TRAVEL BLOG -
Travelling, Tasting, Experiencing The Green Heart of ITALY
Italy's hidden treasure: Umbria Rocks! Let Me Count the Ways...(But don't tell anyone)
Umbria made another victim: Penny Bell from Canada, we had the great pleasure to meet here in Todi during her stay in our town some weeks ago.
Here her impression we are so happy to post and to share on our blog, of course!
Grazie mille Penny!
Umbria - ph. credit Penny Bell
This spring, my husband and I ( from Toronto, Canada) wanted to rent a house in Italy with our four children and their spouses, somewhere where we had never been, somewhere not touristy, and somewhere we all would love (especially my husband who is an obsessive and competitive photographer).
We lucked into Umbria, and we are hooked for life.
Unlike Tuscany, which is gently rolling and cultivated, Umbria is wilder and has landscapes that take your breath away: lushly forested hills and mountains, gorgeous rolling valleys dotted with old farmhouses surrounded by small vineyards and olive orchards, beautiful ancient hilltop towns still very liveable and happening (like Todi!!), where Etruscan walls are piled on Roman walls that are piled on Medieval walls that are topped with apartments old and newly renovated by locals and people from all over the world who have fallen in love with Umbria...
Todi - ph. credit Penny Bell
...locally grown and produced fresh food to die for (simple, seasonal, tasty, incredibly good)..some of my favourites: truffles, fresh wild asparagus, pecorino cheese of endless variety, wonderful salamis, sausages, and cured meats, succulent tiny lamb chops like I've never eaten before, roasted wild boar stew, hearty bean soups, spring vegetable stew with delicious green round beans, the regional wines (like the Orvieto white from the Grechetto grape and the Sagrantino reds), and the famous Umbrian olive oil that sends me into ecstasies (and it has the highest amount of antioxidants of any olive oil, great for the skin!)...
Todi - ph. credit Penny Bell
... very friendly and welcoming people, proud of their unique Umbrian culture, and really happy to share it with outsiders ( perhaps because Umbria is still off the beaten path, and you never see hordes of tourists here or tour buses clogging the roads);everything is less expensive here than in other parts of Italy (like Tuscany);and a slow pace of life, where each moment is treasured for what it has to offer, and Umbria has so much to offer. We can't wait to return and explore more of this wonderful place!
Read the passion and love for Umbria from our guest bloggers. Related posts and more tips clickhere
[Some] Top Food Festivals in Umbria Spring-Summer 2013
knows that we, Italians, we love celebrations. Religious or not, you
know very well that we love festeggiare with food and wine. Always and
ever. The best way to enjoy Umbria and Italy, to live authentic experiences in
contact with locals, is definitely planning your stay in conjunction
with one, or more, festivals. Here
a first list to our favourite Food and Wine Events from May to
September in Umbria (especially the ones close to our area, Todi), a first
draft that we'll be happy to constantly update during the season. Stay tuned and...visit Umbria!
PORCHETTIAMO - 10-11-12 MAY 2013 - SAN TERENZIANO
Porchettiamo is "the" festival for celebrating one of the most famous Umbrian "child": porchetta, the traditional roast pork.San Terenziano and Grutti nice villages very close to Todi, are famous in the region for this pork production.
This "typical and
delicious food, rich in history, both noble and popular, has always been the street, square, fair and market-food". All the
porchetta producers at Porchettiamo have been carefully selected by the organizers
quality, craftsmanship and authenticity. This year the festival will also host other tasty "friends" of porchetta, like Cicotto (recently got the prestigious title of Slow Food Presidia) and Lampredotto, a traditional product from Florence together with gluten free sandwiches and beers for celiacs, wine and special traditional drinks.
Need detoxing? Don't worry, Umbria is also able to offer it. Thanks to its huge quantity of natural springs,the region celebrates its watersduring UmbriaWater Festival with events all over the region from Marmore Waterfalls, to Clitunno Springs- loved and glorified even by Lord Byron - to Trasimeno Lake. On MAY 18, the cozy little village of Parrano,province of Terni,located on the western border of Umbria,in a very quiet, wonderful and wild area, very rich in termal waters, organizes - thanks to the efforts of its eclectic Mayor Vittorio Tarparelli and in collaboration with the local associations, Slow Food Orvieto and the sommeliers from Fisar - a very nice full day event including a guided visit to the famous gorge of Parrano called also "the Devil's hole", mineral waters and traditional breads tasting, wine and food tastingand more. More information: firstname.lastname@example.org
APERTE – "WINERIES OPEN DAY” MAY 26 2013 - All over UMBRIA This is the most
important wine event of the year , involving wine as the main
protagonist together with the people who produce it and the territory
where it is made. Since 1993, during the the last Sunday of May, the members of the association "Movimento Turismo del Vino" have opened their doors to the
vast public establishing in this way an immediate and direct contact
with all wine tourists and lovers. If you'll be in our wine area doc Todi, to taste our special white wine Grechetto, we also suggest a visit to Todi Fiorita - 24-26 MAY 2013national
exhibition of Flower Gardening. More information: movimentoturismovino.it / todifiorita.it
DELLE GAITE JUNE 20-30 2013 - BEVAGNA Listing Mercato della Gaite as a food festival is definitely reducing. Mercato delle Gaite is"the" Medieval Festival par excellence. Inspired by the ancient division of Bevagna in four differentquarters (gaita), the aim of the festival is recreating - paying attention to every detail, the authentic daily life of its citizens between 1250 and 1350. In Bevagna during these ten days it is possible toget into a time capsule, visiting ancient shops, experiencing medieval crafts, arts and games and tasting at night, in its magical piazzas and narrow streets, food and specialities prepared following original recipes from the XIII century. More information: mercatodellegaite.it
SAGRA - SUMMER
FOOD FESTIVALS –JUNE TO SEPTEMBER - All over Umbria Summer is the season of Sagra, the local food festivals that take place almost in every medium-little village in the region. Listing all the sagras is not simple, although there are some interesting websites (in Italian) like umbriasagre.com where you can find updated information on the most important ones. However, if you are renting a countryhouse or you're booking an hotel stay, the best way to get to know about the sagras in the vicinity is asking your host. Sagras infact are organized mainly by and for local people, therefore, in many cases advertised only locally. Among all the sagras, the one we really are in love with is Porto Sagra del Pesce lake fish festival organized by the warm-hearted
citizens of the small village of Porto, close to Trasimeno
lake, every year the week before Ferragosto (August 15)
DELLA CIPOLLA SEPTEMBER 4-8/10-15 2013 - CANNARA The little town of Cannara celebrates every year one of the best Umbrian products: la cipolla, THE onion. Cutivated in the area of Cannara for centuriesthanks to the special characteristics of the soil, very rich in potassium, a basic element for the cultivation of these"hi-end" onions. Yes, because Cipolla di Cannara is really so tasty that during the festa is used to prepare special dishes like the memorableparmigiana and even onion cream-filled doughnuts! Incredible "tales and legends" (all related to the smell of the participants persisting for several days after the event...) are connected to Festa della Cipolla di Cannara. Here two funny stories and useful tips about it bytoplocal expertsRebecca Winke and Jennifer McIlvane. More information on Cipolla di Cannara producers (in Italian): cipolladicannara.it Information on the Festa: festadellacipolla.com
MONTEFALCO SEPTEMBER 15-18 2013 - MONTEFALCO Among all the wine festivals in Umbria, Enologica Montefalco is definitely our favourite. Organized in the village who gives the name to the area of production of one of the most prestigios Umbrian wines Sagrantino, Enologica includes wine tasting of Montefalco doc/docg wines - tasting room located in the former monastery of Sant'Agostino in the centre of the town - guided tours to some wineries, conferences and more: Festa della Vendemmia, grape harvest festa, generally on Sunday, with the parade of carri dell'uva (=grape wagons), drawn in town by tractors and full of...ehmm...let's say "very jubilant" young people, offering (yes, for free, everything is sponsored by the local City Hall), home-made wine directly from the barrels, cold cuts, salami, cheeses, lentils and....happiness. Litres. More information: enologicamontefalco.it At the moment most of the websites we linked above are not updated. For more information contact directly the organizers or email us. If you like/organize/take part to other food and wine festivals in the region, let us know! We're very happy to host it on our blog.
Stunning isn't it?
But that's not all. The project that is beyond this video is...for Umbrians like us...yes....touching and moving...
#caprai4love means bringing back a piece of history to Montefalco:
"In Montelfalco, we have a dream: retrieving the letter written by the
painter Benozzo Gozzoli in 1452 which proved the love and loyalty of the
artist for the city.
The parchment on which Benozzo Gozzoli
wrote in his own hand his letter to Lord Brancacci Fiorentino is now
owned by an auction house and will be put on sale. Cruciani, known
throughout the world for its bracelets, has created a special edition
bracelet that will be on sale from April 7th. The proceeds from the sale
will go to the Academy of Culture in Montefalco and will be spent to
acquire the letter of Benozzo Gozzoli, thus returning to the town of
Montefalco an important piece of its history.
sponsored by the Accademia di Montefalco for history, art and local
culture, Cruciani, in collaboration with the Municipality of Montefalco,
Montefalco Wine Consortium, the Strada del Sagrantino, Caprai and the
Museum of San Francesco di Montefalco".
Some weeks ago, we had the pleasure to meet a very nice and super "geek-girls" trio, who shares- like us - the love for Umbria.
We're very happy to host on our blog their story and their innovative project called "I LIVE UMBRIA".
Chiara, Francesca and Loretta, three Italian girls, joined together. They
shared the same idea: in difficult times, strong and innovative projectscan really make the difference.
Following their philosophy the 'geek team'started planning their project ofAugmented Reality,
a 2.0 technology to apply to the world of
tourism, and, in particular, to the promotion of Umbria.
The idea becomes
a reality on the 9th
October 2012 with the launch of the website, www.iliveumbria.comthe firstportaldevoted to the promotion, increasing the
desirability, of Umbrian territory.
The information websiteis, infact, a
database of news on the region which is both static and dynamic. It includes the section, “I
Live”, that is a social
network for those who love Umbria. Once
registered, users can join the community of people who share the same passion for Umbria, creating contacts, making new friends and posting
information, photos and videos.
The community also has a special T-Shirt, designed by a renowned Catalan illustrator, in Augmented
Reality that is the true identifying element that allows to enter "into" the
network: the user, pointing his/her smartphone, tablet,
or PC webcam on the T-shirt, can watchon a 'screen' videos and animations.Definitely a very special and innovative way of communication.
videos, regularly updated, areall related to Umbria to
guarantee that new experiences and emotions are constantly lived.
The geek team with the charming Umbrian actress Laura Chiatti showing the T-Shirt in Augmented Reality
In this period, the I
Live Umbria team is fully devoted to
apromo-campaignon internet and above all, on
social media across the world and in particular in Northern
Europe, USA, and the emerging economies, such as China and Brazil, following their aim of building a community of people who have Umbria in their hearts,becoming Ambassadors, through this very innovative digitaltool, of
this very special region".
My favourite things...10 tips for your Umbrian escape
We're very happy to host for the second time on our blog our friend, supporter and expert of Umbria, Yo Harff from The Netherlands.
Spring is finally coming in a couple of weeks and this guest post on Yo's "Top 10" list sounds perfect for your next Umbrian escape!
I was asked to write this guest post I was very enthusiastic at
first and then realized it caused a major problem. How on earth is it
possible to pick only ten of the best spots in Umbria? There
are at least a thousand worth visiting..
I gave it a try – and a little cheating now and then by clustering
the ones that belong together doesn't harm anyone. The order is more
Deruta and the Sanctuary of
Madonna dei Bagni
Deruta is famous
for its maioliche – ceramics. They can be admired (and bought)
everywhere in the town. From huge ceramic dogs to the finest
handpainted plates, you name it, they have it. For a tableware addict
like me it's a paradise.
A little further,
in the hamlet of Casalina, is a lovely little sanctuary, Madonna dei Bagni, whose walls are completely covered with votive
tiles. The earliest date from 400 years ago and not only show
personal stories, but also the development of the maiolica arts.
Spello and its Infioriata
Spello is situated
in the East of Umbria and it seems glued against the slopes of the Monte
Subasio. Its steep streets lead you to the centre where you can find
(among other beautiful things) Santa Maria Maggiore. Inside, go
and see the Baglioni Chapel with its frescos from Pinturicchio.
This year in June
I was so fortunate to be able to visit Spello's famous Infiorata.
This annual event related on Corpus Domini includes
colourful tapestries of flower petals, that regrettably become
damaged in the traditional procession. But the flower decorations in
the town were equally beautiful.
As a cook, I
cannot mention ten Umbrian top attractions and leave the food out.
Elsewhere you can find my lyrics about olives and oil, but I did not
write about strangozzi before, a typical pasta from Umbria. Or about
the truffles, that make a great combination with them. Porchetta you
will certainly know.
Another typical Umbrian dish are lentils (lenticchie) and the
best come from Castelluccio.
As this can take ages – I can go on about Umbrian food for the rest
of my life – let´s just recommend the red potatoes from
Colfiorito....and last but not least, La torta al Testo. This year I learned
how to prepare this flat bread, baked in a special pan, the testo.
Norcia, Piano Grande and
food means I must talk about Norcia. Food is an important item in
Norcia given all the shops selling delicatessen. You could try some
of the famous wild boar sausages. Norcia´s Piazza San
Benedetto, facing the church by the same name, is pleasant to have a
coffee at. Leaving Norcia you
can drive on to the Piano Grande, a plateau that covers over 20 km2
it is most impressive in spring, but irresistable in Summer when it
is in full flower. It is an experience to watch the herds of
sheep, guided by their dogs. And of course,
stop at Castelluccio and buy your own lentils.
Orvieto and its Duomo
When you visit
Orvieto, I am certain you will have a good
time. Not only will the road to reach it, along the Corbara lake,
provide amazing views but the town itself has real interesting
attractions, like Pozzo di San Patrizio, an underground tour,
some well equipped museums and typical picturesque alleys. But of
course, the thing not to miss is the Duomo. Its facade is a
masterpiece at itself with its splendid colours and it sculpted
bronze doors. You could sit at the oppopsite side of the square,
watching this facade for hours. Yet, the interior
is as impressive as the outside. I can strongly recommend visiting at
least the Capella San Brizio and getting overwhelmed by Luca
Even though I have
only seen a small part of Valnerina, I have become an addict. The
rough nature, the picturesque villages and hamlets and the
breathtaking views guarantee an awesome passtime. I visited
Scheggino, Vallo di Nera, Ferentillo and its Abbazzia and I
can tell you this: I´ll be back!
I doubted to mention Spoleto for it is
way too beautiful for just a few lines, but as I have spent my last Summer there it seems not fair not to. The upper town is
stuffed with beautiful buildings, like the Duomo and Rocca
Albornoz and I can assure you that nothing compares to a walk over
the famous bridge, Ponte delle Torri.
When you roam around Umbrian
countryside, it is like collecting little pearls that all together
will form the most precious necklace ever. It can be a lovely corner
in a small hamlet, a left alone chapel alongside the road, an amazing
view from a hill, a hunter that is willing to tell you his
secrets and lets you pet his dog, the olive fields or those with
sunflowers. I will never ever get enough of it.
Everything I couldn´t choose
You may have noticed that I did not
write about some famous cities in Umbria. It is not because I
think they´re less worth it, but in the first place I could only
name ten, in the second place, others have written about them, and in
the third place there´s a chance I am allowed to write a sequel.
So maybe some day, I will tell you
about Perugia, Assisi, Gubbio, Trevi, Foligno, Bevagna, Montefalco
and so on.......
Though I knew Todi
as a lovely medieval hill town, I discovered its real beauty only
when I moved there four years ago. More or less accidentally, I rent
a place nearby, became impressed by its surroundings and then fell in
love desperately. I took a guided hiking tour that turned out to be
one of the best ideas ever. Besides the wonderful Piazza del Popolo
and the Santa Maria della Consolazione, I discovered an amount of
valuable spots in town and entered buildings that I would never have
found on my own. Of course you should see them yourself. I can tell
you that wandering through the streets of Todi, watching its
sturdy walls and gates, dreaming on the little piazzas and admiring
the views of the landscape will make you share my biggest desire.
Stay forever. [Pictures and text copyright Yo Harff ]
Read the passion and love for Umbria from our guest bloggers. Related posts and more tipshere
Memories lost in time, like tears in rain: Narni Underground
Narni at night in Summer 2012
I've had the opportunity to visit the town of Narni a couple of times recently, but always at night and in Summer, when, you know, it's so hot that... you're just waiting for the moon to go somewhere to have a gelato and a passeggiata with friends "al fresco"...
Our guide Aroti Meloni
For this reason I've never been to the underground of this ancient town, until last weekend when I was invited by the very nice and knowledgeable guide at Narni SotterraneaAroti Meloni for an "edu-morning" to discover more about Narni, its hidden secrets and incredible stories of friars, prisoners, alchemists and more...
The underground of Narni was discovered by coincidence in 1979 when a group of very young speleologists guided by Roberto Nini, today the president of Narni Underground, decided to explore this area thanks to the indication of an old man who had an orto (=house garden) just over the underground.
At that time, infact, nobody in Narni remembered the existence of this construction, a former Dominican monastery: memories lost in time, like tears in rain, quoting a very famous movie...
The first room we were conducted by Aroti is and was a church, probably dedicated to San Michele (saint loved by the Lombards, who conquered part of Umbria in the Early Middle Age) represented in a wonderful fresco.
The ancient church and the fresco of San Michele on the left
The second room was probably a sort of neutral space, between the church and the room where the "local branch" of the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition acted here in Narni from the sixteen to the half of the eighteen century.
The Inquisition was a group of decentralized institutions - the most important represented by the Dominican Friars - within the judicial system of the Roman Catholic Church whose aim was to "fight against heretics".
The laws, at that time, were inclusive of proscriptions against certain religious crimes (heresy, etc.), and the punishments, quite often after terrible tortures, could include imprisonment for life or banishment, but also deathby burning especially for those accused to "practice sorcery".
After the last works the second room has been dedicated to the aqueduct "Formina" built to bring water to Narnia, the Roman name of Narni. The instrument above called "groma" was used by the Romans for measuring. This Umbrian town inspired C.S. Lewis his fantasy novel "The Chronicles of Narnia"
The Inquisition room
And here we are...in the room, whose walls have probably heard many prisoners crying aloud accused to be witches, heretics or maybe adulterers, bigamous, sinners...
Although we, Italians, are very used to visit places like this one, places that were the witnesses of people's pains and deaths, like, for instance, our most famous monument, the Colosseum itself, I must admit that...each time a cold shiver runs down my spine...
However the creepy sensations in the Inquisition room are nothing in comparison to the ones sent by the prison cell, completely covered by graffiti carved by many prisoners during almost three centuries, like the ones left by Giuseppe Antrea Lombartini imprisoned here between 1759 and 1760.....whose extraordinary story of treachery, mistake, freemasonry and Alchemy is awaiting you in Narni Undergroud.
Happy to be one of the three winners in the "Photo Challenge on the Colours of Sagrantino vines in Fall"
2012 has almost gone and we are happy to say goodbye to this year with some of our best shots we took driving around in our area.
We have choosen 15 pictures among 412 shots - taken only by iPad3 - that we have been collecting on our Instagram profile since last March.
We are sure that the following photo album simply shows that Umbria can be visited at all times of the year, observing these wonderful landscapes where the colours and
perfumes change in accordance with the cycle of the seasons:
from the green of Spring, to the yellow of the grains in Summer,
to the thousand colours of the leaves in Autumn, to the rarefied and
magical atmosphere of Winter....