umbria Tag


It is in giving away that we receive

St Francis of Assisi To truly own the most important things in life, you must shed yourself of those which are taking up too much space. To be free, you must unshackle yourself of your worldly possessions. Before I started travelling full time, I cleansed myself of most of the things I owned. There was no deeper philosophy to the act - it was more an act of necessity because I no longer had my own home to store all my junk. But, nonetheless, it was a cathartic experience that left me feeling free and unburdened. The old winter jackets I hadn't worn for years, gone. The stereo I had no need for on the road, gone. My collection of teenage mutant ninja turtle collector coins...

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31 May
lake trasimeno, isola maggiore, hannibal victory, roman history, umbria (2)

Where the water turned red from blood

Hannibal's great victory at Lake Trasimeno On the land I'm standing on in rural Italy, tens of thousands of people were once killed. Of such a scale was the slaughter that the waters of the nearby lake were reportedly turned red for days. Even as the blood was still flowing, the battle here at Lake Trasimeno was being declared one of the greatest military victories (or losses, depending on how you look at it) to ever occur. More than two thousand years later, it is still considered to be a defining moment in military history. On the shore of Lake Trasimeno, Hannibal ambushed the Roman army using a technique never seen before. About fifteen thousand Romans were killed while Hannibal’s forces only suffered a loss of about two thousand. It changed the whole direction of the Second Punic War and the recriminations reverberated around ancient Rome. Today a small museum marks the spot...

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04 May
umbria, italy, italian food, good restaurants, tuoro (12)

My Italian Kitchen Rules

The Italian restaurant food challenge Move over Masterchef, Iron Chef and My Kitchen Rules. There's a new cooking competition in town and it's happening right in front of my eyes. Two great chefs, pitted against each other, are battling for my stomach. Two appetizers, two entrees, two mains and two desserts. At the end of the meal a decision will be made on which menu was better. There will only be one winner, one loser, and one very full belly that can't decide if it's a winner or a loser. Tonight I am a guest at the Antico Casale di Monte Gualandro hotel and restaurant in rural Umbria – near Tuoro sul Trasimeno to be exact. Our host, Vittorio Viterbi, had spent the day with us, a group of travel bloggers, but now he has changed out of his casual clothes of daylight hours and into a suit. The event is a surprise...

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04 May
cashmere, fashion, brunello cucinelli, solomeo, umbria, italy (12)

The queens of cashmere

Brunello Cucinelli cashmere factory Inside an ancient castle, high in the hills of the Italian region of Umbria, a small army of women hold court. The lands around the castle no longer belong to the royalty but these women are queens of their domain. They are the cashmere makers of Brunello Cucinelli and they take their responsibilities seriously. In each of the rooms of the restored 14th century castle in Solomeo, the women are working on quality assurance. They are testing the stress level of pockets, using backlights to look for imperfections in the material, and ensuring all elements have been made to the expected standard. Brunello Cucinelli cashmere may only be a mid-sized business by Italian fashion standards, but it’s renowned for making some of the highest quality clothes in the world. The company has about 500 staff and it places an emphasis on ethics within its workforce. Salaries for the workers...

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03 May
agritourism in italy, agriturismo, umbria, rural accommodation in italy (2)

The green heart of Italy

Agritourism in Italy For the Italians, it’s no secret. In the past five years they have embraced a new way to see their country. It’s about getting closer to nature, closer to tradition and closer to peace of mind. For foreigners, it’s a mystery. But there’s only one thing stopping them from having the same connection with the country as the Italians – and that’s awareness. I’m talking about a trend called agritourism (or agriturismo, as they call it here). If you think about the name, it kind of speaks for itself. It’s all about staying on a farm, eating the food grown on the farm, and using the location to either relax or to explore the nearby cities during the day. Donatella Cavicchi is the owner of an agritourism hotel called Il Mandoleto near the Umbrian town of Solomeo. She describes it like this: “This is not the house in the country, this...

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01 May
perugina factory, chocolate factory, perugia, baci chocolates, italy, umbria (5)

Choc full of it

The Perugina chocolate factory Who knew that making chocolate would be so filthy! It's only when I look down to see my hands covered, my shoes with drips on them and my apron smeared with brown traces of fingers, that I realise there is no clean way to do this. I'm having a chocolate-making lesson in the Perugina factory, the home of the famous Baci chocolates. A romantic kiss for some...

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30 April
renting a villa in umbria, tuscany, house rentals, italy, how much (7)

Under the Umbrian sun

Our Italian villa Through the windows of our Umbrian villa, I had watched the Italian sun in battle with the clouds all day. At times I thought a victor should be declared - unfortunately on the side of grey. But not long before the sun was about to set and retire from the warfare for the day, it finally broke through. It had been hard-fought. But as the orange glow struck the walls of our Italian villa, we were rewarded for the solar persistence and the whole countryside came to life in front of our eyes. These photos are the record of that moment - 'the magic hour which only lasts ten minutes', as one of my friends described it. The short period that I traipsed in the slippery mud through the garden, the olive grove and the vineyard to capture the sun's victory lap. It seems slightly twee to talk about the...

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11 April
assisi, italy, umbria, easter procession, good friday, things in umbria for easter (5)

Easter in Assisi

As the time draws near, the lights in Assisi are turned off. One by one, the shops and restaurants in the old Italian city are plunged into darkness. The streets are black, with the clouds overhead blocking any potential illumination from the full Easter moon. Along the edges of the main thoroughfare, people shuffle slowly to find a place to stand, careful not to tread on a stranger’s foot or bump them with a handbag. A whispered “scusi” or two is all that can be heard in the solemn silence that has fallen over the crowd. From up the hill, near the Cathedral of Saint Rufino, a drum is struck once, then twice, then into a slow rhythm. The steady beat of the instrument continues and the heads of the crowd turn towards the noise. Shadowy figures appear in the bricked alley and with measured steps they begin to walk gently down...

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10 April