Why Umbria should be your next holiday destination

Umbria might not be as popular as its well-known neighbour (Tuscany, in case you’re wondering) but that shouldn’t put you off visiting. If anything, it should encourage you. It’s just as beautiful, but with fewer tourists and better food. Being smaller, it’s easier to explore — and being less travelled, you’re far more likely to discover a hidden gem when venturing off-the-beaten-path. If you’re a cultural trailblazer who still wants the comfort of Italian tradition, then Umbria is a perfect choice for you.

The towns are rather lovely

Look beyond the capital city of Perugia and you’ll find Assisi, Orvieto and Spoleto. All are fantastic towns deserving of the attention usually attracted by cities such as Rome or Florence. As the birthplace of St Francis, Assisi is steeped in history and boasts his eponymous Basilica, Orvieto has a vast network of underground caves created thousands of years ago, and Spoleto is truly one of those hidden gems; an elegant town with an impressive Roman medieval aqueduct and bridge.

…and the countryside easily rivals Tuscany

Sure, Tuscany is more than just rolling hills, vineyards, and beautiful sunsets. But Umbria is its equal if not a superior; you’ll find an abundance of olive groves, scenic lakes and wildflower meadows. It has several nature reserves and also boasts the man-made Marmore waterfalls handcrafted by the Romans and now a reasonably popular tourist attraction. An Italian version of the Niagara Falls, if you will.

You’ll eat incredible food

The food in Umbria is rustic, authentic, and seasonal. It’s local too — which means you won’t find seafood on your plate. Instead you’ll find Pecorino cheese, DOP prosciutto, wild game and chestnuts. The region is also famous for its truffles, and produces more than any other Italian region. It’s also worth sampling the olive oil produced in the region; whilst it might only account for around two percent of Italian olive oil production, it wins the most awards. You can also partake in olive oil tastings with guided tours and tasting sessions — and if you’re feeling brave, you can have a go at harvesting the olives too. Sounds easy, but you’ll be surprised.

…and drink incredible wines

As with many of the regions of Italy, Umbria produces some fantastic wines — including the world-renowned Sagrantino, and DOC-protected Orvieto wines. There are numerous vineyards in Umbria, ripe for exploration. Many are still family-owned and offer tours and tastings (usually accompanied by plenty of food too).

The history is immense

Italy has a fascinating history, and Umbria is no different. Originally inhabited by the Umbri and Etruscans, the region fell under Roman rule in around 300 BC. After Rome fell, numerous invasions led to decades of starvation and ruin — as inhabitants retreated to hilltop towns to survive. The region fell under Papal rule in the 14th Century when a Salt tax was imposed — leading to the ‘Salt War’ of 1540 and endless rumours that this is why their bread is salt-free.

…and the art is impressive

It probably goes without saying; Italy and Renaissance art go hand-in-hand. In the 15th Century, the Umbrian School was founded in (yep, you guessed it) Umbria, and produced some of the period’s finest artists including Raphael, Purgino and Pinturicchoi. Nowadays, the National Gallery of Umbria (in Perugia) showcases the largest collection of artwork from this artistic movement.

Jo Mackay is Director of Bookings For You.

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