Saints alive! Tour Assisi, Orvieto & the wine zones of Umbria
Visit Assisi & the stomping ground of St. Francis of Assisi
See the Gothic cathedral of Orvieto
View Benozzo Gozzoli's fresco cycle of St. Francesco in Montefalco
Pick up some majolica pottery in Deruta
Roam the medieval streets of Cortona
Private sit-down tastings at Umbria's top wineries
DAY 1 – CORTONA & ITALY’S SYRAH
Welcome to our Umbria wine tour! However, we meet in Tuscany's Cortona, nearby. Before Under the Tuscan Sun made it internationally famous, Cortona was an insider’s secret, a picturesque hilltop town with twin Renaissance churches overlooking fields of sunflowers on the plain.
Our first mission is to explore something you probably don’t know: Tuscan syrah. We head to the master: Tenimenti Luigi d’Alessandro. In the 1980s, the owner of this 300-year-old farm spearheaded groundbreaking research (with professor Attilio Scienza) on syrah in the dry Cortona environment, which kicked off a surge of winery investments in the area. You’ll see why folks are enthusiastic when you taste their three syrahs (and two viogniers), made in consultation with a Rhone and Barolo winemaker: Christine Verney of Domaine Georges Vernay and Luca Corrado of Vietti.
Next, we begin the Umbria part of this wine tour as we venture on to Castello di Magione, an impressive castle on Lake Trasimeno that once belonged to the Knights Templar. In its restored cellar, wine is again being made, ranging from fresh white grechetto to powerful cabernet to nectar-like vin santo. The day concludes in Bevagna, our base for the next few days. Located on the Appian Way, a Roman thoroughfare, the town holds many traces of its Roman past, including a mosaic floor decorated with delightful sea creatures.
Dinner in town introduces the earthy cuisine of Umbria, which includes a whole alphabet of beans (think fagiolini from Lake Trasimeno served warm with red onions and vinaigrette), sausages, and red-wine-loving meats like duck ragu and roast pork.
D • Hotel Palazzo Brunamonti in Bevagna
DAY 2 – ASSISI & SPELLO
Assisi was the birthplace of St. Francis (from whom the current Pope takes his name), friend to all creatures great and small. We’ll spend the morning in this magnificent city, full of beautiful churches, scenic overlooks, and the Basilica of St. Francis, which holds artwork by Giotto and other masters. After lunch in Assisi, we’ll take a quick stroll through Spello, the most charming of Umbria’s hilltop towns.
The afternoon spotlights wine from Spello and Montefalco. First we pay a visit to the boutique winery Sportoletti, which Gambero Rosso calls “one of the best in Umbria.” Here we’ll find grechetto and international varieties finely crafted by the Sportoletti brothers and consultant Riccardo Cotarella.
Then we visit Montefalco, an area that produces Sagrantino Montefalco, now considered Umbria’s signature red. We’ll pay homage to one of its oldest wineries, Antonelli. Once belonging to the Bishop of Spoleto, this estate dates back to the 1881. It carries the banner forward with elegant, drinkable renditions of Montefalco Sagrantino, a notoriously tannic wine (but high in health-boosting resveratrol!).
B, D • Hotel Palazzo Brunamonti in Bevagna
DAY 3 – MONTEFALCO SAGRANTINO, UMBRIA’S JEWEL IN THE CROWN
Today is dedicated to Montefalco, both the town and the wine that takes its name. We’ll first visit the town, a walled city overlooking the Appian Way. The highlight here is the Church of San Francesco and its three-story fresco cycle depicting the life of the saint—the most famous work by Renaissance artist Benozzo Gozzoli. (We’ll be sure to point out Gozzoli’s little homage to Sagrantino, and his insertion of Montefalco and its views into the background of St. Francis Talks to the Birds.)
Our first winery is Colle del Saraceno, owned by Maila Orazi and winemaker Francesco Botti, whose family has sagrantino in its blood, having farmed it for generations. This small farmhouse winery makes a big impression with its gracious hospitality and memorable wines, ranging from a skin-fermented Grechetto to an easy-drinking sagrantino/sangiovese blend to a classic Montefalco Sagrantino, full of blackberry and spice. Here we’ll also meet another local treasure: Sagrantino passito, a sweet wine that finishes dry, thanks to those tannins. Perfect with biscotti!
Next, we visit the winery that took Sagrantino off the endangered-species list and pushed it into the modern age: Marco Caprai. We’ll see some of the experimental vineyards that enabled an understanding of the grape and created a bank of genetic material. We’ll learn about Caprai’s latest research in green winery practices. And we’ll taste some sensational wines! Dinner is on your own in Bevagna.
B • Hotel Palazzo Brunamonti in Bevagna
DAY 4 – ORVIETO & DERUTA POTTERY
The father of Umbria wine is said to be Giorgio Lungarotti, who first put it on the map in the 1960s. His estate is now run by his two daughters, and it’s a major presence in the town of Torgiano, with a winery (the largest in Umbria), a luxury hotel and restaurant, and two museums dedicated to olive oil and to the cultural history of wine.
We’ll begin with a visit to the wine museum, beautifully curated by Lungarotti’s art historian wife Giorgia Maria Grazie, where we’ll see objects ranging from Greek amphorae to Picasso prints. Then we’ll have a sit-down tasting of their wines, which range from a rare vermentino blend to their famous Rubesco, a sangiovese/canaiolo blend that earned the region its DOC status.
For a change in pace, we visit Deruta, a town known for its ceramics, particularly its majolica, a style dating from the Renaissance. Here we’ll visit a pottery factory, where you’ll be able to admire the many fabulous creations and maybe take home a keepsake.
We end the day in Orvieto, our base for the second part of this tour. We’ll arrive in time for a stroll in town with your guides, who will take you to the Orvieto Cathedral, founded by a Pope in 1290 to celebrate the new miracle of Corpus Christi. We’ll spotlight its most famous fresco, The Last Judgement by Angelo Signorelli. If there’s time, we’ll also visit the subterranean Etruscan tombs. Dinner is in town.
B, D • Hotel Maitani in Orvieto
DAY 5 – ANTINORI IN UMBRIA
Since the 1940s, the Antinori family has owned Castello della Sala, a medieval castle with huge vineyard holdings. Under the magic touch of Tuscany’s preeminent winemaking dynasty, this estate has been producing a glorious wine that has been awarded the coveted Tre Bicchieri (3 Glasses) by Gambero Rosso for nearly 20 years straight: Cervaro della Sala, an oak-aged chardonnay/grechetto blend. If you’re an ABC cardholder (Anything But Chardonnay), you’ll immediately tear up your card upon tasting this magic potion! You’ll also want to try Antinori’s Orvieto Classico—normally a forgettable quaffer, but here a well-made, pleasing wine.
More outstanding Orvieto Classico is awaiting us at Decugnano dei Barbi, one of Orvieto’s most important estates. Afterwards, there will be free time in Orvieto before we wrap up with our farewell dinner.
B, D • Hotel Maitani in Orvieto
DAY 6 – BUON VIAGGIO!
Morning shuttle to the Orvieto train station, where there are many trains to Rome and Florence. B
Florence (continental) or Rome (intercontinental nonstop)
Plan to land in Italy a day before the tour begins; that’s necessary to be at our starting point on time. We strongly suggest spending the preceding night in Cortona. Cortona has two train stations: Camucia and Terontola. Either is fine, but if you’re arriving from Florence, Camucia is recommended because a) it’s closer to Florence, and b) it has a bus every 30 minutes that takes you from the train station to the center of town, whereas Terontola's is every hour. Alternately, you can ask your hotel to arrange a car service to pick you up upon arrival. If you’re arriving from Rome, there are more options to Terontola, mostly express trains.
Italian train schedule
Here's the English-language version of TrenItalia. Be aware that the schedule is posted only several months in advance, so if you're looking for long-range dates, try something sooner, just to get an idea of departure frequency and trip length.
Our meeting point will at a designated piazza in Cortona. (We'll provide precise details in your information packet.)
On our final day, we’ll shuttle you to the train station of Orvieto. From here, there are many trains to Florence and Rome. During the tour, we can help buy your return train tickets.
Rome or Florence are obvious places to spend a few extra days. But if you’d rather explore more of Umbria, we’d suggest you rent a car in Orvieto after our tour. From here, you could do an itinerary that includes Todi, Spoleto, Cascia, Norcia, and Gubbio—all quaint medieval villages, full of history and worth exploring.
This is recommended to protect you from needless loss caused by last-minute cancellations, lost luggage, and more. Three sources are Travelex Insurance, (800) 228-9792; CSA Travel Protection, (800) 348-9505; and Travel Guard, (800) 826-1300.
When packing, check www.weather.com. Go to “Assisi, Italy” get a general idea of temperatures and forecast.
For cancellation policy & more, see our General Information page.
Single supplement: $350
Orvieto train station
- 5 nights accommodations (double room) in 3- and 4-star hotels, with breakfast buffet
- 4 gourmet dinners (three courses with wine)
- All wine tastings mentioned
- Admission to Church of San Francesco, Orvieto’s Duomo & Etruscan tombs, Lungarotti wine museum
What's not included
- Air travel
- 1 dinner on your own & all lunches
- After-dinner drinks, or special wines at tastings that are not part of what is provided to the group
- Items of a personal nature
- Anything not specified as included