Suppose you love Italy. You want to know it better. You’ve been to Rome, seen Florence, done Venice. You want to savour the country’s delights, but don’t want to be drowned by too many tourists. Then may we suggest you try Umbria?
Nicknamed “The Green Heart of Italy,” Umbria is nestled next to Tuscany in central Italy. Landlocked, entirely tucked away from the sea, it is a continuous unfolding of dulcet hills and undulating green valleys, gentle mountains and glittering lakes. Sanctuaries dot the roads, hilltop villages reign over the vast countryside, and medieval castles and churches beckon behind silvery olive groves.
Let us tempt you with a few examples of Umbria’s beauties and attractions.
Take, for example, Deruta, where we hold our classes. Deruta ceramics are a milestone in the history of Italian pottery. They gained worldwide fame during the Renaissance thanks to their creative and qualitative excellence. Deruta pottery was much sought after by noblemen and rich merchants at the time. Now it is the highlight of world renowned Art Museums, among them V&A London and NGA Washington. Deruta dinnerware and decorative pottery are still deservedly popular and many present-day ceramicists keep the tradition alive.
Perugia, the biggest city in Umbria, is a modern city with some 150,000 inhabitants, but the old town perched at the top of the hill is as ancient as anywhere in Italy;, full of palazzos and piazzas that make you feel as if you’ve wandered onto the set of Romeo and Juliet. You can walk in streets so narrow that you imagine that lovers could lean out and kiss across them; and eat your pasta in an osteria carved out of an Etruscan wall that was built centuries before the Romans arrived. In October, chocoholics and chocolatiers from all over Europe come to Perugia for Eurochocolate, a nine-day celebration of the magic bean. This, after all, is the place that has given the world millions of its Baci, or chocolate kisses.
However, if you thirst for less visceral delights, pleasure yourself with the Pinturicchio exhibition in Perugia’s National Gallery; this treasure house is already home to some of his masterpieces and will be giving wall space to other triumphs of his rich expertise lent by galleries from around the world.
In the month of July Perugia also hosts one of the most important jazz festivals around the world, Umbria Jazz. During this festival people have the opportunity to see the performance of international artists of the highest level, as well as enjoying a city that for the occasion drapes itself with an innovative look.
Visit the jewel-like medieval town of Assisi, where St Francis, the playboy turned pilgrim, slept on straw. St Francis made Assisi world-famous and the third-most-frequented destination in Italy for pilgrims. Visit the Basilica of San Francesco, miraculously restored after the earthquake 10 years ago.
Drive on to Spoleto, where the composer Gian Carlo Menotti decided to hold his Festival of Two Worlds half a century ago and where the magnificent Roman amphitheatre still provides the principal mise en scène for its orchestral concerts.
If you are pasta lover, then you shouldn’t miss the annual national festival that takes place in Foligno at the end of September, “Primi d’Italia” (a play on words with the word “primi” that indicates the pasta dishes and that also means “first”, as in “first place”). During this successful pasta festival that takes place in the historical center of Foligno, a city that unlike its neighbouring mediaval villages and towns had its best during the Renaissance, you will have the opportunity to learn more about pasta and all other “primi piatti” (first dishes), such as rice, gnocchi, polenta, soups, with great emphasis on health. Come hungry, you will not be disappointed!
Take some time to stop at the sleepy, sun-soaked village of Montefalco, famed for its elite red wine, which you can sample in the enoteca. Stroll through Bevagna, where the locals dress in medieval costumes each summer to perform their mystery plays. And then marvel at the astonishing Roman mosaic floors depicting in myriad stones the lobsters and calamari that the local foodies had tucked away 2,000 years ago.
These are only a few examples of the things you can do and the places you can see in Umbria. Come and discover for yourself the rest. We are certain you will be amazed!