Tuscany, near the Umbrian border

Old Mar 6th, 2017, 02:13 PM
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Tuscany, near the Umbrian border

I'm researching a trip and could use some help choosing a location for around 4 days/nights. Sorry but I can't be more specific on exact dates, but 4 is probably about right.

I plan to start in Bologna for 3 nights, with a daytrip to Ravenna. Then rent a car and head into Tuscany. After that we will head to Rome for about 3 nights.

We've made several trips to Tuscany and a few to Umbria. For this trip I started researching Cortona, and it will certainly be a stop for us, but maybe not the place to stay, but I really want to visit Le Celle.

We want to be located where we can reach a few abbeys and towns in the northern portions of Tuscany, and also visit Lago di Trasimeno. We also hope to revisit the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia.

We travel for art, food, scenery and architecture, especially religious architecture. We don't drink so wine towns aren't on our agenda. Hearty and tasty are more important aspects of dining to us, than say inventive or Michelin starred. Especially in Italy.

Probably would love to stop in another town or two south of Perugia.

So I'm looking at Cortona, Panicale, Monte San Sabino and Anghiari. If anyone has input on these places, I would love to hear it.

Suggestions for countryside stays that would put us in easy driving distances to the types of places I listed above would also be very welcome.

Thanks.
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Old Mar 7th, 2017, 03:44 AM
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I have never been to any of the three towns you mention; they're very small towns. You might also look at Castiglion Fiorentino and Città della Pieve (just over the border in Umbria). Castiglione del Lago, right on Lake Trasimeno, is supposed to be a very nice town.

For a town south of Perugia, I can recommend Spello. Assisi is also a wonderful town, although more touristy. However, you seem to be thinking of a place to stop for a few hours, and Assisi would take longer than that. I consider Spello to be one of the prettiest towns in Italy, and you could see the center in a few hours.

Spello has a wonderful Infiorata for the feast of Corpus Christi (or Corpus Domini as they call it here). Groups from all over Italy, as well as local groups, including groups of children, come to create elaborate floral mosaics on the streets, working all night to create them. In the morning the displays are judged and then a procession passes over them after mass. It's fun to go on the evening before to see the various competing groups at work. Corpus Christi depends on the date of Easter; this year it's June 18th.

If you want to see a wonderful old abbey, originally a hermitage, I can recommend Fonte Avellana, just over the border in Le Marche, in a delightful spot on the upper slopes of Mount Catria. It was founded in the 9th century, and most of the present buildings date to the 12th century. There is a very old chapel in the crypt that I find astonishing in its stark simplicity.

There is still an order of monks at the monastery, which is no longer a hermitage, and there are guided tours. The last time I was there, the tours were only in Italian, but they gave my non-Italian-speaking relatives a script in English which allowed them to follow the tour. There are still sung services, but don't expect great music from a handful of elderly monks. They have a "pharmacy" which sells all sorts of herbal potions and creams. There is also a bar which sells some local products. On Sundays you can eat a family-style lunch in the refectory of the monastery; sign up and pay at the bar. The food is good, but the service is very slow.
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Old Mar 7th, 2017, 05:55 AM
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It would be helpful to know which places you've already been in Umbria and Tuscany. I'm not a fan of Lago di Trasimeno area.

Are you wanting to stay in Cortona or just visit?
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Old Mar 7th, 2017, 06:07 AM
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We visted Anghiari on one of our trips. We did a day trip to Sansepolcro and Anghiari. It was nice enough for a couple of hours but I wouldn't want to stay there. It is built on a very steep hill and there really wasn't much there beside a few restaurants and a few shops. There were barely any people around the afternoon we were there.

Sansepolcro was bigger and had more going on.

I liked the area for a day, but we much prefer the area of Val D'Orcia. We love staying in Montepulciano but that may be too far from your other targets.

I hope this helps!
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Old Mar 7th, 2017, 06:10 AM
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We have stayed twice near Panicale and have visited both times. The town is very pretty with a fine view of Lago di Trasimeno, and has (at least) two good restaurant. However it is very small and not convenient to main roads.

I would suggest that you consider two other options:

1. Castiglione del Lago (as suggested by Bvlenci). This is quite a bit bigger with an attractive 'upper town' with lots of great views of the lake and a Castle to visit. Yes, there are more tourists and shops to serve them, but it also has nice restaurants (and a small hospital, so in that sense a 'real' living town). The main advantage would be that you are much closer to the lake and closer to Tuscany/the motorway.

2. Chuisi. This is even closer to the motorway (and in Tuscany). It is a small attractive hill town with a small nice Etruscan museum, and Etruscan underground passageways to visit and at least two good restaurants.

Hope this is useful.
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Old Mar 7th, 2017, 06:21 AM
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I was told by an Italian that Corciano is a nice town. But he may have been prejudiced.
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Old Mar 7th, 2017, 08:07 AM
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Thank you for the helpful responses.

kybourbon asked where we have previously visited. For some years, I did work for a Florence based agency, and we visited many towns in Tuscany, stayed in the Val d'Orcia, Crete Senesi, all around the province of Siena, and visited Chianti. Several stays in Florence and two in Arezzo, with trips to visit the works of Piero delle Francesca in the area. We've been to Lucca, Pisa, and up into the northern reaches of the west of Tuscany, places like Barga and Sopra di Vagli. Wow, I'm really reaching back in my memories here.

In Umbria, we've stayed in Montone and used it to reach Gubbio, lots of the wilder landscapes of the area, and up to La Verna in Tuscany. We have been to Assisi a few times (I am a devotee of San Francesco) and Spello and Orvieto. Pergugia, too. Bevagna, Montefalco.

Listing where we've been is hard, which is why I started with where we haven't been.

Convenience to main roads, as you might be able to tell from previous base of Montone (perched on a very high hill and a decent drive from the highway), we are willing to drive a bit.

However, I do like the idea of restaurants and a few pleasant shops. Montone was devoid of shops, and had one very good restaurant. I'm older now and these things appeal. A town like San Quirico d'Orcia, in size and options, would be nice.

I thought of Cortona because we haven't been there, driving distance seem OK, and of course, Le Celle. Also, I've heard that there are good restaurants.

I also considered Cortona for the escalator, and thought we could park near it for forays in to town. As I said, we don't drink so don't mind driving a little for a meal, but walking would be very nice.

I have a heart condition so I don't want to have to climb hills too steep or frequent.


kybourbon: does the area of Lago Trasimeno that you're not a fan of include Chiusi?
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Old Mar 7th, 2017, 08:12 AM
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Chiusi is starting to look good, I need to get out paper maps for more plotting. Anyone stayed there?
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Old Mar 7th, 2017, 08:24 AM
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Chiusi is a fabulous place, but if you really want to be out in the country with easy access to Lago Trasimeno and a real sense of being in the Umbrian countryside, go to Panicale. Nearby Paciano is a gem, too. Panicale has wonderful concerts on (I think) Friday evenings in summer. So do the Trasimeno lake towns, particularly the castle in Maggiore. And then there are all the wonderful hidden-in-the-woods spa towns in the hills/mountains/woods deep in Umbria not far from Panicale.

I love Chiusi, but I wouldn't stay there. The upper-town/lower-town configuration makes it a bit of a PITA to traverse. It does have good restaurants and shops, but frankly, it's a kind of outlier town - not that much going on apart from the museum.
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Old Mar 7th, 2017, 09:11 AM
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Cortona is pretty hilly. I was a bit disappointed in it, probably because Under a Tuscan Sun oversold it. The things I liked best were the Basilica of Santa Margherita (up a very steep hill) and the civic museum, which had a marvelous Etruscan candelabra. There was also a Lombard church outside of town, which I really wanted to see, but it was closed and there was no sign about opening hours or where to find someone to open it. We asked someone who lived nearby, but she had no idea.
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