What makes a dream journey? Is it the sun shining all the time, happy people, glorious scenery or unravelling and finding the true heart of a place? Turns out the pursuit of what brings us joy is the key. And is that not what Italy is all about?
Well hold on here, because I am going to share with you one of Italy most secret locations. Everyone has heard of Tuscany, Venice and Amalfi coast – that is why these places are inundated by tourist hordes.
But if you want to go somewhere with all the beauty and charm but fewer tourist buses – then head for UMBRIA.
Umbria is easily accessible from either Rome or Florence, even for a day trip. It is filled with gorgeous medieval hilltop towns like Perugia, Assisi and Orvieto. The towns are hugely likeable, something like an Italian town of the 60s: women in black, old boys sitting in the main square watching the world go by and pilgrims paying homage at the churches and cathedrals as they have done for centuries. Oh yes, there are even elegant boulevards, cashmere boutiques and handcrafted jewellery to rival the best Florence and Venice can offer. But there are also small stores and weekly markets selling gastronomic delights of the region like Umbria’s famed cured prosciutto, wild boar salamis, golden green olive oil and famous black truffles.
And now we are down to the nub of what makes Umbria unique: Food of course!
Umbria is known in Italy as the nation’s cuore verde, its green heart, where landscape still reflects ancient traditions – agricultural, artistic and spiritual. The availability of fresh produce and a scarcity of tourists have helped to preserve the traditional way of life and most importantly traditional cooking.
Even today, travel a few miles down the road and pasta bears a different name and the tastes of similar dishes vary tremendously. It all comes down to whether you mince your garlic, cut it into slivers, or what you use to marinate the chicken for the cacciatora and these are secrets are carefully guarded by families through generations.
One great way to sample the fare is by staying in an agriturismo – that is, a working farm offering B&B accommodation. Not only are you directly supporting the family business, you are contributing to the preservation of Italy’s heritage and culture that would otherwise be lost.
The chef at Locanda Rosati, the agritorismo I stayed in just outside of Orvieto let me into a secret. Cooking everything from scratch takes a lot of time he said. But it is the only kind of cooking that is worthwhile. And that is what makes Umbrian cooking stand out from the rest. That and the freshest and purest of ingredients. This is farm to table at its best. It could also be the small amounts of local prosciutto or pancetta thrown into the pot to add richness!! Whatever the secret, sit back and enjoy.
And it doesn’t end there
If this has you drooling then join us come with us next May when we dive into Umbria on a six-day small group extravaganza. We will take you behind the scenes, into the kitchens with local cooks, into local organic gardens, cheese makers, wine producers and on an actual truffle hunt.
Bear in mind these are not tourist destinations – they are working farms and will give you a behind the scene experience of what makes Umbrian cuisine special.
For the full itinerary head to http://travelyourway.com.au/group-tour/umbria-the-green-heart-of-italy/
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