An expedition sampling the fabulous food and wine produced in the heart of Italy.
Good food and wine are things which abound in Umbria. The countryside of this, one of few land-locked regions in Italy, shimmers with the silvery leaves of its olive trees, the fruits of which are pressed so as to produce a marvelously delicate oil, more than worthy of its DOP status.
In Umbria, even in those areas where the city has taken the place of the countryside, the air is filled with the aromas of the region's flavorsome peasant cuisine
No more so than in the region's capital, Perugia, the streets of which are lined with restaurants and wine bars, delicatessens, and chocolate shops.
Chocolate is, in fact, one of the city's major attractions, bringing thousands of visitors to Perugia each year, particularly in October when it hosts the Eurochocolate exhibition, and the historic center is filled with stalls selling every type and form of chocolate imaginable.
Even those who come to the city exclusively to feast on its "Bacio Perugina" chocolates, should not leave without having first visited the National Gallery of Umbria. This museum boasts a fabulous collection of Italian art, containing works dating from the 13th to 18th century.
Amongst the many masterpieces, those by Pietro Vannucci, better known as Perugino, never fail to draw the attention of the crowds. Perugino was also responsible for works in the nearby Cathedral of San Lorenzo and the Collegio del Cambio, Perugia's old stock exchange.
From the Umbrian capital, we head in to the surrounding countryside, home to any number of old farmhouses and castles, now transformed in charming country hotels and exclusive period residences. We take time to take a stroll around Cannara, a pretty little medieval village, famous for its onions.
The sandy soil and elevated levels of humidity present in this part of Umbria provide the perfect conditions in which to grow the town's highly prized edible bulbs
Dominating the town of Cannara, the Castle of Collemancio is an imposing edifice which proudly displays each and every one of its 800 years of history.
Vineyards occupy great part of Umbria's rolling hillside, and the grapes grown here are transformed in some of the country's finest wines. The countryside surrounding Montefalco is where the prestigious Sagrantino and Rosso di Montefalco are produced.
Montefalco is worth visiting not only to taste the wine but also to tour the town which, from the heights of its panoramic position, boasts some of the most breathtaking views over the Umbrian countryside.
In the ex Church of San Francesco there is a museum containing a pictorial cycle painted by Benozzo Gozzoli, a fresco of the Nativity scene by Perugino, and a collection of important archaeological findings.
Classy cold cuts
From the land of Sagrantino wine to that of the "Norcino" sausage. As the name suggests, the age old profession of making spicy sausages originates in the Umbrian town of Norcia.
A paradise for lovers of cold meats such as salame, coglioni di mulo, capocollo, guanciale, and porchetta; Norcia is an absolute must for pecorino fans too - irrespectively of whether they prefer their ewes cheese with or without the famous Norcia truffle.
It is perhaps ironic that all these tempting delicacies are made in the town where San Benedetto was born, the saint who advocated Benedictine austerity and the rule of ora et labora.
Hotels in the area
Cittą della Pieve
Passignano sul Trasimeno