Say whatever you want, but I don’t know a better cure for exhaustion and depression then Italy. Isn’t called “la dolce vita” for nothing, right? But this summer I let Michelangelo and sunny Tuscany aside and I headed towards Umbria. Etruscan walls, chic cities on the top of the green hills, intoxicating smell of truffles, pizza, pasta, almond pastry… Yes, I know, I said it before: I am a carb addict, what can I do?!
Why Umbria? Because it is not as touristic as Tuscany or Lago di Como. Because the cities are somehow unspoiled without legions of tourist looking for stereotypes and because it preserves the Italian touch better than any other region. Because here is the chocolate factory of Baci di Perugina and practically anything I ate was sprinkled with truffles. I loved Perugia, with its stone cobbled walls and fountains and the stunning view over the hills. Must try here: a breakfast with truffles over almost everything (eggs, bread, cheese), a wine glass sipped on a terrace overlooking the valley with olive trees and wineries and a bath into the pool of Brufani Palace (www.brufanipalace.com), where you can see the ancient Etruscan ruins under your feet. Literally! Through the warm water! And, of course, a visit to the chocolate factory (www.baciperugina.it): smells like heaven and makes you want to have somebody to invent a diet based on cocoa beans.
I fell in love with Spoleto – so quiet, so zen, so well preserved; for sure the “no car access” motto of the city had helped. To try: a climb to Rocca Albornoziana (a beautiful fortress) and (of course) some pasta con funghi for lunch. And I knew that next stop should have been, no matter how religious I am or not, Assisi, the legendary hill town better known for its “guardian”, San Francesco d’Assisi. I walked for hours in the city and never get bored: architecture here is one of the most representative for this Italian region (Basilica di San Francesco d’Assisi and the two medieval Castles, Rocca Magiorre being one with an extraordinary view of the hills) and the meals were worth taking the trip. For the lunch: strangozzi con truffles and antipasti (Pecorino cheese, crostini with olive oil or prosciutto), plus some delicious traditional sweets (Baci di San Francesco is a must-try!).
And, speaking about food, I really don’t know why Umbrian food got the name of “cucina povere” (poor people cuisine). In Norcia I found out that are at least a hundred of cheese specialities (ricotta, caciotta, raviglio, pecorino; of course, a lot of them with truffles, black and white, the real trademark for the town), uncountable ways to cook the pork and the wild boar meat (the Latin language speakers will find funny the names like “coglioni di mullo”, “pallo di nonno” or “porcheta”), dozens of dried beans such as favas, lentils and chickpeas, farro or spelt, different kind of olive oil, a lot of patsry and sweets, plus local bier made by monks (Belgium, pay attention!).
The perfect way to end the trip? Cities of Montefalco and Montepulciano for the calm and local touch (somebody would say for the famous wines; yes, for those ones, too) and a trip to Lago di Trasimeno, a beautiful lake between the hills and the mountains.
P.S. E’ incredibile quanto cose si trovino mentre cerchi qualcos’ altro (It is amazing how many thing you can find while you’re looking for something else). That was my first message found wrapped around the Baci din Perugina chocolate. And I found out that’s perfectly true. And I never stop dreaming.