Showing posts with label Umbria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Umbria. Show all posts

Saturday 16 June 2012

Gubbio - Not destined for this trip

When we left Assisi (you can read about it here) sun was still shining and it was pretty warm. After a few kilometers on the road dark clouds started gathering above us. It was not long till it started raining. As the road gradually climbed higher into hills, weather got worse. At one time it was even snowing!
Even though snowflakes melted the moment they hit the ground, we were still surprised. We were definitely not expecting to see snow in central Italy in May.

When we got to Gubbio, it was cold and wet. We started a tour around the town despite the rain. We were hoping for the sun to break through those dark clouds. Unfortunately we had no such luck. After a half an hour of walking the streets of this otherwise charming old town, we were pretty wet and cold. Strong wind wasn't helping the atmosphere either.

After a quick debate we decided to give weather the last chance before moving on and headed for a drink into a local winery. The atmosphere was nice and we took it slow. The wine selection here was really awesome - unfortunately most of the bottles were way over our budget.
Another half an hour and a couple of glasses of moderately priced, but still good local wine later we were sick of waiting and decided to move on.

I suspect we would have liked this old town - perhaps even above others we visited on this trip. Sadly we didn't have enough time to wait for the weather to clear. We had a long way ahead of us and also had to find a place where we could spend the night.
Since I tried to look at the whole situation from a positive perspective, I could see this as a relatively good thing. An afternoon of bad weather drove us to a conclusion that we will definitely have to return to Gubbio when the first chance arises. Hopefully next time we will not be in such a hurry and the weather will treat us at least a bit better.


Wednesday 13 June 2012

Wordless Wednesday: A view of Assisi


Monday 11 June 2012

Assisi - the Town of Saints

Assisi is an old hill town just 19 km (i.e. 12 miles) east of Perugia. It is best known as the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi - founder of the Franciscan order of monks in 1208. St. Assisi is also the patron saint of Italy.
Another famous saint is connected to this area - St. Clare, upon learning of St. Francis, left her affluent home and entered into monastic life. She established an order of nuns still in existence today -they are the Order of the Poor Clares.

The town itself is perched on a 400 meters high hill and looks charming even from the distance. When you enter through one of the gates built into an impressive wall, you can see a huge cathedral, impressive basilicas and there is even a convent. Basilica di San Francesco is filled with spectacular frescoes by Giotto and well worth a visit.

The thing I disliked about this town the most was how crowded it was. This is no wonder since 4-5 million visitors come hear every year. For many of them Assisi is a pilgrimage destination. Since the town is not very large (it only has around 3.000 inhabitants) it is definitely quite a challenge to make them all feel welcome.
I guess it is no surprise, the whole town looked like a one big souvenir shop to me.

Don't get me wrong - it is well worth a visit and one can definitely find some less frequented streets but I simply didn't feel it. The lack of time (only half of a day) could also be one of the reasons for not getting overwhelmed by this old town.

We would have probably liked the several less frequented sites outside of the city walls, but we never got to them (I guess that is why they are less frequented). We had the afternoon of the day reserved for another old town in the neighborhood - Gubbio. More about that in one of my next posts...


Sunday 3 June 2012

Chocolate making class in Perugina

Even though Perugia is not the most impressive of the old towns in the region of Umbria it has something that is probably worth a trip on its own.
WARNING! All of you chocolate junkies out there, that might be on a diet at the moment, should be warned not to continue reading. Further reading might put your past achievements at a serious risk! You have been warned.

A visit to Perugina Chocolate factory (they make the famous Bacci chocolates) was on our travel list for quite some time. Who am I kidding here... this obviously was an item on M's list - I was just tagging along this time.

Let's start at the beginning... For quite some time M. was looking at various travel agencies that include a visit to this chocolate factory in their itineraries. Apart of this being a rather expensive way of doing it, those agencies usually also include things we don't fancy so much. If you have been following this blog you have probably noticed we are not the sheep type of tourists who enjoy the comfort of a large herd and love tagging along their trusty tour guide. We prefer tailoring our trips to our own needs and love the freedom of changing our itinerary on the go.
This was enough to decide we want to do this trip on our own.

In the research and preparation stage of this trip M. tried to reserve a spot in one of the available classes. Finding the contact on their homepage was not the most straightforward thing to do but that was nothing compared to communicating the whole thing with them in Italian. Luckily we do speak a little bit of Italian.
If you are also looking for a direct contact with them you can find the application form here. If Italian is not your thing, try translating it in Google Translate.

When M. tried to reserve her space behind a cooking stove, they informed her everything was already full. Since our plans were already set and some reservations confirmed by that time, we decided to go to Perugia anyway and try to fix things on the way.

We stayed at a nice and affordable hostel (Perugia Farmhouse) on the outskirts of Perugia. As the name suggests - it really still is a farmhouse. Soon after arrival we talked to the owner and he agreed to check out the situation at the chocolate factory in the morning. We weren't expecting much to come out of this, but we thought it couldn't hurt to try. We were thinking of going at least on a tour of the factory which also wasn't looking too good - it was low season at that time and not much was happening along the chocolate production lines. Things really weren't looking too good...

A phone call in the morning changed the whole thing - they told the guy from the hostel there is just one free space left in the first class that morning. As luck would have it - this was the one class M. preferred of the whole bunch. It was starting in a half an hour so we had to hurry. Luckily the Perugina factory is located relatively close to the hostel.

When we entered the factory we were led into a "classroom" designed especially for such chocolate making classes. Since M. has taken the last available spot we first confirmed our reservation directly with Maestro Alberto. He also agreed for me to go along as a photographer for free. How cool is that?

The class itself included everything from a bit of theory, chopping large chunks of chocolate, melting it, pouring it into plastic molds and filling them. Two kinds of filled chocolates were followed by chocolate truffles.

There was also a load of really useful practical advice given during the course. For instance: did you know temperature is essential when tempering chocolate? Only tempered chocolate will produce a finished product with a professional sheen, snap and taste - and your creations will not bloom when kept at the proper temperatures. When melting it, dark chocolate should reach 45°C (i.e. 113 F). Cooling it down to 31°C (i.e. 88 F) ensures forming of proper type crystals inside chocolate.

Before making a reservation you should take into account classes are only held in Italian (at least according to what I was told).
We would have managed to get a great deal out of this even in Italian, but got lucky again. Just next to us there was this US couple with their own interpreter. He agreed to help us out on a few technical terms and details. All in all - the whole thing worked out just great!

The class took over 3 and a half hours and we could take with us everything that was made. We could also keep all chocolate leftovers which were perfect for a chocolate fondue back home.

I think for 60 euro it was definitely a good value class. And that is only an opinion of an innocent bystander/photographer - M. was more then thrilled with the outcome.
She is still raving about it every time the topic pops up.


Wednesday 30 May 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Perugia in the distance


Sunday 27 May 2012

Why visit Perugia?

On our trip around Italian region of Umbria started with a stop in the town of Perugia. It is interesting enough just as it is - one can wonder the narrow cobbled streets of this old Italian hill town for hours.

There is even a Mini Metro that will take you into the town center. You can for instance park your car at the city stadium for free and take the Mini Metro into the old town for just a few euros.

The charm of the old town inside the Etruscan walls is just one piece of its charm. Usually people can make the difference between a good and an excellent travel destination. It is no different in this case.

Perugia is the location where many world class events and festivals take place every year. It is well worth planning a trip with these in mind:

  • Saint Ercolano's festival
  • Saint Costanzo's festival
  • Umbria Jazz Festival (this year also featuring Sting!)
  • Umbria's Musical Festival
  • Euro Chocolate Festival
  • Fiera dei Morti (Fair of the Dead)
  • ...and many more.
A visitor can get lots of useful information from the main tourist website dedicated not only to the town of Perugia itself, but also to many other nearby attractions worth the attention. If you are looking for exact dates of events mentioned above, is the information source of choice.
Besides these events the town has many other attractions (mostly historical) worth checking out.

However the main reason of our visit was a bit different. As you might already know Perugia is also the location of Perugina chocolate factory M. wanted to visit for quite some time.

You can expect a detailed report about a very interesting chocolate making class in one of the next posts.


Wednesday 18 April 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Chocolate moments in Perugia

For information about a Chocolate making class in Perugina, you can check out a related post on the link.


Thursday 12 April 2012

Hill towns of Umbria and Marche

We have just returned from a short trip (4 days really is short) around Italian regions of Umbria and Marche. I am glad to say that despite the changing weather it was a great trip and definitely a place worth returning to.
These two regions are a little bit less known compared to the neighboring Tuscany. Fortunately this also means they tend to get a little less crowded.

During this time of year we were able to find budget accommodations for 45 EUR per night (for a double room with breakfast). You can easily find a decent double room in a two star hotel for 60 EUR per night but if you are on a tighter budget, you should do some research before the start of your trip.

Like Tuscany, Umbria is also a place where those green rolling hills seem to just go on forever in all directions. In my opinion charming little medieval towns sitting on tops of those hills are a highlight of the region.

It doesn't really matter if you are a history buff, outdoor enthusiast or you simply love good food and wine... you can definitely find all of those in these parts of Italy.
During this recent trip we tried to taste a little bit of everything. We even took part in a hands-on chocolate making course.

These are Umbrian towns we had on our list and you should definitely try to fit them into your schedule when visiting the region: Assisi, Perugia, Montefalco, Spoleto, Todi, Gubbio and Narni.
Since we suspected we were not going to make it to all of those, we only added Urbino and a small town on the Conero coast from the region of Marche. At the northern end of Marche region there is also a whole another country worth visiting - it is San Marino.

Sadly we did not make it to all of the charming hill towns on the above list. Since we did not want to jump between them in a hurry, we figured we would rather come back at some other time and devote each of them the attention they deserve.
I suggest you do the same and try to relax and really feel the energy flowing through those narrow cobblestone streets.

I will post some useful details from the places we actually got to visit in future posts. Stay tuned to Travel Photo Blogging!

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