Umbria, a landlocked region in central Italy, is bordered by Tuscany, the Marche and Lazio. It is green, hilly and noted for olive oil, black truffles and wines, including the white Orvieto. Its capital, Perugia, is a notable artistic center. There, Perugino, tutor of Raphael, decorated a room in the Collegio del Cambio with an exquisite series of frescoes. Nearby Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis. He is buried in the famous basilica, begun immediately after his canonization in 1228, which contains astonishing frescoes by Giotto. Spoleto is a charming Umbrian city that annually hosts the Festival dei Due Mondi, a three-week summer schedule of music, theater and dance founded by Gian Carlo Menotti in 1958.
Wines of Orvieto
The hill town of Orvieto has an impressive cathedral and a pleasant pedestrianized main street, but it is best-known for its white wines. Bottlings with a large amount of Grechetto in the blend tend to have the most character. I also recommend seeking out the rare sweet wines affected by noble rot, labeled as “Muffa Nobile” or “Muffato.”
Civita di Bagnoregio
The town of Bagnoregio is unremarkable except for its sensational view of Civita di Bagnoregio, a hamlet crowding an eroding pinnacle of rock towering over a breathtaking bowl-shaped valley. Evocative Civita actually used to be much bigger, but whole neighborhoods have eroded away, collapsing into the valley.
In 2016, the region around Amatrice (including Norcia) suffered significant damage from an earthquake. Scaffolding still can be found, but much of the rebuilding is finished, the gourmet shops of Norcia have reopened and I wouldn’t hesitate to return.
Town of Cashmere
I love the sumptuous knitwear created by Brunello Cucinelli, who obtains the finest cashmere in the world and turns it into sweaters, scarves and other accessories of heirloom quality. His ateliers and factory outlet are in Solomeo, a nearly abandoned town that Cucinelli has meticulously refurbished since he set up shop in 1985.
Forty minutes from Assisi, Montefalco is surrounded by impressive 14th-century stone ramparts, and the top of its Torre Comunale affords an extraordinary panoramic view of virtually the whole of Umbria. We had a delightful lunch in town on the sunny terrace of Coccorone.