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Perugia

The hazy hills, a magical quality of light, and an air of spirituality help set Umbria apart, along with its bewitching capital, Perugia. Cosmopolitan, arty, heritage-minded yet forward-looking, Perugia makes a delightful introduction to the region, with easy side trips to Assisi, Gubbio and Lake Trasimeno. Compared with Florence, Perugia feels far less tourism-led.

Umbria has often languished in Tuscan’s shadow but is just as lovely as its grander neighbour. Lap up the rolling landscape with hill-towns that look as if they have been there since time immemorial. It is not an illusion: some were founded by the Etruscans and later dedicated to medieval saints. Even if Perugia feels more secular than most of the region, Umbria is the cradle of western monasticism, with St Benedict born in Norcia. Beyond the tourism hotspot of Assisi, the region strikes a near-perfect balance between sustainable tourism and an authentic way of life.

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