Tuscany and Umbria are two rustic Italian regions that have a lot in common. As a matter of fact, these neighbours tend to be rivals in areas like their wines, medieval hilltop towns, and their farm-to-table style cuisine. Both easily accessible from Florence and both having much of the same landscape, their differences are subtle, but present, and can result in very different experiences.
Travel to: Italy
So, to help you decide which one has what you crave, we’ve laid them both out for you.
|Most popular wine region||Chianti||Montefalco|
|Must-try dish||Panzanella||Tartufo (truffles)|
|Famous museum||Ufizzi Gallery||Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria|
This region in central Italy has multiple draws: its endless beaches, farm-to-table food, mind-boggling wines cultivated on rolling hillsides, and unrivalled architecture that stands as a testament to Tuscany’s cultural legacy. Is Tuscany calling your name?
What type of traveller is most suited to visit Tuscany?
Tuscany provides a balance for travellers who equally want to relish in big cities and their grandiose churches, restaurants, and panoramic views, while at the same time want to tuck away in the countryside for wine tastings and golden sunsets over vineyards. If you’re seeking a trip that allows you to experience many different things over a short period of time, Tuscany may be just the place for you.
Not sure what to pack? Bookmark these seasonal packing lists:
Best time to visit Tuscany
There is no “best” time to visit Tuscany. The seasons here reflect different experiences, so take your pick! April, May, and June are typically the best months for pleasant weather, and often fewer tourists will be around. July and August are prime time to visit if you are after the hot weather, but you’ll have to contend with the peak season’s crowds. September and October, though not often considered prime vacation times, allow you to experience the grape harvest!
A city that really has it all. Visit the wondrous Duomo cathedral, take in views from Piazzale Michelangelo, visit Uffizi Gallery to view Botticelli and da Vinci’s finest work, and walk across Monte Vecchio, the medieval-era bridge lined with gold shops.
This charming medieval city surrounds a fan-shaped square, Piazza del Campo, which is also home to the famous Palio Horse Race. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, explore the hilltop town’s boutiques along car-free streets and visit a charming pastry shop for a traditional Sienese panforte cake.
Encircled by Renaissance-era walls, Lucca’s charm lies in its cobbled streets, rustic restaurants, and hidden piazzas. They’re an invitation for a lingering afternoon stroll powered by some Lucchesi wine.
Take a dip in the sea, check out the iconic checkered pavement at Terrazza Mascagni, and indulge in ocean-to-table seafood in one of Tuscany’s most admired port cities.
Come for the Chianti wine and stay for the blissful bike ride, exploring some of the world’s best and widest expanse of vineyards.
Must-try dishes in Tuscany
In one of Italy’s most travelled-to cities, undoubtedly you’ll find the all of the classic pizza, pasta, bruschetta, and gelato that your heart contents. But here are some of the region’s true specialities:
- Panzanella: This salad with tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and balsamic is about as fresh and locally-sourced as a salad can get.
- Pappardelle alla lepre: Wide egg noodles with meat-based sauce like boar or wild hare. The region is known to have great game!
- Lampredotto sandwich: The fourth stomach of a cow is cooked in broth and complemented with a spicy sauce.
- Gnocchi: This handmade potato-based dish is a staple in Tuscany, usually topped with garlic, olive oil, and breadcrumbs. Simplicity is key!
- Bistecca alla Fiorentina: The mother of all T-bone steaks, you won’t believe its size.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Easily one of Tuscany’s biggest assets, some of the most delicious olive oil around!
Best local experiences in Tuscany
- Enjoy aperitivo while sipping on fresh limoncello, a lemon liqueur.
- Help with the harvest and stomp on grapes as you learn about wine production during a traditional farm stay.
- Check out how local artisans craft their leather merchandise.
- Watch a rowdy football match with locals (just make sure to be cheering for the right team!)
When it comes to Umbria, you’ll be surrounded by greenery with medieval hilltop towns nestled within. Surrounded on all sides by other Italian regions, Umbria is untouched compared to its neighbours, with unspoiled forested areas, ancient sites, and culinary traditions that have stood the test of time. Read on to see if Umbria is the perfect place for your next trip.
What type of traveller is most suited to visit Umbria?
Umbria is an ideal place to visit if you like to stay away from larger cities and head a little bit more off the beaten path. If you’re a real foodie and enjoy exploring more small-scale towns and cities with a greener backdrop, Umbria could be your playground.
Best time to visit Umbria
Similar to Tuscany, Umbria is all-around best explored in April, May, and June because you’ll have the best weather to truly enjoy the outdoors. For its black truffle hunting season, May to August is the time to go. Alternatively, if you visit during September to October, you’ll be gifted with the picture-perfect change of colours in the trees and fresh air that isn’t overbearingly hot.
Buildings with a pink facade, the massive Basilica St. Francis with 13th-century frescoes, and a booming cheese industry are just some of the many draws to this hilltop town. As the birthplace of one of Italy’s patron saints, St. Francis, the potential to discover its landmark churches are also limitless.
Perugia, the capital city of the region, is a walk through history. It boasts Palazzo dei Priori, an exquisite Gothic palace, and statement buildings like the San Pietro church.This city is the exception to the region’s often quiet hilltop towns. As a university city, you’ll also find lively events like a summertime jazz festival.
Visit Montefalco’s Sagrantino wine trail and witness artisans crafting woven linen and cotton treasures. The high-up vantage point of this town also offers sweeping views of the agriculture below.
This lake is one of the best in Italy with three stunning islands to hop to. Notably, the lakeside town of Castiglione del Lago is a haven to explore, featuring a majestic castle and sweet little houses.
Green, green, green! Spoleto is at the foothills of the Apennines, surrounded by olive groves, forests, and vineyards. The showpiece is the bridge, Ponte delle Torri, and Longobard Church of San Salvatore (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). If you’re here at the end of June to early July, you can catch Festival dei due mondi, an annual music festival.
Must-try dishes in Umbria
Umbria’s regional specialities reflect the rare and fresh crops that surround the lush area, many of them rooted in culinary techniques that span decades and are still unchanged.
- Tartufo: With truffles, a little goes a long way. The rare ingredient is carefully added to pasta as well as an Umbrian speciality, the stracciatella omelette with shaved truffle.
- Cured Meats: Cured Umbrian meat dates back to the Middle Ages in Norcia, where salty prosciutto, sausages, and salami have been perfected.
- Lenticchie di castelluccio: Often found in meat stews, these lentils are some of the most sought after for their rich tenderness.
- Spaghetti alla Norcina: Pasta with a triple threat: black truffle, sausage, and cream.
- Wine: Sangiovese and Sagrantino blend to make the perfect red, coming from Montefalco.
Best local experiences in Umbria
- Join in on the age-old tradition of black truffle hunting in pastures and forests and then learn how to cook up your delicious foraged finds.
- Set out on an early-evening stroll, or passeggiata. It’s a time when locals flow through the streets and catch up with family and friends so cafes and bars are usually quite lively.
- Hike in the mountain woodlands of Monte Subasio to the peaceful St. Francis’s old hermitage.
Whether you’re strolling along the coast in Livorno or gorging on truffles in Spoleto, you’ll find something in Italy to remember forever. Tuscany and Umbria both offer travellers opportunities for exploration, relaxation, and much more, but, if you can only visit one in your next visit to Bella Italia, we hope this guide has made the choice a little bit easier!
Phrases and Words
- Come stai?
- How are you?
- Il tuo nome?
- What’s your name?
Where’s your must-see Italian city? Need more time to decide? Watch Travelling in Italy: Best Places to Visit now and get yourself on a tour to this incredible country today