The landlocked region of Umbria is named after the Umbrii, described by Pliny, the Roman naturalist, as the most ancient tribe of Italy, predating the Etruscans who founded the town of Perugia and Orvieto. The Etruscans later founded powerful city states here, before being succeeded by the Romans, whose rule ended in the 5th and 6th centuries when fortified towns were built in response to invasions by "barbarians". The region is one of Italy's most beautiful with unspoiled medieval towns.
Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi (born in 1182), the founder of the Franciscan order. After his death in 1226 the beautiful basilica was built in his honour, decorated with wonderful frescoes by Renaissance painters. One of St. Francis' disciples was St. Clare, who founded the Order of the Poor Clares, the female order of the Franciscans. The town is an absolute gem, drawing millions of tourists and pilgrims; although recently severely damaged by an earthquake, the basilica has been restored.
Perugia is one of the best preserved medieval hill towns of Italy, one of the Etruscans' twelve powerful city states in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE. The Romans conquered it in 310 BCE and called it Perusia. It had a violent history, both because of internal feuds and wars with neighbouring city states. It was the birthplace of the Flagellants, a 13th century Christian sect that practised whipping themselves to pay for their sins. It became part of the Papal States in 1538.