“La terra dei santi”, the land of saints…
Named after the hundreds of saints born here, including St Valentine and the two fathers of Western monasticism, St Francis and St Benedict.
A region of Central Italy bordered by Tuscany to the west, the Marche to the east and Lazio to the south. Known for its landscapes, traditions, history, culinary delights, artistic legacy, and influence on culture. The only Italian region which is landlocked, with no common border with other countries.
Characterised by hills, mountains, valleys and historical hill-towns such as Perugia and Assisi At the Basilica of San Francesco and other Franciscan sites you will find works by Giotto and Cimabue that mark a turning point in the history of Western art. The Città di Castello; Renaissance center of the Tiber High Valley; Gubbio (the hometown of St. Ubald and of Federico da Montefeltro); the Umbri’s capital city was Gubbio, today housing the longest and most important document of any of the Osco-Umbrian group of languages, the Iguvine Tablets; Orvieto’s duomo is one of the country’s finest cathedrals; Castiglione del Lago; Narni; Amelia; the two favourites, Todi and Spoleto, known for it’s summer festival, one of Europe’s major cultural events and many other intimate smaller centres are all worth a visit.
A region where the food, wine, art, culture and architecture are the equal of any in Italy. A few years ago known as Tuscany’s less alluring sister, these days it is every bit as celebrated as its famous neighbour. This area has the same glorious pastoral scenery as Tuscany;the olive groves, vineyards,cypress-topped hills andhigh mountain landscapes such as the Monti Sibillini.
Umbria is a small region with great tastes which satisfy all palates. The best dish for meat lovers is pork, masterfully treated by Umbrian butchers who turn the meat into delicacies like sausages, tasty hams and salami, to be eaten with unsalted bread which brings out the taste. The truffle is the most precious ingredient of all. The most common variety is the black truffle, very popular with pasta or game, especially in the area of Norcia and Spoleto. More valuable white truffles can be found as well, particularly in the Tiberina Valley, Orvieto and Gubbio. Norcia, (the hometown of St. Benedict) with its truffles, hams and cheeses is a gastronomic centre par excellence.
Everything is seasoned with the golden and fruity olive oil produced in this region, which enhances any dish without upstaging the flavour; Umbrian oil of high quality is awarded with a PDO quality mark (Protected Designation of Origin).
Vast landscapes are almost empty, smothered in woodland or olive groves, and punctuated by hills that roll their way to a hazy horizon. A crisscrossed network of marked hiking and biking trails can be found here. Follow the wanderings of Saint Francis, Italy’s patron saint who spent much of his life amid this bucolic scenery. The Grand Tour Rando is a cycle path starting from Marmore Waterfall in Terni as a series of long-distance cycling routes dating back to the 18th and 19th century
Rides of 200km-300km start from Marmore Falls. From central Spoleto, roam to the ilex woods of Monteluco and back via the Ponte delle Torri, a 90m-high medieval aqueduct that spans a 200m ravine outside the town. Local legend claims that Michelangelo liked to stroll around here, past the ancient stone carvings of San Pietro church. A six-day trail also connects the birthplaces of early Franciscan martyrs, in the hills west of Terni.
Spoleto was the final stop for one of the Renaissance era’s most notorious painters. Filippo Lippi was a Carmelite friar who fled Tuscany after an affair with a novice nun called Lucrezia Buti. She started by modelling as the Virgin for one of his Madonna and Child paintings and ended up bearing him a son, Filippino, who also became a painter. Lippi died midway through painting the apse frescoes in Spoleto cathedral.
One of the most important festivals in Umbria is the festival of the Ceri (Saint Ubaldo Day) in Gubbio, a run held every year since 1160 on the 15th day of May
One of the biggest jazz music festivals was born as a thrilling festival in 1973, and since 2003 is being held in the Umbrian capital “Perugia” each July.
The time to grab Umbria’s best bargain lunch: the porchetta (herbed pork sold in a roll) vendor is a permanent fixture. The markets in Città di Castello (Thursday) and Orvieto (Thursday and Saturday) are worth making tracks for. Umbria’s food industry produces processed pork-meats, confectionery, pasta and the traditional products of Valnerina (truffles, lentils and cheese) in preserved form.
Don’t disdain the historical hill-towns of Umbria off season: January and February are cold, but often dry, and with so many indoor cultural attractions–galleries, churches and museums–and only locals in the restaurants and markets, it may be worthwhile exploring the region at this time of year.