Umbria uses the foods her land offers skillfully and ingeniously, without pretense. The Umbrians will be the first to tell you that theirs is a peasant cuisine, one that remains tied to its pastoral roots, and they keep things simple more out of necessity than out of rigor or philosophy. Although Umbria’s cuisine may be less known than others outside its territory, people quickly fall in love with its genuine touch and amable flavours. Olive oil, golden and delicate, laces almost every dish. Bread is baked without salt, as in Tuscany. Pork, king of the Umbrian table, is at its best in Norcia, a town so renowned for its butchers that the Italian word for pork butcher is norcino.
Umbria is also the land of legumes (lentils and beans). The tiny lentils from the town of Castelluccio are among the region’s prized offerings, cooked into hearty soups, tossed with fresh pasta, or served as a robust accompaniment to rich meat dishes.
Truffles are also a superb product that this generous land offers. The white and the black truffles add aroma and flavour to many dishes.
Today, grape cultivation has modernised and specialised, in a constant search for quality. Extremely varied soil and climatic factors enable the cultivation of prized vines, including indigenous varieties. It is therefore not by chance that Umbria boasts a range of extraordinary wines, increasingly well known and appreciated outside Italy as well. Particularly outstanding are the “magnificent thirteen,” composed of eleven DOC wines and two DOCG wines. The pinnacle of the millenary regional tradition is represented by Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG, along with Sagrantino DOCG di Montefalco, in the “passito” and dry varieties, with its unmistakable bouquet of blackberries. The delightful town of Torgiano hosts a Wine Museum and a hugely popular annual wine-tasting event, the Banco d’Assaggio dei Vini d’Italia. The DOC labels of Umbria are: Assisi, Colli Altotiberini, Colli del Trasimeno, Colli Perugini, Torgiano, Colli Martani, Montefalco, Lago di Corbara, Orvieto Rosso, and Colli Amerini. Worthy of special mention is Orvieto Classico, an ancient and noble white wine beloved by popes and the architects and artists of the Duomo (Luca Signorelli requested a thousand litres per year by contract). To discover the secrets of the art of wine-making, a good starting point would be the four “Strade del vino” (Wine Roads), tasting itineraries that also include sites of historical and artistic interest: the Strada del Sagrantino, which extends around Montefalco; the Strada dei Vini del Cantico, which joins Todi, Perugia, Torgiano, Spello and Assisi; the Strada del Vino Colli del Trasimeno; and the Strada dei Vini Etrusco-Romana, wedged into the province of Terni following the course of the Tiber.
Tiziana, our trusted sommelier, will carefully choose the wines for our meals and would be more than pleased to advise you on other wines to try while in Umbria.
Just as extraordinary as the wine, Umbrian olive oil boasts a quality with few rivals in Italy, given that about 90% of it is extra-virgin. Truly a record. The merit, once again, goes to the climatic conditions and the soil of the foothills of the Apennines, ideal for the slow ripening of the olives, which ensures their low acidity. Cold pressed and for the most part mixed, they yield fruity and flavourful oil with an intense green colour, an essential ingredient of the traditional cuisine. Olive oil is used for finishing a host of dishes, meat included, but is also delightful as a simple flavoring for your bread. Umbria is the only Italian region to have obtained the DOP designation for the entire territory, divided into five production zones: Colli di Assisi e Spoleto, Colli Martani, Colli Amerini, Colli del Trasimeno, and Colli Orvietani. A number of museums preserve and hand down the culture of olive oil, including the Museo della Civiltà dell’Olio e dell’Ulivo in Trevi and the Museo Lungarotti dell’Olio in Torgiano.