Situated in the very center of Italy, the region of Umbria is known as the Green Heart of Italy.
On a 2022 trip, my husband and I spent a week in an Umbria vacation rental. Our visit was based in Todi, a picturesque hilltop town in the center of Umbria surrounded by Etruscan, Roman and medieval walls.
Todi in Italy has been referred to as the world’s most livable city. After a few days here, we could understand why. Its blend of history and modern amenities give the town a timeless feel. Staying a week allowed us to experience the village’s character and local culture.
Spend time wandering the maze of Todi’s cobblestone lanes from your Umbria holiday rental and gaze at the medieval and renaissance architecture, visit its fascinating ancient sites, sample the fabulous food and wine, and soak in the personality of this timeless village and its residents – it takes a night or two here to appreciate all its riches.
We found Todi in Italy to be a great base for exploring the region. Having a car makes it easier to discover the area’s hidden gems and surprises, with most of Umbria’s towns and cities within easy driving distance.
La Gardenia Umbria Holiday Rental
On a quiet street within Todi’s historic walls, La Gardenia Umbria holiday rental apartment has many wonderful appointments, but the panoramic view is what topped it for us. From the balcony we enjoyed spectacular sunrises and sunsets while viewing the surrounding hills and valleys.
The view also includes the stunning Renaissance church, Tempio della Consolazione. Modeled after the architectural style of Bramante, this uniquely designed church sits near Todi’s lower gate and is also where free street parking is located, a short walk from the apartment.
Our host Carlo met us at the parking area to hand over the key and provide parking instructions. This was when we first realized he was a standout host, as he transferred our luggage into his car and drove us up and around the town to the apartment’s entrance (the apartment is on a one-way street). Our ride turned into a lovely tour of Todi’s historic center, wrapping up with a visit to Carlo’s friend’s cozy bar for our first espresso and a warm welcome to Todi.
Since we arrived close to dinner time, Carlo offered to call his favorite restaurant and secure us a table on the terrace, making for a romantic dinner with breathtaking views.
Staying in a Medieval Villa in Umbria
La Gardenia Umbria vacation rental spans the top two floors of a three-story medieval villa. The spacious apartment is light and airy with impeccable décor, continuing the warm, “home-away-from home” feeling we got from our host.
The apartment’s first level consists of the main bedroom with a comfortable queen bed, and a second bedroom with a double bed. A full bathroom with tub/shower combo connects to both bedrooms. Antique armoires and dressers in the bedrooms provide plenty of space for clothing and offer more than enough hangers – a small, but thoughtful provision.
Also on this floor is a beautiful sitting room where lovely antiques and art from Carlo’s ancestors are tastefully displayed.
The villa’s second level includes a full kitchen with adjacent breakfast/dining room, a second living area with TV, and a third bedroom that could also be used as an office as it houses a sofa bed and desk, as well as a half-bath.
The kitchen includes a washing machine, handy for travelers who want to pack light. We found the kitchen pantry stocked with coffee, tea and other essentials, and a fresh basil plant was left on the windowsill – just in case we wanted to make a Caprese salad.
I couldn’t wait to swing open the balcony doors each morning to enjoy my first espresso of the day while taking in the breathtaking views. Early one morning we received a once-in-a-lifetime treat: a large group of colorful hot air balloons rising up and floating gracefully over the valley. Some of them came close enough to hear their deep, dragon-like “woosh” as these giants soared up and over our balcony and the ancient walls of Todi.
Todi, Italy History
Todi in Italy was established 3,000 years ago by the Umbrians, Italy’s oldest known population, on a double-crested hill. Roman engineers later built their forum in the shallow valley in between the crests under which they had created a water reservoir with a complex system of massive cisterns, drainage tunnels and wells. Remnants of the Roman cisterns can still be accessed near Todi’s main square.
Today, well-preserved medieval and renaissance palazzos and public buildings define Todi’s charming center.
Exploring Todi in Italy
A short walk up the hill on Via Roma takes you right into Todi’s historic center. Our favorite hangout each day was in the “piazzetta,” or little piazza, on the left just below the Piazza del Popolo. Outdoor tables under shady pergolas are perfect for enjoying a refreshment and relaxation. A beautiful stone wall fountain makes for the perfect backdrop with potted geraniums and caffes framing the picture.
At the top of the hill is the Piazza del Popolo, Todi’s main piazza and its central focus for the past 2500 years. The town’s 12th-century cathedral dominates the north end of the square, flanked by imposing Renaissance palaces and medieval government buildings around the perimeter, punctuated with galleries, caffes and restaurants. Many of the town’s festivals and events take place here, and in December the large piazza turns into an elegant and festive Christmas fairy tale, decorated with sparkling strings of lights and a giant tree.
Next to the Southeast corner of Piazza del Popolo sits Piazza Garibaldi. Originally built as an access to the town’s Roman Theater, Piazza Garibaldi now houses a large statue commemorating Giuseppe Garibaldi, known for his major role in the unification of Italy in 1861.
Head back down Corso Cavour to browse boutique clothing stores and local artisan shops, stopping at Ristorante Cavour for delectable pizza and pasta in a lovely setting with beautiful views of the eastern valley from its large terrace. Reservations are recommended. For more wonderful views and excellent local fare try Ristorante Umbria, near Piazza Popolo.
Green Spaces and More Spectacular Views
Todi in Italy is known for its wonderful green spaces with parks and belvederes around its perimeter boasting views of the Tiber River flowing toward Rome, the Apennine Mountain range to the east, and the distant Amerini mountains to the west.
Oberdan Gardens on Todi’s west side invites relaxation and affords panoramic views of the valley and the picturesque cluster of buildings on the northwest side of Todi. Next to the park is a funicular/elevator with a parking lot below.
Walk back into town via Via Ciufelli to take in the imposing church of San Fortunato, then head further on down Via Mazzini to Todi’s Teatro Communale. Theater and the arts are an important part of Todi’s culture and this elegant 19th century theater is still Todi’s main venue for concerts and theatrical performances.
Nearby Towns in Umbria
Take a picturesque drive from your Umbria vacation rental through rolling hills, past sunflower fields, vineyards and olive farms to explore more of the region’s historic villages.
Montefalco, Umbria’s Wine Capital
Montefalco sits 40-minutes northeast of Todi by car and is in the heart of Umbria’s Sagrantino wine country. There are several tasting rooms to whet your wine appetite in the historic center, and miles of vineyards dot the landscape surrounding the town.
Our favorite restaurant in Montefalco is L’Alchimista (The Alchemist), a chef-driven and family-owned restaurant in the main piazza. Chef and family matriarch Patrizia creates artistic and delicious dishes with unique combinations of flavors.
Visiting Spello in spring and summer is like walking into a gorgeous painting with brushstrokes of meandering alleys and colorful flower-filled balconies everywhere, their heady scents permeating the town and adding to Spello’s distinctive charm. The town’s annual flower competition (May to mid-August) keeps the village sparkling with alleys competing for the most beautiful flower displays.
The town of Assisi is a UNESCO World Heritage site and famous as the birthplace of Saint Francis. The Basilica is an immersive experience, housing incredible works including famous fresco cycles designed by Giotto.
If your Italy travels take you to Umbria, a stay at this charming Umbria vacation rental apartment in Todi will definitely enhance the memories of your trip to this delightful Italian destination.historicsmall townwine