Food and wine are central to Umbrian hospitality; long lunches with family and friends stretching into the evenings as more and more wine, cheeses and meats come out of the kitchen. Simple yet delicious produce is the mark of a good Umbrian meal, and the region is famous for three things in particular – truffles, pecorino cheese and Orvieto Classico wine, as some of the best olive oil in Italy.
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The prized black Norcia truffle is gathered in the hills and mountains around Norcia and Spoleto. Traditionally sourced using dogs, who sniff them out at the bases of the oak trees where they grow, they are sold to local restaurants and specialty shops. By weight, they can be some of the most expensive ingredients in the world, and are often served delicately shaved over pasta, risotto or meats to add a rich flavour.
This world-famous Umbrian cheese is made from sheep’s milk, or a blend of sheep and goat milk, which gives it the characteristic, slightly salty taste. Soft when young, it hardens as it ages, becoming increasingly crumbly and intensely flavoured. Pick up some local Pecorino from the Val D’Orca co-operative, just outside the nearby town Acquapendente.
Umbria has no fewer than 11 DOC wines, predominantly white. The most famous of these is Orvieto Classico, which has been produced for over 2,000 years. Although originally sweet, the wine has evolved into a crisp, dry and fruity variety which has found popularity across the globe.
Some of the best olive oil in Italy is produced in Umbria. The best time to buy is just after the pressing season, in November and December when the new batches arrive into the shops. The greener the colour, and the newer the oil, the higher the quality and the better the taste – in fact by Italian law, olive oil must carry an expiry date two years after it was made.
The art of preserving pork in Umbria, particularly around Norica, goes back to 2nd Century BC. Prosciutto di Norcia, the thinly sliced cured ham, is the king of Umbrian delicacies. Corallina is a famous Umbrian salami, made from the best cuts of pork following a traditional and age-old recipe and sausages such as Ciauscolo and Fiaschetta taste great with Umbrian bread.
Almost every village has its local baker, producing a selection of homemade specialty breads. Supplement a picnic of local cured meats, cheeses, olive oil and wine with pan nociato, made with pecorino cheese, walnuts and pine nuts, or the local torta al testo con i ciccioli, a typical focaccia bread stuffed with small pieces of pork crackling.
As well as the vines at Torre Bisenzio, the surrounding areas is dotted with small, family-run vineyards which welcome visitors for a stroll amid the vines or a tasting at the wineries:
*Some of the photos are “property of the Umbria region” which we thank for their collaboration.