Bevagna, Montefalco, and Spello, Foligno
Tel: 39 074 235 4459
Concierge.com's insider take:
These three small historic towns circle the olive groves of the Valle Umbra south of Perugia. Bevagna is probably the best-kept secret: A Roman colony on the Via Flaminia, it was prosperous enough until the Middle Ages to endow two fine Romanesque churches, San Silvestro and San Michele, which face each other across the main square. Nearby Montefalco is—after Orvieto—Umbria's second-most-famous wine town. Its star brew, the full-bodied red Sagrantino di Montefalco, has recently become a cult favorite among international wine buffs. Top producers include Arnaldo Caprai, Adanti, and Antonelli, though aficionados say that the wines turned out in tiny quantities by Paolo Bea are the real crème de la crème. Of the enoteca-restaurants that line the main square, L'Alchimista offers the best value and service—and it's also the only one that stocks Bea's bottles (14 Piazza del Comune; 39-074-237-8558; www.montefalcowines.com). If you're still standing after lunch, head for the Museo Civico di San Francesco, home to Benozzo Gozzoli's dynamic Life of Saint Francis fresco cycle (Via Ringhiera Umbra; 39-074-237-9598).
Another town with Roman origins, Spello (pictured) is a small, walled hilltop village that has some of the most intact Roman architecture in central Italy—especially evident in town gates like Porta Venere. Pinturicchio's frescoes in the Baglioni Chapel, inside the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, are some of Umbria's most vibrant examples of Renaissance art (Piazza Matteotti).