Umbria


Umbria has long been known for its white wines, thanks mainly to the historical prominence of Orvieto. But evidence grows that the hills of the "green heart of Italy" have an aptitude for a multitude of varieties, white and red, native and foreign.

Orvieto was once the most celebrated of Italian whites as a semisweet or "abboccato" wine, praised by the popes, princes, and painters who sojourned in the hill town north of Rome with its splendid Cathedral and sweeping views of the Umbrian landscape. But as tastes changed Orvieto has been modified from a soft, golden wine into a pale, pure, crisp creature of the technology of soft-crushed grapes and free-run musts processed at low temperatures.

Some apprciate the change, others deplore it as a travesty of tradition. But modern Orvieto is a commercial success as one of italy's best-selling DOC whites with a solid following abroad. Actually, some producers are turning back a bit, in a sense, striving for more character in the wine through lower grape yields and more meticulous selection and by letting the grapeskins remain in contact with the juice for a while before fermentation. Just lately Orvieto's "abbocato" has made a comeback as a dessert wine. Though Procanico (Trebbiano) and Malvasia prevail in Orvieto, growers in the zone have been working successfully with such outside varieties as Chardonnay, Sauvignon, the Pinots and Gewürztraminer, as well as the admirable local Grechetto.

But the most prestigious Umbrian wine is the red Torgiano Rosso "riserva", which has been given special status as DOCG, though the regular Torgiano red and white remain DOC. A modern classic based on Sangiovese, the "riserva", under the name Rubesco, has been known to age to unique splendour for a decade or two. Sagrantino, a vine grown around the hill town of Montefalco, is an intriguing native that yields both dry and sweet wines of unmistakable grandeur. Sagrantino di Montefalco has become a DOCG separate from Montefalco Rosso, which has remained DOC. Among the many outside varieties planted in Umbria, Merlot and Barbera have been prominent for more than a century. More recently, Cabernet Sauvignon has shown promise, both as a varietal wine and in blends. Even Pinot Nero has given indications of more than the usual class here.

Umbria has numerous curiosities among its vines and wines, though few of the local rarities ever leave the region. Vin Santo, pressed from semidried Grechetto or Malvasia grapes, is usually sweet and most prized by Umbrians as a wine for any occasion.

The regions wineyards cover 22.000 hectares, of which 5.600 are DOC. This gives a total production of 1.100.000.000 l with 165.000 DOC/DOCG, about 15%. 80% of the DOC/DOCG is white and 20% red.

PLACES OF INTEREST

PERUGIA
The Capital of Umbria is beautifully situated on a hilltop. The way up to the historical centre is impressive. From the parking areas there are several escalators through the giant fortification from mid-1500 Rocca Paolina. This leads visitors straight to Corso Vannucci, the main street of Perugia.

Perugia is very old with its' Etruscan and Roman history, from which big parts of the Etruscan city walls are still intact. In the late middle ages Perugia becomes an indipendent Comune, but from 1370 until 1540 the city battles continously with the Popes of Rome for their independence, but finally Perugia becomes part of the Papal State. Perugia of today is a university city, mainly famous for the University for Foreigners. Otherwise the city is famous for chocolate.
  • Rocca Paolina
  • The ancient city walls
  • The market
  • Palazzo dei Priori
  • Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo
  • Corso Vannucci
ORVIETO
Already during the Etruscans Orvieto was an important city, which is witnessed by the many Etruscan remainings even today. Funeral areas, temple-ruins.

Orvieto came under the rule of first the Romans, later the Goths, the Byzantines and the Langobards until the city won its' independence in the 12th century. The golden age of Orvieto were the 13th and 14th centuries, where the city became a military power with a population even larger than that of Rome. In 1450 Orvieto finally came under the Papal State. Today the city is reached by a funicolare, since the hill on which the city is constructed does not support modern traffic.
  • Palazzo Soliano (Museum of Emilio Greco)
  • Palazzo Papale (Archeological Museum)
  • Palazzo Faina (civico Museum)
  • Saint Patricks Well
  • Orvieto Sotterranea
  • Le Necropoli del Crocifisso del Tufo e di Cannicella
  • The Cathedral
ASSISI
The history of Assisi follow that of most of the Umbrian cities and towns with etruscans, Romans, Goths and Langobards. But during the brief independence is born the most famous son of Assisi, The Holy Francesco, who becomes not only The Patron Saint of Assisi, but of all of Italy. The famous Basilica of Francesco was recently damaged by an eartquake, but has been restored and again opened to the public. It is divided in an upper and a lower part and is the most visited sight in all of Umbria.
  • Basilica di San Francesco d'Assisi
  • Piazza del Comune
  • Museo Civico e Foro Romano
  • Tempio di Minerva
  • L'Anfiteatro e la Rocca maggiore
OTHER TOWNS TO VISIT:
Spello, Spoleto, Gubbio, Narni.
The waterwalls of Marmore (Cascata delle Marmore)