I have recently come back from a wonderful retreat in Perugia, a major city in Umbria (Umbria is a province in central Italy, and it is next to Tuscana). While I was in Umbria, I also visited Santa Maria degli Angeli, Assisi and Lago Trasimeno. Thanks to my new local friends, I learnt a lot more about the region and Italy in general. Not only did I fall in love with the stunning sights of Perugia, but I was also very fascinated with every little thing I found out there.
1. Umbria is the ‘Green Heart’ of Italy
Umbria has the most about of trees in Italy. While in Perugia, I did feel the air was very fresh, much fresher than Roma. Also, Perugia in autumn is incredibly beautiful with a mix of green, yellow and orange leaves.
2. There is an underground city in Perugia
The underground medieval city is beneath the Rocca Paolina, a 16th-century fortress built by Pope Paul Farnese III. Instead of destroying everything, the Pope left some medieval streets whole and built the fortress above them. Walking down the underground city felt like walking in an abandoned city during the night.
3. The Church of San Pietro has a painting with the devil face
Decorated with paintings by Perugino, Raphael and Caravaggio, the church or abbey of San Pietro is one of the most ostentatious churches in Perugia. Above the doorway is a large painting hiding two eyes and one nose. It is said that the doorway itself is the mouth of the devil.
4. Bees are chocoholics
As a chocoholic myself, I could not miss Eurochocolate, an annual chocolate (plus truffles) festival in Perugia. There were a few truffle stalls in addition to the main stalls of artisanal chocolate and famous chocolate brands such as Perugina.
The better the chocolate, the more bees hanging out on it. To be honest, I was even more attracted to the number of bees in the festival than the chocolate itself. Don’t get me wrong, the chocolate was great and definitely worth trying. I was just loving the bees so much. The bees probably also came because there were lots of chocolate with fruit like kiwis, citrus and bananas.
5. The olives which are made into oil are not the same as the ones we eat.
Rather, they are tiny.
6. Olive woods can be made into many things
In Assisi, I saw a store selling goods made from olive woods. The price of the goods are quite reasonable. Artists in Assisi also use olive woods as a material.
7. If you love talking to artists, come to Assisi
Assisi reminds me a little bit of Windermere in the Lake District in England because of the frequency of art galleries. Many local artists such as Sabrina Lauri open stores in Assisi. They are very friendly and enjoy talking to visitors about their works.
8. The Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi is one of a kind
Why? Because there is a church on top of another, creating a T shape. Also, inside the lower church is the tomb of St. Francis so it is one of the most scared places in Umbria.
A part of the vault of the upper church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1997 but it has been restored by now.
9. The Tau Cross represents Saint Francis of Assisi
Tau is a Greek letter and is a form of the cross symbol.
10. The regional speciality is torta al testo
It looks a bit like a triangle sandwich but the bread is not normal bread, and the fillings are very special. The bread is a little bit like a pizza crust but with no yeast so the outside is crunchy and the inside is soft but not chewy. The traditional fillings are spinach and sausages. Cooked on fire, the sausages have a distinctive smoky flavour, even better than BBQ food.
My friends took me to a local favourite, Osteria Faliero la Maria in Magione near lake Trasimeno. The restaurant was crowded, and there was a long queue of locals waiting to order.
Address: loc. Montebuono | loc. Montebuono, 06063, Magione, Italy.
My friends told me that lake Trasimeno is an ideal place to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, when I came there, the sunset was not very spectacular. Still, I enjoy the tranquillity of the lake and this blue twilight:
Needless to say, I cannot wait to come back to this beautiful region next year to attend the Jazz Festival in Perugia, watch the sunset from Lago Trasimeno, take pictures with sunflowers in Assisi, and hunt for truffles in Norcia.