You’ve ambled Amalfi.
You’ve ventured to Venice.
You’ve feasted in Florence.
You’ve roamed through Rome.
You’re not what we’d call a newbie to Italy. You’ve tasted Chianti in Tuscany. You’ve perused Pompeii with a private guide. You’ve gazed at the Blue Grotto off Capri’s coast. With so much Italy under your belt, the usual sights — Michelangelo’s David in Florence or St. Mark’s Square in Venice, — don’t compel you like they once did.
What’s left to savor in Italy for a return traveler? What delicious Italian destinations are hiding just off the beaten track? One of my favorite fall escapes in Italy is Umbria. Located just 90 minutes from the center of Rome, Umbria feels like you’re stepping back in time. Driving the countryside here, you’ll see medieval hamlets rising from the distance.
As Italy’s only completely landlocked region, Umbria brims with wooded glens and winery-draped hillsides. In the fall, the vineyards shift from green to bright red here — signaling the annual grape harvest. On Umbria’s many farms, you can meet the sheep whose milk makes regional cheeses like pecorino umbro or ricotta salata. And, in the region’s northern swathes, you can taste the famed salami norciani — dried, cured pork salami.
Are you hungry for a third or fourth helping of Italy? Discover Umbria in the fall, relishing a land of real traditions and spectacular scenery.
Below you’ll find 4 Delicious Activities You can only try in Umbria.
CHOCOLATE-TASTING TOUR (PERUGIA)
Sweet lovers from across the globe flock to the hilltop town of Perugia each October for the annual Eurochocolate Festival. But, sugar fiends in-the-know skip the festival’s long lines and crowded streets — visiting the town before or after the cocoa-fueled festivities. Perugia’s stone streets are home to both boutique chocolatiers and the world-famous Perugina chocolate company. With a local guide, travelers can go behind-the-scenes at family-run chocolate shops — observing how cocoa beans are transformed into that most decadent of dolci.
SALAMI & CHEESE MAKING (NORCIA)
Not far from Perugia, you will find the quaint countryside of Norcia. This area is famed throughout Italy and the world for its porky products — including salami, copa, prosciutto, and capocollo. While some are cured using nothing but salt and air, others are seasoned with local wine or pine juniper berries. Italians rarely eat salami on its own, preferring to pair it with a cheese. Food-loving travelers can spend the day farm-hopping in Umbria, enjoying a tasting of pecorino here and a nibble of prosciutto there — enjoyed, naturally, with a glass or two of local wine.
LACK TRUFFLE HUNT & PASTA
Far from the stone streets of Umbria’s towns lies one of the region’s most prized foods — the black truffle. Aided by specially-trained dogs, capable of sniffing out truffles that grow underground, you can hunt this famed fungus in Umbria’s lovely woods. After a brisk walk in the forest, you return to our guide’s rustic farm — with a bounty of truffles in tow. Once at the farm, you’ll make pasta by hand with the truffle hunter’s wife. Your sauce? You guessed it: freshly shaved truffles.
WINE, WINE, WINE
Grapes have been grown in Umbria since Roman times. Driving from town to town here, you’ll pass some of the most scenic wine country in Italy — dotted with hilltop towns and rolling vineyards. While the tannin-rich reds are largely made with Sangiovese grape, the whites from the Orvieto area are fruity-but-dry. Less well known to tourists than Tuscany, Umbria boasts countless family-operated wineries. In fact, you can enjoy tastings in Umbria’s private cellars — hearing about the history of wine production in this region from the vineyard owners themselves!
Which European escape are you craving these days? I’m here to take the stress out of trip-planning, helping you to experience the Europe locals love. Hit the Contact Me and lets get to planning.
PIZZA BY THE COLOSSEUM
Whether it’s your first or fourteenth visit to Rome, viewing the Colosseum never ceases to impress. In its hay day, this stone stadium could seat 50,000 spectacles for live battles and gladiator matches. With my help, you can enjoy a private tour inside the Colosseum with skip-the-line tickets. After your immersion in ancient history, you’ll be hungry for a taste of Rome. Nearby, I recommend Li Rioni Pizzeria – hidden on a non-touristy side street just a 5 minutes’ walk from the main ruins. Be sure to order here a wood-fired pizza, tomato-crowned bruschetta and the creamy house tiramisu!
Not far from the famous Spanish Steps, you’ll find a green jewel in the heart of historic Rome – the Villa Borghese Gardens. Built by the noble Borgia family (including a pope!) atop a former vineyard in 1605, the Villa Borghese Gardens were the largest green space built in Rome since ancient times. From this vast and manicured park, you can also access the Villa Borghese gallery – housing Renaissance masterpieces from artists such as Caravaggio and Titian. Bring art history to life here with a private visit alongside an English-speaking guide.
Rome is home to many sacred sites – including St. Peter’s tomb and the Vatican. It also boasts one of Europe’s oldest Jewish communities, which reside principally in the city’s scenic Jewish Quarter. In addition to vaunting kosher-friendly carbonara, this quiet cobblestoned quarter also houses some spectacular ruins – including Teatro Marcello. This theater dates back to 13BC and resembles the Colosseum (minus the crowds). Columns and remains of temples are scattered around this open-air theater. After wandering the Jewish Quarter’s back streets, walk to the nearby Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island) for a gelato at Tiberino Gelateria.
Rome’s stunning Trastevere quarter is located on the far side of the Tiber River – easily accessed on foot by crossing one of the city’s scenic bridges. Boasting cobblestone alleyways, Renaissance palaces and ivy-clad buildings, Trastevere bustles with local charm during the day and at night. It’s also home to some of the city’s most authentic Roman ristorante – including Trattoria Da Teo, Pizzeria Ai Marmi and Da Enzo al 29.
If you haven’t visited Cancun and the Riviera Maya in a number of years, you may not recognize it. Miles and miles of some of the softest white sand you’ll ever sink your toes into are filled with upscale resorts, thatched-roof palapas, Bali daybeds and picture-perfect beaches. But how many of Cancun’s numerous activities can travelers enjoy today? Surprisingly, a lot.
In late 2020, Quintana Roo, the Mexican state Cancun is in, upgraded its COVID-19 status. This upgrade opened up a world of options for travelers, as restaurants, historic sites, theme parks, golf courses, nautical activities, shopping malls and spas could now operate at 60% of normal capacity. There are all the safety protocol in effect at the resorts. Mask are worn by all the staff, sanitizer is available as well as plenty of space. Here are just some of the exciting, unforgettable and safe activities that await you in Cancun.
Explore Maya RuinsTake a day trip to the ancient Maya city of Chichén Itzá, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Be sure to climb the 91 steps of The Castle, El Castillo, for one of the best views in all of Mexico. Tulum, the photogenic ruin perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean, is also easily accessible from Cancun.
Dive into Cenotes Take a refreshing dip in one of the Yucatan’s most famous jungle sinkholes — Ik-Kil, a.k.a. the Sacred Blue Cenote. A grand staircase takes you down 85 feet to the surface of this pristine pool, festooned with hanging vines and waterfalls.
See Art UnderwaterFor an unforgettable museum experience, don’t miss the Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA). Whether you visit by glass-bottomed boat or scuba dive to the bottom for close-up view of the more than 500 pieces of monumental sculpture, MUSA is absolutely surreal.
Splash, Smile, RepeatCancun and the Riviera Maya are the ideal places to swim with dolphins, take an aqua dive tour, go on a whale shark excursion or simply cruise the calm sea on a beautiful yacht, sailboat, paddleboard or catamaran. However you dive in, the warm Caribbean waters will soothe your aching soul and have you smiling like a child in no time.
Just Relax After the year we’ve all had, maybe the best thing to do in Cancun is simply relax. Lounge on the beach with a perfectly chilled margarita resting in your hand, watching your kids learn how to snorkel. Or transport your mind and body at one of the more than thirty Cancun spa resorts, many of which offer unique treatments that combine ancient Mayan healing rituals with modern stress-reducing techniques.
Thanks for this article go to Johnathan Herman for this great insight on Cancun. Being a part of Travel Leaders I have the opportunity to access some great information. I also had the fortune of being there just last month for my own great insight.