Are you looking for a fall trip to Italy to delight your eyes, soul and taste buds? Perhaps somewhere off the beaten path with lots of history, culture and inspirational stories? Two beautiful Italian destinations that tick all the boxes and are ideal for autumn are Arezzo in Tuscany and Assisi in Umbria. These cities are in two different regions, yet only about 100 km away from each other (a 90-minute drive), meaning that you can combine them in an itinerary of 7 to 10 days to make the most out of the experience.
Why are these Italian destinations so unique? Let’s find out!
Visit Arezzo and the gems of the Casentino Valley
Arezzo is an elegant city nestled in the Tuscan Casentino Valley.
If you love art, you can admire the magnificent fresco cycles by Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca in the Basilica di San Francesco. Titled “Legend of the True Cross”, they were completed between 1452 and 1466. The area around Arezzo was known as Terre di Piero (the lands of Piero) in honour of this artist, who was born here and revolutionized the perspective in paintings. Architect, historian and painter Giorgio Vasari was also born in Arezzo, where you can visit the Vasari House-Museum.
If you love movies, you surely have seen the Academy Award-winning film “Life is Beautiful” by Roberto Benigni (1997). It was filmed in Arezzo, and you can explore the city through the movie’s locations!
One of the local highlights near Arezzo is the Castello dei Conti Guidi (or Castello di Poppi), a medieval castle that belonged to the noble Guidi family. It is said that the Supreme Poet, Dante Alighieri, found hospitality in this castle during his exile, and here he wrote the XXX Canto of the Inferno.
La Verna Sanctuary is another inspiring place to visit near Arezzo. Perched on Monte Penna overlooking a sheer drop over the valley, it is surrounded by a monumental forest of fir and beech trees. Dante wrote admiringly of this place in Paradiso XI. This Franciscan sanctuary is where St Francis of Assisi received the stigmata in the late summer of 1224.
Explore Assisi and the surrounding nature
Speaking of St. Francis, the medieval village of Assisi is famous for being his birthplace and death place. He was the founder of the Order of the Friars Minor and leader of the movement of evangelical poverty in the early 13th century. But the city has much to offer apart from the religious and spiritual point of view.
Art lovers in Assisi – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – cannot miss works by influential artists, such as Simone Martini’s Stories of St Martin, Giotto’s Magdalene Chapel and Cimabue’s Crucifixion. Not only is Assisi one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the world, but you can also visit some of Italy’s most beautiful gems around it! Examples include the idyllic villages of Montefalco, Spello, Bevagna and Foligno.
If you are a nature lover, you can explore Assisi’s many paths on foot, bike, or horseback. There are also different natural wonders in the surrounding territory. Make sure to visit Fonti del Clitunno, a magical place where the underground spring waters generate a small lake with unique colours and varied flora and fauna.
This whole area – just like the entire region of Umbria – is a food and wine paradise. Fall is the perfect season to try local truffles, mushrooms, spelt, chestnuts and saffron and taste the famous Sagrantino di Montefalco wine!
Do you want to learn Italian while exploring Arezzo and Assisi?
Photos from Pixabay by: