Thank you to Matthew for this great guest blog post! Makes me want to visit Umbria – oh wait …. 😂
5 Reasons to Visit Umbria
August 3rd, 2019 | By: Matthew Williams
Often described as the ‘green heart’ of Italy, Umbria is a peaceful oasis of rolling green hills, impressive hilltop towns and delicious culinary traditions. It is the only Italian region not to have a coastline and contains Lake Trasimeno, one of the country’s largest and most picturesque lakes. Despite all it has going for it, Umbria is relatively unknown amongst international tourists and makes the perfect relaxed alternative to its better-known neighbour, Tuscany. If you are still not convinced to give Umbria a try, read on and discover 5 reasons you have to put this region on your travel bucket list!
#1 Gorgeous landscapes
Umbria is known as the ‘green heart’ of the country for good reason. This hilly region is very agricultural with olive groves, vineyards, tobacco and grain fields alongside tall mountains and forests. In amongst all this greenery you will spot the proud hilltop villages, ancient religious sites and fortifications which dominate the landscape for miles around. It is a region that just cries out to be explored and one of the best ways to experience it is from the air! With Balloon Adventures Italy you can enjoy a gentle ride over this unforgettable landscape and see some of its best-known sights, such as the valley of Assisi. Take in the breath-taking views of the region with your world record holding pilot, Captain Peter, and combine the flight with a traditional Umbrian breakfast and wine tasting. A hot air balloon ride is a unique way to discover Umbria’s beauty and is an experience you will not forget in a hurry!
#2 Wonderful wine
Umbria’s gentle climate and varying altitudes make it prime wine growing country. The region is home to several different varieties, both red and white, with the Sagrantino di Montefalco wine being the most celebrated. You will find plenty of opportunities to taste the local wines during your stay in Umbria with each town having its own favourite. A great way to get to know a bit more about the region’s wine traditions and get a taste of the different varieties is to join a vineyard tour. Gusto Wine Tours are a wonderful option as they will take you around some of the best small family-owned vineyards in small groups. During your visits you will get the chance to walk amongst the vines, take a tour of the production process, visit the barrel rooms and of course get a taste of the delicious wines with a sumptuous feast of local produce for lunch. If you come during the harvest season you may even get the chance to cut some grapes yourself! A wine tour with Gusto is a fantastic way to meet local producers and experience their passion for what they do.
#3 Rustic cuisine
Umbria’s agricultural bounty has ensured that this is a region rich in delicious traditional farm to table dishes. In Umbria the cuisine is made from fresh, seasonal produce that is transformed into simple, hearty, and unpretentious dishes. The region is well known for its pork products with sausages, hams and salami from Norcia being highly prized, sheep and goat’s cheeses, such as pecorino and ricotta, and lentils from Castelluccio di Norcia which have been protected with a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). However, the most famous products to come out of this region are black truffles and rare white truffles. These delicacies are combined with game meat and pasta dishes to create truly unique flavours that you will want to come back to time and time again. If you get the chance, make sure to join a truffle hunt with a local guide and be amazed by their techniques.
#4 Spectacular Churches
Umbria is home to the sacred tomb of Saint Francis of Assisi and it is a wonderful place to visit, no matter your beliefs, together with the two spectacular churches that grew up around it. Set in the dramatic valley of Assisi, the Basilica of San Francesco complex was built in the 13th century and is a UNESCO listed Gothic masterpiece. Visitors can marvel at one of Italy’s greatest pieces of art in in the Basilica Superiore with Giotto’s 28 wonderful frescos depicting the life of Saint Francis. These beautiful works were created by a young Giotto in the 1290s and vividly bring to life episodes of the story of Saint Francis. Some of these frescos were badly damaged by an earthquake in 1997, but have since been restored. The older Romanesque Basilica Inferiore also contains wonderful works of art by Cimabue, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti, and more work by Giotto. Here you will also find the tomb of Saint Francis. It is a destination you do not want to miss out during your trip to Umbria and there are some fantastic scenic pilgrimage routes you can follow to get there!
#5 Fascinating ancient history
This region of Italy has been important to a number of civilisations over the centuries and you can still see their legacy across Umbria today. Some of the most important were the Etruscans. They occupied much of Umbria and surrounding regions and evidence of their culture has been found as far back as 900 BC. This sophisticated people were heavily influenced by the Ancient Greeks and were eventually brought into the Roman Empire by 27 BC. In Umbria’s regional capital, Perugia, you can find much evidence of Etruscan influence with a surviving arch and city wall. In Orvieto you will find some of the best Etruscan artefacts, including wall paintings, outside of Florence across three archaeological museums. There are also tours of the many tunnels under the city where you can see an ancient Etruscan temples and carvings! For Roman history you have plenty of options from the surviving theatre in Gubbio, a Roman villa in Spoleto and the Roman walls and museum in Todi. The Romans shaped much of the region and many towns are based on ancient Roman foundations, many of which are still visible. Umbria is an ideal holiday location for ancient history buffs!
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