Umbria is one of the smallest of the twenty regions of Italy and the only one not to have a coastline. It lies almost exactly at the centre of the peninsula, bordered by Tuscany, Lazio and Le Marche. The Apennines, spine of Italy, cross its Eastern side and the Tiber valley its western side. Such is the range in altitude and hence in weather and temperature that the region's wildlife is surprisingly varied. Umbria is described in tourist brochures as the Green Heart of Italy, an apt description of its wooded hills and well-watered plains.
There are a number of notable towns in Umbria. Not the largest but probably the most famous is Assisi, birthplace of St Francis and a religious centre where monks and nuns, resident or visiting, at times seem to outnumber the secular passersby. The largest town is Perugia, home to a University and a famous chocolate festival, which has given its name to the largest of the two provinces within Umbria. The other province is called Terni, after the second largest town which faces the broad plain of the Nera river. The third largest town is Foligno, on the River Topino and within the province of Perugia. It is the location of our rented office and our day-to-day stamping-ground.
Umbria is particularly well known for its medieval hill-top towns which lie like stranded ships along the crest of a hill, dominating the surrounding countryside. Montefalco is one of the most famous of these, although its fame is due largely to the fact that it is the centre of the area which produces Sagrantino wine. Gualdo Cattaneo, our first home, is another example. Spello and Trevi are two medieval towns where the clean stone buildings rise one above the other on a steep slope to form a display visible from a great distance. Valtopina, our second home, is more modern in its architecture but hosts a nationally renowned annual truffle festival.
Lago Trasimeno, the region's most notable geographical feature, is the largest lake on the Italian peninsula. Shallow and full of fish, it has three islands, two of them inhabited. It is the site where Hannibal engineered a decisive victory against the Romans.
Umbria can be reached by flights to Rome, Florence or Ancona or to Perugia itself. Foligno and Perugia connect via Florence to the main north-south railway line between Milan and Rome. Foligno is also the terminus to a branch line from Ancona. By car, the simplest route is to take the A1 Autostrada from Milan south towards Rome, turning off just south of Florence onto the eastbound Superstrada to Perugia at Lago Trasimeno.
Umbria is usually coupled as a region with its neighbour Tuscany although it is more mountainous, more austere in its landscape and more sparsely inhabited. It is famous for the olive groves covering the hillsides and the production of olive oil, for its woods of oak and sweet chestnut, and for its vineyards.
It is also rich in natural parks which protect the wildlife including wild boar and wolves. It would seem significant that St Francis, patron saint of animals and the environment, should be the best known child of Umbria.
Living in Italy