Trasimeno, the Blue Heart of Umbria

The fascinating Lake Trasimeno is the forth lake for surface in Italy, where mythology blends seamlessly with history. It was considered sacred by the Etruscans, who believed it was an earthly representation of Heaven. Three of the main Etruscan cities – Perugia, Chiusi and Cortona – are within 20 km of the Lake.

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Nowadays eight towns surround the Lake, some on panoramic hilltops, and others on the shore. There are three islands in the Lake.

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La Festa della Padella in Passignano, organized for the citizens and the many tourists who visit the city in August, offers fine cuisine, including the fish caught by the local professional fishermen.

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Here you’ll find traditional dishes and brand new recipes like the delicious crostini with perch, red swamp crayfish salad, tench crostini, perch & wheat salad, as well as fagiolina, the tiny bean that thrives in the ideal climate of the lake and cultivated here since the Etruscan times.


The First Course Combo: Taglierini with fish fillet, and Black Rice with red swamp crayfish sauce. A separate plaudit for the Regina carp, Trasimeno’s best known fish.

Representing the Wine Road of Colli del Trasimeno, Azienda Agricola Pucciarella. The fine notes of their Agnolo perfectly matched the lake’s culinary delights.

Montone, Recounting Traditions

The walled medieval castle-village of Montone, one of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy, is about 40 km north of Perugia and offers majestic views of the valleys.

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The village has perfectly preserved its medieval look and can be considered an open-air museum that easily immerses tourists in an atmosphere of ancient times.

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The Feast of Donazione della Santa Spina, in August, originates in an age-old tradition. It’s a re-enactment of real life events from 1473, when Count Carlo Fortebraccio, who served as a mercenary for the Republic of Venice and was instrumental in helping Venice drive out the Turks, was awarded a thorn from Christ’s Crown brought back to Venice by the crusaders.


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For a truly Umbrian dining experience I highly recommend L’Antica Osteria di Montone, situated right in the main square Piazza Fortebraccio.


Here the dishes go hand in hand with the amazing history and traditions of one of the most picturesque villages in Italy.


Great atmosphere, fresh ingredients, local recipes – all garnished with the magnificent belvedere!

Citerna, to the Eye and to the Palate

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Driving along the winding road with a breathtaking panorama of a village on the hilltop right near the Tuscan border, you get to Citerna.

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The village, about 50 km northwest of Perugia, boasts Etruscan and Roman origins, and has been ranked amongst the 100 Most Beautiful Villages in Italy.

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The urban plan extends underground with trenches, vaults and many rainwater cisterns. Along the perimeter of the western and eastern walls are the medieval walkways with arches facing the valley.

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Walk along Corso Garibaldi, the village’s main street, and admire the Town Hall, the Casa Prosperi-Vitelli with a 16th-century chimney, and the Church of St. Francis, which is a must-see, because of the richness and variety of the artworks and their great historical and artistic value: some paintings by Raffaellino del Colle, a Deposition by Pomarancio (1570), a fresco by Luca Signorelli, and a recently found terracotta figure depicting Madonna and Child (Donatello, 1415) that now enrichens the museum.

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St. Elizabeth Monastery
St. Elizabeth Monastery

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The village festival that celebrates sambudelli, a local speciality, served along with fegatelli, sausages, polenta and some good local wine.

A large copper pot with polenta; just a few more minutes...
A large copper pot with polenta; just a few more minutes…
The smell of sambudelli rising up in the air.
The smell of sambudelli rising up in the air.

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Pietralunga, Back the Clock

Pietralunga is a cute village surrounded by unspoiled countryside. It is one of the most ancient settlements in Umbria.

The Town Hall, built over the tower of a Lombard fortress, and the parish Church of St. Mary (8th to 10th Century) are the town's most important buildings.
The Town Hall, built over the tower of a Lombard fortress, and the parish Church of St. Mary (8th to 10th Century) are the town’s most important buildings.

During the Palio della Mannaja, in August, you can really immerse yourself into a medieval atmosphere and be taken back in time walking down the narrow streets, witnessing engaging shows and tournaments and appreciating the medieval menus served by the tavernas. Let the locals capture your attention…

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This is the right place to ‘search’ for Umbrian gold, the truffles. Visit Tartufi Jimmy Store in Via dei Tigli 16, Pietralunga (PG) and check out their wide range of products, genuine and delicious, to take back home. Add a card “With love, from Umbria” and you get an authentic gift to give.

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Cortona & Acquasparta: Let’s Go Sagras!

Festivals in Italy are a true delight. It’s about meeting the locals, discovering surprisingly beautiful places and having fun at charming late night alfresco parties. These are wonderful experiences which you’ll hardly forget.






Every Italian town boasts its share of festivals and sagre, (and I love a sagra!). Lots of them trace their roots back to medieval times and the people proudly uphold the heritage right down to the smallest details.

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“Cortona: Mother of Troy, Grandmother of Rome” (from the Third Book of Virgil’s Aeneid).
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A breathtaking view of the valley with Lake Trasimeno in the distance.

Originally an Umbrian town, Cortona was conquered and enlarged by the Etruscans, who called it Curtun. Parts of the Etruscan city wall can still be seen today.


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Luca Signorelli, one of the greatest Renaissance painters, was born in Cortona in c. 1445 and died there in 1523. His first work is dated 1474, when he frescoed the Bishop’s Tower of Città di Castello, which Picture Gallery hosts the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian painted by the artist for the Church of St. Dominic.

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La Sagra della Bistecca

The Sagra della Bistecca in Cortona, where food rules the day.
Sagra della Bistecca in Cortona, where food rules the day.

This festival celebrates the true Florentine steak that uses Chianina beef and is always served rare. The Sagra takes place at Ferragosto. The T-bone steaks are cooked on a 14-metre wire rack (the largest in Italy I’ve been told). Chianina cattle have been raised (and praised) in Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio for over 2000 years.

So I say, let's plate up!
So I say, let’s plate up!

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Festa Rinascimentale, Acquasparta

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Acquasparta is a beautiful Umbrian town that dominates the valley of The Naia River. During the Roman domination the area with its mineralized hot water baths was a retreat.

La Festa Rinascimentale in June recalls the 16th-century Acquasparta and the celebrations in the honour of Duke Federico Cesi.  The ‘contrade’ (Ghetto, Porta Vecchia and San Cristoforo) form the main part of the parade, where the flag-bearers perform a spectacular flag-waving exhibition in synchrony with the drum roll, this followed by various tournaments.

La Taverna di Porta Vecchia served us an amazing meal.
La Taverna di Porta Vecchia served us an amazing meal.

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After dinner, just cross the road and you are at the Renaissance style Palazzo Cesi. Today meetings and exhibitions are held in the palace, and during the Renaissance Festival an important event Vino A Palazzo takes place. Here you get a chance to taste good local wines proudly presented by the local winemakers.


Valtiberina Gems: Canoscio, Badia Petroia and Morra


You can discover these little hamlets driving along the Tiberina Road, past Trestina and following the Nestore River bank.


The Basilica of Canoscio (XIX Century) is a gorgeous site. The shrine of Madonna di Canoscio remains a centre of Marian devotion today, and along with the Parish Church of St. Cosmas and St. Damian (XII century), is visited by 100.000 devotees every year.


In 1935 the Canoscio hoard was found, a 6th-century paleo-Christian dinner service of 25 silver pieces, now displayed in the Duomo Museum (Città di Castello).

Badia Petroia and its 11th-century Benedictine Abbey dedicated to St. Mary and St. Giles.
Badia Petroia and its 11th-century Benedictine Abbey dedicated to St. Mary and St. Giles.

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Morra and the San Crescentino Oratory (1420) with frescoes by Luca Signorelli, who stopped in Morra moving from his native Cortona to Città di Castello. The entire fresco cycle was restored by the famous contemporary artist Alberto Burri in the 1980s.

Città di Castello

Park your car in Piazzale Ferri and take a stroll in the town streets that bear a Tuscan resemblance rather than an Umbrian one, this thanks to the Vitelli family, who lived here in the 15th and 16th centuries. The town centre is surrounded by the old town walls dating back to the 12th century. The Renaissance had a very strong influence on the architecture here. The town boasts many works by major artists of that time. (You can get a free guidebook from the Tourist Information Office in Corso Cavour.)

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The Cathedral rises on the ruins of an old temple built by Pliny the Younger in the 1st century AD. It is dedicated to St. Florido (the patron saint) and St. Amantius, who rebuilt the town after a siege by the Goths in 542.


The Round Bell Tower, one of the symbols of Città di Castello, dates back to the 11th century. It is 43,5 metres high with a diameter of 7 metres.


The Civic Tower (or the Bishop’s Tower) built in 1300  used to be a prison for a long time.


Palazzo dei Priori (now the Town Hall) is one of the most famous public buildings in Umbria, built between 1322 – 1338, and boasts the town coat of arms carved over the main door and the architect’s name – Angelo da Orvieto – visible on the lintel.

Entrance Hall of Palazzo dei Priori
Entrance Hall of Palazzo dei Priori with octagonal pillars and its wide staircase which leads us to the Sala del Consiglio with some Roman epigraphs and pieces of frescoes.


Palazzo del Podestà, completed in 1368, with two-mullioned windows and decorative coats of arms of podestas who governed the town.



The neo-gothic Church of San Domenico, where Raphael painted the Mond Crucifixion, 1503, now in the National Gallery, London.


Walk down the street to get to Pinacoteca Comunale, which found a home in the beautiful rooms of the 16th-century Palazzo Vitelli alla Cannoniera with its fine sgraffito decorations on the palace façade, carried out by Cristofano Gherardi using Giorgio Vasari’s drawings. Sgraffito played an important role during the years of the Renaissance in Italy.


This Picture Gallery is the second largest museum in Umbria, after the National Gallery in Perugia. Here you can admire the Martyrdom of St Sebastian by Luca Signorelli (1498), The Holy Trinity by the young Raphael (1499), the Coronation of the Virgin by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1486), as well as the collection of ceramics by the Della Robbia family. Entry ticket € 6, closed on Mondays.

Peering down at garden of Palazzo Vitelli alla Cannoniera.
Peering down at garden of Palazzo Vitelli alla Cannoniera.

The Vitelli were the main political protagonists in town. The family built five beautiful palaces in Città di Castello in the 15th and 16th centuries. Here is Palazzo Vitelli a Sant’Egidio and the park, which once used to be a splendid Italian garden.

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Niccolò Vitelli imposed his authority in the 15th century. Four of his sons – Giovanni, Camillo, Paolo and Vitellozzo – became skillful and clever captains of fortune, whereas another son, Giulio, was the bishop of the town until 1530. All of them continued their father’s economic and military strategies, as well as cultural ideas, thus granting Città di Castello a period of great prosperity.

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The Church of St. Francis, in Piazza Raffaello Sanzio, which hosts a copy of the Marriage of the Virgin by Raphael (1504, the original painting is now in Brera Picture Gallery, Milan), and the Vitelli Chapel designed by Giorgio Vasari in the mid 1500’s.

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Church of Santa Maria Maggiore and Porta di Santa Maria Maggiore.

An immense artistic heritage preserved within the ancient town walls and in the museums, where lots of masterpieces are on display, tells us what life was like in the Tifernum Tiberium from its very early history to modern times.

During the first November weekend a truffle fair takes place in Città di Castello. It’s one of the most important fairs dedicated to this delicacy, the Umbrian Gold.

Peposo (Peppery Tuscan Beef Stew)

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Learn how to make the perfect Peposo, Brunelleschi’s favourite. Don’t be scared off by the amount of pepper in this recipe, the peppery aroma will permeate the kitchen and the diners’ soul.

Time: 1 hour 30 mins       Serves: 4


  • 600 g beef shank, cut into large chunks
  • 20 g whole black peppercorns
  • 500 ml red wine (Chianti, of course)
  • coarse sea salt, to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped


Heat 3-4 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan and saute the finely chopped carrot, celery and onion. Add the beef cubes, the peppercorns and season with salt. Cook for 20 mins. Then cover with Chianti wine, reduce the heat, put a lid on and cook for about an hour, until the meat is soft.

You can serve Il Peposo with croutons or polenta, and accompany it with a glass of Tuscan red wine. Buon appetito!

Valtiberina, The Age-Old Amphitheatre Of Natural Beauty


The Upper Tiber Valley lies across two Italian regions and is governed by Tuscany in the north and Umbria in the south. Also known as Valtiberina, the valley takes its name from the River Tiber.

Situated right in the centre of Italy, the area populated first by the Etruscans and then by the Romans (the latter used to build their summer villas in the Valtiberina, including Pliny the Younger), offers you a chance to take an in-depth look at its medieval towns, impressive monuments and renaissance treasures. You can pick your own artistic and cultural itinerary. Here you can admire the art of Raphael (1483-1520), Piero della Francesca (1415-1492), Luca Signorelli (1445-1523), the Della Robbia family and many others… You can also discover the places frequented by St. Francis, the patron saint of Italy, through the beautiful abbeys, monasteries and churches.

The only highway that passes through the valley is the E45.


Castello di Brolio

Castello di Brolio is now home to the descendants of the Ricasoli family, who still live in the castle, so you can visit the gardens and the museum, but also admire the great view. All this followed by the wine tasting at the Ricasoli wine shop (included in the entry ticket).

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Did you know that Baron Bettino Ricasoli was the first to create the recipe for what became the great Chianti wine famous all over the world?

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Here you get the opportunity to unwind and enjoy a different rhythm. Definitely worth a trip!