Umbria and the Marches

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  • 1. Basilica della Santa Casa

    Loreto is famous for one of the best-loved shrines in the world: the Santuario della Santa Casa (House of the Virgin Mary), within the Basilica...

    Loreto is famous for one of the best-loved shrines in the world: the Santuario della Santa Casa (House of the Virgin Mary), within the Basilica della Santa Casa. Legend has it that angels moved the house from Nazareth, where the Virgin Mary was living at the time of the Annunciation, to this hilltop in 1295. The reason for this sudden and divinely inspired move was that Nazareth had fallen into the hands of Muslim invaders, who the angelic hosts viewed as unsuitable keepers of this important shrine. The house itself consists of three rough stone walls contained within an elaborate marble tabernacle. Built around this centerpiece is the giant Basilica of the Holy House, which dominates the town. Millions of pilgrims come to the site every year (particularly at Easter and on the December 10 Feast of the Translation of the Holy House), and the little town of Loreto can become uncomfortably crowded. Many great Italian architects—including Bramante, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (1483–1546), Giuliano da Sangallo (circa 1445–1516), and Sansovino (1467–1529)—contributed to the design of the basilica. It was begun in the Gothic style in 1468 and continued in Renaissance style through the late Renaissance.

    Piazza della Madonna 1, Loreto, The Marches, 60025, Italy
    071-9747155

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 2. Basilica di San Francesco

    The basilica isn't one church but two: the Gothic church on the upper level, and the Romanesque church on the lower level. Work on this...

    The basilica isn't one church but two: the Gothic church on the upper level, and the Romanesque church on the lower level. Work on this two-tiered monolith was begun in 1228. Both churches are magnificently decorated artistic treasure houses, covered floor to ceiling with some of Europe's finest frescoes: the Lower Basilica is dim and full of candlelight shadows, while the Upper Basilica is bright and airy. In the Upper Church, the magnificent frescoes from 13th-century Italian painter Giotto, painted when he was only in his twenties, show that he was a pivotal artist in the development of Western painting. The Lower Church features frescoes by celebrated Sienese painters Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti, as well as by Giotto (or his assistants).

    Piazza di San Francesco, Assisi, Umbria, 06081, Italy
    075-8190084

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    Rate Includes: Free
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  • 3. Duomo di Orvieto

    Orvieto's stunning cathedral was built to commemorate the Miracle at Bolsena. In 1263, a young priest who questioned the miracle of transubstantiation (in which the...

    Orvieto's stunning cathedral was built to commemorate the Miracle at Bolsena. In 1263, a young priest who questioned the miracle of transubstantiation (in which the Communion bread and wine become the flesh and blood of Christ) was saying Mass at nearby Lago di Bolsena. A wafer he had just blessed suddenly started to drip blood, staining the linen covering the altar. Thirty years later, construction began on a duomo in Orvieto to celebrate the miracle and house the stained altar cloth. The cathedral's interior is rather vast and empty; the major works are in the transepts. To the left is the Cappella del Corporale, where the square linen cloth (corporale) is kept in a golden reliquary that's modeled on the cathedral and inlaid with enamel scenes of the miracle. In the right transept is the Cappella di San Brizio, which holds one of Italy's greatest fresco cycles, notable for its influence on Michelangelo's Last Judgment, as well as for the extraordinary beauty of the figuration. In these works, a few by Fra Angelico and most by Luca Signorelli, the damned fall to hell, demons breathe fire and blood, and Christians are martyred. The Museo dell'Opera dell Duomo next to the cathedral is worth a short visit to see its small collection of historical paintings and sculptures.

    Piazza del Duomo, Orvieto, Umbria, 05018, Italy
    0763-342477

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €5, including Cappella di San Brizio and Museo dell\'Opera dell Duomo; included with Carta Unica
  • 4. Duomo di Spoleto

    One of the finest cathedrals in the region is lit by eight rose windows that are especially dazzling in the late afternoon sun. Above the...

    One of the finest cathedrals in the region is lit by eight rose windows that are especially dazzling in the late afternoon sun. Above the church's entrance is Bernini's bust of Pope Urban VIII (1568–1644), who had the church redecorated in 17th-century Baroque; fortunately he didn't touch the 15th-century frescoes painted in the apse by Fra Filippo Lippi (circa 1406–69) between 1466 and 1469. These immaculately restored masterpieces—the Annunciation,Nativity, and Dormition—tell the story of the life of the Virgin. The Coronation of the Virgin, adorning the half dome, is the literal and figurative high point. Portraits of Lippi and his assistants are on the right side of the central panel.

    Piazza del Duomo 2, Spoleto, Umbria, 06049, Italy
    0577-286300

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Cathedral is free, €5 for audio guide, €9 for a tour including the upper part of the Cathedral, Bell Tower, Sala della Grande Bellezza, Diocesan Museum, and Church of Sant\'Eufemia
  • 5. Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria

    The region's most comprehensive art gallery is housed on the fourth floor of the Palazzo dei Priori. The collection includes work by native artists—most notably...

    The region's most comprehensive art gallery is housed on the fourth floor of the Palazzo dei Priori. The collection includes work by native artists—most notably Pintoricchio (1454–1513) and Perugino (circa 1450–1523). In addition to paintings, the gallery has frescoes, sculptures, and some superb examples of crucifixes from the 13th and 14th centuries.

    Corso Vannucci 19, Perugia, Umbria, 06123, Italy
    075-5721009

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €10, Closed Mon. morning July–Dec.
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  • 6. Palazzo Collicola Arti Visive

    Spoleto’s compact but delightful modern art museum, housed in an 18th-century palace, features a fine collection of works from Italian contemporary artists, including renowned Spoleto...

    Spoleto’s compact but delightful modern art museum, housed in an 18th-century palace, features a fine collection of works from Italian contemporary artists, including renowned Spoleto sculptor Leoncillo and Umbria-based American sculptor Barbara Pepper. International artists such as Alexander Calder and Richard Serra, are also represented, and an entire room is devoted to a large-scale wall drawing by Sol Lewitt. The Appartamento Nobile is a reproduction of an 18th-century nobleman’s house, and the Pictures Gallery has paintings from the 16th to 19th centuries.

    Piazza Collicola 1, Spoleto, Umbria, 06049, Italy
    0743-46434

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €9; included with Spoleto Card, Closed Tues.
  • 7. Palazzo Ducale di Urbino

    The Palazzo Ducale holds a place of honor in the city. If the Renaissance was, ideally, a celebration of the nobility of man and his...

    The Palazzo Ducale holds a place of honor in the city. If the Renaissance was, ideally, a celebration of the nobility of man and his works, of the light and purity of the soul, then there's no place in Italy, the birthplace of the Renaissance, where these tenets are better illustrated. From the moment you enter the peaceful courtyard, you know you're in a place of grace and beauty, and the harmony of the building indeed reflects the high ideals of the time. The palace houses the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche (National Museum of the Marches), with a superb collection of paintings, sculpture, and other objets d'art. Some pieces originally belonged to the Montefeltro family; others were brought here from churches and palaces throughout the region. Masterworks include Paolo Uccello's Profanation of the Host, Titian's Resurrection and Last Supper, and Piero della Francesca's Madonna of Senigallia. But the gallery's highlight is Piero's enigmatic work long known as The Flagellation of Christ. Much has been written about this painting, and although few experts agree on its meaning, most agree that this is one of the painter's masterpieces.

    Piazza Rinascimento 13, Urbino, The Marches, 61029, Italy
    0722-2760

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €10, Closed Mon.
  • 8. Piano Grande

    A spectacular mountain plain 25 km (15 miles) to the northeast of the valley, Piano Grande is a hang glider's paradise and a wonderful place...

    A spectacular mountain plain 25 km (15 miles) to the northeast of the valley, Piano Grande is a hang glider's paradise and a wonderful place for a picnic or to fly a kite. It's also nationally famous for the quality of the lentils grown here, which are a traditional part of every Italian New Year's feast.

    Piano Grande, Teramo, Umbria, 64010, Italy

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    Rate Includes: Free
  • 9. Ponte delle Torri

    Standing massive and graceful through the deep gorge that separates Spoleto from Monteluco, this 14th-century bridge is one of Umbria's most photographed monuments, and justifiably...

    Standing massive and graceful through the deep gorge that separates Spoleto from Monteluco, this 14th-century bridge is one of Umbria's most photographed monuments, and justifiably so. Built over the foundations of a Roman-era aqueduct, it soars 262 feet above the forested gorge—higher than the dome of St. Peter's in Rome. A must-see sight, the bridge offers spectacular views of Monteluco, and is particularly impressive on a starry night.

    Via del Ponte, Spoleto, Umbria, 06049, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 10. Basilica di Sant'Ubaldo

    Gubbio's famous ceri—three 16-foot-tall pillars crowned with statues of Saints Ubaldo, George, and Anthony—are housed in this basilica atop Monte Ingino. The pillars are transported...

    Gubbio's famous ceri—three 16-foot-tall pillars crowned with statues of Saints Ubaldo, George, and Anthony—are housed in this basilica atop Monte Ingino. The pillars are transported to the Palazzo dei Consoli on the first Sunday of May, in preparation for the Festa dei Ceri, one of central Italy's most spectacular festivals.

    Via Monte Ingino 5, Gubbio, Umbria, 06024, Italy
    075-9273872

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 11. Basilica di Santa Chiara

    The lovely, wide piazza in front of this church is reason enough to visit. The red-and-white-striped facade frames the piazza's panoramic view over the Umbrian...

    The lovely, wide piazza in front of this church is reason enough to visit. The red-and-white-striped facade frames the piazza's panoramic view over the Umbrian plains. Santa Chiara is dedicated to St. Clare, one of the earliest and most fervent of St. Francis's followers and the founder of the order of the Poor Ladies—or Poor Clares—which was based on the Franciscan monastic order. The church contains Clare's body, and in the Cappella del Crocifisso (on the right) is the cross that spoke to St. Francis. A heavily veiled nun of the Poor Clares order is usually stationed before the cross in adoration of the image.

    Piazza Santa Chiara, Assisi, Umbria, 06081, Italy
    075-812216

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 12. Casa Natale di Raffaello

    This is the house in which the painter was born and where he took his first steps in painting, under the direction of his artist...

    This is the house in which the painter was born and where he took his first steps in painting, under the direction of his artist father. There's some debate about the fresco of the Madonna here; some say it's by Raphael, whereas others attribute it to the father—with Raphael's mother and the young painter himself standing in as models for the Madonna and Child.

    Via Raffaello 57, Urbino, The Marches, 61029, Italy
    0722-320105

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €4
  • 13. Casa Romana

    Spoleto became a Roman colony in the 3rd century BC, but the best excavated remains date from the 1st century AD. Best preserved among them...

    Spoleto became a Roman colony in the 3rd century BC, but the best excavated remains date from the 1st century AD. Best preserved among them is the Casa Romana. According to an inscription, it belonged to Vespasia Polla, the mother of Emperor Vespasian (one of the builders of the Colosseum and perhaps better known by the Romans for taxing them to install public toilets, later called "Vespasians"). The rooms, arranged around a large central atrium built over an impluvium (rain cistern), are decorated with black-and-white geometric mosaics.

    Via di Visiale 9, Spoleto, Umbria, 06049, Italy
    0743-40255

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3; included with Spoleto Card, Closed Tues.
  • 14. Cascata delle Marmore

    The road east of Terni (SS3 Valnerina) leads 10 km (6 miles) to the Cascata delle Marmore (Waterfalls of Marmore), which, at 541 feet, are...

    The road east of Terni (SS3 Valnerina) leads 10 km (6 miles) to the Cascata delle Marmore (Waterfalls of Marmore), which, at 541 feet, are the highest in Europe. A canal was dug by the Romans in the 3rd century BC to prevent flooding in the nearby agricultural plains. Nowadays, the waters are often diverted to provide hydroelectric power for Terni, reducing the roaring falls to an unimpressive trickle, so check with the information office at the falls (there's a timetable on its website) or with Terni's tourist office before heading here. On summer evenings, when the falls are in full spate, the cascading water is floodlit to striking effect. The falls are usually at their most energetic at midday and at around 4 pm. This is a good place for hiking, except in December and January, when most trails may be closed.

    SP79, Terni, Umbria, 05100, Italy
    0744-67561

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    Rate Includes: €12
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  • 15. Cattedrale di San Rufino

    St. Francis and St. Clare were among those baptized in Assisi's Cattedrale, which was the principal church in town until the 12th century. The baptismal...

    St. Francis and St. Clare were among those baptized in Assisi's Cattedrale, which was the principal church in town until the 12th century. The baptismal font has since been redecorated, but it's possible to see the crypt of St. Rufino, the bishop who brought Christianity to Assisi and was martyred on August 11, 238 (or 236 by some accounts), as well as climb to the bell tower. Admission to the crypt includes the small Museo della Cattedrale, with its detached frescoes and artifacts.

    Piazza San Rufino, Assisi, Umbria, 06081, Italy
    075-812712

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Church free, crypt and museum €3.50, bell tower and museum €4, bell tower €1.50, Bell tower and museum closed Wed.
  • 16. Collegio del Cambio

    These elaborate rooms, on the ground floor of the Palazzo dei Priori, served as the meeting hall and chapel of the guild of bankers and...

    These elaborate rooms, on the ground floor of the Palazzo dei Priori, served as the meeting hall and chapel of the guild of bankers and money changers. Most of the frescoes were completed by the most important Perugian painter of the Renaissance, Pietro Vannucci, better known as Perugino. He included a remarkably honest self-portrait on one of the pilasters. The iconography includes common religious themes, such as the Nativity and the Transfiguration seen on the end walls.

    Corso Vannucci 25, Perugia, Umbria, 06100, Italy
    075-5728599

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €6, Closed Sun. and Mon. afternoon
  • 17. Corso Vannucci

    A string of elegantly connected palazzi expresses the artistic nature of this city center, the heart of which is concentrated along Corso Vannucci. Stately and...

    A string of elegantly connected palazzi expresses the artistic nature of this city center, the heart of which is concentrated along Corso Vannucci. Stately and broad, this pedestrian-only street runs from Piazza Italia to Piazza IV Novembre. Along the way, the entrances to many of Perugia's side streets might tempt you to wander off and explore. But don't stray too far as evening falls, when Corso Vannucci fills with Perugians out for their evening passeggiata, a pleasant predinner stroll that may include a pause for an aperitif at one of the many bars that line the street.

    Perugia, Umbria, 06100, Italy
  • 18. Duomo

    Severe yet mystical, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo is most famous for being the home of the wedding ring of the Virgin Mary, stolen by...

    Severe yet mystical, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo is most famous for being the home of the wedding ring of the Virgin Mary, stolen by the Perugians in 1488 from the nearby town of Chiusi. The ring, kept high up in a red-curtained vault in the chapel immediately to the left of the entrance, is stored under lock and key—15 locks, to be precise—most of the year. It's shown to the public on July 30 (the day it was brought to Perugia) and the second-to-last Sunday in January (Mary's wedding anniversary). The cathedral itself dates from the Middle Ages, and has many additions from the 15th and 16th centuries.

    Piazza IV Novembre, Perugia, Umbria, 06123, Italy
    075-5723832

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Cathedral audio guide €3, museum €8, Underground Perugia tour €10, Cloister Pass (museum and Underground Perugia) €15, Closed during religious services
  • 19. Duomo di Gubbio

    Set on a narrow street on the highest tier of the town, the Duomo dates from the 13th century, with some Baroque additions—in particular, a...

    Set on a narrow street on the highest tier of the town, the Duomo dates from the 13th century, with some Baroque additions—in particular, a lavishly decorated bishop's chapel.

    Via Ducale, Gubbio, Umbria, 06024, Italy
    075-922138

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 20. Duomo di Todi

    One end of the Piazza del Popolo is dominated by this 12th-century Romanesque-Gothic masterpiece, built over the site of a Roman temple. The simple facade...

    One end of the Piazza del Popolo is dominated by this 12th-century Romanesque-Gothic masterpiece, built over the site of a Roman temple. The simple facade is enlivened by a finely carved rose window. Look up at that window as you step inside and you'll notice its peculiarity: each "petal" of the rose has a cherub's face in the stained glass. Also take a close look at the capitals of the double columns with pilasters: perched between the acanthus leaves are charming medieval sculptures of saints—Peter with his keys, George and the dragon, and so on. You can see the rich brown tones of the wooden choir near the altar, but unless you have binoculars or request special permission in advance, you can't get close enough to see all the exquisite detail in this Renaissance masterpiece of woodworking (1521–30). The severe, solid mass of the Duomo is mirrored by the Palazzo dei Priori (1595–97) across the way.

    Piazza del Popolo 1, Todi, Umbria, 06059, Italy
    335-5420520

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon.

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