Umbria holiday guide
Written by Donald Strachan, Italy specialist and Travel Writer for The Guardian.
Spiky crags and forested uplands, or olive groves that sweep down gentle slopes, or the view for miles over Montefalco vineyards from the 'Balcony of Umbria'—these are just some of the images that Umbria conjures up. Drive the back roads in early summer to see the sunflower fields in full bloom, or come in autumn to taste seasonal fruits of the forests like porcini mushrooms and truffle.
Things to do
Centuries of conservative rule under the pope—Umbria was part of the Papal States until 1860—has preserved the towns and small cities of Umbria in their Medieval state. Reach back further in time in Orvieto, exploring ancient tunnels below the city and one of Italy's best Etruscan museums. Perugia's broad, handsome shopping drag, Corso Vannucci, is Umbria at its most cosmopolitan, and Orvieto and Deruta are both known for handcrafted majolica ceramics.
Eating and drinking
Umbrian cuisine is simple and seasonal, and game (selvaggina) such as wild boar and deer runs through almost every course on a traditional menu. Pulses farro (spelt wheat) and Castelluccio lentils, grown in the foothills of the Apennines, provide a filling accompaniment. Olive groves outnumber vineyards—Umbria's extra virgin olive oil DOP is controlled for quality—but Umbria also produces feisty red wines at Montefalco and Torgiano, the perfect foil for the region's rustic cooking. Orvieto's straw-coloured white wine makes a fine early-evening aperitivo.
Art and Culture
Umbria's cities are small, true, but they are stuffed with art treasures. You won't forget the flamboyant, Technicolor façade of Orvieto's 'Golden Lily of Cathedrals', nor Signorelli's doom-laden 'Last Judgement' frescoes inside. The restrained elegance of Todi Cathedral and its rose window are the polar opposite. Perugia has works by locals Pinturicchio and Perugino, as well as Piero della Francesca and others, inside the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria. Each summer, Spoleto hosts a classical music festival that attracts performers and orchestras from all over the planet.
Civitella d'Agliano: Tenuta Sergio Mottura 0761 914501. www.motturasergio.it
Montegiove: Tenuta di Montegiove Castello di Montegiove - 0763 837473. www.castellomontegiove.com. Tours, tastings and meals for groups of 8+.
Orvieto Palazzone 'Wonderful tour and lunch with A Big View' 2010. Località Rocca Ripesena 0763 344921; www.palazzone.com. Monday-Friday 9am-6pm - Tenuta Le Velette 'Excellent wine, great people.' 2008 Località Le Velette 23 0763 29090; www.levelette.it
Orvieto Spazio Manassei: Gioielli Handmade contemporary jewellery. Via Adolfo Cozza 11/13 0763 341594; www.spaziomanasseigioielli.com
Orvieto Scalo Cardeto: Perfectly good wine sold from converted gas pumps. Via Angelo Costanzi 51 - 0763 300594 - Orvieto Arte Antiques+ Via Monte Cimino - 0763 301627.