The green heart of Italy


*This story appears on May-June 2022 Terre & Culture magazine issue, in the section Ameritalia.



History and culture Umbria includes the provinces of Perugia (capital) and Terni; it is a region of almost 8500 square kilometers, particularly green and landlocked. In ancient times it was inhabited by the Etruscans and later by the Umbrians, while at the beginning of the third century BC. (Battle of the Sentino, 295 BC) it was Rome that took dominance over the territory and was right over the two peoples, whose civilization soon disappeared. From that moment on, Umbria remained under the control of Rome. As in the rest of the peninsula, the progressive decline of the Western Roman Empire was accompanied and partly caused by the barbarian invasions that began in the 5th century AD. which followed one another uninterruptedly causing destruction and dismemberment; among the invading peoples we remember the Visigoths, the Heruli, the Huns and the Vandals; different was the descent of the Ostrogoths (between 493 and 526) and of the Lombards (who descended into Italy in 568), who, in a different way and measure, were able to constitute kingdoms of greater stability. It was above all the Lombards, who, after the brief interlude of Byzantine dominion, were able to create more solid political, economic and cultural structures; in Umbria the Duchy of Spoleto gained strength in this period.

The large and important Umbrian centers developed in the communal age and it was Perugia that took over, which it maintained even during the era of the lords, until the Papal State took power in the mid-sixteenth century; from that moment on the fate of the region followed those of the Papal State (except in the brief Napoleonic experience). During the Italian Risorgimento, Umbria first participated in the uprisings of the years 1830-31, and then in those of 1848. In 1859 the uprisings in Perugia were brutally repressed, but the following year the Region, through a plebiscite, was annexed to the nascent Kingdom of Italy under the crown of Vittorio Emanuele II.


CuriosityA small Italian Region with a lot of history, a lot of art and culture, characterized by a splendid landscape of valleys with verdant landscapes, offering a poor, natural and very healthy peasant cuisine, inhabited by simple people, very reserved and somewhat Franciscan!The two Umbrian provinces are very different from each other, where the province of Perugia acts as a lion, and is best known internationally for the famous University for Foreigners; the Terni part is less known, despite having a lot of potential, especially in the tourist field, with wonderful perched villages, including Orvieto, the ancient Etruscan city.Orvieto is part of the province of Terni, it is located on the tuff cliff, and connected not only by a wide road, but also by the funicular that takes the inhabitants, but above all the many tourists, in a few minutes from the square of the Orvieto station. Piazza Cahen, from where the buses depart for the city center and in front of the majestic Cathedral. Orvieto has a strategic geographical position, bordering the Tuscany region to the north, the Lazio region to the south east, and the Marche region to the west. It is very well connected and you can easily reach both the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian coasts, and in an hour you can be in the center of Rome. In almost 3000 years of history it has gone through different eras, in particular starting from the 9th century BC. when it was, with the Etruscan civilization, in which it experienced a period of great splendor and importance, such as to become the fulcrum and the most important inhabited area of ​​the vast territory of Etruria. It is a city where you can find, among the small alleys, ancient craft shops, historic trattorias and where the majestic Duomo, which dominates the large square, together with the Etruscan museum and the Soliano palace, offers a tourist a set of ancient historical structures. cultural sites of a poignant beauty, offering a 360 degree panorama of the area below the cliff, from where you can admire magnificent vineyards and verdant olive groves!


Memories Near Orvieto, near the Corbara lake, stands Baschi, a characteristic medieval village that sits sheer above the A1 motorway, which is very visible along the motorway on both sides. So it was that on one of our trips to Rome we noticed a sign indicating Baschi and a characteristic village at the top. Intrigued, we decided on our return to Florence, where we were temporarily living after returning from the USA, to stop and visit Baschi. Our desire, on our return from the USA, was to find a place in the countryside where we could build our house and create our handmade knitwear workshop. We began to do a lot of research in the Orvieto area which immediately seemed to us the ideal place, both in the environmental field and for the healthy and peaceful standard of living, as well as for everything it offered in the cultural and educational field. Its geographical position was also very important, because it was easy to find the right workforce within a short distance to be able to develop our business based on a hand-made knitwear line. Both searches were very positive and therefore we decided to buy two villas with a couple of hectares of land in order to create a vineyard and plant a hundred olive trees, as well as having the opportunity to cultivate an organic garden and a small orchard! We therefore created an artisan workshop giving work to many women who, while grazing their animals, knitted our shirts, becoming a source of income for them and for many families in the village and nearby. They called me the "American" lady, even though I wasn't at all, because I was born and raised in Italy! Umbria thus became our homeland for over 36 years, while continuing to go to the USA for work, that was our paradise! Logically we immediately visited the surroundings and above all the Valnerina area where, along the road to get to Terni, you can visit interesting places such as the Roman city of Amelia, the beautiful Marmore waterfalls, the picturesque village of Scheggino, from where from the ancient torre it seems that the Umbrians left and then went on to the Abbey of San Pietro in Valle, where San Francesco also stayed; continuing along the tunnel and arriving directly in Spoleto.


Tourism If you want, you can easily visit Umbria in one day!Leaving the A1 Autostrada del Sole at the Orvieto scalo toll booth, you can take the A45 motorway that runs along the Corbara lake and easily visit the many beautiful medieval cities that are located along the motorway, such as a stop in Todi, to visit the baptistery of Bramante, or to De Ruta with the many ceramic workshops and the museum of ceramics. Also interesting is the village of Torgiano where you can visit the Lungarotti wine museum, and then get to Perugia, from where, making the detour on the SS75, you can reach the splendid city of Assisi, and then continue until you reach Spoleto, with the possibility of being able to admire the splendid Umbrian villages perched along this road, such as the characteristic Spello and Trevi where we find the Museum of the Olive Tree Civilization.During this long period I lived in Baschi I was able to introduce many American friends to this jewel called The green of Italy, a small but beautiful region, which offers a lot from culture to history, from craftsmanship and very famous typical products, such as the truffle, with the tasty porchetta and lentils of Castelluccio!


Umbrian cuisine It is a joy for every palate, from strongozzi alla norcina to Spoleto skewers, from croutons with truffle sauce to a tasty sandwich with porchetta!The king of the Umbrian table is however the truffle, be it black or white. In Umbria there are at least seven varieties; gives taste and originality to delicious dishes such as Trout with truffle from Scheggino, Angel stuffed with black truffle from Norcia, and in particular the tasty umbrichelli with black truffle sauce.Cheeses are also very popular, from aged pecorino caciotta to fresh cheese with herbs, made with goat's milk, and last but not least, truffle cheese; not to forget the Norcia sausages that expert butchers offer together with the famous porchetta.All products that go well with Umbrian wines, coming from ancient vineyards with native grapes, produced in the two different provinces, with tastes of quite different tastes. Very interesting are the many types of bread: the Pan caciato, the Pan nociato, the homemade bread, the Stretterà bread, the Terni bread, the Easter pizza and the Torta al testo, as well as the delicious Orvieto snails!There are many desserts that vary according to the holidays and especially prepared for the town festivals, such as tozzetti, torcilione di Todi, semolina cake, which the Montanucci pastry shop in Orvieto has been preparing daily for over a hundred years!However, the main dish of the Umbria Region is the Umbrichelli with truffles.


Ingredients for 4 people: 400 gr of umbrichelli (long pasta made of water and hand-made flour), black truffle (quantity to your taste), Umbrian extra virgin olive oil, salt, garlic.

Brown a clove of garlic in Umbrian extra virgin olive oil, let the oil cool and in the meantime grind the truffle in a mortar. Cook the umbrichelli in abundant salted water; mix the warm oil with the truffle and a pinch of salt, then mix with the well-drained umbrichelli and serve very hot. To flavor the oil and truffle sauce well, you can prepare it for many hours before serving and keep in the fridge.It is interesting to know that the snails, while working in the fields and on the large threshing floors where the scent of summer mixes with the play of the sun and shade, nibble between meals, comfortable because with their large shape savory biscuits are a complete baked product, with a dough that also includes the bread! Excellent to serve with an aperitif and accompanying an appetizer, or a "Wine Tasting".

How to prepare them 500 grams of flour, a 25-gram cube of brewer's yeast, 120 grams of bacon and 120 grams of grated aged pecorino, as well as 3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

Pour the flour on a pastry board, add the yeast dissolved in a little warm water (be careful, warm, not hot), then knead by gradually adding more slightly warm water, until a consistent but soft dough is obtained, with which forms a ball. Leave to rise, cover and keep in a warm place away from drafts, then add the pecorino, the bacon cut into very small cubes and the oil. Mix and let rise.Then make many small rolls with a diameter of less than half a centimeter from the dough, roll them, twist them and crush them lightly.Spread the snails on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, keeping them far from each other and cook for 15-20 minutes in a preheated oven at 220 degrees.I recommend visiting this beautiful and particular region, you will be super thrilled!