The town of Assisi, in the heart of Umbria, is often on travelers’ must-see lists when visiting Italy. It’s a beauty, Assisi is, and so are many smaller villages that travelers often overlook – all in the same general area!
4 of our favorites are Montefalco, Deruta, Trevi and Spello – all within a 15-35 minutes drive of Assisi. Each is a medieval hill town, complete with fortressed walls (some beautifully preserved), impressive historic buildings and those fabulous arched and cobble-stoned alleyways that make you want to meander for hours. Yet each village is also unique – showing off its particular personality in its architecture, traditions, cultural events and even its local dishes.
So here is a quick peek at our 4 favorite Umbrian villages in vicino di Assisi. And if meandering isn’t enough reason for you to stop by, I’ve included 2 things we find extra special about each. (Use Googlemaps for exact driving routes to/from Assisi.)
1. Montefalco: 35 minutes drive from Assisi.
Two Special Things about Montefalco:
- Museo di San Francesco. This small museum, housed in a former Franciscan church, contains amazing paintings from Italy’s master artists. Inside the church itself are beautifully restored frescoes – including a nativity by Perugino, one of Umbria’s most famous 15th century artists.
- Vino di Montefalco. The prized wine from Montefalco, Sagratino, is unarguably one of the finest wines in Umbria. Most restaurants in Montefalco sell the local vino by the glass, bottle or (as we like to buy it) by the case.
1. Trevi: 30 minutes drive from Assisi.
Two Special Things About Trevi:
- Olive groves. On your approach to the village of Trevi you’ll find yourself surrounded by spectacular olive groves – some ancient – and the olive oil they produce is spicy, fruity and downright delicious. You can find several shops in town selling the local oil, and be sure to ask at the tourist office about olive grove walks.
- Tourist office. Although it might seem odd to describe a tourist office as something special, Trevi’s is exactly that. Housed in a former palazzo (palace) you’ll want to wander through the rooms and former garden a bit before picking up a town map. (Look for the life-sized fresco of a man peeking out from behind a door – fun!)
3. Deruta: 30 minutes drive from Assisi.
Two Special Things About Deruta:
- Ceramic Shops. Deruta is known world-wide for its colorful majolica ceramics, with vibrant medieval and Renaissance designs, but surprisingly the village of Deruta is fairly quiet. Most ceramics buyers head to the larger ceramic factories in the modern part of town. We prefer the quaint, family-run shops that line the lanes in the historic center of town.
- Ceramics Museum. Quite different than shopping for ceramics, the jaw-dropping ceramics museum in Deruta provides an amazing view of Italy’s history through its pottery. From pre-historic to modern times, the museum houses collections of Etruscan, Roman and Renaissance ceramics that will make your head spin.
4. Spello: 15 minutes drive from Assisi.
Two Special Things About Spello:
- Flowers. A walk through Spello will lift your spirits, and it they’re already lifted, you’ll leave soaring! Endless rows of flower pots, spilling over with geraniums, petunias and impatiens, border the steep avenues and perch on medieval window sills. The village also holds an annual flower festivals, during which the streets are covered with intricate designs made of flower petals.
- Stone: The whitish, pinkish stone from the Sibillini mountain range is prevalent in this part of Umbria and Spello has made particularly good use of it over the centuries. The narrow avenues are paved in beautiful patterns of pink, gray and white, as are the historic building throughout the village.
Pamela Haack is the founder of Off the Beaten Strada, where she creates and hosts small group tours that are a combination of the very best of Italy: the exciting and the peaceful, the popular and the secret, the talked about and the never-heard-of-before. From art experts and operettas to authentic cooking classes and ancient Etruscans, Pamela helps visitors experience the spectacularly beautiful, endlessly interesting cities and countryside of Italy in an up-close and personal way.
She is also the author of Top 10 Favorite Etruscan Sites, as well as her popular blog, Off the Beaten Strada in Italy.
Pamela lives with her husband, Lou, in Umbria, Italy.