- Rooted in rusticity
- Picturesque Poreta hillside
- Volcanic-stone vineyard barn
- Overlooking Orvieto
- Cardinal’s inn
- Mountainous Montefalco
- Aristocrat’s peaceful palace
- Narrow Norcian streets
- Rolling hills, Roman ruins
- Country Life
- Walk like an Etruscan
Umbria is a rustic playground of pleasures, where food, fortified towns and fine wines will sate your every cultural and culinary need.
Italy’s landlocked heart lies dead centre between Florence and Rome – a bucolic blanket of hills, peaks and plains. Populous Perugia is the region’s epicentre, industrious Terni its southern hub. But it’s away from the larger towns that Umbria excels: its terracotta-topped villages line up like a pageant of fortified beauties – ancient, and abundant in churches and castles. Cultural heritage is not Umbria’s only rich vein – the Slow Food movement is strong in this produce-laden province. If it’s not the wild boar and truffles of its woods supplying your plate, it could just as easily be lamb from the mountains, trout from its rivers, or a tipple from its many wineries. Too long has Umbria lived in Tuscany’s shade – the region’s diverse attractions making it as well-rounded as the vowels in its melodious name.
Truffles, aka tartufi, are highly prized in Umbria: these expensive, weirdly earthy-tasting tubers can be found in patés and pastes slathered on bruschetta. Scorzone (summer truffles) are the most abundant; black or white truffles are their rarer cousins. Harvested in winter months, these hard-to-find delicacies are celebrated in Norcia in February at the annual Black Truffle Fair. Any time of year, snaffle a bottle of nutty truffle oil to take home and drizzle over pasta or salads.
- In Orvieto, try Catarcia Simone Taxi Service (+39 360 433016; www.orvietotaxi.it). For cabs around Norcia, Piazzale Giovanni Polvani operates out of Spoleto (+39 0743 220489).
- Packing tips
- A penknife for picnic cheese and ciabatte, and uncorking the Orvieto; binoculars to help you pick out the bird life and wild boar around the Monti Sibillini.
- Recommended reads
- The Road to Assisi by Paul Sabatier; Umbria-set novel After Hannibal by Barry Unsworth; a book of saints to flesh out your tour of the region’s many churches.
- Regional specialities
- Umbrian olive oil is known for being more peppery and fruity, and less acidic than other Italian varieties – pick up a first-press oil from a small frantoio (olive mill) near Spoleto. Wild boar, mountain lamb and game are typical meats of the region. Umbria’s ricotta cheese is salted and rolled in bran – perfect for crumbling over pasta. Castelluccio lentils – DOC regulated – are from the high-altitude plains of the Monti Sibillini and, like puy, make a really toothsome soup with some nuttiness. This is a major wineland, producing stars such as Orvieto Classico, and Montefalco reds.
- Euro (€).
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Italy: +39. Perugia area code: 075.
- Do go/don't go
- June onwards brings a festival fest to the region, adding extra colour to your visit. For a balance of crowds versus weather, spring months March to May are favourable, beating September and October by a whisker. If you don’t mind cooler temperatures, have Umbria to yourself, December to February.
Don't go home without...
A bottle of Sagrantino di Montefalco, Umbria’s flagship wine. Excellent boutique winery, Paolo Bea in Montefalco, can give you a tour of vintages, tips and tastings (www.paolobea.com).