Ancona's historic centre, you will find the impressive Cathedral of San Ciriaco, a Romanesque cathedral dedicated to Ancona's patron saint. It features an impressive façade and offers panoramic views of the city and coastline. The Arch of Trajan, a magnificent Roman triumphal arch, is another iconic site in Ancona. Built-in the 2nd century AD, it stands as a testament to the city's ancient past and serves as a gateway to the historic centre.

Ancona's gastronomy showcases all the flavours of the Adriatic Sea. Seafood dishes, including brodetto (a traditional fish stew) and stuffed mussels, are specialities of the region that you can savour at local trattorias and seafood restaurants scattered around the city.


9 - Where ancient architecture meets heavenly nature 2

From Ancona, you can easily access the Parco del Conero, also known as the Conero Regional Park. It is a stunning natural reserve located on the Adriatic coast of central Italy, in the region of Marche. With its rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, azure waters, and lush Mediterranean vegetation, this park takes its name from Monte Conero, a majestic limestone mountain covered with dense forests that rises abruptly from the Adriatic Sea, creating a dramatic landscape.

One of the park's most iconic features is Due Sorelle Beach, named after two twin rock formations that emerge from the crystal-clear waters. The beach is accessible by boat or by descending a steep path from the Conero Golf Club.

The Spiaggia Urbani, a long sandy beach nestled between Monte Conero and the picturesque town of Sirolo within the park boasts inviting turquoise waters and a backdrop of lush greenery, making it an ideal place to relax, swim, or enjoy water sports.


The mediaeval town of Macerata

10 - The mediaeval town of Macerata

The Macerata's historic centre is a maze of narrow streets, elegant squares, and well-preserved mediaeval and Renaissance buildings. In Piazza della Libertà, the main square, you will find the neoclassical-style Palazzo dei Priori, which houses the Civic Art Gallery, displaying a collection of paintings, sculptures, and ceramics from various periods.

The Sferisterio, a grand neoclassical amphitheater, is also worth your time. It was originally built in the 1820s as a venue for traditional ball games, but it now hosts the Macerata Opera Festival each summer, which attracts opera enthusiasts from around the world who come to enjoy outstanding performances in a spectacular setting. Make sure you visit the University of Macerata, founded in 1290, as it is one of Italy's oldest universities and a vital part of the town's identity.

The local cuisine in Macerata will be a feast to your taste buds, with traditional dishes such as vincisgrassi (a rich baked lasagna), ciauscolo (a soft, spreadable salami), and crescia (a savoury flatbread), and, nearby, you can explore the surrounding countryside, including rolling hills, vineyards, and sunflower fields. Stop at charming hilltop towns such as Recanati and Tolentino, known for its historical centre and the Basilica of San Nicola.


A Renaissance masterpiece

11 - A Renaissance masterpiece

Renaissance art lovers, this one is for you! Urbino is a lovely town that exudes elegance, culture, and architectural beauty. Renowned as a centre of learning during the Italian Renaissance, with its University "Carlo Bo" founded in 1506, Urbino captivates visitors with its well-preserved historic centre, stunning palaces, and rich artistic heritage.

Urbino's historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety, and strolling through its narrow streets is like stepping back in time. Its centrepiece is the majestic Palazzo Ducale, or the Ducal Palace, designed by renowned Renaissance architect Federico da Montefeltro. It showcases a harmonious blend of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles, and inside, you can explore the palace's ornate rooms, courtyards, and the National Gallery of the Marche, which houses an outstanding collection of Renaissance masterpieces.

Marvel at the town's well-preserved mediaeval and Renaissance buildings, charming courtyards, and hidden squares, including the Oratory of St. John the Baptist, with its exquisite frescoes, and the Cathedral of Urbino, with its beautiful Gothic façade. Urbino boasts spectacular views of the nearby countryside. Panoramic landscapes of rolling hills, vineyards, and olive groves of the Marche region, which are depicted in countless Renaissance paintings, continue to inspire everyone who lays their eyes upon them.


Soak up the UNESCO Città di San Marino

Soak up the UNESCO Città di San Marino

San Marino is a small landlocked country perched on the slopes of Mount Titano, boasting quite a view of the surrounding Italian countryside. Its mediaeval walled old town, known as the Città di San Marino, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the heart of the country. One of the highlights of San Marino is the Three Towers of San Marino, Guaita, Cesta, and Montale, located atop Mount Titano. Guaita is the oldest of the three towers and takes you back to San Marino's mediaeval past.

Within the old town, you can explore the main square Piazza della Libertà, with its lively shops, cafés, and historic buildings. Make a stop at the Museum of Modern Art and the State Museum, which allow you to learn more about San Marino's art, history, and cultural development.

Apart from its historical and cultural attractions, San Marino offers a beautiful natural landscape. The surrounding hills and countryside are ideal for hiking, cycling, and exploring nature. The Monte Titano Nature Reserve, on Mount Titano, is a protected area where you can observe the diverse flora and fauna of the region.


Sample the delicious piadina of Ravenna

13 - Sample the delicious piadina of Ravenna

With its rich heritage and stunning mosaics, Ravenna holds the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But truth be told, around the heart of Italy that is easy!

It served as the capital of the Western Roman Empire and there are evidences of it throughout the city. Its early Christian heritage is present in buildings like the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, but one of its most renowned attractions is the Basilica di San Vitale. This 6th-century masterpiece of Byzantine architecture boasts a captivating interior ornamented with mosaics depicting biblical scenes, Byzantine emperors, and Empress Theodora. The basilica's design and mosaic artistry are among the finest examples of Byzantine craftsmanship in the world.

While here, make sure you try piadina, a traditional Italian flatbread filled with various savoury ingredients, as well as delicious seafood dishes. The local cuisine embraces the flavours of Emilia-Romagna, offering a delectable range of pasta, cheeses, and regional wines.


There is a special allure about the heart of Italy

Everything about Italy is like a dream come true. And there is a world of superb art, divine beaches and Renaissance architecture that make the heart of it so appealing! If you are still wondering which part of this enthralling country you would like to visit on your trip to Italy, know that there is a special allure about the heart of it, which beats with a unique combination of history, natural beauty, and tasty food, manifested in the warmth of its people and their zest for life.



Topics: travelagency, travel, wine, culture, food, art, wineries, vineyards, tourtailors, Italy, Italian travel agency, Tuscany, landscapes, Visit Italy, Renaissance Italy, architecture, travelblog, Umbria, Marche

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