I spent all of September in Italy, running our Tuscany and Umbria tours back-to-back.This year some of my favourite Chain Gangers joined me over the course of the month, and it really reminded me that I don’t rave about Umbria and Tuscany nearly enough.
We spent the 3rd week of September in Umbria, with regular Chain Gangers Paul, Martin, Paul, Wendy, Diane and Gus, as well as four new faces. We had a fabulous week, and looking back through Gus’s photographs takes me back – no bad thing in a cold, wet British January. I’ve collected an album together which you can view on Flickr here.
I’ve chosen five of Gus’s photos that illustrate favourite aspects of the tour for me. Not the 5 best photos, or the 5 most spectacular things in Umbria. But 5 photos that remind me of my favourite bits of our Umbria tour. If you click on the images you can enlarge them.
1. Pitigliano.Pitigliano is actually in Tuscany, just, but for us we include it on our Umbria tour.
So Mum’s the word, eh?
We spend two days in the Maremma region, and I think it always surprises people that somewhere this amazing exists and they’ve never heard of it. Based around the three towns of Sovana, Sorano and Pitigliano, its origins go back to the Etruscans, and their legacy is visible everywhere.
The most striking view is our first view of the largest town, Pitigliano. Our hotel is in Sovana, rated by the Daily Telegraph as one of Italy’s 19 most beautiful villages. I haven’t been to many of them, but it’s no surprise that Sovana is on that list. I sometimes wish we could have a whole tour just staying in Sovana, but there you go.
2. View over Lago di Corbara.On our guided tour, we leave Orvieto on Monday morning, headed for Todi. And during the afternoon, we are pretty much isolated, and it’s wonderful.
It’s hard work – we end up at about 600 meters above sea-level. But I love the feeling that we are on our own, and we have to look out for each other. There are two tiny villages with two tiny bars (and I mean tiny – much to my disgust the whole group cycled past the 2nd one, didn’t even see it!). We get the most magnificent descent of any Chain Gang tour, and magnificent views like this one over the Lago di Corbara.
You may never have heard of it, but it’s an articial lake caused by damming the River Tiber. So there’s your original River of Blood, on its way to Rome.
3. Wine tasting at Cantina Peppucci.About 10 Km outside Todi, on our way to the marvelously named town of Bastardo, is an Umbrian jewel, the Cantina Peppucci. It’s a vineyard in spectacular scenery, with a spectacular little range of wines. They put on a good show (they charge accordingly, mind!) and the owner, Filippo, is a fascinating and generous host.
Umbria struggles to get attention for its wines. They’re worth it, people are always very surprised by how good Filippo’s wines are, and we have a blast learning about them. Cheers Rich.
4. Assisi.This is Wendy going into the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Literally that’s Saint Mary on Minerva, because (as you can probably tell from the columns) this church started life as a Roman temple, and it’s one of the best-preserved temple facades you’ll find anywhere.
Assisi is most famous as the birthplace and home of St Francis, one of the patron saints of Italy. Before St Francis it was a thriving medieval city-state. Before that it was a Roman settlement. And you can see remnants of all of these eras.
Assisi is home to the Duomo of the Poor Clares, but most visitors these days come to visit the huge, spectacular, unforgettable Basilica of St Francis. It really is huge, literally one cathedral built on top of another cathedral. It contains a famous fresco cycle, and of course the body of St Francis.
On top of all that, 25% of the inhabitants of Assisi is either a monk or a nun. Top that! I simply have never got bored visiting Assisi.
5. A Picnic by the Lagi di Trasimeno.On our last day, we leave Perugia, which is brilliant, on our way to Cortona. And halfway there we get our first climpse of Italy’s 4th largest lake, the Lago di Trasimeno. OK, I know, 4th largest ain’t even on the podium, and with an average depth of only 5 metres there’s not even much water in it. But it’s gorgeous, and it’s a joy to picnic here.
Back in 217 BC Hannibal announced himself and his elephant with a resounding victory on the banks of Trasimeno that threatened the survival of the young Roman Empire. Just imagine that. It nearly ended before it really got started – right here. The lake leads into a wide plain with Cortona and Arezzo on the East side, and Montepulciano on the West. This photo reminds me of the little leap of joy I feel when we get our first glimpse of this beautiful lake.
So, Umbria according to Gus Campbell, interpreted by me. If you look at the album on Flickr, the photos are all in order, so as you click through them, you travel through our week with us.