By: Alicia Peacock Writer & Journalist | Specialist Arts & European travel

From rolling hills to ancient Etruscan landscapes, Umbria is the ultimate destination for outdoor lovers. There’s a reason this landlocked region is known as Italy’s ‘Green Heart;’ it is home to some of central Italy’s finest natural landmarks like the Marmore Falls, Lake Trasimeno and the dramatic peaks of the Apennines. Umbria is home to the Monti Sibillini National park as well as countless regional parks and reserves, ideal for hiking, climbing, cycling and birdwatching.  

If you are staying in one of our luxury villas in Umbria, read this guide for the best places to discover Umbria’s wildflower meadows, breathtaking gorges, and mountain hiking routes. 

Mountain climbs and wildflower meadows in Eastern Umbria  

Parco del Monte Cucco: Gubbio 

Monte Cucco is a 1566m massif towering high above its wild regional park, just 40 minutes from the centre of Gubbio. This medieval town rests on the slopes of the Apennines and is a haven for gastronomes and serious truffle enthusiasts. White and black tubers can be found in the regional park alongside wild mushrooms and an array of pecorino cheeses and Chianina beef for a premium Bistecca alla Fiorentina. 

Parco del monte cucco
Journey through nature to reach the summit of Monte Cucco

Wildflowers carpet the meadows here in spring and around 120km of designated trails cover the park, offering the perfect opportunity for trekking, mountain biking, horse riding and hiking. The Parco del Monte Cucco is home to one of Italy’s oldest beech forests and silver fir and holm oak trees cover its gentle slopes. This is a popular destination for hang-gliding and paragliding, as well as canyoning through the Rio Freddo Gorge, with its breathtaking waterfalls and crystal clear pools. Monte Cucco is home to an incredible network of karst caves as well — around 30km of tunnels, with spectacular limestone rock formations and underground pools, wind their way beneath the mountain. 

Monte Subasio: Assisi 

The mighty Monte Subasio belongs to the Apennine mountain range and is set within its regional park. The medieval towns of Assisi and Spello are situated upon its slopes, surrounded by olive groves and timeless oak woodlands. A deeply spiritual centre in Umbria, it is possible to hike from Assisi, St Francis’s birthplace, to nearby historic towns like Spello, while taking in the breathtaking views of the countryside from Monte Subasio’s heights. Enjoy dense forests, natural springs, the spectacular gorges of the Marchetto Canyon and the rich variety of wildflowers, like orchids, crocuses, violets and narcissus, that carpet the high-mountain meadows in the spring and summer months. 

Monte Subasio
Curious wild horses on Monte Subasio

There are plenty of itineraries for mountain biking, horse riding and hiking around Monte Subasio, as well as up to the summit. For those who like to dabble with slightly more extreme sports, there are also opportunities for quad biking tours, paragliding and hang gliding. 

Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini: Norcia 

For some of Umbria’s more dramatic landscapes, climb the limestone peaks of the Monti Sibillini in this national park. There are plenty of marked hiking trails to explore, but the region is also popular among rocker climbers, mountain bikers and hang-gliders.

Monte Sibillini
Autumn colours at Monti Sibillini

The Golden Eagle, Wild Cat and Wolf are among the rich wildlife you can hope to find within the national park. If you are visiting Umbria between May and June be sure to look out for the “fiorita”, fields of blooming wild poppies on the Piana di Castelluccio plateau. Monte Vettore is the highest peak in the Northern Apennines for experienced hikers seeking a challenge as much as dramatic panoramic views. Other important landmarks include the impressive waterfalls in the Valle dell’Acquasanta and the Eremo di San Leonardo al Volubro, an ancient monastery built into a natural gorge, which is a popular area to plan a hike around. 

Lakes, Waterfalls, Meandering Rivers and Dramatic Gorges

Nera River Park: Terni 

The Nera River Park is an absolute, must-visit destination in Umbria, home to the breathtaking Cascate delle Marmore, Italy’s tallest waterfall. There are countless hiking itineraries to explore, which will lead you through rich meadows, ancient forests, alongside secret gorges, and of course to the majestic Marmore Falls. The Nera River is also the perfect place for canoeing, canyoning, and rafting, or even for a peaceful spot of fishing. 

Cascata Delle Marmore waterfalls
Cascate delle Marmore

Parco Regionale del Lago Trasimeno: Perugia  

Lago Trasimeno, on the outskirts of Perugia, is the largest lake in central Italy, surrounded by historic towns, ancient Etruscan ruins and picturesque beaches, ideal for swimming and sunbathing. There are plenty of pretty towns along the shores of the lake, but be sure to pay a visit to the Isola Maggiore, which is home to a fascinating 15th-century fishing village. Take to the water if you love sailing or discover the hiking and horse riding routes around the lake’s perimeter. 

Lago Trasimeno is an important wetland and wintering spot for aquatic and migratory birds, making it a tranquil destination for birdwatchers. You can expect to find wild ducks, Great  Crested Grebes, Purple Herons and Kingfishers here. 

Sacred Pilgrimage Routes and Ancient Woodland near Orvieto

The Via Romea Germanica 

Once faithfully followed by Catholic pilgrims and Germanic Kings, this historic and holy trail starts in Germany and meanders down through Italy to Rome. The piece of the hiking route that passes through Umbria links the towns of Pozzuolo and Orvieto. We recommend starting in Città della Pieve, a pretty hill-town that towers over the Valdichiana and Lake Trasimeno. Follow ancient chalk paths through the picturesque landscape, taking in the countless churches, rolling hills, timeless woodland and vineyards as you go. 

The Monte Peglia Biosphere

North of Orvieto, this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve is rich in biodiversity, wildlife and scenic hiking trails. The Monte Peglia sits on an extinct volcanic site and is surrounded by dense woodland. This largely untouched area offers an authentic glimpse into Italy’s Green Heart.

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