Umbria is known as “the green heart of Italy”, which comes as no surprise when you consider the natural excellence of the land; it offers a unique variety of natural landscapes with its rivers, lakes, mountains and natural reserves. The beauty of its land and of the fascinating small towns that are full of history cannot leave you indifferent. Umbria’s mix of marvellous landscapes, waved by green hills, allow you to relax and connect with nature: the perfect recipe for taking a break from your daily routine, to focus on yourself and on what really matters in life.
Umbria is in fact famous for being the region related to spirituality. Even when Christianity was not yet common in Italy, Umbria was full of intellectual centres with various pagan religions. With the advent of Christianity the region became a cradle of spiritual and devotional movements. The lives of many spiritual figures, among others St. Frances, St. Clare, St. Valentine, (who were born in Umbria), St. Benedict, St. Augustine and St Margaret are linked with the region, with most of them finding the perfect shelter for their spiritual retreats in Umbria. It is not only religious people that have been fascinated by Umbria, many painters and artists, from Perugino and Pinturicchio to Gerardo Dottori and Alberto Burri, and many great poets and writers, among them Virgilio, George Byron, Herman Hesse and Giosuè Carducci, could not fail to be inspired by the charm of this region that seems to be able to reach, with a gentle but decisive touch, everyone’s heart.
If you are thinking that this would be the perfect place for a painting holiday, Flavours can absolutely confirm that. Umbria not only has beautiful landscapes, it is also rich with its interesting regional cuisine. For this reason Flavours, always aiming for the best, could not avoid offering cookery holidays in Umbria. The hearty cuisine of the only peninsular region without access to the sea mostly focuses on products of the earth: vegetables, legumes and meats, especially pork meat and game. Pork and wild boar are used for sausages, hams and lots of distinctive types of cured meat products that are particularly renowned: for example the Norcineria (named after Norcia - Nursia, a lovely town in south eastern Umbria).
Umbrian sausages are particularly tasty, since they are commonly seasoned with salt, garlic and black pepper. Olive oil is also very important, widely produced and many types have the Protected Designation of Origin label. The product that distinguishes Umbrian cuisine, however, is the truffle, or tartufo, as they call it. In fact, lots of black truffles and also white truffles are harvested in this region, which has the right conditions for them to grow. Harvesting mainly takes place between October and March, depending on the type of truffle, and there are at least ten different varieties grown in Umbria. Truffles are widely used in Umbrian dishes, often accompanied by sausages, mushrooms or artichokes. Umbrian cuisine favours fresh ingredients and legumes are also common, in particular lentils are very famous, thanks to the distinctive high quality production of lentils taking place in the area of the lovely little hill top town Castelluccio.
And last but not least… do you prefer red or white wine? If you prefer red, try Sagrantino di Montefalco, a wine that is made in the hills near Montefalco, a medieval hill top town known for this reason as ‘the balcony of Umbria’. The powerful Sagrantino is made 100% from Sagrantino grapes which grow exclusively in the area of Montefalco. The wine must be left to age for at least one year in the barrel and it must be released 36 months after the harvest. This Umbrian red wine has the highest classification for wine: DOCG, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. If you prefer white wine instead, you will have to try the Orvieto Classico, produced in Orvieto, which lies in south western Umbria. Founded by the Etruscans on the top of a volcanic tuff, Orvieto was said to be impregnable. Orvieto is also famous for its amazing 14th century Duomo, the cathedral has a large rose window, golden mosaics, three huge bronze doors and two frescoed chapels which were painted by the best Italian painters of the period.
If you feel inspired to explore Umbria's unique beauty why not join Flavours cookery holidays this autumn?