You can't say you've been to Umbria unless you stop by Assisi, a real gem of our cultural heritage. The town is famous especially for having been the birthplace of St. Francis and St. Chiara. Around these two important figures, churches, abbeys and monuments have sprung up celebrating their lives and works. Pilgrims and visitors from around the world are fascinated by the masterpieces by Giotto, Cimabue, Pietro Lorenzetti and Simone Martini preserved in the basilica of St. Francis.
Worth seeing is also the basilica of St. Chiara, designed by architect Filippo da Campello. The basilica's crucifix was originally located in the church of St. Damian.
But there are many more places of Franciscan spirituality, including outside the city walls. Let us thus leave the historic centre of Assisi and head towards the Carceri hermitage, the Sacro Tugurio (‘Holy Hovel'), which is said to have been austere refuge of St. Francis himself, and the Porziuncola, where he died in 1226.
Our journey through the region's spirituality continues in the direction of Montelabate abbey, also known as Santa Maria di Valdiponte. Walking among the firs and untouched greenery, it is easy to find once more a sense of well-being and internal balance, even before reaching the Benedictine building itself. Elegant and majestic, the structure, dating from the years between the 9th and the 10th centuries, guards a beautiful cloister which leads into the crypt.
Deruta and Torgiano are two further stops that it would be a shame to miss. Here you can find the best of both food produce and craftsmanship – one need only think of oil and wine. Deruta is also known as Umbria's ceramics capital thanks to the numerous workshops operating in that sector.
Torgiano, on the other hand, is an exquisitely medieval small town born as an extension to an ancient castle. Near to the Chiasco River and enshrined by olive groves and vineyards, the town deserves a visit if only just to taste a glass of Rosso Riserva, or to visit the local museum dedicated to the crafts and culture of peasant life.
We thus arrive in Perugia, most usually associated with the sweetness of chocolate or with the summer jazz festival. Here too art enthusiasts will not be disappointed and will be able to admire the prestigious works of Piero della Francesca, Benozzo Gozzoli, Beato Angelico.