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Umbria and Le Marche Bicycle Tours

THE REGION IN DETAIL

You may find it helpful to view and print off a copy of the regional map and cross reference with the description below. The letters in brackets refer to the relevant cycling routes.

The historic Tuscan town of Sansepolcro stands at the boundary between Tuscany and Umbria in the Upper Tiber Valley - the medieval town’s reputation is built around and native genius Piero della Francesca. The Museo Civico houses Piero’s “Madonna della Misericordia” and the compelling “Resurrection”. Buitoni pasta is another claim to fame. (A, B, C, O)

Citta di Castello is the first main town on the road into Umbria from neighbouring Emilia-Romagna along the old trade route which then continues down through the Upper Tiber Valley. The town has a noteworthy municipal art gallery, the personal gallery of modern sculptor Alberto Burri, a local aristocrat's model train museum and an exquisite theatre. (B)

Continuing south along the valley, Umbertide has one of only three duelling grounds remaining in Europe; it is next to the church of Sant'Agostino. The church of Santa Croce is the place to view Luca Signorelli's wonderful "Deposition." (B, D)

Montone is built on two hill tops on the east bank of the Umbria and Le Marche Italy Bicycle ToursTiber. The beautifully preserved medieval village, enclosed within a powerful circle of walls offers superb views over the Upper Tiber Valley. (B, D)

Assisi's Basilica of San Francesco, erected in 1230, is as huge and imposing as St. Francis was poor and humble. Its walls were frescoed by a young Giotto with delightful scenes from the life of the saint, who was born in the town in 1181. He is buried downstairs, in the tiny crypt. Elsewhere in town, the church of San Rufino has an excellent Romanesque facade and a lovely bell tower. The fairy-tale Rocca Maggiore castle is a 14th-century replica of an earlier fortress destroyed in a citizens' revolt. The views from here take in all of the Tiber Valley. Just outside the town is the enormous church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, which entirely encompasses another tiny church, La Porziuncola, first of the many Franciscan friaries. ((D, E, F, T, V)

To the east of Assisi is the Monte Subasio regional park, for centuries a favourite destination for mystics and hermits. St Francis lived here with his followers in the Eremo delli Carceri hermitage – where everything remains much as it was when the saint lived there. (E)

Overlooking the historic route of the Via Flamina the towns of the Umbrian Valley face each other across the plain that extends south from Assisi to Spoleto. Rich with medieval and religious associations, particularly related to St Francis, they also contain splendid works of art. (F, G, U)

Picture-perfect hill towns abound. In Spello, home of the painter Pinturicchio, only pedestrians are allowed on the steep, narrow streets of the town. The ancient walls still stand, complete with portals and towers that date back to Caesar Augustus (63BC-14AD). The 13th-century church of Santa Maria Maggiore offers some of Pinturicchio's most wonderful frescoes, located in the Capella Baglioni, which also has a majolica tile floor made in Umbrian Deruta. (F)

Tiny Bevagna began as an Umbrian settlement, became Etruscan and finally a Roman Municipium on the Via Flaminia. The town has preserved several remains from its days as an ancient Roman staging post. The Roman Mosaic Museum of Antiquities has a well preserved tile floor from ancient Roman baths – there are also the remains of an old Roman theatre. Its Piazza Silvestri is an exemplary Romanesque town square; lining it are the glorious Teatro Torti, the dark, mysterious church of San Silvestro, and the 12th-century church of San Michele At the end of June, The Festival of the Gaite takes the town back to medieval rimes – you can buy all kinds of medieval inspired handicrafts and food. The Sagra della Lumaca (Festival of the Snail) takes place in August. (F, G)

The excellent and highly acclaimed SangrantinoUmbria and Le Marche Italy Bicycle Tours wine is produced in Montefalco. The Museo Civico has a moving fresco cycle about the life and works of St Francis. (G)

Folino was once one of the major centres of power in medieval Umbria. The cathedral, in which St Feliciano is buried, dates from the 12th Century and is the end product of many architectural styles. There are some stunning 16th century Vespasiano Strada frescoes. (G)

Trevi is another excellent example of a homogenous medieval town. This town calls itself the “Slow City” – it has largely avoided the hustle and bustle of the growing Umbrian tourist industry. Trevi spawned the world’s first pawn shop and the first press association. The olive oils produced in the surrounding hillsides around are amongst the best in Italy. (G)

Spoleto, looking down onto the southern end of the Umbrian Valley hosts the Festival of Two Worlds - an international parade of drama, music, opera and dance. The town, dominated by the medieval Rocca Albornoz has been a cultural centre for centuries. The cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta with its terra cotta-paved piazza, symmetrical bell tower and golden Byzantine mosaic is unforgettable. Inside are Lippi's frescoes, possibly Michelangelo's inspiration for the Sistine Chapel. The magnificent 10th-century church of Sant'Eufemia with its soaring vault was the court church of the Dukes of Spoleto. The Ponte delle Torri is a spectacular bridge erected in the 14th century on the foundations of a Roman aqueduct. The surrounding Vale of Spoleto is a chequer board of agricultural countryside and fascinating traditional villages. (G, H, I)

West of Spoleto, the Monti Martani rise as a natural barrier between Spoleto and Todi. Todi has an admirably preserved ring of city walls; its sloping streets are crowned by the church of San Fortunato, with a 15th-century facade and an echoing stark interior. 14th-century Piazza del Popolo is the town's main square. (I, J)

Continuing west the pale tufa soil and the high ridges of Orvieto signal the land of the Etruscans. Orvieto's stupendous cathedral of Santa Maria took centuries to build; its ornate facade is exquisite - especially when it basks in the the golden Umbrian sunlight. Nearby is the Tempio Belvedere, Italy's only remaining above-ground Etruscan temple. The Pozzo di San Patrizio, a well topped by a spectacular two-storyUmbria and Le Marche Italy Bicycle Tours house built in the 16th century features a double staircase of the type originally designed by Leonardo. To the west of the city is Lago Bolsena . (J, K, L)

Perugia is situated due north of Todi in the Tiber Valley. Umbria’s regional capital has the National Gallery of Umbria, which has one of the most important exhibitions of Gothic paintings, with masterpieces by Duccio di Boninsegna, Beato Angelico and Piero della Francesca. In the National Archaeological Museum of Umbria there is a splendid and very rich Etruscan collection. Perugia's main square is Piazza IV Novembre; in its center is the Fontana Maggiore, a large fountain covered with highly expressive bas-relief sculptures. (U, V, W)

Lake Trasimeno west of Perugia is the site where Hannibal became the first non-European to defeat the mighty Roman Empire in 217 BC. There are several castles and fortresses such as the 14th-century Monte del Lago and the 13th-century Torre dei Lombardi. Medieval towns peer down at the edges of the lake, among them Castiglione del Lago, whose Palazzo Comunale is frescoed with heroic and mythological scenes. (M, N, W)

The region of Le Marche lies to the east of the Upper Tiber Valley, extending to shores of the Adraitic. Most of the countryside is a pretty mixture of woods and remote hills, rising in the west to the majestic Monti Sibillini in the Appenines.

The rolling hills of the interior hide a profusion of smaller towns and undiscovered villages. San Leo, with its dramatic fortress, is one of the most memorable. Few castles are as impressive as the great fortress that towers over the village. Machiavelli considered the citadel to be the finest piece if medieval architecture in Italy. (C, P)

Urbino remains one of the most important destinations in Italy for great Italian art and architecture. For the second half of the 15th century this was the setting for one of the most illustrious courts in Europe. Frederick, Duke of Montefeltro gathered around him the greatest painters, poets and scholars of his day and housed them in one of Italy's most beautiful Renaissance palaces. Today it is a UNESCO heritage site and houses the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche - a remarkable collection of paintings including one of the world's greatest and most enigmatic images, Piero della Francesca's “Flagellation of Christ”. (P, Q, R)

Sited on the fast-flowing Metauro river, the striking small town of Urbania is rich in impressive buildings and works of art. Formerly known as Castel Durante, it was renamed by Pope Urban VIII in 1636, shortly after the last Duke of Urbino handed over his lands to the Papal States. The imposing Palazzo Ducale was originally a 13thC feudal stronghold later given a facelift by Duke Federico of Urbino. (Q)

Sant’Angelo in Vado is a small agricultural and commercial centre in mountain country. It has an attractive centro storico and a wealth of churches and merchants’ houses that bear witness to the town's boom years during the 16th-18th centuries. Nowadays it boasts Italy's first nursery to commercially cultivate the much-prized truffle. Saplings of selected trees have their roots impregnated with the spores of the underground fungus and are then planted in areas with the very particular type of soil for the fungus to flourish – it takes atUmbria and Le Marche Italy Bicycle Tours least ten years before the truffles can be harvested! (Q)

South of Urbino are the Cesane Mountains, a wild landscape that is the habitat of eagles and wolves. The beautiful Furlo Gorges have been created over thousands of years through the erosion of the limestone by the Candigliano river. (R)

This courtly little town of Cagli is set against a backdrop of some of the highest peaks in the northern Marches. It was an important staging post on the Via Flaminia, one of the oldest and most important Roman roads in Europe. It retains its Roman grid plan, with all roads leading to a central square with a florid fountain and a medieval town hall. The dramatic oval tower to the west of the piazza is all that remains of the citadel that Duke Federico da Montefeltro had built above Cagli towards the end of the 15thC. (R, S)

The beauty of Cagli as a town is somewhat overshadowed by the natural splendour of its setting amidst some of the Marche's most uncontaminated countryside. A challenging 10 km climb up from the town leads to the windswept meadows on Monte Petrano, with wonderful views and a mass of wildflowers in spring. (R)

Between Cagli and the medieval city of Gubbio in Umbria is a beautiful landscape of rivers, oak and beech woods. Gubbio is a medieval jewel whose gray stone buildings cling to the impossibly steep slopes of its heavily wooded hill. There is a well-preserved Roman amphitheatre, still used for summer performances. In town is the 13th-century church of San Francesco, with delightful frescoes and a serene little cloister. The most visible landmark of Gubbio is the turreted tower of Palazzo dei Consoli, commissioned by the citizens in 1332. Outlined against the dark green hillside, it is gleaming symbol of medieval civic independence. (S, T, U)

To the west of Sansepolcro is Florence and you can add on a day or two to either end of your bicycle tour to explore this wonderful city – the cradle of the Renaissance. It is also possible to start in Florence and ride to Sansepolcro, with an overnight at Stia as an alternative start to your cycling trip.

Gallery

  • Assisi
  • Crestfallen Horseman
  • Orvieto
  • Orvieto Cathedral
  • Painting Pottery
  • Sunflowers
  • The Captain
  • Tobacco
  • Umbria
  • Umbrian Vineyard
  • Urbino
  • View From A Hill
  • Wheat Fields
  • Window View
  • Windows
 

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