Cloudy skies over Gubbio in northern Umbria, Italy.
Umbria is big on hilltop towns. Assisi is probably my favourite but I also loved Orvieto when I visited last year. Then I got to visit Gubbio in Northern Umbria and was once again taken aback by the stunning panoramas and medieval architecture.
My preference when visiting medieval towns is to wander through the old streets and squares, imaging who might have walked the narrow streets before me.
Most of the shops you see as you walk around Gubbio are small, family run businesses. At this little ceramic shop we got to see a pottery master in action, making a bowl, vase and jug in rapid succession. I got to have a go too but let’s just say I need to work a little on my technique. It wasn’t pretty.
Someone clearly knows what they are doing though as there were hundreds of beautiful ceramic items on display.
The next Umbrian town on the agenda was Citta di Castello. The highlight here was going truffle hunting at Agriturismo Ca Solare. Matteo and Sole took us out in the driving rain to uncover some white truffles for our lunch. Sole’s truffle smelling nose didn’t fail to deliver and we ended up having a wonderful truffle based meal.
Along with being famous for truffles, Citta di Castello is also known as the place of traditional, artisan businesses like Tela Umbria which produce rare hand woven linens. You can visit the their textile museum and factory to see how it’s done.
Another off the beaten path museum is an old printing house which has been in business for seven generations. Grifani Donati have hand printed works which are on display in museums and libraries around the world.
Where to Eat in Northern Umbria
Our dinner plans in Gubbio involved heading to a local agritourism farm for a meal. Villa Dama is not far from Gubbio but the long, winding, unpaved road we took was slow going, made even slower by a rather pesky crested porcupine that refused to let us pass. My suggestion is to visit during the day when driving would be a little less stressful or better yet stay at one of the villas and walk to dinner each evening. The drive was totally worth it in the end though with a lovingly prepared 7-course meal including multiple delicioius bruschetta and pasta dishes.
If you’re in Gubbio and don’t want to leave the city walls then you might prefer Restaurant Federico da Montefeltro. My favourite here was the fried cheese and truffle dish they made specially for me. I never expected fried cheese to be served up in a restaurant but I had it multiple times on this trip to Italy. I’m not complaining!
Where to Stay
We stayed at the stylish Park Hotel Cappuccini in Gubbio which has a wonderful spa and relaxation area where I so wish I could have spent more time. If hotels aren’t your thing you could try something completely different and choose a farm stay in Umbria. Next time I’m in northern Umbria I’m going to stay at Agriturismo Ca Solare to go truffle hunting, eat well and relax in the countryside!
As part of the Travel Bloggers Unite travel conference in Umbria, I was lucky enough to take part in an iPhone photo workshop with Kirsten Alana (kirstenalana on Instagram). She’s been specialising in iPhoneography for a while now and it was great to get a few tips from her as I love iPhoneography!
Instagram and Camera+ are my two most used iPhone apps and all photos here were taken with my iPhone 4S and edited with Camera+. You can follow me on Instagram at destinationeu.
Our photo walk took place in the beautiful hilltop town of Assisi in Umbria and here are some of my favourite photos from that day.
One of the reasons I find Italy so appealing is due to its beautiful hilltop towns. They take my breath away every time. I know it’s just a village on top of a hill but there’s something so mysterious about it, from a distance at least. The thought that once upon a time they were forced to build up high to keep out invaders and then they carried out their simple lives within the city walls. Of course that was long ago and nowadays most of these stunning hilltop towns are only invaded by tourists who take over the towns in the summer months.
Until recently, I never actually ventured up to see one of these towns. I always admired them from the autostrada commenting that one day I really should visit one of those medieval beauties. Then on my way to Florence, I saw a sign for Orvieto. The name sounded familiar but I couldn’t recall anything specific about it but what the hell, may as well go check it out right?
Turns out I should have heard about Orvieto as it’s one of the most famous of all the hilltop towns in Italy and is especially well known for its outstanding Gothic cathedral.
Orvieto dates back to Etruscan times which means it’s bloody old and for most of its history has been a fairly wealthy city. Its wealth is obvious when walking around the narrow streets and huge piazzas. Everything is in pristine condition which, lets be honest, isn’t always the case in Italy.
Most of the things to do in Orvieto revolve around its Etruscan and papal history. Also of interest is the tour of the ‘underground city’, that is, if you don’t mind being stuck underground for an hour. Which I do.
Orvieto is a small but spectacular town and it’s well worth pushing through the crowds to visit.