Umbria is Italy’s heartland region. Best to start with the book – Sustenance, by Elizabeth Wholey. This little tome is the most useful tool you’ll find to wrap your head around this area of Italy’s farmers and food producers. Foodie Alert! Umbria is “the new Tuscany.”
You should then also know, Umbria is a destination that takes a little planning, but please not too much. Larry always needs sightseeing; car, map and countryside with a thousand ancient places to visit did not disappoint. I need, let’s see… food, wine, foodie sites, winey sites and shopping. ITALY!!
Serendipity brought us here. I was the winning silent auction bidder of a week at Elizabeth’s darling cottage (Culinary Trust auction at the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conference). The prize bundled Elizabeth’s homestay, her private tour of locals (bees, goat cheese, truffles, along with textiles, wine, ceramics, GREAT EATS) and then another day of cooking class with Aroma Cucina – Judith and Jeff. (IACP members, SERIOUSLY watch for this opp at next year’s conference.) Elizabeth manages a number of properties in her area. Take your pick here.
Larry and I are Type A; with tons of travel experience we still get twisted up in details. We were wise to book two nights in Rome at the beginning, and one night in Rome at the end of the week to keep from being overly stressed about the rental car. Language, directions, we just fuss over this until we are rolling. The GPS in the rental car was confused and we became experts at going out of the way (but in gorgeous Italian countryside, not a bad thing). After a few hours’ drive north of Rome we were VERY CLOSE to Elizabeth’s, and then a “dialog” with two helpful gents –who eventually got in their car and drove us a quarter mile up the road to the right address – we arrived!
Aside from driving in circles, our planning actually worked. 11 days. If you’ve never been to Italy, stay longer and add a few cities. And if you HAVE done the Rome/Florence/Venice thing, relax and visit Umbria! Here in a nutshell:
- Depart LAX (Wednesday) Day 1, arrive Day 2. Alitalia. Not our favorite, but it is what it is.
- Two nights Rome (Days 2, 3) @ Boscolo Palace Hotel ($400 Euros per night, HAHAHAHA no way! We used Marriott points, 40K per night). Lovely, included Wi-Fi and breakfast, walking distance to Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Joined a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus to reacquaint ourselves with the city’s famous sites, but never got off. In fact we used the ticket the same day and made the full rounds again, sitting on the other side of the bus.
- Day 4 (Saturday) pick up rental car (Hertz) walking distance from hotel, drove to Niccone on the border of Umbria and Tuscany.
- Days 4 – 10, day trips all around.
- Depart Umbria on a Saturday, drive back to Rome, stay at the Marriott near the airport (15K points included Wi-Fi and breakfast), return the car, early morning flight Day 11. Arrive LAX same day.
You can see traditional images of Italy on other blogs, here are things I want you to see, below. What do I want you to take away from this post? The idea that visiting Italy needn’t be the standard spots. Think Umbria, it is loaded with sights, beauty, countryside, shopping, eating, relaxing, breathing, bonding: