Europe

Umbria, Italy

umbria1

Italy’s Hidden Green Gem

Umbria is the center of the world… at least that’s what Umbrians like to claim. Their argument goes like this: their province sits in the center of Italy, and Italy, according to all Italians, is the center of Europe and Europe is the center… well you get the idea. But there is good cause for Umbrians to be boastful. Often overlooked amid the craze for Tuscany, the villages and countryside of Umbria are every bit as interesting and far less crowded. Umbria is known as the green basket of Italy for its rich agricultural production and healthy, rustic cuisine. Not only is it green with pastures, dense forests and verdant valleys, but it is also dotted with exquisite hill-top villages that contain some of the greatest artistic and architectural achievements in Italy. Orvieto, Todi, Assisi, Perugia… each town has its unique character and traditions.

In Assisi, admire the great frescoes by Giotto; Perugia offers chocolate indulgences and a lively university scene; Deruta is famed for its ceramics, and Montefalco for its exuberant sagrantino wine and fine linens. The ancient Roman town of Spello hosts a flower festival each year in June during Corpus Domini, where the main streets are literally paved with a carpet of blossoms. Bevagna holds a week-long medieval festival called Mercato delle Gaite, where the citizens dress in period costumes and demonstrate the crafts associated with that era, such as basket weaving, candle making, silk production and paper pressing, and taverns serve food prepared from medieval recipes. Nearby, Spoleto hosts an international music festival that attracts the greatest voices from around the world, as well as dance companies and theatre productions.

Venture further east toward the Sibillini mountains and you can experience a secret part of Umbria that is rich in natural beauty, pre-Roman settlements and gastronomic specialties such as porchetta (roasted suckling pig stuffed with herbs and spices) and dark, earthy truffles. Norcia, Visso and Gubbio are all towns off the tourist circuit that are also worth exploring. Umbria is probably best known for its hearty soups made with locally-grown legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and roveliga (a bean that the Etruscans cherished) and homemade pastas such as strangozzi e taglietelle. Truffles, wild boar and game, fresh, in-season produce and the highly acclaimed, peppery-green first-pressings of olive oil are impossible to resist.

Umbria Must-Dos and Can’t-Misses…

  • Vineyard tour and wine tasting at our friend, Sergio Mottura’s, winery outside Orvieto
  • The Etruscan catacombs of Perugia
  • A day trip to Gubbio or the Sibillini Park visiting Norcia and Castelluccio
  • The frescoes of Assisi
  • Cappuccino in the piazza of Todi
  • Ceramics shopping in Deruta and linens and wine shopping in Montefalco
  • The Duomo in Orvieto
  • Rocca di Spoleto and Ponte delle Torri – 13th century aqueduct connected to a scenic footpath and the fortress

Umbria for the Kids…

  • Riding up the funicular for a gelato in the main piazza of Todi
  • A day at the Bomarzo Monster Park, a 16th century estate with a Mannerist labyrinth of monsters, tortoises, obelisks, nympheums and giant statues designed to scare “ladies and knights”
  • A ceramics class in Deruta
  • Discovering the Grotti, or underground catacombs, of Orvieto
  • Chocolate tasting in Perugia
  • Climbing the fortress at the top of Assisi
  • Hiking Mount Subasio behind Assisi and visiting St. Francis’s hermitage “Eremo delle Carcere”

Casa Ceramica

Bedrooms: 4Bathrooms: 4Children: YesMax Occupancy: 8

La Veranda

Quiet country living near Todi

Bedrooms: 5Bathrooms: 4Children: YesMax Occupancy: 10

Casa Grazia

Charming villa with Tiber Valley views

Bedrooms: 6Bathrooms: 5Children: YesMax Occupancy: 12

Casale Armonia

A peaceful retreat with spectacular views

Bedrooms: 6Bathrooms: 4Children: YesMax Occupancy: 12

Torre Atti

Historic tower overlooking the Tiber Valley

Bedrooms: 6Bathrooms: 6Children: YesMax Occupancy: 12

Villa Russo

A spectacular Umbrian estate

Bedrooms: 7Bathrooms: 7Children: YesMax Occupancy: 14