Our Umbrian route is articulated around three beautiful towns. Spoleto, the “authentic;” Assisi, the “showcase;” and Perugia, the “powerhouse” (the last is also home to the original chocolate kiss, somewhat softening the image). In addition to the wealth of ancient and awe-inspiring cities is a landscape that is equally impressive. Rolling, green hills are surrounded by dense forests, fields, lakes, rivers…. The route builds naturally in effort: these (and all interesting Umbrian towns) are on hilltops, and we often bike in the plain. You know what that means: you always finish the day with a climb. If you are at peace with Spoleto’s 250 meters, and tolerate Assisi’s 350, how will you feel about Perugia’s 500? Why on earth would anyone put a city up there?
Day 1: Spoleto is the epitome of Umbria to Italians. Gothic on Roman on Etruscan, a beautiful walled town climbing up a hillside, built in a jumble on top of its own ruins, and crowned by a forboding fortress. A Blue Marble or two should be rolling around by the end of the lunch hour... if you arrive in the afternoon, fit your bike and go for a spin up to the Ponte delle Torri, spanning the valley behind the town, and in the hills behind. Or visit the fortress, or wander the streets around the cathedral. At the very least, be here for dinner: Spoleto is an introduction to the best Italian cuisine it has been our pleasure to discover -- quite a statement! Mushrooms, black truffles (countering neighboring Tuscany’s white ones), suckling pig, and wonderful, approachable (affordable) wines. (0-20km)
Day 2: Short, medium and long routes are on offer, to cater to all tastes. Our riding takes us out onto the plain... unless you would rather go up the mountain! Lines of cypress trees, olive groves, and quiet lanes with “decent” views decorate a variety of loops designed to cater to those with jet lag, as to those trying to stretch their legs. (20-70km)
Day 3: Trevi emerging like a dream from a sea of silver olive trees. Montefalco is the center of the local red wine trade around here: stop on the town square for a tasting. Then to Assisi. St. Francis hailed from here. When not preaching to birds, he inspired a devotion in humans that remains a marvel. Construction of the Basilica of San Francesco was begun just two years after his death. His namesake city in the U.S. came along some time later. Nowadays talking to birds rarely gets a city named for you: too much competition. (50-60km)
Day 4: A beautiful hillside ride on manageable grades carries us around the flank of Monte Subasio, the biggest thing out here. Our destination is Spello, whose unusually linear layout belies Umbria’s purest Roman town. Long-routers can spice things up a bit by dropping down into the valley and climbing back up, or by detouring into Folignio, one of the rare towns down in the plain. Leave time for Assisi before you go or after you come back... If the Basilica is not enough, there are a good 20 other churches to gawk at. Or, just sit in a café and debate the merits of the town’s “other” saint, Chiara. By all accounts a good lady, but, frankly, you should be thinking “Washington Generals” here. (35-50km)
Day 5: Our favorite Umbrian town is our destination, and it is only 20 k away. But it’s not an easy ride, even if you go there directly. And in any event, that is not what we suggest. No, we suggest climbing a huge mountain or two, in the back country behind Assisi. This is another Umbria, without cars and without tourists, and frankly somewhat lacking in pavement. It is also a way to get in 1,000 meters of climbing before lunch.
Those not tempted can set out hours later, and meet those who took on the hills just 20 minutes from Assisi: long and short routes continue together to pass by a bunch of “stuff.” Fortified Bettona has a charming town square and an art museum that has two rooms, takes 10 minutes to visit, and allows you to tick your culture box for the day. Torgiano offers a wine museum sponsored by local powerhouse Lungarotti. And, on the outskirts of Perugia, you will find an Etruscan burial temple (“Hypogeum dei Volunni”). (40-80km)
Day 6: Our ride out of Perugia offers the prettiest biking of the trip, but Perugia itself is stiff competition for your attention. This was a city-state six centuries before Christ started stirring up trouble. Wonderful restaurants, beautiful caffés, lotsa stores, and a draconian traffic management scheme that makes finding your way into town by car into a giant game of “Where’s Waldo” (the locals are g-o-o-d...). Break the available riding down between the two days, or take Friday off to explore the city, and do a long route on Saturday. (Variable km)
Day 7: When you do finally leave town, it will be via a long, narrow urban thoroughfare, which comes out one of the town doors into the lush surrounding countryside. Coast down the mountain in a winding route that carries you past Roman temples, walled hill towns, monasteries, olive farms, vineyards. Up the Tibur valley, and then across the hills to Lago Trasimeno, the inland ocean of Umbrian mythology. Our trip disbands in Terontola, a railway junction, at the end of a full riding day. (50-75km)
- Trip price includes the bike!
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