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Umbria - Regions of Italy - Perugia, Assisi, Montefalco

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Focus: Perugia, Assisi, Montefalco

Jacki Christopher for Italy101.com

Umbria, Italy’s only landlocked region is a gentle, rolling haven bordered by the regions of Lazio, Tuscany, and Marche. Known as Italy’s ‘hill country’ or ‘the green heart of Italy,’ the area is beloved for its still extant ancient remnants, medieval flavor, rich natural beauty, and traditional Italian culture. Split into two main provinces, Perugia and Terni, Umbria offers a variety of experience for the ancient history buff, art appreciator, food and wine-lover, spiritual pilgrim, or outdoor enthusiast.

Perugia is the region’s political capital, but also regarded Unbria’s chocolate capital. Take a trip to the Perugina Chocolate Factory, located just outside of Perugia in the town of San Sisto to see where and how the region’s chocolate is produced. This is a perfect tour if you’re visiting in October, during the annual Chocolate Festival. For an even sweeter, in-depth chocolate experience, take the hands-on chocolate class. Perugia is an active area with much to see and discover—it’s also a good base for exploring nearby hill towns, most of which are accessible from Perugia by local train or bus.

The spectacular waterfalls of Marmore (Cascate delle Marmore) near Terni, is a crown jewel of Umbrian natural beauty. Whether you start at the bottom and work your way up or at the top and work your way down, you will enjoy the force and splendor of the falls and the surrounding scenery. Grab a few sandwiches and a bottle of wine from a local vendor for a picnic lunch and plan to spend the day there.

Nearby is the Dunnarobba fossil forest. This ancient forest, dotted with sequoias, is dated at 3 million years old and is remarkably well preserved, not to mention, enchanting to tour. Make it a late-afternoon visit after your hike and picnic at the falls, but check park hours as gates close earlier during the winter months.

The town of Assisi has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site as “a series of masterpieces representing man’s creative spirit.” Starting at the train station there are a variety of vias, or walks that you can take to tour the town on foot. Whether visiting old cathedrals is your pleasure or not, the Basilica de San Francesco, where St. Francis of Assisi is buried, is worth a stop. Enjoy the tranquil walk up the side of the hill to the church where you can look out over the town of Assisi and tour the tomb, chapel, and impressive collection of medieval art works. The Rocca Maggiore is the high peak in Assisi and the site of a medieval German feudal castle—another interesting stop and magnificent view.

The list of fine Umbrian wines is long and distinguished. Their most famous whites to buy and try include the Orvieto and Abboccato, while your experience of Umbrian reds would not be complete without a healthy sampling of the Torgiano Rosso Riserva and the Sagrantino de Montefalco. To learn about the history of wine in the region and meet the people who produce them, head to Montefalco for a tour with Gusto Wine Tours. These tours allow you to visit a variety of wineries in the area, learn the stories behind the wines, and of course, taste and sample the best of the local varieties. A wine tour is more than a chance to experience great wines—it is a fun and interesting way to understand Italian culture and history.

Umrbia is the Italian heartland—country cooking and peasant fare is hearty and abundant, using whatever the land has to offer. Rabbit, boar, and other wilder meats are all…well, ‘fair game’ in Umbrian cuisine. Sausage and meat lovers will appreciate the focus on less-common game dishes, the locally produced prosciutto, and mazzafegati, a liver sausage incorporating pine nuts, raisins, and orange rinds.

The regional agricultural produce is lush—mushrooms, lentils, chestnuts, and green salads find their way onto nearly every table. Black truffles, a treasure of the area, make even the humblest dish heavenly, popping up in everything from pastas to pecorinos. A drizzle of fruity local olive oil adorns every plate. Fruit and nut-studded cakes and rolls like the pan pepato. or a few squares of the famous Perugian chocolate, are a sweet and simple way to end your Umbrian meal.

International flights will arrive in Rome, Pisa, or Florence, but Umbria has a smaller airport for flights arriving from other regions in Italy. TrenItalia brings visitors to Perugia, and once there, you can take the local bus up the hill into the city. A small metro system runs throughout Perugia, and the hill towns can be accessed by bus or regional rail. Rent a car for added flexibility.

Assisi - the Basilica of San Francesco is even more evocative at sunset - De Agostini Picture Library

Assisi - The Basilica of San Francesco is even more evocative at sunset.

Credit: De Agostini Picture Library

Municipality's  square with the facade of Minerva's temple - Credit - APT Umbria

Municipality's square with the facade of Minerva's temple.

Credit - APT Umbria

The Basilica of S.Francesco - the open gallery - night view - Credit - APT Umbria

The Basilica of S.Francesco - The open gallery, night view.

Credit: APT Umbria

Umbria, Spello - a whole night of work to create the magnificent carpet of flowers for the Corpus domini feast - Credit - De Agostini Picture Library

Umbria, Spello - a whole night of work to create the magnificent carpet of flowers for the Corpus domini feast.

Credit: De Agostini Picture Library

Umbria, the Marmore falls - three spectacular, roaring waterfalls created by the ancient Romans - Credit - De Agostini Picture Library

Umbria, the Marmore falls - three spectacular, roaring waterfalls created by the ancient Romans.

Credit: De Agostini Picture Library

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