Umbrian Hideaway@CASTELLO DI GALLANO Resort -Valtopina

Castello di Gallano Resort is one of our favourite escapes during the summer months. Plunged into the green Umbrian country, it offers the visitor a memorable and relaxing stay.

Enchanting is the area, which can be reached by driving through some lovely Umbrian countryside.

 

The medieval hamlet (which remains are still visible today) has been turned into this fantastic resort.

The 32 recently renovated apartments are well equipped and nicely furnished.

A very pleasant setting with swimming-pool (very refreshing on a hot day) surrounded by gorgeous Valtopina panoramas.

Extensive park-like areas allow you to get away from it all. Guests can use the many common areas such as barbecue facilities, picnic area and a playground for the little ones.

Here one can relax in the resort’s sublime surroundings or enjoy day trips to many beautiful towns easily reached from the resort – Foligno, Assisi, Perugia, Bevagna, Spoleto.

 

The elegant restaurant where to discover typical dishes of Umbrian cuisine. Everything is prepared out of high-quality products. Homemade pasta, truffles, and fine meats – all combined to ensure a memorable dining experience.

 

The views all around are breathtaking and the accommodations are beautiful too.

And what better way to spend an afternoon in Umbria than to come back to your accommodation and continue enjoying this view from your very own terrace, or maybe poolside with aperitivo!

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The True Taste of Umbria @ARNALDO CAPRAI – Montefalco

“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy,”

– Benjamin Franklin

This year’s Cantine Aperte weekend has been filled with time with friends in the countryside around Montefalco. It was about tasting gorgeous wines, strolling through the vines, and enjoying stunning views over some of Umbria’s finest landscapes.

And what better place to learn about the local superstar grape Sagrantino than at the Arnaldo Caprai vineyard.

 

Umbrian families have been perfecting their crafts for generations. And that goes for harvesting olives, sculpting ceramics and, of course, winemaking.

 

Visiting this beautiful winery was on the top of my ‘to do’ list for years. They are evangelical about taking visitors on tours, tastings, or even gourmet picnics among the vines – the setting makes for the perfect al fresco dining experience.

 

The man himself, Mr Marco Caprai.

Since 1988 Marco Caprai has been leading the company in his pursuit of giving the tradition an innovative approach. Harnessing his personal talent and skills, he made a commitment to produce high quality wines through environmentally conscious innovation, sustainable winery and farming operations. This, and the desire to preserve the landscape and regional identity, has lead to years of research in the agronomic and enological fields, which also involved the University of Agriculture of Milan.

The wine is just as amazing as the views. In the glass: Colli Martani Grechetto DOC Grecante.
Savour a glass of delicious Arnaldo Caprai wines while taking in the stunning panorama!
Arnaldo Caprai Grechetto Colli Martani Grecante 2015: #1 on Wine Spectator’s list of Italian white wines for summer.
The exclusive cases filled with a hand-picked selection of superb wines.
One to drink, one to cellar 🙂

For more info visit www.arnaldocaprai.it

 

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A Toast To Autumn @Fattoria COLSANTO -Bevagna, PG

Umbria never fails to surprise me. I sometimes forget what a beautiful region it is. The landscape is simply fascinating, and autumn is the right time of year for a scenic back-road drive, with vineyards whose leaves paint the countryside red, orange, and gold.

If your Umbrian dreams feature these amazing vistas, set your sights on Montefalco, known as the ‘balcony of Umbria’ for its dramatic hilltop perch. There are few better places to connect with all the charm and authenticity of this beautiful region than Fattoria Colsanto, situated right in the heart of Umbria. It makes a great base to visit all the main towns, with so many sights and treasures to choose from:  Perugia, Spello, Bevagna, Spoleto, Foligno and, of course  Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, are all within easy reach.

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The area is known for its wine and Livon is one of the best wine producers from this corner of Umbria. The family also owns wineries in the most famous regions throughout Italy. They did a superb job in renovating the 18th-century farm house, adding today’s modern comforts to the estate, with five comfortable rooms for the guests. The cellar offers quality wine tastings, including the region’s signature Sagrantino di Montefalco and Montefalco Rosso.

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The area is so incredibly pretty. And what better way to experience it than stay in such a relaxed and charming place!

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How’s this for an inviting view?
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Umbria’s Green Gold @ MARFUGA -Campello sul Clitunno, PG

November is the right month for a sensorial tour in the genuine Umbrian way of living made of good wines, freshly picked truffles and newly-pressed extra-virgin olive oils.

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Umbrian countryside is authentic, with a rich cultural and artistic heritage. And while paintings, sculptures and frescoes from the greats such as Raffaello Sanzio, Perugino, Luca Signorelli, Rosso Fiorentino, the Della Robbia family, fill the museums, churches, galleries and squares of many beautiful Umbrian towns, other art expressions await you here, in the vineyards, olive groves, factories and rustic farmhouses, as Italian quality products are very famous and appreciated all over the world. These masterpieces derive from the same history and culture, geographical position, love and pride, determination that producers put into their products.

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Olive harvesting and pressing has just started. I got really involved this year at local olive oil mills during Frantoi Aperti – the most important annual event dedicated to oil. Held in November, the festival celebrates the extra virgin olive oil of high quality Italy is so renowned for. Gastronomic itineraries and cultural events of all kinds are organized on November weekends in villages and tiny hamlets throughout the boot. Workshops, regional menus, guided tastings… olive oil can tell many stories, just follow the oil route to discover the best mills of the territory and spend a blissful time in this beautiful country.

A little stroll around Spoleto, before I head out of town for a very special experience.
A little stroll around Spoleto, before I head out of town for a very special experience.

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Frantoio Marfuga near the beautiful hill town of Spoleto. This morning begins with a memorable visit to the mill and the estate with Serena, who turned out to be a very knowledgeable and entertaining guide. The passion is almost tangible. Here olives are being turned into some of the best Italian extra virgin olive oils. Fruity and fragrant, they boast an extraordinary flavor, good intensity and persistence, and an unmistakable mildly peppery, bitter after-taste..

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Olives don’t have to be too ripe to be picked. When it comes to extra virgin olive oil, the timing is crucial. The harvest must start early in the olive’s natural maturation process. Olives are picked when they are only partially dark and the fruity flavor is at its max, which assures a low degree of acidity. The olives are harvested mostly by hand. After the olives are gathered into small containers, they are brought to the mill (or frantoio). The olives are separated from the leaves, washed, crushed into thick paste, and pressed into oil.

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Umbrian oil makes up only about 2 percent of Italy’s olive oil production, but these oils win a far larger proportion of awards.

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The award-winning company Marfuga with their D.O.P. UMBRIA Colli Assisi-Spoleto, and other oils. By the way, Umbria was the first Italian region to receive the D.O.P. designation in 1997 for the entire territory – a recognition of the authentic Umbrian oil, it’s basically a stamp of excellence and ‘protection of origin’.

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And as for the skin care, here are some EVOO beauty products, for a charming gift. Olive oil is a great moisturizer, and first uses of olive oil were on the body and not in it.

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Marfuga olive oil themed products include creams, soaps, lotions, and scrubs.

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Best way to savor the liquid gold?  On bruschetta, of course! MARFUGA NOVELLO Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the first oil of the year. Bottled without being filtered in order to maintain its precious qualities, it should be poured with gusto on your bruschetta. Happiness!

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Known as green gold, Umbrian olive oil is an expensive treat. But avoid olive oil with a low price; the idea is that you must eat quality and not quantity. It is good for you, the health benefits of olive oil are unrivaled. Characterized by its intense green colour with golden highlights, fresh and fruity fragrance, this liquid gold is peppery, spicy and absolutely delicious!

Proudly an olive oil sommelier and a member of AICOO

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Solomeo & Corciano

Two charming hilltop hamlets just outside of Perugia await discovery.

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The characteristic hamlet of Solomeo is nestled in the beautiful green hills of Umbria. It’s a peaceful place, surrounded by silence, hospitality and breathtaking scenery.

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The village has recently been rediscovered. It regained its ancient splendor and returned to its former glory thanks to its resident – cashmere entrepreneur Brunello Cucinelli – who restored it completely, with love and respect.

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The 13th– century hamlet of Solomeo was built on the site of an ancient settlement known as Villa Solomei. In 1391 its inhabitants decided to fortify the village and build a castle.

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The beautiful church of St Bartholomew is a real gem, especially on the inside. The first nucleus of this structure dates back to the 13th century. It was later rebuilt in the 18th century.

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In the end of July the village travels back in time and frames one of the most distinctive events of this region – Solomeo Rinascimentale, a nine-day medieval street fair with shows, demonstrations, music and dancing. The village streets and piazzas come to life with the never ending past…

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Arts and craft exhibitions are hosted in the village streets, lit with hundreds of torches, along with regional specialties tastings in this perfect atmosphere: handmade pasta, high quality local produce, homemade desserts, wine, torcoli with vin santo, and of course, my favourite panzanella (bread salad)..

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Falconers, minstrels, artisans, jugglers welcome visitors, connoisseurs of Italian village life and of Brunello’s cashmere!

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Falconry show in the open-air amphitheater.

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You can feel Brunello’s patronage in every detail. A curved Ionic portico and colonnade leading to the entrance to the Cucinelli Theatre. It faces the large amphitheater where concerts are held. Internationally renowned artists perform on these stages. Do not miss the Villa Solomei Festival – a unique occasion to enjoy classical music of the highest level.

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The centuries-old town of Corciano is just 9km away. It is listed among the Most Beautiful Italian Villages and is a charming evocative place to wander.

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Corciano is surrounded by three concentric walls and vast green swaths of land.

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Park at the entrance to the hamlet and walk up through the Porta Santa Maria.

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As you walk up and down the narrow streets and steps, taking pictures and enjoying beautiful panoramas from the numerous viewpoints, you are taken by timeless medieval atmosphere.

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Corciano was a strategic site, overlooking the valley that joined the Trasimeno area and the Tiber River valley, quite a desirable stronghold in the constant warfare of the 14th and 15th centuries.

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Legend has it that the castle of Corciano was founded by Coragino, the mythical companion of Ulysses.

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The iconic tower Torrione di Porta Santa Maria built in 1482.

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Church of Santa Maria Assunta (13th century), where one can admire the Assumption by Perugino (1513) and the Gonfalon by Benedetto Bonfigli (1472).

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So if you are exploring the area, looking for a simple, peaceful getaway, consider a visit to these evocative and atmospheric villages. As this is what Umbria really is – authentic, unspoiled and traditional .

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Monte Santa Maria Tiberina, The Autumn Feast

Just a short drive out of Città di Castello, Monte Santa Maria Tiberina welcomes you with beautiful vistas and great food, where chestnut and oak forests spread out over the hillsides, and where truffles, porcini mushrooms, excellent olive oil and local wine dominate the menus!

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La Festa d’Autunno is the biggest festival of the fall season here, celebrating the chestnut harvest in the most delicious way!

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Feel free to take in the spectacular views during the fall foliage…

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Framing the festival, as usual, is the picturesque piazza, with live music and performances.

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An interesting  re-enactment of knights in combat by the Lupi di Ventura, the knights armament group from Città di Castello

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Monte Santa Maria Tiberina is really full of charm! The former Prime minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, has his summer retreat here. The town sits right at the border where Umbria meets Tuscany. It’s quite small, but there are several restaurants and cafes.

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You can visit Palazzo Bourbon, built in the 1500s, the castle and the lovely Church of Santa Maria (La Pieve), with an interesting baptismal fount and the Bourbon family chapel.

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You can savour the abundant chestnuts, gourmet food, artisan beer (including chestnut beer!), and sample a mouth-watering variety of chestnut foods.

Lunch at local taverna with gorgeous views
Lunch at local taverna with gorgeous views

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Treat yourselves to the local flavours: traditionally-made cheeses and salamis, porchetta, chocolate, honey and more. Local restaurants and food stalls are packed with nothing but life’s little pleasures 100% made in Umbria.

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There’s always something for everyone to enjoy!

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Bed & Breakfast Cà di Baldo, Città di Castello, Umbria

Cà di Baldo is a stunning b&b, tucked high in the hills near Città di Castello and the E45 highway. I’ll always remember my stay here. The owner spoiled us silly with heaps of fresh fruit, homemade jams, as well as gorgeous local wines.

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Although Cà di Baldo would be a winner by any standards, it is the genuine warmth and charm of the lovely hosts that make a stay here so outstanding.

For lunch or dinner, guests can prepare a light meal in their own kitchenette. The b&b has a beautiful pool with views of the valley, where you can really unwind and bask in the sun after a day out. It is the perfect location from which to wander around, and easily visit the Valtiberina and lots of famous cities of Umbria and the nearby regions. Perugia, Arezzo, Monterchi, Gubbio are in easy reach, and forays can also be made into neighbouring Marche, Emilia Romagna and the independent Republic of San Marino.

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Perugia, the Chocolate Capital of the World

Head to Perugia this weekend for Eurochocolate 2015, October 16 – 25. I don’t need to be convinced that nine out of ten love chocolate, and that the tenth one is, well, probably, lying…

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It is an annual international chocolate exhibition, where you get a chance to meet the best chocolate companies famous all over the world, chocolate experts, who can teach you a lot about chocolate, you can taste and purchase as much chocolate as you want. The choice is overwhelming!!!

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And since the Festival takes place in Perugia, it’s an opportunity to visit the main city of Umbria, and its beautiful monuments and squares. Just walk the little lanes that lead from one piazza to the next, assist various street performances, chocolate art displays with chocolate sculpting. The lanes follow the original medieval layout, whose roots go back to the Etruscan times.

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The city offers many attractions: beautiful historical buildings and palaces, real architectural masterpieces, and then, of course, the art of its native son Perugino (c.1446/1450-1523), an amazing Art Museum, Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, filled with works by famous Italian artists.

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The city, wrapped in dreamy views, has several universities, lots of hotels and restaurants, and musical history. Perugia’s location in central Umbria is surrounded by other gorgeous historic towns, which are easily reached by car, bus or train.

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Assisi, Peaceful and Blissful

Once owned by the Roman Empire, Assisi is a beautiful Umbrian town of worldwide fame and an important place of pilgrimage.

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The Romans, who took control of central Italy in 295 BC, built the flourishing municipium Asisium on the western slopes of Monte Subasio. The city walls, the Forum, the Temple of Minerva are all Roman remains that can be found in Assisi today.

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Converted to Christianity in 238 AD by bishop Rufino, Assisi is bound with its native son –  St. Francis, born there in 1181/1182. Like Jesus, Francis taught by example, living without worldly goods and cherishing the beauty of nature and God’s wonderful creation.

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St. Francis of Assisi founded an order of friars in the town in 1208, while his female counterpart, Clare, went on to establish the order of the Poor Clares.

The magnificent Basilica of St. Francis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000
The magnificent Basilica of St. Francis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000

This stunning 3-level Romanesque-Gothic Basilica was built in the 13th century and is decorated from top to bottom by precious frescoes by the leading Sienese and Florentine artists of the time. The crypt houses the body of St. Francis himself.

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In the nearby Basilica of St. Clare hangs the wooden crucifix St. Francis knelt before in 1206 to ask for guidance, and then followed the call to rebuild the Porziuncola Church in the valley right below Assisi. Today you will find the huge Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli built around it.

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Francis was proclaimed a saint by Pope Gregory IX in 1228, and shares honours with St. Catherine of Siena as the patron saint of Italy.

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Montone, Recounting Traditions

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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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TIPICO Osteria dei Sensi, Montone

Stumbled across this lovely osteria, which offers really fresh local produce, for a truly Umbrian dining experience!

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