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The Area

The cities and towns of central Italy arise amid the sunny hills like little jewels, each one a bit different, each one full of new and wondrous possibilities. The warmth and atmosphere of the region will embrace you like an old friend. You will find favorite places, and like many of our guests, will want to visit them again and again. The hill towns of Umbria and Tuscany  offer so much and are barely a day's drive from your home in Italy,  Casa d'Oliva. Going exploring is as simple as plotting your trip and jumping in the car.  Here are some of our favorites


Assisi  Nestled below Mount Subasio this is the birthplace of St. Francis and St. Claire.  Assisi was influenced by nearby Etruscan settlements. The Basilica of St. Francis is composed of two churches one built over the other; the lower one (1228-1230) and the upper one (1230-1253) and a crypt that holds the Saint's tomb (1818). The upper church olds the famous frescoes of Ciambue, Giotto, Simone Martini and the Lorenzetti brothers as well as the stained glass windows of Giovanni di Bonino and Puccio Capanna. Also a must see is the Temple of Minerva  (dating from the 1st century BC), now a Catholic church. The town is quite large and also contains several good museums, other churches, restaurants and many souvenir shops. About a 45 minute drive from Casa d' Oliva.

Citta di Castello   Located in the Upper Tiber Valley, Citta di Castello has ancient origins in the Renaissance and was a cultural center.  Found in the Palazzo Vitelli alla Cannoniera are the paintings of Raffaello and Signorelli  Also there are the churches of Santa Maria Maggiore, the Madonna delle Grazie and San Domenico.  Citta di Castello is also known for it's crafts; furniture, ceramics, hand woven linen and for gastronomic specialties such as wine and truffles.  It has a beautiful historic center with many good restaurants, interesting shopping and piazzas. Citta di Castello is only a 20 minute drive from Casa d' Oliva.

Deruta   Located on a hill overlooking the Tiber Valley south of Perugia and easily reached via the E-45 Deruta is the ceramic making center of Italy. The majolica pottery made there is world famous and can be bought very inexpensively there. There are many stores in the new, lower section of town as well as up in the historic center . This center also contains the ceramics museum (great),  a picture gallery with paintings by Perugino (Pietro Vannucci), Amorosi, Bacciccio and Graziani and the church of San Francesco with it's convent, the site of Pope Urban IV's death in 1264.  A favorite ceramic shop located in the historic center is Deruta Placens. The shop owner is a lovely woman and her works are all hand made and quite beautiful.  Be sure to see her daughter's work as well. These are quality pieces. Deruta is about a 1  1/4  hours drive from Casa d' Oliva and well worth the trip.

Gubbio   An ancient Umbrian settlement, influenced by the Etruscans, Gubbio is a very picturesque, well preserved town. The Eugubine Tablets, seven bronze sheets now housed in the Civic Museum at the Palazzo dei Consoli  date back to the 2nd century BC tell of the town's government system. Also of interest is the Palazzo Ducale, a renaissance structure that has a beautiful inner courtyard built of stones and brick. The interior of the Palazzo is also very lovely. The Duke's studio, an incredible example of carved and inlaid wood,  was dismantled and can now be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The Cathedral, a 14th century Gothic structure, stands in front of the Palazzo.  It was nearby that the meeting between St. Francis and the famous savage wolf of Gubbio took place. Also in Gubbio is the "fountain of the mad".  Running around it three times makes you one of the "mad Gubbians"!  Located in town are several good restaurants and some antique shops and the town has a wonderful old feeling to it.  The Corsa dei Ceri (the race of the candles) is held here in May.  Gubbio is about 45 minutes from Casa d' Oliva. 

Gubbio's outdoor market is held in the town center the second weekend of the month.

Orvieto   High up on the tuffa rock cliff stands the old town of Orvieto, built there to protect it from invaders. Today it is accessed via a funicular. Over 3000 years old, its history is visible everywhere in town. From the Duomo with its ornately carved and tiled facade, to the uncovered Etruscan tombs found in the basements of some restaurants, to the Clock of Maurizio (the first of its kind to count the working hours) Orvieto is a gem of a city.  The winding streets contain interesting architecture, shops and restaurants that will delight you. Ceramics are plentiful here. Of course the delicious white wine "Orvieto" is found in abundance here.  Umbria Jazz Winter , which has  earned a reputation throughout the world, is held here in December. Although 2 hours from Casa d' Oliva this is a town you must not miss.

Perugia   The largest city in Umbria, Perugia stands on a high hill overlooking the Tiber Valley. The historic center contains one of the most beautiful piazzas in Italy, the Piazza IV Novembre (the November 4th square).  In the center of the piazza is the Fontana Maggiore a medieval structure built in the second half of the 12th century and an excellent example of Gothic work.  On one side of the piazza is the Cathedral of San Lorenzo which was built over more than 100 years and completed in the late 1400's. On another side is the Palazzo dei Priori a former residence of political authorities. The work on this structure was begun in 1298 and completed in 1353. It is built of red and white travertine from nearby Bettona. In it is the National Gallery of Umbria.  Also located in Perugia are the National Archeological Museum of Umbria, the church of San Domenico and the Oratory of San Bernardino.  Amidst all of this history is located a  shopping district where you can find Prada, Gucci and the like.  Umbria Jazz (the world famous festival) is held here in  July. Perugia is a 45 minute drive from Casa d' Oliva on the E-45.

Perugia's outdoor market is held at the Palazzo della Prefettura (in summer) and at Rocca Paolina (in winter) the last weekend of the month.

Spello   With a breathtaking view of the Umbrian plains from Perugia to Spoleto,  Spello is located a few km southeast of Assisi.  The church of Santa Maria Maggiore(1300-1700) contains frescoes attributed to Pinturicchio (Bernardino di Betto).  Numerous other churches and museums house works of the Umbrian school.  The festival Infiorata is held here in June. Spello is an hour away from Casa d' Oliva.

Spoleto   Home to many striking churches, Spoleto is also filled with Roman ruins.  The Romanesque Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta was built at the end of the 12th century and contains several beautiful rose windows and mosaics. The Ponte Sanguinario (the Roman Bridge) was constructed in the 1st century BC and was the scene of the deaths of many Christian martyrs. A 70 meter long amphitheater,  also  built in the 1st century is still used for important cultural events and the Triumphal Arch of Druso stands at the former entrance to the ancient Foro. Spoleto is also host to the Spoleto Festival, an internationally renowned event that features concerts, dance, stage plays and art in late June and early July. It is located about 1 hour and  45 minutes from Casa d' Oliva.

Spoleto's outdoor market is held in the historic center of town the second Sunday of the month.

Todi   The ancient town of Todi was first inhabited by the Umbrian tribes and then the Etruscans and marked the border between their territories.  Today it is famous for its historic monuments, beautiful views of the country side and its medieval feeling. Notable are the Piazza del Popolo where you can sit and enjoy a coffee or ice cream, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta a 12th century Gothic church, the Mayor's Palace (13th century) and the Commune Vecchio (the Palace of the People). Todi is home to the Italian Antique Show in March, Todiarte a festival of music, theater and ballet in July and the National Antique Show featuring Umbrian crafts in late September and early October. It is about 1  1/2 hours from Casa d'Oliva.

Todi's outdoor market in in the Piazza Communale the last week of March. Leading antique dealers from all over Italy gather to sell furniture, paintings, rugs, bronze figures and antique ceramics.

Umbertide   The city of Umbertide is an ancient one located on the banks of the Tiber river.  To be seen here are the Rocco, a fortress built from 1374-1390; the Abbey of San Salvatore and Hermitage of Montecorona and the Renaissance paintings in the churches of Santa Maria della Pieta. The town also has some shopping and places to have coffee or a meal. The nearby village of Preggio is also charming. The town is noted for its ceramics, wine, cheeses and meats. It is home to the Photography Trade Fair in May and November. It can be reached in about 20 minutes.

Umbetide's outdoor market is held every Wednesday in the main piazza.


Anghiari   Located in the Northeast corner of Tuscany near the Umbrian border Anghiari  is a well preserved medieval village. Much art can be found in the Abbey church, the church of San Agostino, and the Palazzo Comunale.  The 6th century church of San Stefano is one of the oldest in the region. Anghiari is about 50 minutes from Casa d' Oliva.

Arezzo   A city that dates back to the 4th century BC, Arezzo is know today for its working of gold. The city has managed to preserve the architectural character  of its oldest area - still surrounded by its 13th century walls. The church of San Francesco, a 13th century Gothic structure contains paintings of Loretino d'Arezzo, Niccolo di Pietro and Piero della Francesca's Legend of the Cross.  The Duomo is filled with the works of Francesca and took 200 years to build. The first weekend of every month hundreds of dealers come to Arezzo for the antique fairs. In late August through early September the Giostra del Saracino (Joust of the Saracens) is celebrated and jousting matches are held.  Arezzo is about 1 hour from Casa d' Oliva.

Cortona   Made famous by Frances Mayle's Under the Tuscan Sun,  the town of Cortona is located on the side of a mountainous ridge that separates the Valdichiana and the Tiber valley.  It is a walled city that has been in existence  since the times of the Etruscans. Long a center of art it is still noted for its architecture and museums. Most notable are the Museo dell'Accademia Etrusca and the Duomo (15th century). Cortona is the birthplace of Luca Signorelli.  It also known for its quaint shops, restaurants and picturesque streets. In mid-August the Sagra della bistecca (beef festival) is celebrated featuring the famous chianini steaks. The Antique Furniture Market is held in September and at the end of April the Fiera del rame (copper products) is on display. Cortona is 45 minutes from Casa d' Oliva.

Florence a city of art and culture stands on the banks of the Arno river surrounded by the mountains of Chianti and Fiesole.  So much of interest exists there that we suggest that you research Florence in guide books available at your local book store.  A brief list of attractions is: The Piazza del Duomo, the Duomo with its Bruelleschi dome, the Ufizi Galleries, the Piazza della Signoria and the Ponte Vecchio (bridge). Known for its jewelry, footwear, leatherwork wrought-iron and basket work, Florence is a great place to shop. Casa d'Oliva is about 2 hours from Florence.

Montalcino  is a located on the summit of a hill affording it stunning views of the surrounding  Ombone and Asso valleys.  It contains many historical attractions, but is known for its Brunello wine. There is a wine museum there. It takes about 2 hours to get to Montalcino from Casa d' Oliva

Montepulciano located high on a hill of tufa stone is best known for its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and yet also contains may art and historic attractions. Its climate and environmental conditions have fostered an increase in the number and variety of aquatic birds, making it a bird watchers area. It is about 1 and 1/2 hours from Casa d' Oliva.

Pienza  is a gem of renaissance architecture constructed on the orders of Pope Pio II who was born there. It is a beautiful city, well worth seeing and is known for its Pecorino (sheep's) cheese and breathtaking views. About 1 1/2 hours away from Casa d' Oliva.

San Gimignano  the "town of the beautiful towers " is noted for the 14 medieval towers which dominate its architecture.  It's the town where "Tea with Mussolini" was filmed and is very well preserved. It contains several small museums as well as numerous restaurants, coffee bars and shops. The view from the Torre Grossa is stunning.  San Gimignano is about 2  1/2 hours from Casa d' Oliva.

Sansepolcro, located in the northeast part of Tuscany, is famous for its manufacture of pasta. It is also a fairly well preserved walled city that maintains its medieval atmosphere. Some of the works of Piero della Francesca can be seen there. It's special Flag Waving festival (the 2nd Saturday of September) is world famous. Casa d' Oliva is about 30 minutes from Sansepolcro.

Siena contains one of the most beautiful medieval squares in Italy, the Piazza del Campo. Shell-shaped and ringed with wonderful shops and restaurants, the piazza also contains the Campanile (bell tower) and is the setting for the famous "Palio delle Contrade" horse race held twice a year. The Duomo of Siena is one of the most incredible in  Italy and has an ornate facade. The inside has inlaid marble floors and carved pulpit panels by Nicola Pisano. It is also known for its ceramics, wrought iron works and delicious baked goods. It takes about 1  1/2 hours to get there from Casa d' Oliva.

Distance Chart from Umbertide to points in Umbria and Tuscany

From Casa d'Oliva

TO Miles Kilometers Time by car
Anghiari (Tuscany) 26 42 50 minutes
Arezzo (Tuscany) 43 69 1 hour
Assisi (Umbria) 31 50 45 minutes
Citta di Castello (Umbria) 14 22 20 minutes
Corciano (Umbria) 17 27 1 hour
Cortona (Tuscany) 24 39 45 minutes
Deruta (Umbria) 32 43 1 hour 15 minutes 
Florence (Tuscany) 90 144 1 hr 50 minutes
Gubbio (Umbria) 20 32 45 minutes
Lisciano Niccone (Umbria) 5 8 15 minutes
Montefalco (Umbria) 42 68 55 minutes
Montepulciano (Tuscany) 41 60 1 hr 30 minutes
Montone (Umbria) 6 10 20 minutes
Orvieto (Umbria) 68 109 2 hours
Perugia (Umbria) 23 37 45 minutes
Preggio (Umbria) 12 19 30 minutes
Pienza (Tuscany) 51 82 1 hour 30 minutes
Spello (Umbria) 35 56 40 minutes
Spoleto (Umbria) 56 90 1 hr 45 minutes
Todi (Umbria) 47 76 1 hour 30 minutes
Torgiano (Umbria) 30 48 1 hour
Trasimeno (Umbria) 25 40 40 minutes

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