So you have decided to go to Umbria; the only region of Italy that has neither a seacoast nor a border with a foreign country. Letís hope that wonít stop you from visiting this beautiful region, still somewhat unknown to tourists. Whether or not you are Catholic, you should see the Basilica di San Franceso dedicate to Italyís patron saint, St, Francis of Assisi. Donít miss the frescoes illustrating his life. On the other hand, you may want to avoid Calendimaggio (May 1), Easter, the feast of St. Francis (October 4), and Christmas because of the crowds.
Perugia, the capital is an artistic center. The Duomo (Cathedral), Palazzo dei Priori (Town Hall) which contains the Galleria Nazionale dellíUmbria (Umbria National Gallery), and Collegio dei Cambio (Bankersí Guild Hall) are steps from each other. They and the nearby Museo Archeologico Nazionale with its excellent collection of Etruscan artifacts are all worth seeing. In addition Perugia is known for at least three things, Perugina chocolate, the Umbria Jazz Festival held during July, and Italian language schools. Head about ten miles (fifteen kilometers) southeast to the town of Torgiano to see the Cantine Lungarotti winery and the neighboring Museo del Vino with a great collection of historic wine tools and equipment.
Umbriaís most highly ranked wines are Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG and Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG. The first is made southeast of Perugia from virtually 100% Sagrantino grapes. This wine may be dry or sweet. The second is vinified southeast of but much closer to Perugia from the red Sangiovese, one of Italyís signature grapes, and some lesser local red or white grapes. Another well known but often overrated Umbria wine is Orvieto DOC produced southwest of Perugia from a variety of white local grapes. This wine is usually dry. Sweet Orvieto is highly recommended but hard to find.
Common white grape varieties include the local Grechetto, the ubiquitous Trebbiano, and Chardonnay. Common local red varieties include Sangiovese, and the international Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Sagrantino is hardly common; itís found on some 250 acres (about 100 hectares), and only in Umbria.
Companies selling wine tours of Umbria include iExplore, LeBaccanti, Umbria Wine Tours, and Alabaster and Clark Wine Tours Worldwide. Umbria wineries that accept visits and provide lodgings (agriturismo) include Antonelli-San Marco in Montefalco, Azienda Agricola La Fiorita S.R.L. Ė Lamborghini in Panicale, Barberani, Azienda Agricola Vallesanta in Baschi, and Decugnano dei Barbi in Orvieto. A few words of warning are in order. Make sure that you check ahead of time for opening hours and whether English is spoken.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.
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Wine tours, wine vacations, wine holidays in Umbria, Italy