The Upper Tiber Valley: More History Along The Hillsides

“The landscape is amazing: imagine a boundless amphitheatre that only nature could create”,

–  Pliny the Younger (61 – 113 AD) about Valtiberina

Valtiberina, view from Citerna

The Upper-Tiber Valley has a great number of various paths, like those rich in Franciscan lore, linking Assisi and La Verna, the two spiritual poles, where piety, along with art expressions, flourished in all the places that Saint Francis passed through.

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The Sanctuary of La Verna (in Tuscany), where The Franciscan Trail begins. It crosses the region in 16 steps, through flourishing woodlands, farmed valleys, paths and places that inspired the saint.

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If you like hiking, you’ll discover the untouched natural beauty of  the valley with its fascinating history, towns, isolated abbeys, places where miracles took place, the ancient artworks inspired by peace message and love for all living creatures. As you walk, you can admire hillsides dotted with old stone farmhouses, beautiful churches, mountain streams and the amazing panoramas – a wonderful excuse to stop often, catch your breath, and snap some amazing photos.

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The Baroque Sanctuary of Madonna di Belvedere, a short distance from Città di Castello (5 km following the SS Apecchiese). Built between 1669 and 1684 with a dome between the two majestic bell towers, it offers beautiful vistas of the town, the valley and the mountains of La Verna and Monte Acuto near Umbertide.

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The imposing complex dominates the valley, like the Sanctuary of Canoscio, which I mentioned in another post. From a distance, it appears to me like the one from Raphael’s Marriage of the Virgin, which he painted in 1504 for the Church of St. Francis in Città di Castello.

Colle Plinio – Pliny’s home in the Upper Tiber Valley.

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The remains of the ancient ‘Villa in Tuscis’ of Pliny the Younger, brought to light in the 1970s, along with its thermal plant – a Calidarium (hot bath), a Tepidarium (warm bath) and a Frigidarium (a large cold pool), as well as a temple of Ceres, harvest cellars, earthenware, etc.

Villa Magherini Graziani, a splendid example of the early 17th century architecture. This noble estate was completed in 1616 on commission by Carlo Graziani.

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The villa houses a museum with numerous finds of the archaeological excavations carried out in 1974, ancient Roman mosaics, tiles and other objects of daily use are on display. Open on Sundays and holidays, tickets €3.

The Republic of Cospaia

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For centuries the valley was subjected to the political and military interests of the main powers of Tuscany and Umbria. In 1441 when The Florentine Republic and The Papal States decided to define the borders, the little hill of Cospaia nestled between the two streams flowing into the Tiber, both named Rio and maximum 500 metres away from each other, wasn’t taken into account. This mistake granted the tiny republic (twenty times smaller than San Marino) independence, with no written laws, heads of the state, soldiers or taxes. Cospaia was so small that neither of the bordering powers would fight a war to conquer it. The Republic ran great deals with both the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Church. Its inhabitants lived independent lives for almost four centuries. An early centre for tobacco production (started in 1574), this small strip of land became the capital of Italian tobacco.  Today, Cospaia is a hamlet of the comune of San Giustino.

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Terme di Fontecchio, Città di Castello, 3 km away from the city centre. These thermal baths were already known in Roman times, when Pliny the Younger accompanied his wife Calpurnia to “maintain her beauty and grace”. Equipped with diagnostic and therapeutic centers, the Spa offers various treatments and genuine relaxation thanks to the properties of its sulphurous waters and mud.

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Monte Santa Maria Tiberina, The Autumn Feast

Just a short drive out of Città di Castello, Monte Santa Maria Tiberina welcomes you with beautiful vistas and great food, where chestnut and oak forests spread out over the hillsides, and where truffles, porcini mushrooms, excellent olive oil and local wine dominate the menus!

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La Festa d’Autunno is the biggest festival of the fall season here, celebrating the chestnut harvest in the most delicious way!

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Feel free to take in the spectacular views during the fall foliage…

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Framing the festival, as usual, is the picturesque piazza, with live music and performances.

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An interesting  re-enactment of knights in combat by the Lupi di Ventura, the knights armament group from Città di Castello

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Monte Santa Maria Tiberina is really full of charm! The former Prime minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, has his summer retreat here. The town sits right at the border where Umbria meets Tuscany. It’s quite small, but there are several restaurants and cafes.

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You can visit Palazzo Bourbon, built in the 1500s, the castle and the lovely Church of Santa Maria (La Pieve), with an interesting baptismal fount and the Bourbon family chapel.

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You can savour the abundant chestnuts, gourmet food, artisan beer (including chestnut beer!), and sample a mouth-watering variety of chestnut foods.

Lunch at local taverna with gorgeous views
Lunch at local taverna with gorgeous views

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Treat yourselves to the local flavours: traditionally-made cheeses and salamis, porchetta, chocolate, honey and more. Local restaurants and food stalls are packed with nothing but life’s little pleasures 100% made in Umbria.

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There’s always something for everyone to enjoy!

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Bed & Breakfast Cà di Baldo, Città di Castello, Umbria

Cà di Baldo is a stunning b&b, tucked high in the hills near Città di Castello and the E45 highway. I’ll always remember my stay here. The owner spoiled us silly with heaps of fresh fruit, homemade jams, as well as gorgeous local wines.

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Although Cà di Baldo would be a winner by any standards, it is the genuine warmth and charm of the lovely hosts that make a stay here so outstanding.

For lunch or dinner, guests can prepare a light meal in their own kitchenette. The b&b has a beautiful pool with views of the valley, where you can really unwind and bask in the sun after a day out. It is the perfect location from which to wander around, and easily visit the Valtiberina and lots of famous cities of Umbria and the nearby regions. Perugia, Arezzo, Monterchi, Gubbio are in easy reach, and forays can also be made into neighbouring Marche, Emilia Romagna and the independent Republic of San Marino.

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Valtiberina, The Age-Old Amphitheatre Of Natural Beauty


The Upper Tiber Valley lies across two Italian regions and is governed by Tuscany in the north and Umbria in the south. Also known as Valtiberina, the valley takes its name from the River Tiber.

Situated right in the centre of Italy, the area populated first by the Etruscans and then by the Romans (the latter used to build their summer villas in the Valtiberina, including Pliny the Younger), offers you a chance to take an in-depth look at its medieval towns, impressive monuments and renaissance treasures. You can pick your own artistic and cultural itinerary. Here you can admire the art of Raphael (1483-1520), Piero della Francesca (1415-1492), Luca Signorelli (1445-1523), the Della Robbia family and many others… You can also discover the places frequented by St. Francis, the patron saint of Italy, through the beautiful abbeys, monasteries and churches.

The only highway that passes through the valley is the E45.


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