My beautiful love affair with Umbria is an introduction to this beautiful region giving you a guide to how to spend a luxurious week’s vacation here.
Quite justifiably many would equate Italy to being one of the most romantic countries in the world. A land of beauty, from landscape to architecture to food and of course the people and their style. Gentlemans Butler plays homage to The Grand Tour where young ladies would travel to educate and develop their cultural knowledge and not forgetting one of England’s premier actresses Maggie Smith found herself in “Our House in Umbria”
So, as we sit around the table under the large tree at the end of the garden let’s find out a little more about where Lady Charlotte is going off to, on her great adventure for Gentlemans Butler.
This time we need to hire a classic Italian car, possibly a vintage Alfa Romeo and decide what clothes would be suitable for a week in the Italian countryside, hunting, fishing and shooting, …think Beretta
And I hear you say where is the backstory, well young kittens get your hot chocolate and afternoon nibbles ready because it’s time for a little Ancient History, little did you know that’s what I studied for A ‘level at school but enough of me, so hear we go get the orchestra to give us some big epic MGM orchestral music for “We proudly present dnnnn dnnn dunnnn “The Umbrians” ….mix through to beautiful countryside and a flowing river and cue narration …..
Though there is also archaeological proof of civilization dating back to the Bronze and Iron Ages, things really didn’t start getting lively in central Italy until the Etruscans emerged as a people: in Umbria virtually every city and town, large and small alike has traces of ancient Umbrians, Etruscans or Romans. Umbria is named after the Umbri, an ancient tribe of peaceful pastoral people indigenous to eastern Umbria and parts of the Marches. However, the first two major tribes to share Umbria in the first millennium before Christ were the UMBRIANS and the ETRUSCANS.
Although the Etruscans have received more press, the Umbri settled in the region first, as far back as 1000 BC. In the 8th c. BC Etruscans took over a large number of Umbrian settlements.
Things seriously changed in Umbria in the 3rd c. BC when the ROMANS pushed their conquest northwards. At that time Umbrians and Etruscans were content to live rather than resist Roman power and in 90 BC, Umbrians were granted full Roman citizenship.
THE DARK AGES
After Rome fell the invasion of Barbarians (4th to 9th c. AD) brought destruction, suffering, famine and disease to the region and led to an economic and cultural decline (4). Conditions were perfect for the new Roman cult of Christianity to flourish.
The Medieval CommuneS
By 1200 most towns had become free comuni. Their imposing public buildings can be seen in almost every corner of Umbria. Many important saints (Benedict of Norcia – 6th c. – patron of Europe) had put Umbria on the mystical map, but it was in the 13th century when Umbria’s most famous son, born in one of its most famous towns – St Francis of Assisi – cemented Umbria’s reputation as a centre for spirituality, which continues to this day.
THE PAPAL STATE – from 16th c. until THE RISORGIMENTO when Italy became a country (1861)
Umbria was incorporated into the papal State during the 16th c. Historians of Umbrian culture like to say that time stopped in 1540.
The region, whose economy was mainly based on agriculture, experienced a dramatic economic shift at the end of the 19th century with the founding of the Acciaierie di Terni, a major steelwork placed in Terni because of its abundance of electric power due to the Marmore waterfall and its secluded position.
The present borders of Umbria were fixed in 1927, with the creation of the province of Terni and the separation of the province of Rieti, which was incorporated into Lazio. During WWII, Umbria was heavily bombed and in 1944 became a battlefield between the allied forces and the Germans retreating towards the Gothic Line. In 1946 Umbria became part of the Italian Republic.
With thanks to Catia Melani for the history and her knowledge.
Lady Charlotte has put together an itinerary for you to spend a beautiful week in the region.
Day 1 – Take a mid-morning flight to Rome and pick up a vintage Italian Sports car for your luxury vacation. Drive north from Rome and check into the beautifully rustic and medieval looking Castello di Monterone hotel which is just east of Perugia.
I fell in love with the hotel instantly and though technically not 5 star it has a lot of character, charm and tranquility.
By the time you arrive it will probably be mid to late afternoon so we suggest you relax for hopefully some late afternoon sunshine and go for a walk around the grounds and enjoy an earliesh dinner
and then switch off.
Day 2 – After a leisurely breakfast head out for lunch to Torgiano. We recommend a newish local restaurant called L’U winebar cucina umbra .
After a leisurely lunch take a stroll through the pretty town and take in a tour of The Wine Museum.
From Greeks to The Etruscans to The Romans and onto now discover about the culture of wine, from poetry to medicine, wine was all powering.
During the summer months, we suggest you enjoy the swimming pool, or use their sauna and book yourself a massage. In the ancient medieval castles, it was customary to allocate a quiet and sheltered wing of the garden just for the ladies. Their rose garden was created as a tribute to the women of the castle. With its 250 rose plants, from 20 varieties, it will take you on a true immersion into the floral beauty, enriched by a wonderful panorama of Perugia.
Day 3 – Have an early start and see the morning rise. A quick stop off to Val di Narco, an agricultural community
which also includes the Abbazia dei Santi Felice e Mauro (or Abbey of Saints Felice and Mauro), a late-Romanesque building dating from between the 13th and the 14th centuries.
You can see and buy Saffron being grown which is a medicine an anti-oxidant with 150 different elements.
Onto some late morning Truffle hunting, something the region is famous for.
Stretch the legs and take in something unique whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery. The large truffles you see in the photos could sell for 800 euros each.
Then into the hills where you will reach a pretty village called Collemancio.
This is an outlying administrative division of the municipality of Cannara in the province of Perugia in the green region of Umbria. The village, with its 78 inhabitants (as at 2001), certainly is positioned in unique countryside and I really fell in love with it.
Head for Il Rientro” restaurant where since 1978 the tradition of Umbrian kitchen is continued by their chef. A relatively simple space but the food and its position reminds me a little of having lunch at the top of the mountain after skiing.
Take a book up and find a bench for a bit r and r and just switch off ….maybe over an afternoon hot chocolate.
If you a spa goer which I am, we suggest you book in for a late afternoon detox. There are several fantastic spa’s in the region so please do contact us firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and then retire.
Day 4 – Shopping and culture in Perugia: during the Roman civil war between Mark Antony and Octavian (40 BC), the city of Perugia supported Marc Antony and was almost destroyed by Octavian, who some years later becoming Emperor Augustus had the city rebuilt and granted it the title of Augusta Perusia.
A long period of peace followed that was disturbed only when the Romans fell from power. The region maintained or increased its prosperity: marshlands and swamps were drained and lands for agriculture were reclaimed, urban centres boasted new forums, temples and baths.
We entered the capital of Umbria, Perugia through The Etruscan arch, walked up through the town to the fountain then into a magnificent room where you can get married.
It has a famous language centre at the university for foreigners where some excellent short courses are held.
You will need to park on the outskirts but after you have done this we recommend making a day of it with some food, culture, shopping ending with taking in an Aperitivo hour and just enjoying the chit chat and social atmosphere of Umbrians relaxing.
Day 5 – Drive to Cannara for some art and culture and an all-important coffee.
The town famous for its art treasures St Francis talking to the birds and its Onion festival in September where around 120,000 people over 10 days will descend onto a village of 4000.
Now it’s time to splash some cash and wrap oneself up in bundles of luxury.
Stop off at Cruciani Cashmere Factory which is a cashmere lover’s dream for some dedicated luxury shopping and discover more about their intricate lace work.
After it time for your luxury clad self to be a thespian, expressing your inner diva.
As you drive up the hill you will be surrounded by stunning vistas as you make your way to a place a fell in love with before I even arrived… Monte Castello di Vibio. This little 13th century village has a pretty food and wine Christmas festival starting in early December.
But the piece de resistance is the “Teatro della Concordia”, the smallest theatre in world, seating 99 people where the likes of Gina Lollobrigida played there.
In 1993 the restoration completed and now they do theatre again. They have a small orchestra who sit behind and is partly volunteer run.
This is a must especially is it sits in the romantic Monte Castello di Vibio
Eat your heart out La Scala
And talking of romance Apparitivo Romantica can be organised for couples up the tower, a stunning place for couples and weddings.
Day 6 –
Onto Todi with its 3 layers of wall, Etruscan, Roman and Medieval
In the 6th c. BC the river Tiber (Tevere in Italian) became a natural border between two areas of political control: the Umbrians to the east, the Etruscans to the west. The ancient name of Todi, Tular (“border”) remembers that.
Note the way people talk, apparently a great place to learn Italian because Perugia one of 2 places with very exact Italian, a perfect place to find an Italian newsreader.
Also note the way people are reflective, quiet and attached to the soil, walking tall with a connection to nature.
No reflection needed now as its time to go upmarket and enjoy the splendours of some luxurious Italian wines. Visit the Caprai Winery for tours, tasting and to purchase.
Here you will enjoy wine which are 100 % pure Grecante and has won best Italian white wine.
In 2015 a movie called the “Duel of Wine” used this as a location.
I was particularly taken with a Sagrantino red was the which ironically was the most expensive!!
Day 7 – It’s time to say ciao after a week of relaxing, laughter, feeding your soul, not to mention a few surprises as well as some lovely goodies to take home. Thoroughly recommended. Personally, this would be perfect in late Spring or Autumn.