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'Italy's green heart', land-locked Umbria, is rich in art, well-preserved walled towns and gorgeous scenery, yet remains relatively undiscovered. The best places to stay in Umbria can often be found away from the usual tourist traps - many have breathed new life into old palazzos or country villas.
Off the beaten track, and built on a fault line surrounded by mountains, you will discover the charms of Norcia. Due to its treacherous location, no building is allowed to be more than two storeys tall (since an 18th century edict), so the grandeur is displayed rather in terms of ornate balconies and delicate stone carvings. Two of our favourite hotels can be found here,
The Palazzo Seneca is owned and run by the Bianconi family who have been in the hospitality business in Norcia since 1850. This historic 16th century palazzo has been comprehensively (and tastefully) restored and now offers tradtional character with contemporary requirements including top notch spa and luxury as standard. Food too is excellent.
Another offering from the Bianconi stable in Norcia, the Grotta Azzurra is a totally different proposition. This is a simple, family run hotel in the centre of town. Rooms are traditional and plain, but many have balconies with lovely views. The restaurant is superb, serving the local delicacies including black truffles and cured ham. But the best thing is probably the price - doubles start from only €65 per night B&B!
Tourists flock to see the world-famous sights in Assisi and Orvieto, but few explore the delightful medieval towns of Montefalco, Bevagna and Spello or the stunning, remote upland plain known as the 'Piano Grand' near Castelluccio.
Todi is another must see. Steeped in history, it is the perfect example of an Italian hill town; think ancient buildings, stunning views and a reassuringly slow pace of life.
Lake Trasimeno is another of Umbria's big pulls. It is obviously a magnet for sunseekers at the height of summer, but steer away from the edge of the lake and you'll find some of the best places to stay in the area.
I Capricci di Merion provides a romantic retreat, only 2km from the lake itself. Or slightly further to the north, you'll find the Villa di Piazzano. This former Medici hunting lodge is now a relaxed family run hotel with fine food and lovely views.
Unable to claim as many hotels and agriturismi as Tuscany, Umbria has some of the best places to stay in the region and generally much more reasonable prices.
The order of the hotels in our selection of the best places to stay in Umbria bears no reflection on our preference.
Tuoro sul Trasimeno, Umbria
Former hunting lodge of the Medicis, now a relaxed family-run hotel. The perfect country escape and base from which to explore it's magnificent Tuscan surroundings. Retreat to the romantic rooms, relax by the pool, stroll around the beautiful gardens, and feast on delicious Tuscan food and wine.
Spectacular views over gardens & valleys of olive and fruit trees, stylish rooms, and traditional Umbrian cuisine epitomise La Dolce Vita at this sophisticated country hotel. A great choice for a romantic country escape in an unrivalled setting.
Bevagna (Perugia), Umbria
Rambling 17th-century palazzo converted to a stunning hotel. Romantic bedrooms with four poster beds, wooden beams, and beautiful antiques and pictures. Wonderful gardens and organic produce that finds its way to the fantastic restaurant in part of an ancient Roman amphitheatre. A romantic spot.
Terrific new addition to Umbrian hotels set in an old palazzo with all the ingredients for a perfect hotel - traditional family-run hospitality melded with modern requirements. A fine restaurant, romantic rooms with four-poster beds, excellent spa and pool. An indulgent spot with bags of character.
Old farmhouse transformed into a smart rural accommodation. A peaceful country hideaway in the luxuriant green valleys of Assisi just above a Natural Park. Cosy rustic rooms with stone walls, wooden beams and fireplaces, fantastic valley views from the terrace, traditional Tuscan food and wine.
Tuoro sul Trasimeno (Perugia), Umbria
Art nouveau (Liberty) villa set in a park of lawns and olive trees. Rustic, romantically decorated rooms infused with the owner's passion for painting, poetry and music. An excellent restaurant and a small spa. A characterful country escape for romantics and local explorers.
Glorious, pale-stone abbey in a stunning hillside setting. A country escape steeped in history but with all the comforts of a hotel. Beautiful cloisters, traditional rooms and family suites with Benedictine origins - stone floors, wooden beams, paintings - great food and lovely gardens.
Charming bed-and-breakfast in a quiet hilltop village. It has all the elegance and charisma of a grand palazzo with its wall murals, antique furniture, objets d'art, marble floors and four poster beds. An utterly delightful spot to explore its Tuscan-Umbrian surroundings from.
Montecastello di Vibio (Perugia), Umbria
Rustic chic hotel in a glorious rural setting. Modern Italian rustic interiors - white washed walls, stone floors, colourful ceramics and fabrics. Fantastically zen spa and pool with stunning valley views. A great place to rejuvenate in a spectacular setting. The cottages are perfect for families.
Città della Pieve, Umbria
Chic hotel in a bustling market town. A grey shuttered building in attractive grounds with traditional and contemporary interior design elements. Lovely sun deck, plunge pool and spa facilities, elegant restaurant serving regional dishes. A lovely spot to explore the local surroundings from.
Simple, warm and welcoming town hotel with a long family heritage - the quintessential Italian family-owned hotel. Plain, but charmingly old-fashioned rooms with balconies and views of the mountains. Fantastic restaurant and plenty of activities relating to wellness, sport and gastronomy.