Yvette Busuttil Linwood discovers that Italy’s Umbria region has all Tuscany’s attributes, plus a few more

Everchanging, untouched landscapes in the green of winding valleys make Umbria a region that will never fail to amaze. Bordering Tuscany, Lazio and Le Marche, Umbria is often called the Italy’s green heart. I have just experienced an exceptional trip to this region in central Italy, known for its medieval hill towns, dense forests and local cuisine, particularly foraged truffles and wines.

In spite of the bad weather prevailing all over Italy, the five-day trip organised by Granata Travel was enjoyed to the full.

On our arrival in Rome, we set off for Collevalenza, a small medieval village found on the way to Assisi which is located about six kilometres south of Todi and has about 1,000 inhabitants. The centre, which still has medieval walls, owes its fame to the Sanctuary of Merciful Love of Mother Speranza, whose story is inscribed in the whole place and its inhabitants.

Our ‘home’ in Umbria was the family-run Hotel Villaverde near Assisi.

On our second day we set off on a most interesting tour of the surrounding area, including Assisi. The region is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, culinary delights, artistic legacy and influence on culture. It includes Lake Trasimeno, located in the green heart of Umbria amid beds of reeds and charming whitewater lilies – a true natural paradise home to wild ducks, cormorants, kites and kingfishers and Marmore Falls.

Marmore FallsMarmore Falls

In Assisi, we visited the basilica dedicated to St Francis, threatened not long ago by an earthquake. When we passed by the saint’s statue in the courtyard of the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels, I was left in awe. I sighted a real white dove which, witnesses say, comes to visit each day.

In Perugia we were lured by the elegant shops and piazzas

On the third day we visited the beautiful university city of Perugia. The regional capital dominates from the top of a hill like many other towns in this region – over a magnificent panorama.

A stroll along the main street, Corso Vannucci, brought us to the busy centre where we were lured by the elegant shops and authentic piazzas. Chocolate lovers will be delighted to taste the Baci Perugina treats, made out of the finest Italian chocolate cream.

Our next stop was in wonderful Cascia, where we visited the Basilica of St Rita and her birthplace, Roccaporena. The vast rocky pyramid that dominates the village has been called ‘The Sacred Rock’. Thousands of pilgrims come here to venerate Lo Scoglio di Santa Rita.

Perugia’s city centrePerugia’s city centre

Our last day was spent at the famous Marmore Falls, which turned out to be a wonderful experience. Immersed in a natural scenery of incomparable beauty, the ‘cascate’ are man-made, having been created by the ancient Romans 2,000 years ago. They are 165 metres high, making them the tallest man-made waterfalls in the world. Of its three sections, the top one is the tallest, at 83 metres.

An unexpected celebration of my mother’s 89th birthday brought the well-planned programme to an end. The person responsible for the event was Gina of Granata Travel together with the owners of the hotel who provided cake and champagne for the enjoyment of all.

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