Sunflowers and Sangiovese

Sarah Smith on 15 August 2016
Umbria and Florence: Rolling hills, wide vistas, sunflowers as far as the eye can see, silence...

As you may have guessed by now, we love our food. Having enjoyed Italian hospitality on previous holidays we chose Umbria as our summer destination this year. It's been a busy year so a quiet place was needed where we could chill out and recharge our batteries, have some days out in the surrounding area, and enjoy some fab food and wine. If this sounds like your perfect trip then Umbria is for you.

More reasonable than neighbouring Tuscany, yet only 2.5 hours’ drive from Pisa, get off the beaten track and find vineyards for local wine tasting, view olive trees growing in pretty lines, medieval hill top towns with bell towers 100s of years old, kick back and relax.

We visited famous wine towns; Orvieto, Montepulciano, Volterra, Casteliagno del Lago, Paciano. All stunning with amazing churches, some with caves, quaint old towns, traditional shops and THE best gelatarias!

One day we made 3 types of wonderful fresh pasta and an Italian peach cake at Fontenaro Cookery School, a 5-hour course in a stunning traditional farmhouse kitchen, then our hosts served us our meals in their beautiful garden washed down with their homemade wine. Great day and highly recommended.

After a week in Umbria, we had 3 nights in Florence. It felt very busy compared to Umbria and the prices in restaurants were double! Designer shops and beautiful people on every street made the contrast a great second destination to highlight the differences between city and countryside. If you are into your art then you will love the galleries, sculptures, and museums. If you are not afraid of heights (and physically fit!), climb the bell tower and the dome of the Duomo...only a mere 464 steps up (and down!)

Top tips:

Stay on an agriturismo property for the best local hospitality.

Learn all about olive oil manufacturing, pasta making and wine producing by attending a cookery class.

Attend local markets for fresh porchetta, cheeses and artisan bread.

Make the most of your mornings as late afternoons in July / August storms occur.

Avoid the queues, buy your Florence duomo entrance ticket online before travel.