On a trip to Arezzo located in eastern Tuscany, my husband and I met with Eleanora, a specialist who explained the frescos, cathedrals, and museums of the former Etruscan capital. I soaked up all the history and fascinating facts she laid out and then barraged her with questions. She carefully answered them, but then as the tables turned she asked me one of her own.
“Where else will you be traveling in Italy?”
“Umbria,” I responded.
I’ll never forget her reaction. She stopped, tilted her face up to the sky, and sighed. “Ah, Umbria,” she said with a smile.
And with good reason. I can guarantee that a visit to Umbria will put a smile on your face as well. Here are 4 reasons why you’ll want to visit Umbria
4 reasons to visit Umbria
#1 – Umbria is Tuscany without all the tourists. Umbria’s nickname is il cuor verde d’Italia, “the green heart of Italy.” Often overlooked by tourists enchanted with the bustle of Rome or the romance of Florence, this landlocked heart of Italy is home to fertile plains, mountains, lakes, and medieval towns fortified by walls. The relaxed countryside environment is perfect for hiking, biking, or just taking everything all in. It’s stunning!
#2 – Umbria is rich in religious history. The Umbrian countryside is dotted with monasteries and abbeys and churches that show the importance Catholicism has had there. The area has 300 native saints, including St. Benedict. The city of Asissi, one of the few places in the area that draws millions of pilgrims, is the birthplace of St. Francis di Assisi and St. Clare. Whether you’re Catholic or not, understanding this heritage is a part of learning what Italy is today.
#3 – Umbria boasts fine ceramics that will impress you whether you’re into ceramics or not. In the town of Deruta, for instance, ceramics is synonymous with fine art. Here you’ll find maiolica, a glazed pottery that dates back to the Renaissance. At one artisan shop we visited, each piece takes an average of 15 days to create. One of their most renowned works was a commission from the Vatican Council to refinish the façade panels of one of the Vatican museums.
#4 – The food!! Every corner of Italy has its own unique offerings of food and wine. Umbria is no different. You’ll find black truffles, homemade shoestring pasta and soups on the menu here. If dessert is more to your liking, the medieval city of Perugia is home to fine chocolates and the famous baci, a chocolate kiss candy that pairs hazelnut and chocolate and will leave your mouth begging for more.
It might not lay claim to stretches of Mediterranean beach or the grandeur of places like the Colosseum, but Umbria is a jewel in its own right. Well worth a visit and the smile it’ll put on your face!
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