A brief history of the region
Umbria is an ancient Italian stronghold unchanged by time's passage and enriched by the empires of antiquity. It was established by the ancient Umbri people, fortified by the Etruscans, conquered by the Romans and the Byzantines, and sanctified by the roots of Franciscan Christianity. Home to Renaissance master Perugino, the region boasts incredible artisanship, handicrafts and architecture that almost rivals the natural beauty of its lush, untouched landscape. The hilltop capital city of Perugia is a chocolate lovers paradise, Lake Trasimeno's deep turquoise waters an incredible complement to the Italian sun, and Assisi's Basilica of St. Francis a breathtaking monument to peace. As you embark on your journey through the Umbrian countryside, experience incredibly preserved old-world Italian traditions firsthand through the winding side streets and rolling hills. Prepare to discover the coure verde d'italia, Italy's green heart.
What the region is known for
Umbria is the only region of Italy to not share a border with another country, nor a coastline. It's due to this and the Papal State's isolation of Umbria during the Renaissance era that the region's cultural identity, landscapes and medieval history are amazingly protected. You'll find that the area is characterized by traditional hill towns, warm locals, and jaw-dropping scenery.
Culture & Language
As with Italy overall, the culture in Umbria reflects a slow paced way of life that centers largely around food, wine, music and art. The latter is exemplified by the wealth of highly respected artists taught at the Umbrian school of art during the Renaissance. The National Gallery of Umbria among many other places are home to gorgeous frescoes and paintings from the middle ages and after. In fact, Umbria has one of the highest numbers of museums per capita in Italy. When it comes to music, contemporary jazz stylings are extremely popular and every July, the Umbrian Jazz Festival has featured famed international artists such as Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, and attracts new talent with each year. Other festivals such as the Eurochocolate festival in Perugia caters specifically to foodies with a sweet tooth.
With such an ancient society, it is easy to encounter deeply acknowledged local folklore. From its religious history and its location as a pilgrimage site, Saint day celebrations, and medieval traditions such as jousting, racing, and Archery are also largely embraced annually. The Umbrians, being a warm, traditional and friendly people, live in the spiritual heart of Italy and represent all that is known and unknown of Italy off-the-beaten-path.
The ancient language of Umbrian that was originally spoken in the region is now extinct, making Italian the official language of places like Perugia. Due to its standing as a university town-including the University for Foreigners of Perugia-English is also spoken by younger Italians and university aged adults.
Gastronomy through the Umbrian region
Typical cuisine includes famed wines, fine cured meats and prized black truffle, and dazzling antipasti. The foundation for all Umbrian cooking reflects ancient Etruscan influences of freshness, simplicity, and traditional recipes passed down from generation to generation. Cucina povera, or "peasant cooking" is now being embraced as the best way to prepare dishes while using incredibly rich, local products in their peak season to make simple, traditional recipes that have always been staples in Umbrian households. Fresh herbs, olive oil, vegetables and rustic and hearty meat dishes are made in abundance.
Top Foods to Try
Tartufi neri, or black truffle, is perhaps the most well known as Umbrian truffles are highly coveted. Salumi, or richly cured meat varieties, is also extremely characteristic to this region as well as the roast suckling pig dish that is present throughout Central Italy but is almost particularly Umbrian. The pig is roasted on the spit in a wood oven and is stuffed with liver, heart and lungs diced with pepper, garlic, salt and wild fennel. Also unmissable is the historically renowned Perugina chocolate factory whose trademark Baci chocolate, made with ground hazelnuts and dark chocolate, is beloved internationally.
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