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Città di Castello is an enchanting town in Umbria, not far from Lake Trasimeno and the city of Perugia.
Umbria is the perfect region where spending the summer holidays, as it joins culture and nature. It is considered the Italian greenest region, where people can enjoy forests, waterfalls, hills and visit many towns which still preserve important historical and artistic treasures.
Città di Castello is well-known also because it’s the native town of one of the most famous Italian star in the world: Monica Bellucci.
This town in perfect for a day trip.
What to see in Città Di Castello
To stroll in the city centre is like coming back to old times, as you can recognize anywhere that Renaissance was the highest moment of Città di Castello’s splendor.
Città di Castello is renowned for its towers: the most famous one is the Torre Civica (Civic Tower), whose peculiarity is its prism shape, and also named as Torre del Vescovo (Bishop’s Tower) because it is joined to the next Bishop’s Palace.
We have to mention the Cathedral’s bell tower, with its very rare cylindrical shape. Moreover, it is 43,50 m high and with its 7 m external circumference it is for sure one of the tallest rounded bell towers in Europe. We assure that also the Cathedral is certainly worth to visit.
Matteotti square – Città di Castello
When you get tired of walking, I suggest taking a break in Matteotti Square. In this beautiful spot, you can mingle with the citizens of Città di Castello, enjoying a nice coffee sitting at the bar, and admire the astonishing facades of the surrounding palaces. In particular, the Town Hall, also called the Priors Palace, is one of the most important public buildings in whole Umbria, but also Palazzo del Podestà, an important Gothic example, Palazzo Bondi-Mancini, Palazzo Vitelli-Bufalini and Palazzo Cappelletti.
If you are interested in painting, you should go to the Art Gallery, where you can admire beautiful examples of Renaissance and Manierist paintings. There also two museums dedicated to the famous contemporary artist Alberto Burri, who was born in Città di Castello in 1915. One museum is within Palazzo Albizzini, while the other one is set in the Ex Tobacco Dryers, where the monumental sculptures are placed in the outdoor lawn.
You can easily take a walk and relax for a while in one of the several parks in the surroundings. Among these, I warmly recommend the Villa Montesca’s Park and the Swan Park.
Villa Montesca is a beautiful construction, built at the end of the 19th century and it is for sure the most amazing villa in the surroundings. Its gardens gather exotic and Mediterranean species, common and rare plants, some of them quite small, some incredibly tall and impressive. If you follow the different trails, you will find it’s such a nice and refreshing experience!
The Swan Parks is located on the left bank of the Tiber, the same river crossing Rome, just outside the city walls. It is a new park, created in the 90’s with a really nice story to tell about: one day, a resident found a wounded swan along the road and decided to bring it to the vet. The swan was cured and set free in the park. Unbelievably, it didn’t fly away and, instead, lots of these birds came to inhabit the spot. Today, they are the symbols of these gardens.
If you wish to pamper and take care of yourself, go straight to the Fontecchio Spa. Far about 3 km from the old town of Città di Castello, these baths are located within a large park with secular trees: the Fontecchio Spa is the perfect place for a relaxing break but they are also recommended for medical treatments.
What to eat in Città Di Castello
You are surely aware that food is serious matter to Italians.
Every region and city has its typical specialties, and so has Città di Castello.
The landscape of this area is mostly hilly and full of mountains, so it is perfect to grow cereals and legumes, but also grapevines and olive trees.
The most well-known food is the white truffle. If you want to eat fresh truffle, you will find it only in autumn, but in the shops you can find many foodstuffs based on it, with its unique smell and taste.
If you love truffles, you can’t miss the White Truffle Fair, which takes place in the old town at the beginning of November, where you will also find many local products such as oil, wine, honey, cheese and cold cuts.
If you wish to try a typical dish from Città di Castello, my suggestion is Baggiana: it is a soup made with beans, tomatoes and basil. It is usually served with a Tigella, a small bread made with flour, water and salt.
Trying the Torcolo is the perfect way to end your meal: this dessert is a braided focaccia bread with candied citron, raisin pine nuts and anise.
I bet Città di Castello will delight your eyes, your heart and your gut!
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The Rocca Paolina in Perugia and its Underground Christmas Market
The fortress of Rocca Paolina in Perugia is a place that you absolutely should visit during your holidays in Umbria, especially in Christmas.
Perugia is located in Umbria, considered one of the wildest regions of Italy. The hills, the medieval villages and the religious sites give this area a rural and silent atmosphere, linked to past customs that are still alive despite the centuries.
Thanks to its geography, Umbria is perfect for a summer holiday. Yet, Christmas gives to the historic towns an even stronger appeal.
Among all the experiences that you can live in Umbria during Christmas, one should be at the top of your wish list. It’s the underground Christmas market in the Rocca of Perugia.
Let me tell you something about the beautiful city of Perugia.
First of all, it’s the regional county seat of Umbria.
Its foundation dates back to the 10th century BC, by the Etruscans. But it’s during the Middle Ages that it became larger and more important. In 1531 it was annexed as part of the Papal State.
All these events has influenced the appearance of Perugia and I think that much of its charm is due to the variety of architectural styles, from Roman to Gothic. Every corner of the historic center hides a beautiful sight or something interesting.
Another noteworthy thing about Perugia is that, besides being a city of art and history, it is also a lively city. It hosts the famous Umbria Jazz Festival and Eurochocolat, a fair dedicated to chocolate.
Among all its historical buildings, the most popular is the Rocca Paolina.
THE ROCCA PAOLINA IN PERUGIA
Rocca Paolina is a monumental fortress on a hill overlooking the center of Perugia.
It was built around year 1540 by the will of Pope Paul III Farnese – that’s the origin of its name.
The incredible thing of the Rocca is that it is not just a single building, but a sort of a city within the city.
Let me explain.
They had to build the fortress, but there were a preexisting neighborhood. Instead of demolishing the buildings, they decided to incorporate them into the fortress. They simply covered the streets with vaults of bricks and rocks. And now you can walk in an underground medieval town!
You might think that such a place is just an attraction for tourists. Actually, residents of Perugia hang out there, as well as tourists, in particular for special events.
One of these is the Christmas market.
THE UNDERGROUND CHRISTMAS MARKET AT THE ROCCA PAOLINA
For more than 20 years the Rocca Paolina is hosting the event “Natale alla Rocca” (Christmas at the Roca)
The main attraction is the Christmas market in the old underground town inside the fortress.
You can find both traditional and creative gifts and watch the master craftsmen while doing their job. But you can also follow the perfumes coming from the food stands and indulge in some traditional dishes.
Of course, the unique location makes the experience memorable.
The underground Christmas Market in Perugia is fantastic also for children. They can meet Santa Claus, whisper him their wishes, take a picture with him, or watch a Christmas movie or a play at the theater that is set up inside the underground town.
HOW TO REACH THE CHRISTMAS MARKET IN THE ROCCA PAOLINA
First of all, the entrance to the Rocca Paolina is completely free!
The Rocca can be accessed through the entrance of Porta Marzia, in via Bagliona, open from 7 AM to 8 PM.
However, I suggest you to leave the car at the parking lot at Piazza dei Partigiani and take the escalators that bring you directly into the fortress. The escalators are working from 6.15 AM to about 2.00 AM.
This year “Natale in Rocca” and the underground Christmas market will start on December 8th and end on the 24th.
Once you’ll have enough of the underground Christmas market in Rocca Paolina, you can return to the open air and enjoy all that Perugia has to offer during the most magical time of the year. There’s a lot to see.
When I was younger I lived in Tuscany. In particular, I lived in Montepulciano.
Tuscany is a fantastic region. For many foreigners it represents the typical Italian landscape: rolling green hills, olive trees, vineyards and medieval villages.
Umbria can be considered as the little sister of Tuscany. I don’t mean that is less interesting or less beautiful. It is just less popular among tourists.
But Umbria is unique.
Why Chose Umbria for Your Holidays
Umbria is a tiny mountain region in the center of Italy. It’s the green heart f the country.
It may looks a bit like Tuscany, but it is more savage, in my opinion. It has a wide variety of landscapes: hills and broad, fertile valleys, high mountains, fast-flowing rivers, lakes and secluded medieval hamlets that dominate their surroundings.
This wild nature is perfect for those who are looking for outdoor adventures. For example, the Mount Sibillini are for trekking.
Umbria has no coastline but it has beaches! The region has several lakes and the Lake Trasimeno is the largest one.
At Lake Trasimeno you can go sailing, rent a sun-bed and just relax, or visit some of the lovely villages along its coastline.
2) Art & Culture
Cities like Perugia and Assisi have plenty of beautiful things to see. The medieval architecture of their buildings, churches, cathedrals, but also art museums. The Orvieto Cathedral is a must-see building. It is perched at the top of a cliff from which you can have an unforgettable view on the countryside.
In many of Umbria’s old towns you can visit the remains of Etruscan and Roman settlements, like the Roman House in Spoleto.
Umbria is famous also for the pilgrimage to Assisi. Every year thousands of visitors follow the route walking to Assisi, following in the footsteps of St Francis.
During a holidays in Umbria, people can enjoy several festivals and markets.
One of the most popular festival is the Umbria Jazz, dedicated to Jazz music. Another one is the Spoleto’s Two Worlds Festival, dedicated to opera, classical music, theatrical and dance performances.
Umbria is the perfect destination for foodies.
In particular, Norcia is one of Italy’s finest gastronomic spot. Ham, black or white truffles, lentils, wild boar, but also trout and mountain cheeses are just a few of the main products.
Wine is also great. Two of the most popular are the Montefalco Sagrantino and the Red Torgiano,
If you are planning your holidays in Umbria, I’m sure you will love it.
It’s a region with so much to give! You can spend your days enjoying trekking paths in the mountains, cultural day trips, gastronomic tours, spiritual retirements, or chilling out on the beach. It is a perfect destination for couples, families with children but also for groups of friends.
I have already told you that I lived in Montepulciano for a while. At the time I had friends in Perugia and every time I had to visit them I drove on a road along Lake Trasimeno. Although that road is not particularly memorable, I consider Lake Trasimeno one of those places worth visiting.
When people think of Tuscany and Umbria they imagine hills, cypresses and vineyards, medieval villages and cities like Florence, Pisa or Perugia. Lake Trasimeno is something a little different.
First of all, it is the largest lake in Central Italy, and the fourth largest one in the country. Then, it offers an enchanting landscape.The lake is almost entirely surrounded by hills, except in the direction of Val di Chiana (famous for the breed of cows that produces high quality meat).
What can you actually do by the lake? You can walk along its shores, discover nature, go fishing, do kite surfing or simply enjoy the moment. But there’s more.
Hidden between the hills that surround the lake, are small villages with interesting things to see.
I want to recommend you 3 of them.
The first one is Castiglione del Lago, with its ruins of Etruscan tombs and its castle.
Niccolò Macchiaveli and Leonardo Da Vinci stayed at the Ducal Palace, now used as headquarter of the municipality. You should not miss the walk along the suggestive passage that connects La Rocca and the Castello del Leone.
The second one is Città della Pieve
Città della Pieve it’s a medieval village, inhabited since the time of the Etruscans and Romans, and it is famous because there is one of the narrowest alley of all Italy. It’s Vicolo Baciadonne and it’s only 80 cm wide! Its name can be translated into something like “the women kissing alley,”, since its width makes pedestrians to get as close as they’re going to kiss each other. Of course this is just a legend and nothing bad will happen to you, if you’re going to walk through the alley.
Città della Pieve is also the birthplace of the Perugino artist and several of his artworks are still in town.
The third one is Magione, a village dominated by an impressive castle build by the Knights of Malta.
Of course, Lake Trasimeno can be visited also by boat. By boat you can reach its islands, such as Isola Maggiore or Polvese. Polvese is still uninhabited and it is used as a reserve for environmental research and educational visits.
Lake Trasimeno is a perfect destination for a relaxing trip, but it is also home to one of the most important Blues music festivals in Europe. The Trasimeno Blues Festival takes place every year in late July, and combines the great music with the natural and historical attractions of the area.
Besides history, architecture and art, Umbria and Tuscany are also famous for good food.
The typical products of the Lake Trasimeno area are the fish dishes, oils and wines (Vino dei Colli del Trasimeno, Grechetto, Vin Santo).
Then there are two products that I invite you to look for in restaurants or shops. One is the Fagiolina del Trasimeno, a precious bean. The other is the Torciglione, a snake-shaped cake made of almonds, sugar and egg whites. Families usually prepare it for Christmas.
In conclusion, I really think that Lake Trasimeno and its area is worth a visit. And I truly hope you’ll follow my suggestions.
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