Umbria Travel Tips from Paolo Villani, Italian Blogger

Conversations with Locals

Umbria, Italy’s Green Heart, is fast becoming Tuscany’s rival for its lush rolling hills and medieval towns. Gubbio-based blogger Paolo Villani shares his favourite hiking trail in Umbria, the villages to go, and where to find the world’s largest Christmas tree. 

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Photo: Paolo Villani 

What should travellers know about Umbria before heading there?

Before coming to Umbria, you should know that it is the paradise of medieval villages. To enjoy it, equip yourself with sneakers and get ready for some good food!

What are some local dishes you feel travellers can’t leave Umbria without trying? 

There are so many local dishes that you absolutely must taste in Umbria, such as cappelletti, which is a closed pasta stuffed with minced meat. It’s a delicacy! Also, do not miss the friccò di pollo con crescia, which is chicken in tomato sauce with bread.

What about your favourite restaurants?

One of my favourite restaurants is here in my city, Gubbio. I’m talking about the restaurant Contessa, where you can taste all the Umbrian specialties without spending too much.

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Photo: Paolo Villani

Name one best kept secret of Umbria

Umbria is beautiful, but if you want to admire it in all its glory, you have to go up! I intend to go hiking in the mountains and enjoy the great valleys that contain several small villages. 

What are your favourite hiking trails? 

Gubbio is famous for having the largest Christmas tree in the world, which covers the whole of Mountain Ingino. You can find the best path right here. Once you reach the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo at the top of the mountain, you can take a path that will take you up to the fortress, located at the highest point of the mountain. In winter, the star of the tree is mounted there.

We heard that Umbria is famous for its wines. Where do you go for this?  

My favourite place is located in the city of Gualdo Tadino, a few minutes from Gubbio. It’s called Vineria dei Re.

What about your favourite hilltop towns? 

My favourite Umbrian town are the safe bets – Gubbio, Spello, Assisi, Perugia, and all the villages surrounding Lake Trasimeno. They are a wonder to behold! 

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Spello. Photo: Paolo Villani

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Photo: Paolo Villani

Umbria is often being compared to Tuscany. What are the biggest differences between these two regions?

They are compared because they are very similar. The biggest differences are the dialect, the food, but otherwise – they are very much alike. Maybe in Umbria, there are more medieval villages. 

Where can we go to see your favourite view of Umbria?

I could never say where my favourite view is, because in Umbria, there are so many. I could tell you about the Carducci Gardens of Perugia, Spello’s alleys, the Church of San Francesco in Assisi, or the Palazzo dei Consoli in Gubbio. The views are wonderful in all these places. 

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Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. Photo: Paolo Villani

WHERE TO EAT IN UMBRIA


Ristorante Contessa
Where: Strada Contessa, 6, 06024 Gubbio PG, Italy
For: Umbrian specialties 

Vineria dei Re
Where: Via Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, 15B, 06024 Gubbio PG, Italy
For: Wine

WHERE TO GO IN UMBRIA


Mount Ingino
Where: Via della Piaggiola, 06024 Gubbio PG, Italy
For: The world’s largest Christmas tree

Carducci Gardens
Where: Corso Pietro Vannucci, 06121 Perugia, Italy
For: A view of Perugia

 

Spello
Where: Spello, 06038 Province of Perugia, Italy
For: A charming hilltop town

Marche Travel Tips from Andrea Sopranzi, Italian Graphic Designer

Conversations with Locals

Graphic designer Andrea Sopranzi hails from Marche, an under-the-radar Italian region with no lack of Renaissance towns and mountain ranges. Andrea reveals where to get Marche’s favourite salami, the place to see sunsets and sunrises over the sea, and the winery to go for Rosso Conero wines. 

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Photo: Andrea Sopranzi

What do you feel defines the cuisine in Marche?

Tradition, love, taste and colour. Marche food, just like the region itself, is varied and delicious! It produces a varied and seasonal cuisine and truly distinctive wines.

Is there a particular winery that you like? 

There is a very special winery in Ancona called Cantine Moroder. The location is pretty suggestive, it is located in the middle of the hills of the region and they produce one of the most famous wine of Marche – the Rosso Conero

What makes the Rosso Conero wine so unique? 

This red wine takes its name from Monte Conero. The conditions here are special – the coast is near and being close to the sea gives a milder climate. Temperatures are not so high and the soil is calcareous. It has a deep red colour, intense aromas and flavours of black cherries intertwined with Mediterranean herbs and firm tannins.

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Photo: Andrea Sopranzi

What is the one local dish you feel travellers can’t leave Marche without trying? 

I would say ciauscolo, which is a variety of Italian salami. It is very soft and can be spread on bread, with a tasty slice of cheese. Delicious!

Where should we look for ciauscolo? 

I would recommend Azienda Agricola di Maggi e Vecchioni in Serrapetrona. 

Where do you love to eat in the region?

Just to name a few, Le Clarisse in Sarnano, Osteria dalla Peppa in Fano, Ragno D’Oro in Urbino, and Casa Tintoria in Urbania. There are so many good restaurants in my region, especially in the hinterland, hidden in beautiful little villages! 

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Ancona. Photo: Andrea Sopranzi

Name one best kept secret of Marche 

Definitely not a secret… But many people do not know that in some cities of Marche’s coast, you can see both the sunset and the sunrise over the sea! You can always see the sunrise over the sea in every city of the coast. But if you visit Baia Flaminia in Pesaro or the Cathedral of San Ciriaco in Ancona, you can also enjoy a beautiful sunset over the sea! 

What about the perfect itinerary to explore the region? 

Marche is a vast and diverse region. I would recommend a visit to the National Park of Sibillini Mountains, and then move to the coast and admire the Monte Conero and the beautiful surrounding beaches. Going to the north, there are many villages in the hinterland to see: one of my favourites is Urbino, a place rich in culture, history and good food – a cradle of the Italian Renaissance. 

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Monte Conero. Photo: Andrea Sopranzi

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Urbino. Photo: Andrea Sopranzi

Where can we go to see your favourite view of Marche?

Before arriving in Mezzavalle, a beach near Ancona, you can admire the Monte Conero and the surrounding sea. A breathtaking view which, every time, leaves me speechless!

WHERE TO EAT IN MARCHE


Le Clarisse
Area: Sarnano
Where: Via Mazzini, 240, 62028 Sarnano MC, Italy
For: Red wine pasta

Osteria dalla Peppa
Area: Fano
Where: Via Vecchia, 8, 61032 Fano, Province of Pesaro and Urbino, Italy
For: Handmade pastas

Ragno D’Oro
Area: Urbino
Where: Viale Don Giovanni Minzoni, 2/4, 61029 Urbino PU, Italy
For: Pizzas

Casa Tintoria
Area: Urbania
Where: Via Porta Mulino 4 Urbania – 61049 (PU)
For: Dining in a garden

WHERE TO GO IN MARCHE


Cantine Moroder
Area: Ancona
Where: Via Montacuto, 121 60129 Ancona (AN)
For: Wineries

Urbino
Where: Urbino, Province of Pesaro and Urbino, Italy
For: An Italian Renaissance town

Sibillini Mountains
Where: Sibillini Mountains, 63088 Montemonaco, Province of Ascoli Piceno, Italy
For: Mountain views

Azienda Agricola di Maggi e Vecchioni
Where: Località Case Sparse Borgiano, 10, 62020 Serrapetrona MC, Italy
For: Ciauscolo salami