Trek Notes - Italy

Walking in Umbria - Assisi to Todi

This walk into the green heart of Italy reveals a wealth of historical delights that modern developments have had very little impact upon. In 1997 there was an earthquake in the region and if you had watched the news at that time, you might have thought that the town of Assisi had been flattened.  In fact there was only limited damage to the famous interior of the Basilica of St Francis and 90% of the famous frescoes by Cimabue, Giotto, Lorenzetti and Martini have remained intact. The town is a wonderful place to start one's visit to Umbria; winding medieval streets taking you under flying buttresses and up and down steps to discover yet another church or convent. The town square (Piazza del Commune) is dominated by the Roman columns of the Temple of Minerva, whilst there is also a beautiful Romanesque cathedral in the guise of San Rufino and a teetering castle. Our itinerary then takes you along the old pilgrim's route to the cave hermitage where St. Francis used to spend time in isolation and meditation; then across the flanks (or for the more energetic the summit ridge) of Monte Subasio, now a National Park, before descending through beautiful Holm oak forests and olive fields to Spello - a small walled medieval town with enough Roman features of its own to boast about. 

From Spello you traverse the heart of Umbria in a generally southwesterly direction. First you ramble across the broad Val di Spoleto with its vast extent of vineyards, and into the beautiful forested Monte Martani hills, passing such attractive towns as Bevagna for lunch (famous as the location of St. Francis's sermon to the birds) and then up to Montefalco. This is as the name suggests, The Balcony of Umbria; from where you can see all the way back to Spello and on a clear day even to Assisi and Perugia! The town is also famous for its Sagrantino wine produced from a special grape grown uniquely on the surrounding hillsides.

From here you are transferred into the depths of rurality: The fortified village of Giano del'Umbria where, after a look round you can walk to the historic hill town of Todi, overlooking the Tiber valley. Todi has some famous monuments including the fine ensemble of buildings around the Piazza del Popolo, claimed to be one of the purest piazzas in Italy and the fine Renaissance Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione.

Travel Information
Season: April to November.
Please note: that dates between late June and late August can be very hot for walking.

Arrival: The tour starts in Assisi. From Rome (Fiumicino) airport shuttle train (half-hourly service) to Roma Termini station, then by train to Foligno and local train to Assisi.  Buy one-way through tickets to Assisi at the airport train station. Combined train fare including inter-city supplement is around 22 Euros (£17), but the journey can be made cheaper by using 'Regional' trains. Journey time, from Rome to Assisi is around 3 hours. Or from Florence by train to Assisi, changing trains en route at Terontola. Bus or taxi from Assisi station to Assisi (8 km). The bus service is half-hourly and takes 20 minutes. Or from Siena by bus direct via Perugia: 2 hours. Journey from the airport to the first hotel is not included in the tour price.
From Perugia: You could also fly in to Perugia (Umbria) with Ryan Air from London Stansted (flights not daily). Perugia's small airport at Sant'Egidio, is 12km from the centre. From the airport, the city's Piazza Italia and bus and rail stations for connections to Assisi are reachable by bus. There are several trains a day from Perugia to Assisi taking about 25 mins.

End of Tour: The tour ends after breakfast in Todi on Day 6. From Todi taxi or bus to train station, then train to Roma Termini, changing trains en route at Terni (journey time approx. 2 hours); or, from Todi by train to Florence, change trains twice en route at Perugia and at Terontola (journey time approx. 4 hours).

Level of Difficulty
Grade:  Moderate. The walking is not technically difficult, but there are many hills (up and down) and some rough surfaces. It is especially demanding in hot weather. Some days are long and there will be some full walking days, although there are on occasion options for shortening days by taking public transport, or with the judicious use of taxis.
There is unavoidably some road walking on the tour, especially Day 3 and you should bring comfortable trainers/walking shoes as well as your normal hiking footwear.
Fitness: High standard of fitness is not necessary but clients should be able to walk at a steady pace for up to 7 hours a day in hot sun on dusty, hilly terrain.
Waymarking and Maps: There are only a few waymarked trails and in general it is necessary to follow our specially researched route descriptions provided together with the maps, which are at 1:50,000 (tourist) and 1:25,000 (military) scales. The military maps are uncoloured and some of the detail is very out of date.  The tourist maps are more up-to-date but only provide partial coverage. The walking route is highlighted on the maps and the accommodations are marked.

General Information
Baths: it is not normal for your room to have a bath, the main reason being that it takes up a lot of space, some hotels/guesthouses may have a separate room in the house where a bath is available to guests, but in the main it is showers.
Breakfasts: in countries such as Italy usually consists of coffee and croissant; sometimes, bread rolls, yoghurts, ham and cheese as well. If you want more for breakfast then we would suggest you purchase some food the night before. It is important for you to tell us if you have any dietary requirements when you book your holiday so that we can inform everyone that you are staying with.
Single Supplements:  are payable on most of our tours. 1) The single supplement guarantees the privacy of your own room, however, rooms can at times be small and in some places may not enjoy the same facilities as double/twin rooms. 2) You are not just paying a supplement on the room but the luggage transfer costs you are paying in full. The cost of moving 1 bag or 2 bags etc remains the same. On some of our trips it is possible to reduce the cost of the single supplement if you happen to be a 3rd person travelling, or have chosen a date when other clients are booked.
Language: Note that you will not necessarily come across people speaking English. Remember you have left home to find things different bring a phrase book, try to learn a bit of Italian!
Luggage: When staying in hotels, sometimes your luggage may have been taken to you room awaiting your arrival. However don't be surprised if your luggage is waiting for you to take it up to your room please politely ask someone if you need assistance.

Accommodation & Meals
Accommodation and meal arrangements are on a half-board basis (evening meal, bed and breakfast) for 2 nights. Picnic lunches are not included in the tour price, but materials may be purchased in the towns and villages where you stay, or a picnic lunch pack can normally be obtained from your hotel. According to Italian Law, all restaurants, including those in hotels, must close on one night each week, so it may happen that customers are given a voucher to eat dinner at another nearby restaurant. Please note that on occasion when we cannot get you into our normal accommodation as listed below, we will offer you hotels/agriturismos of a similar standard to our original choice.

Night 1: Assisi. A small family-run 3* hotel in a quiet back street just off the town's main square, Piazza del Comune.  There is a wonderful view over the town and the Umbrian plain from its pretty terrace garden.

Nights 2 & 3: Spello. A 3* hotel in the historic old town near the Augustus Gate. It is an elegantly restored building from the 18th Century. The hotel's terrace has a fine panorama over the Umbrian plain.

Night 4: Montefalco. Our 3* hotel in the historic centre of the town shares its structure with the medieval church of the village. All the rooms are modernised and well appointed.

Night 5: Todi. We use a 3* hotel with a swimming pool 15 minutes walk from the Porta Romana  (Roman Gate).

Day 1: Arrive Assisi. You should take the opportunity to explore the medieval city. You can join the crowds to visit the upper and lower Basilicas of St Francis, although you can normally visit the lower shrine of St. Francis early tomorrow from 06:30 if you want a more quiet time. However there is plenty more to see, including the Duomo (cathedral) on Piazza Rufino and the Temple of Minerva on the Piazza del Commune.  There are numerous other churches of which San Pietro (13thC) and the Basilica of Santa Chiara are perhaps the most interesting. The interiors of some of these buildings may not be accessible at certain times. Take a walk steeply up towards the old fortfess and get a great panorama over the city at dusk. Overnight Assisi.
Day 2:  There is a choice of two walking routes from Assisi (420m) to Spello (220m): either an easy-to-moderate traverse of the farmed and forested lower slopes of Monte Subasio, following lanes and tracks (8 miles/13km/4 hours), or a more strenuous route, much of it on footpaths (12 miles/19km/6 hours), which crosses the open summit area (1290m) above the trees within the confines of the National Park. Both routes start very steeply. You should have some very fine views across the Val di Spoleto to the Martani Hills, which you will cross later in the week.  On arrival in the medieval town of Spello there are more antiquities including the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, which contains frescoes by Pinturicchio and two Roman gates and a Roman arch.  Overnight Spello.
Day 3: As you have 2 nights in Spello, today we advise that you take the train to the nearby town of Spoleto and then do a circular walk starting from the church of S.Pietro, rising up to the monastic church of S.Giuliano, passing the small hamlet of Monteluco, then passing the Romanesque bridge below the fortress of Spoleto and returning into the city. Before you start and at the end there are suggested walks throughout Spoleto visiting the several interesting sites. Apart from the first ascent to S.Giuliano the walk is not that difficult and will take you about 3 hours. A good combination is to visit the town and the surrounding forests. Take a torch with you, as you need to go through a dark tunnel. (Around 14km of walking - country and city, 4 - 6 hours.)
Day 4: The first part of today's walk is relatively gentle as you cross the low ground of the Val di Spoleto, which is largely agrarian fields, orchards and vineyards.  Around lunchtime you reach the medieval village of Bevagna (225m) on the ancient Via Flaminia, described by The Rough Guide as 'even more serene and handsome a backwater than Spello, with a central piazza of austere perfection...two of Umbria's finest Romanesque churches'. From Bevagna it's a gradual uphill walk with a bit of a sting in its tail to Montefalco (472m), the 'Balcony of Umbria', celebrated for its panoramic view over vineyards and olive groves back over the Val di Spoleto, for its 14th century ramparts and for its famous local dry red Sagrantino wine (but note: Sagrantino Passito is a sweet wine!).  12.5 miles/20km/5 - 6 hours. Overnight Montefalco.
Day 5: After breakfast you will have a transfer southwards across the undulating plateau of farmland and wooded hills to the remote hill village or borgo (fortified hamlet) of Giano dell' Umbria (546m), surrounded by olive groves and pastureland. Then walk across more delightful hilly Umbrian countryside today as you approach Todi. Today you will come out onto high moor and grassland before descending through the forests once again, this time to the town of Massa Martana, from where there is a bus service to Todi. Todi is, like many other Umbrian towns, built on a hill. There are Etruscan and Roman walls, medieval streets, Renaissance palaces and the magnificent Renaissance church of Santa Maria della Consolazione. There is plenty to see here. Overnight Todi. 10 miles/16km/4 - 5 hours walking to Massa Martana. There is also a slightly longer option walking directly to Todi.

Extra nights
For those who would like more time to explore any of these fascinating towns & cities, you could consider an extra night in Assisi, Todi or even Orvieto. 

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