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Umbria Experience

by Eddie Tang  from Singapore

We fell in love with Italy ever since our first European trip to Tuscany in 2010. Since then we would always try to make it back to Italy at least once a year and visit more areas in Italy. Since our first trip to Tuscany, we have been to some wonderful places in Italy such as Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore, Cinque Terre & Sicily just to name a few. This time we chose Umbria because one of the people we met on our trips recommended us to consider Umbria for our next holiday trip. This happened while we were stuck in a souvenir shop during a hail storm in Modica, Sicily back in 2014. We took his recommendation and we looked Umbria up and and saw these amazing picturesque photos of the area and towns to visit. And that was all we needed to decide on this destination.

We rented this amazing villa in Casigliano which was constructed back in 1681 by the Corsini’s family of Florence and was restored to proper conditions by the new owner. The restored villa has all the charm of an old 1600 century villa but with modern facilities like a full working kitchen, swimming pool, heating, TV and WiFi (which wasn’t great but good enough). The villa has 5 bedrooms and can easily sleep 8 – 12 people.

We landed in Rome and we rented a car from the airport that could seat 8 persons. We had 5 people on this trip (including me) and so we needed the extra space to accommodate for our luggage. If you are a confident driver, its easy to drive around Italy…just drive slower than you normally would back home. We rented a mobile Internet router from the car rental service so we could use the GPS apps on our iPhones which is way better than using the crappy GPS devices the car rental service tries to rent you. I would use a combination of Apple Maps, Google Maps and Waze depending on where we’re going to plot our destination and route. Yes sometimes I do make mistakes when I drive.. like taking a wrong turn here, or exiting the wrong lane there, but Google Maps will always correct and reroute you when you make a mistake. Actually, some of the best and surprising places we have been were because we made a wrong turn. So don’t be scared and be adventurous and allow yourself to make a mistake or two because you’re holiday and its an adventure you don’t get to do everyday.

We don’t generally have a detailed plan what we are going to do when we arrive at a holiday destination. Cause we only start coming up with a simple plan after speaking to the locals and listening to their suggestions. So on the first day when we arrived in Rome, we headed straight to our villa which was about a 2.5 hour drive from Rome. Though I was a bit jet lagged from the flight, I was still alert enough for the drive because the view of country side from Rome to Casigliano was very nice & scenic.

When we arrived at the villa, we were all so pleasantly surprised because the view from the villa was just amazing (see pictures attached). We were surrounded by fields of Barley as far as the eye can see (which the local farmers would rotate to Sunflowers on alternated years).

So the first 2 days we would plan our itinerary to just visit nearby towns with the rented car and also to grab some basic toiletries, groceries and cooking ingredients from local marts. We always try to cook our own meals when we’re in Italy because the quality and freshness of the local produce in these Italian towns are just heavenly. Once we had our bearings and did a bit more detailed research after the 2nd day, we started our plans to venture further away to other scenic towns. Each town we visited would be about an hour’s drive away from our villa with the exception of Piani Di Castelluccio which took us about 2 hours.

So our daily routine would be to wake up early. Seok (my wife) would whip up a nice simple breakfast for all of us with the local produce like greens, tomatoes, cheese, olives and lovely breads which we bought from the previous day before we head out (see picture of breakfast at Villa). And we would buy more food and bottles of local wines from towns we visited, before we head back to the villa. We would try to make our way back before 4pm so that we would have time to rest, do our laundry, and just chill while having a bottle of wine (or two) accompanied with various cheeses with local fruits. And we’d start getting ready for dinner by 7pm whilst admiring the sunset from the Villa’s patio. We generally will cook and have dinner in the villa on most evenings but will venture to nearby Orvieto on occasions for dinner or just for an Italian dessert which are to die for.

We have not had a bad meal anywhere in Umbria. We normally would look up TripAdvisor for recommendations when we have to and select the most authentic local restaurant from search result and have our meal. Seok & I are vegetarians so we tend to be a bit more selective where we eat. Our friends are not vegetarians so we normally compromise on restaurants where they have a good selection of veggie dishes which isn’t difficult to find in Italy. On most occasions, the wait staff are more than happy to tell the chef to whip up something special from the kitchen just for me & Seok. Italians are so nice that way.

Here are the tops places that we recommend to visit, in no particular order:

1. Orvieto
2. Assisi
3. Spelo
4. Spoleto
5. Piani di Castelluccio (best time to visit is in late spring to early summer where the wild flowers are in full bloom)
6. Montefalco (great wine district)
7. Largo Trasimeno
8. Marmore Falls

If you are driving, try and take in a visit to a vineyard or two and taste the locally produce wines of Umbria. They very high quality wines which you don’t generally get outside of Italy and at very reasonable prices. The 2 vineyards we recommend are:

1. Montioni
2. Arnarldo Caprai

Finally, a ‘Must Do’ Recommendation in Umbria
Book yourselves for the Wild Foods Truffle Hunt experience if you are there in Umbria during Spring or Autumn which are truffle hunting season. The tour is a bit pricy (€125 per person – minimum 2 people) but well worth the money. Its entire experience will take about half a day (9am – 3pm) with the guided truffle hunt equipped with the cutest truffle hunting dogs you’ll meet, an outdoor prosecco picnic brunch, personalised pasta cooking session and lunch with assortment of truffles dishes. For more information on the Wild Foods Truffle Hunt, visit – http://www.umbrianculture.com/
Not recommended if you:
1. Don’t like dogs or sheep or nature in general
2. Don’t like hiking
3. Don’t like Truffles
Then I would recommend just stick to the visiting the towns around Umbria.
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