With a never-ending list of local delicacies and views that are just as picturesque as its neighbour, Tuscany, Paola from PASSEPARTOUT HOMES explains why Umbria is her summer destination of choice
While my bucket list is filled with exotic, remote and far-flung destinations, such as Polynesia, Bora Bora and the ‘true paradise on earth – the Maldives’, my dream destination is actually closer to home and within easy reach.
For those tired of Tuscany, I recommend driving a bit further into Umbria. Overshadowed by the notoriety of its neighbour, Umbria was for a long time considered the poor sister of Tuscany, but this is in fact far from the case. Umbria is as picturesque as Tuscany, if not more, and offers a multitude of opportunities for those interested in culture, arts, gastronomy, architecture, history or in search of tranquillity among its vineyards and gentle hills.
Assisi, Perugia, Torgiano, Spoleto, Norcia, Gubbio, Todi, Orvieto… the list is long! Umbria is within easy reach from major airports and still relatively uncrowded even in high season.
Who would you go with?
I always travel with my husband and two daughters. I try to organise business trips around my girls’ holidays so that they can come along with me. We have visited or stayed in some of the properties I rent through my company, one of the perks of my otherwise intense job, and really experienced “life as a local” in its true meaning.
How would you get there?
Travelling to Umbria is never easy, but depending on flight schedules, we would choose which airport to fly into – for example, Perugia, Rome, Florence or Pisa – and then rent a small car to drive around (small being the operative word, as you don’t want to get stuck in some small cobbled streets in Gubbio!).
What would you eat?
It’s virtually impossible to have a bad gastronomic experience in Italy. Being Italian, once I land in my native country I go back to my roots and begin breakfast with an espresso or cappuccino and brioche standing at the bar. Mid-morning we’ll walk to the local bakery and order freshly baked focaccia.
Lunch is usually an appetiser of crostini al tartufo and local cured meat especially from the area of Norcia. You absolutely must try truffle in Umbria. I would then order a plate of pasta such as strangozzi with black truffle. A variety of cheeses and extra virgin olive oils will complement your meals.
If you are a meat lover, than you will be in heaven. Among the region’s most typical main courses is Terni’s colombaccio selvatico, or palomba (turtledove).
In the afternoon you can’t escape the call for a gelato while joining the rest of the locals for the daily passeggiata.
In Umbria you go for wine, of course – a Sagrantino di Montefalco, an Orvieto Classico, a Torgiano Riserva, just to name a few.
What would you buy?
I would take home with me white wine from Orvieto and red wine from Montefalco, extra virgin olive oil, local ceramics called majolica from Deruta , indulgent cashmere pullovers by Brunello Cucinelli, cured meats and sausages from Norcia, black truffles, chocolates from Perugia, wooden items and kitchen utensils made from olive wood, sacred images from San Francesco d’Assisi. Make sure you take an extra empty suitcase with you!
Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande is Director at PASSEPARTOUT HOMES