Umbria makes a fantastic choice for those wanting to explore a beautiful part of Italy but in an area which is somewhat quieter than the more popular regions such as Tuscany or Sicily. But away from the hilltop medieval towns, rolling vistas and vineyard, we take a look at some of the more unusual adventures you can have whilst exploring this incredible part of the world.
Head up the Funivia Colle Eletto in Gubbio
Going on a cable car might not sound particularly exhilarating — but, trust us, this isn’t just any old cable car. The cars resemble birdcages and take just two people to the top of Mount Ingino, where you can enjoy the most spectacular views of Gubbio below. You’ll also find a small cluster of bars and restaurants at the top, making it an ideal destination for lunch or a mid-afternoon beer.
Explore underground in Narni
This underground world was buried during WWII and rediscovered in 1979 after a secret doorway in a vegetable patch led a group of amateur cave explorers to a frescoed chapel, underground passageway, and well-head. Since then, the underground world has been carefully excavated and restored, and the fascinating discovery that Narni had been home to the Papal inquisition for over 200 years. Nowadays, visitors can take an hour-long guided tour through the well-preserved remains; a graffitied prison cell, inquisition torture chamber, and beautifully frescoed 12th Century chapel.
Descend the 496 steps of a War well
Perched on a cliff top, the city of Orvieto is well known for its underground world; beneath the main town lies a labyrinth of Etruscan-era caves and tunnels ripe for exploration. However, there’s a much more striking underground addition — Pozzo di San Patrizio (St Patrick’s Well) — a 175ft deep well built in the 1500s as the threat of war loomed and the Pope sought refuge within the city. The well was commissioned to guarantee enough water should the area be caught in warfare, but with Pope Clement passing away before its completion it was never used and visitors can now traipse the very stairs once designed for water-carrying mules.
Wander round the Park of the Monsters
Not your every day garden, the aptly-named ‘Parco dei Mostri’ in the Garden of Bomarzo was commissioned by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini in the mid 16th Century. After an intense few years of grief, the Prince wanted to create a shocking garden and hired architect Pirro Ligorio to realise his vision. From a massive screaming head to a giant war elephant to the tilted house intended to confuse the eye — the park is truly fascinating.
Go searching for black diamonds
Unfortunately, not real black diamonds — but the fungi kind. Umbria is world-famous for being the Italian region which boasts the most black truffles, and there’s an immense history of truffle hunting in even the smallest villages in this wonderful region. Truffle hunting makes a simple yet fun experience — you head out into the forest with a hunter, dogs, and a leather bag. And that’s it. Combine with some prosecco and an authentic Italian lunch, it’ll be a meal you’ll always remember.
Jo Mackay is Owner of Bookings For You. Bookings For You is a company offering apartment and villa rentals in Italy and France.