"A noble land that is, at its core, also the salt of the earth."
— Anthony Faiola, The Washington Post
Umbria lies in the center of Italy, a magical, landlocked region known as il cuore verde (the green heart) because of the amazing bounty that emerges from its fertile soil. These fresh-from-the-earth ingredients—pork, olive oil, lentils, chickpeas, truffles—like Umbria’s wine, are the inimitable expressions of this unique terrain, recognizable on the tongue as the authentic taste of rustic Umbria. Beyond the food itself, even more devoutly cherished in these parts is the enjoyment of it, through the place from which it comes and the people with whom it is shared.
Once you’ve been to Umbria, it’s hard to imagine why you would go anywhere else. Everything bursts with the warm and comforting taste of the land, whether you’re participating in the olive harvest, hunting for truffles or discovering Sagrantino wine. Learn to make pasta with the chef at a family restaurant in town and enjoy it with sausage he crafts with meat from pigs he raises and slaughters himself. This is the essence of locavorism.
Umbria is a place that begs to be explored and devoured from the ground up.
When we first came to la Fattoria del Gelso, we were virtually strangers to the area, unfamiliar with the customs and the language. But now the cypress-lined driveway signals to us that we are home. We are surrounded by glorious fields of chickpeas, brilliant sunflowers and next year’s prized crop of cipolle rossi, the subtly sweet red onions that are the symbol of our town. Swinging open the front door, we are greeted by a dining room alive with the memory of countless dinners enjoyed among family and friends. This house holds beauty, comfort and joy in equal measure. Here, old friendships deepen and new friendships develop effortlessly. That’s just what happens around the Umbrian table.
Time spent in Cannara is magical. The curving lines of its landscapes are captured through the historied paintings of Giotto. This unspoiled farming village is populated by hardworking farmers, shopkeepers and families who congregate
in the handful of coffee bars and excellent restaurants, in piazzas and on park benches in the village greens. The quality of Cannara's grocers, butchers, florists and cafes rivals anything found in the big cities. Several days each week, a large truck takes up position in a small square and opens a mobile porchetta stand, where a whole roast pig is sliced and served on rolls or wrapped up to be taken home for dinner.
Cannara is just a stone’s throw from many larger towns and villages, including Perugia, Assisi, Montefalco and Spoleto, all of which offer wonderful artisanal crafts and excellent opportunities for sight-seeing excursions. Nearby Deruta, officially designated one of Italy’s most beautiful towns, is full of artists’ studios where extended families carry on the ancient tradition of hand-making and -painting internationally acclaimed ceramics. Perugia's storied history is the counterpoint to its modern beating heart, a town where you can eat well, listen to jazz, gaze upon sweeping vistas and enjoy people-watching.
A number of important medieval trades were once practiced in Bevagna, and you can still see candle making, paper making and silk spinning in practice. Montefalco is the ultimate place to discover the Sagrantino grape and the wine made from it, whose inky lusciousness embodies Umbria’s terroir. It is rivaled perhaps only by the olive oil you’ll encounter when visiting a frantoio, a local olive mill where a feast of raw vegetables is set out for you to sample the lush, peppery elixir pressed from the latest harvest.
In a world that increasingly values authenticity rooted in tradition, Umbria is a beacon that remains exactly as it has been for hundreds of years. Though it is inviting and accommodating, it is far from the pre-packaged, touristy Italy utterly lacking in surprises. This fascinating region offers you something very genuine and incredibly enriching: an experience that is close to the land and to the people who call it home. We invite you to explore its riches with Via Umbria.