Tuesday, 16 December 2014

{sensational} Umbria. November, 14th-16th

in the very heart of Italy, there is a region named Umbria, nestled beetwen the most known Tuscany and Lazio, cradle of the Roman civilization. to me, Umbria means hills, rich traditions, stunning sacred art, medieval villages (on the top of the hills), tasty food in which local ingredients succeed in expressing themselves, preserving the peculiar flavours given them from a generous land.
every time i have the chance to visit this region, i came home willing to go back soon, to see more, to taste more. this time was no exception.

the three stops of this brief field trip were Perugia, Orvieto and Montefalco.
the main colors were an intense, dark green, some warm browns and some touch of red. an evocative mist wrapped the foot of the hills, letting perched villages and pointy cypresses surface. the fog, far from being gloomy as it can be in other places, softly followed us, framing the landscapes full of vineyards and olive trees.

the exhibition
“even in the most forgotten and hidden areas of the country you will come across massive amounts of elegance and poetry, architecture and art. in Italy i like to explore the old and new and see how they intersect. and... if i had to reccomend a place ti visit in the world i would not hesitate: it's Italy”
Steve McCurry
Steve McCurry - Castelluccio di Norcia, Piana Grande
the main event of our visit was Sensational Umbria, a photographic exhibition by Steve McCurry, featuring the artist's journey through the region.
i don't know if you're McCurry fans. actually, as a photographer, he's not a personal favorite of mine. too much saturation, too much setting. although, i like his painting-style taste in composition, his eye for people craft and tradition, and the passion he put on this project.
the aspect i love the most about Sensational Umbria is the number of places, festivals, local features that he framed, so the exhibition catalog itself can be considered as a colorful travel notebook, full of places to visit.

Steve McCurry - Gubbio, Palazzo dei Consoli

Steve McCurry - Todi, Tempio di San Fortunato

the tasting

the mosaic of vineyards and olive trees that composes the scenery is not out there for its beauty. tasting is one of the most rewarding activities to do in Umbria (or in Italy?) and i just want to point out three products that catched my taste buds.
lake trasimeno bean {fagiolina del trasimeno} has been a new discovery. it has been grown on the land around trasimeno lake for centuries, since the Etruscans, and now it's recognized as slow food presidium. the beans are smaller than the one i'm used to, tiny and oval, their colors range from cream to dark brown. compared to other types of beans, it's richer in protein and fiber, so it meant a lot for the local population during the hardest time. they are tender and buttery, i ate them boiled, and heard that is the best way, with just a little local extra virgin olive oil.

dop umbria extra virgin olive oil is another treasure of this land, famous for its bitter and spicy notes. in my ultimate travel wishlist there is a oil mills tour by lambretta, so i can finally learn something about different typologies of oil.

Umbria has a long story of winemaking, too. since we visited Montefalco, we had to taste the local pride, a ruby red wine called Sagrantino di Montefalco docg, that might be the perfect companion for a dinner with aged cheese, red meat and wild game.

travel notes 

as i said, after the exhibition and some strolling around, i have a long to-do list for a new visit to Umbria. along with the oil mills tour, there are towns like Spello and Bevagna {where the artisan workshops bring back middle age and ancient craft to life every year in june for the Medieval Market of the Gaite}, and, above all, i'd like to visit Gubbio. it seems that McCurry himself was so impressed with a festival which took place in this little town, that he had to come back the following year to see and portrait it again. The result is another exhibition that will open soon, focused on Gubbio, the festival is the Ceri race {la Corsa dei Ceri}, and takes place on the 15th of May. this tradition dates back to 1160, celebrated in honor of Saint Ubaldo, patron saint of the city, but seems to has its origins in a pagan festival dedicated to goddess Ceri. i've heard people speaking so passionately about this race that i think it's something i have to see now. it is said that if you're native of Gubbio and live abroad, you may not come home for Christmas, but you most certainly do on May 15th.


  1. Now, Umbria is on my travel wishlist! Great post that made me want to travel. Now. :)

    And I love the illustrations!

    1. thank you Nancy! i think Umbria deserves a visit for travellers who want to discover Italy :)

  2. I have missed your posts, Silvia! They always bring me somewhere beautiful!
    These drawings of yours are magnificents!

    1. thank you polly! on the top of my new year's resolutions list there is to start posting regularly again :)


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