If you are considering a visit to Umbria, or heard Umbria is merely an appendix to Tuscany, hopefully this wine and travel report will convince you of the region’s inimitable charms.
I spent a lovely three days in the heart of Umbria near Bevagna and Montefalco. I visited four wineries, ate at darling restaurants and wandered old Roman and medieval cities. Although I traveled to Umbria solo, there is really no such thing as “alone” in Italy. The minute I mentioned a lack of dining companions, I was whisked off to lunch, invited to dinners and shared drinks with locals and winemakers.
Why is Umbria a treasure? The people treat you like an old friend. The food is über-fresh and seasonal—they have been eating this way longer than “trendy” was a concept. The backdrop of the Apennine Mountains dusted with snow is National Geographic dramatic. And of course there is the wine. Many know Umbria for the white wines out of Orvieto, but the most fascinating grape is the indigenous and distinctive Sagrantino. I got to know this grape and her makers, and will spend the next several posts sharing their stories. Hopefully some of these words will inspire you to try these wines or visit the “Green Heart of Italy.”
Getting to Umbria
In late October, nearly two weeks ago, I visited Umbria for the first time. My starting point was Florence, from where I picked up a teeny, tiny European-size car equipped with GPS, followed by a two-hour drive to a town called Bevagna. My mini-Nissan had the craftsmanship of a Go-Kart, but it did the job and later proved to be a fun companion through the medieval streets of the region.
Hopping on to the Autostrada out of Florence, my route proceeded through the stunning Tuscan countryside. I get chills when I travel to new wine regions and first encounter the magical scenery of oft-dreamt about vineyards; it as though an unknown but impending event hangs in the air like the thrill of a new romance. I felt that energy as rolling hills covered in vine, topped with villas, shot past the window.
I thought I must be crazy for zipping past exits to historic towns: “there goes Chianti; goodbye Arezzo; I can’t believe I am turning away from Montepulciano!” I reminded myself not to get greedy, that there would be another time for Tuscany, and pressed on. The tingles triggered by Tuscany amplified when crossing into Umbria; a new paramour joined the party.
As I traveled towards the core of Umbria, I passed other notable cities such as Perugia—chocolate!—and Assisi—Church! I was due for an appointment at my first winery, but had a spare hour, so I took a short detour to Assisi. In fact, I nearly wrecked the car while passing it by on the highway; I was mesmerized by the awe-inspiring vista of the Franciscan Basilica on the side of the mountain. Despite doing zero justice to the town on my short visit, I managed to shoot a documentary photo before finishing the last leg to Bevagna and Tenuta Castelbuono.
Part 2, Tenuta Castelbuono Winery…