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!
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