The tour programmes we have developed are set within the amazing environment that is UMBRIA, with the focal point of the beautiful Medieval city of Todi and its warm-hearted, generous people.
Todi offers the traveller a splendid array of art, culture, events and festivals across the region. This, together with the unique Umbrian cuisine offered through a large variety of local ingredients prepared in small trattorie and restaurants, and the celebrated wines, provides many great opportunities for a broad range of interests and activities.
Thanks to its geographic positions in the middle of Umbria, Todi provides the ideal starting point to reach all the interesting features and typical localities within Umbria, in a short time.
Situated in the heart of Italy, with its 8,456 km² of surface and 815,000 inhabitants, it is one of the smallest regions in Italy. To the north it borders with Tuscany and to the South with the Lazio. It is divided into two provinces, Perugia (the capital) and Terni.
For 70% of the territory Umbria is covered by the gentle rolling hills for which it is known. But it also offers a great variety of geo-morphologic characteristics within the gentle landscape, consisting of fertile valleys, mountain chains, plateaus and plains that cross the region from the west to east, giving it a unique and recognizable character.
The gentleness of the landscape, the still uncontaminated nature and its central geographic position have earned Umbria the name of the “Green Heart of Italy”.
During the 18th and 19th centuries many travellers followed these central Umbrian routes as part of their essential itinerary as they made their way to Rome. The many colourful and varied aspects and the sublime aesthetics of the landscape they confronted, and recorded, are still as present in Umbria today, as they were then.
Recently, Umbria has been highlighted as the preferred tourist goal by many prestigious foreign newspapers, among them the New York Times. In an article on April 7th, the New York Times earnestly advised its readers to take their vacations in the "sweet hills and old houses" of Umbria. While in Australia and in the United States, American writer Marlena de Blasi’s new book entitled "An Umbrian Love Story" (published in the spring of 2007) is experiencing enormous success. For de Blasi, already author of two other books on the beauties of our country, "Thousand Days in Venice" and "Tuscan Secrets" this book is based in Umbria. Published first in the U.S. as "The Lady in the Palazzo: my home in Umbria" followed by the English version entitled, "An Umbrian Love Story", de Blasi continues to recount her experiences as she moves into her restored Palazzo in the centre of Orvieto after two years in San Casciano, in Tuscany.
The ancient land of Umbria was settled in prehistoric times by the Umbri, from which it derives its name, and later, by the Etruscans. In 295 B.C., it was conquered by the Romans who then settled a number of colonies across the region, constructing the Via Flaminia in 220B.C., the remains of which are still visible and traversible today. Close by Lake Trasimeno is the site of the famous battle that took place during the invasion of Hannibal, over the course of the second Punic war.
After the fall of the Roman Empire the territory became the battlefield for conflicts between the Ostrogoths and the Byzantines with the Lombards eventually establishing the Duchy of Spoleto, which remained an independant Duchy from 571 to the middle of the 12th century. Carl Magno conquered the greater part of the Lombardi dominions yielding the region to the Pope. The conquered cities, however, retained a certain autonomy and were often at war with each other as well as taking part in the major conflicts between the papacy and the empire: the Guelfs and the Ghibellines.
The XIV century saw the rise of a number of local seigniories or feudal land holdings under the Papal States where they remained until the end of the 15th century. With events following the French Revolution the region of Umbria first became part of the Roman Republic (1789-1799) and then part of the Napoleonic Empire (1809-1814). Finally, in 1860 to 61, as a result of the revivalist movement, it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy.
Umbria is also noted for the numerous saints that it has produced. Saint Benedict, founder of western monasticism and the Benedictine Order, was born in Norcia in 460B.C. The most important monasteries in the region are those of Saint Peter in Perugia, the Abbey of Sassovivo near Foligno, Santa Maria of Valdiponte in Montelabbate near Perugia, Saint Benedict at Monte Subasio close to Assisi, Saint Salvatore of Monte Corona and the Abbey of Petroia, near Città di Castello.
In the 12th century in Assisi the Saints Francis (1182-1226) and Clare were born. The marvellous frescoes of Giotto and Cimabue in the basilica at Assisi do much to evoke the power of medieval religiosity and the mystical fervour of the time. In Todi, in the crypt of the church of Saint Fortunate, is the burial place of Jacopone, follower of Saint Francis and one of the first poets to compose verse in “vulgar” or ancient Italian tongue.
As well as the monasteries of the Benedictines and Franciscans it is also possible to visit the basilica and monastery of Saint Rita at Cascia, while in Terni there is the basilica dedicated to Saint Valentine, who was beheaded in Rome and is known all over the world as the patron saint of sweethearts.
Romanesque churches, Gothic cathedrals, basilicas and ancient palaces stand testament to the great artistic production that, from the 12th to 14th century, gave Umbria its enduring masterpieces. On the wave of great religious fervour, artists from all the parts of Italy came to the region to work, creating a great body of extraordinary art. There are two particularly noteable artists who marked Umbria’s artistic triumph: Peter di Cristoforo Vannucci, called “Perugino” (1445-1523) and Bernardino di Betto, called “Pinturicchio” (1454-1513).
The history of Umbria has also been influenced from a gastronomic point of view. A large part of the region was inhabited first by the Etruscans and then by the Romans. These civilizations had a considerable influence on the Umbrian table that is still obvious still today, especially in the use of legumes and cereals, above all wheat and farro (one of the first cereals or grasses to be introduced into the Meditteranean countries). These ingredients were used as the basis for many ancient recipes.
During the Middle Ages, gastronomic culture eminated mainly from the monasteries which produced tasty dishes with as much attention given to the making as to parsimony, in making molto con poco (a lot with little).
The many faithful observances of religious festivals where the Church imposed fasting regimes or dictated an avoidance of meat, also influenced the daily kitchen forcing it to resort, as it does today, to vegetables, herbs, fragrant grasses and also to the abundant produce from the Umbrian lakes.
In the traditional kitchen it is possible to discern subtle shades of difference in the dishes produced across the various geographic zones that emphasize the particular diversities for a specific locality. They are neighbors, and therefore similar, but not identical.
Craftsmanship in Umbria has preserved the traditions and the ancient modes of production. Again, the origins go back to medieval times but it is obviously in the Renaissance that these arti minori or, minor arts, reach their greatest heights. These crafts have become well known: the ceramics of Deruta and the maiolica of Gubbio and of Gualdo Tadino and the production of beaten iron in Città della Pieve, Gubbio, Assisi, Cascia, Magione e Montone. The woven fabric of Perugia has gained recognition and prestige as has the table linen and lace of Orvieto and the embroidery of Assisi and of Città di Castello, as well as the art of carving that is spread throughout the region.