Umbria, Center of Italy

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Few places in the world afford such a harmonious, graceful mix of nature and cultural traditions as Umbria.

Wander through small off the beaten town paths such as those found in Roman Spello; Deruta, renowned for its prestigious fine ceramics; or Narni, an ancient town where artists of the caliber of Ghirlandaio and Rossellini have created famous works. Discover some of the hidden corners of Perugia, home to the decadent ‘Eurochocolate Festival’ and the international Umbria Jazz Festival – both of which take place annually. Explore the ancient town of Assisi, the birthplace of the world’s most beloved saint, St. Francis, or visit Orvieto with its magnificent cathedral. And last but not least, there is Spoleto, where the iconic Festival of Two Worlds (Festival dei due Mondi) takes place every year. Spoleto also hosts the iconic summer ‘Jazz Festival’ featuring artists of the highest caliber performing in a variety of local settings – the outdoor concerts under the stars are a special treat for all music lovers.
When it comes to food and wine, Umbria also offers products of the highest level, including local specialties such as Norcia salami, the onions or ‘Cipolle’ of Cannara, and of course, the infamous black truffle found between Norcia and Spoleto. Local wines such as Sagrantino di Montefalco, Torgiano Rosso and the excellent Cervaro della Sala are also offered throughout the region in abundance.

FOOD & WINE EXPERIENCES

The region of Umbrian boasts an outstanding selection of wine and local produce that some feel rivals that of Tuscany. Viandando will help you discover Umbrian food and wine secrets as you visit prestigious virgin olive oil mills along the Oil Road DOP of Umbria, and wineries, where Sagrantino and Rosso of Montefalco red wines are produced. Join one of our tailor made truffle hunts in the upper Tiber Valley, Norcia and Spoleto and enjoy a memorable experience of cooking ‘Cucina Umbria’ (possibly with some of the sacred truffles you uncover!). You will also learn how to prepare local food specialties such as strangozzi (an Italian wheat pasta among the more notable of those produced in the region of Umbria); pappardelle pasta prepared the Norcina way; or, the delectable sweet buns Pannociato. We offer a wide range of tailored cookery classes, suitable for beginner to advanced cooks, in luxury villas, private houses or local agriturismo (farms featuring local produce where tourists can also be accommodated).

CULTURAL EXPERIENCES

Discover the artistic and architectural beauties of Umbria together with our award-winning tour experts: Perugia is home to the National Archaeological Museum; quaint Spello features Pinturicchio’s frescoes and Perugino body of Art; and Gubbio boasts the Basilica of St. Ubaldo and the Roman Theatre. Finally, we can’t forget Assisi where you can roam the same time-worn streets as the beloved St. Francis did centuries ago. A visit to St. Francis’s Basilica and San Damiano’s convent helps complete the journey from the past to the present, and Todi, home to Jacopone, is definitely worth a visit.

FOCUS

Umbria (/ˈʌmbriə/ UM-bree-ə; Italian pronunciation: [ˈumbrja]), is a region of historic and modern central Italy. It is the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a border with other countries. It includes the Lake Trasimeno, Marmore’s Falls, and is crossed by the River Tiber. The regional capital is Perugia. Umbria is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, culinary delights, artistic legacy, and influence on culture.

The region is characterized by hills, mountains, valleys and historical towns such as Perugia (known as an important university centre), Assisi (a World Heritage Site associated with St. Francis of Assisi, the Basilica of San Francesco and other Franciscan sites, works by Giotto and Cimabue), Terni (the hometown of St. Valentine), Norcia (the hometown of St. Benedict), Città di Castello, Gubbio (the hometown of St. Ubald and of Federico da Montefeltro), Spoleto, Orvieto, Castiglione del Lago, Narni, Amelia, and other small cities. Contained within Umbria is Cospaia, a tiny republic created by accident that existed from 1440 to 1826

Umbria is bordered by Tuscany to the west, Marche to the east and Lazio to the south. Partly hilly and mountainous, and partly flat and fertile owing to the valley of the Tiber, its topography includes part of the central Apennines, with the highest point in the region at Monte Vettore on the border of the Marche, at 2,476 metres (8,123 feet); the lowest point is Attigliano, 96 metres (315 feet). It is the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a common border with other countries. The commune of Città di Castello has an exclave named Monte Ruperto within Marche.

Umbria is crossed by two valleys: the Umbrian valley (“Valle Umbra”), stretching from Perugia to Spoleto, and the Tiber Valley (“Val Tiberina”), west of the first one, from Città di Castello to the border with Lazio. The Tiber River forms the approximate border with Lazio, although its source is just over the Tuscan border. The Tiber’s three principal tributaries flow southward through Umbria. The Chiascio basin is relatively uninhabited as far as Bastia Umbra. About 10 kilometres (6 miles) farther on, it joins the Tiber at Torgiano. The Topino, cleaving the Apennines with passes that the Via Flaminia and successor roads follow, makes a sharp turn at Foligno to flow NW for a few kilometres before joining the Chiascio below Bettona. The third river is the Nera, flowing into the Tiber further south, at Terni; its valley is called the Valnerina. The upper Nera cuts ravines in the mountains; the lower, in the Tiber basin, has created a wide floodplain.

In antiquity, the plain was covered by a pair of shallow, interlocking lakes, the Lacus Clitorius and the Lacus Umber. They were drained by the Romans over several hundred years. An earthquake in the 4th century and the political collapse of the Roman Empire resulted in the refilling of the basin. It was drained a second time, almost a thousand years later, during a 500-year period: Benedictine monks started the process in the 13th century, and the draining was completed by an engineer from Foligno in the 18th century.

The eastern part of the region, being crossed by many faults, has been often hit by earthquakes: the last ones have been that of 1997 (which hit Foligno, Assisi and Nocera Umbra) and those of 2016 (which struck Norcia and the Valnerina).[3]

In literature, Umbria is referred to as il cuore verde d’Italia (the green heart of Italy). The phrase is taken from a poem by Giosuè Carducci, the subject of which is the source of the Clitunno River in Umbria.

One of the most important festivals in Umbria is the festival of the Ceri (Saint Ubaldo Day) in Gubbio, a run held every year since 1160 on the 15th day of May, in which three teams, devoted to St. Ubald (the patron saint of Gubbio), S. Giorgio (St. George), and S. Antonio (Anthony the great), run through throngs of cheering supporters (clad in the distinctive colours of yellow, blue and black, with white trousers and red belts and neckbands), up much of the mountain from the main square in front of the Palazzo dei Consoli to the basilica of St. Ubaldo, each team carrying a statue of their saint mounted on a wooden octagonal prism, similar to an hour-glass shape 4 metres tall and weighing about 280 kg (617 lb).

The race has strong devotional, civic, and historical overtones and is one of the best-known folklore manifestations in Italy; the Ceri were chosen as the heraldic emblem on the coat of arms of Umbria as a modern administrative region.

Umbria is not only known for its historical recollections such as the festival of the Ceri, Calendimaggio, but also for one of the biggest jazz music festivals called Umbria Jazz. Umbria Jazz was born as a thrilling festival in 1973 and since 2003 it is being held in the Umbrian capital “Perugia” in July, it has become the fixed appointment of all jazz and good music lovers.

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