Uncovering Umbria

by Letizia Mattiacci

Umbria is a small Italian region located approximately between Rome and Florence. It's a magical place, ideal for a peaceful retreat after the excitement of the bigger and better known Italian destinations.

For many experienced travelers Umbria is a home away from home. Medieval hill towns dot rolling hills covered by olive groves and vineyards. Food is family style, deeply rooted in the land. Truffle, pork, wild asparagus, and silky homemade pasta are some of the many local specialties. All should be generously doused with peppery olive oil and accompanied by a red-like-love Sagrantino wine.

You can visit most of Umbria's marvelous hill-towns during a day trip from one of the beautiful central locations in the region, like Assisi or Perugia.

You will need a 4-5 days visit to see other highlights like Orvieto, Gubbio Spoleto, Norcia, Bevagna and Montefalco, but there is enough to do for at least two weeks, including some magnificent hiking.

3 Tips for Off the Beaten Path Experiences

1.) Enjoy a panoramic drive on a country road. For example, if you stay near Assisi, ask locally how to reach the Ponte di San Vittorino. Take the road that goes uphill towards Valfabbrica. You'll have breathtaking views over Assisi, the Natural Park of the Subasio Mountain and later on the Mount Cucco. From Valfabbrica go to Gubbio, a splendid medieval town also known for the beautiful handmade ceramics.

2.) Visit the textile workshop of Giuditta Brozzetti in Perugia. In a gothic deconsecrated church now used as a workshop, hand-woven fine jacquard cotton, linen, silk, and wool cloth is produced on antique wooden manual looms, many dating from the 19th century. Call in advance for an appointment +39 07540236.

3.) Have a meal at Osteria del teatro in Foligno. Pierino the owner is a former physical education teacher who has turned his hobby into a profession. He's a fabulous cook and if it's a quiet day he will show you his spectacular underground XVI century cellar (Via Petrucci 8, Tel 3473401778 Closed Sun. dinner and Mon. lunch). After lunch or before dinner make sure to have some time for shopping. Foligno is not a tourist destination so no knick knacks are for sale but you'll find instead an attractive selection of fashion and house-design shops.

Letizia Mattiacci, together with her husband Ruurd and daughter Tea, runs the Agriturismo and Cooking school Alla Madonna del Piatto, near Assisi in Umbria. She teaches cooking classes in her kitchen with a view on the Umbrian countryside. You can find her recipes, cooking tips, images and stories about Umbria in her blog at www.madonnadelpiatto.com. She is also on Twitter @MadonnaDP .