As the name of our blog indicates, we like to get off the beaten path and explore the quieter, less visited places wherever we go in the world. In our home base of Canada, this means making our way by foot, canoe and rough logging road to see waterfalls, lakes, mountains and other wonderful natural sights alongside the occasional ghost town or two.

In Europe however, I’m all about the tiny villages, walled towns and towering castles found just off the main roads. For such a densely populated continent, I’m always surprised what can be found. Our trip to Umbria and Tuscany last spring was a great example of that.

castle near umbertide umbria

Walking the walls

Every turn on the road in Umbria seemed to lead us to another walled town or hilltop village. Up in the air and away from the traffic, these communities offer stunning panoramas and plenty of peace and quiet. Depending on the parking situation, they can also provide a bit of a work out to actually reach them!

cortona tuscany italy

cortona views tuscany italy flowers

cortona tuscany jr view

umbrian countryside italy

The details of daily life

Walking around quiet towns really makes me notice the small things – colourful shutters, beautiful stone stairs, meticulously potted plants, sun beaten roof tiles, so many cats! – that I am less likely to spot and appreciate in larger and busier towns and cities.

umbria montone houses

umbria cat montone italy

umbria roof tiles italy

cortona tuscany italy lamp

Experiencing the unexpected

My absolute favourite thing about driving the backroads of Umbria and Tuscany was stumbling across places we weren’t looking for. We found many a castle (from the crumbling to the restored) this way but also the best find of all, a ruined church high above the small town of Umbertide. We have no details on the age of it or the history of why it came to be how it is now, but it really was a sight to see and explore.

ruined church near umbertide umbria

umbria ruined church umbertide

jr ruined church near umbertide umbria

altar ruined church umbria

These narrow streets

I’ll finish my ode to the backroads with some advice. Walking through wonderfully narrow streets is something to marvel in every town, but driving through them is definitely NOT fun! We found ourselves in a couple of tight (quite literally) situations with only a very narrow way out. Finding parking (and knowing when and how to reverse) is advisable before venturing into most walled or hilltop towns.

narrow streets cortona tuscany

driving narrow streets umbria


jr gemma mirror umbria


Pin this photo below for future reference!Exploring the Backroads of Umbria and TuscanyRead this next: 5 Mistakes to Avoid on a Road Trip in Europe



One half of a Canadian/British couple currently based in New Brunswick, Canada. Gemma is happiest with a kayak/canoe paddle in her hand, on the trail or planning the next big adventure.

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