Umbria is a small region called the green heart of Italy for its flourishing vegetation and untouched landscapes. It is in a landlocked location, between Tuscany and Marche with no access to the sea.
Sadly, it has been one of the most overlooked areas for a very long time, when most visitors tended to prefer the more glamorous Tuscany, but it has recently become a quite popular tourist destination. And no wonder why, considering that it is a region that can offer plenty of things to do, pretty villages to visit, one of the most famous jazz festivals in the world and loads of delicious local food and wine to discover.
Culture seekers won’t be disappointed, with its offering of ancient villages rich in monuments and history: Orvieto, Assisi, Todi, Spoleto and Perugia, just to name a few.
Orvieto is beautifully perched on a tuffaceous outcrop, is an enchanting town with an outstanding Duomo, recognisable from its distinctive and beautifully decorated façade.
Assisi is known all over the world as the birthplace of St Francis attracts every year millions of pilgrims coming to celebrate the saint, but also to visit the two levels basilica now Unesco World Heritage site and its excellent frescoes dating back from the XII century.
Todi is situated on top of a hill overlooking the Tiber valley, is a very ancient city with first settlements dating back 2700 years before Christ and can offer, in its elegant town center, a variety of buildings with various architectural styles; the Romanesque Duomo, the Gothic Palazzo dei Priori and the Renaissance-style Tempio di Santa Maria della Consolazione.
Spoleto has a more medieval feeling. From the south the view of the castle and the robust bridge that was used as an aqueduct by the Romans is stunning. Spoleto is also the location of Festival dei 2 Mondi that every summer is a call for all music lovers of Europe.
Perugia is the biggest town of the region and has a beautifully preserved historic centre. Chocolate lovers can’t miss Eurochocolate the annual mouth watering chocolate festival. Music enthusiasts will certainly appreciate Umbria Jazz, the most important jazz festival of Italy taking place every summer.
Those looking for relax should visit the Trasimeno lake, the biggest lake of central Italy and a quiet spot with plenty of hiking trails in the unspoilt neighbouring nature. The surrounding countryside is gently hilled and spotted with olive groves, vineyards and pastoral sceneries. The region is also the perfect destination for those planning a SPA trip to get pampered in total relax surrounded by rolling hills and blooming green vegetation that are a feast for the eyes and the heart.
Umbria is also a region that can offer plenty of genuine local ingredients to taste: truffles, olive oil, pecorino and exquisite cured meats.
If you can’t resist salami, ham or coppa, then you shouldn’t miss a stop in Norcia, so famous for the high quality of the cured meats produced that the Italian term `norcineria`, has been created to indicate the specific shop for these products.
The local cuisine is generally quite simple and rustic but extremely tasty and it’s characterized by lot of game, pastas and delicious hearty soups.
The region also produces the Sagrantino di Montefalco, one of the most up-and-coming red wines of Italy, made with 100% Sagrantino, a local grape variety. The wine is warm, powerful and round; it has good tannins and can age quite well.
In the same area, south of Perugia, another interesting red is produced: the Torgiano Rosso, probably less deep and concentrated but certainly of excellent quality.
White wine lovers should taste the Orvieto, produced from Grechetto grape blended with Trebbiano and a few other local grapes. This is a relatively light white with a good aromatic palette, excellent as aperitif or with pasta dishes.
Monuments, music, art, relax, wine and food, and, luckily enough, despite all the attractions that this region can offer, prices are still fair and often lower than the neighbouring Tuscany.