Exploring life and the world with wide eyes and curiosity.

Under the Umbrian Sun

When friends start planning their trips to Italy, they immediately think of going to Tuscany – Toscana. And when they ask me about my time in Italy, they often say, “Oh! Like Under the Tuscan Sun! Or Eat, Pray, Love!” No… and no.

I think that the notoriety of those films/books, coupled with the publicity generated by a particular Pacific Northwest local that has made a name for himself through travel, have swayed the perception of Italy and the “right” location of treasures to experience. Thus, Tuscany gets all the attention.

I’ve now been in and through 19 of the 20 regions of Italy and I can tell you that each one is its own sort of gem. Each region has its own food culture, its own medieval, hilltop towns, and its own swoon-inducing beauty. (Sardegna is the last hold-out of the 20 regions. On the list for next year.)

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The central piazza in Città di Castello.

So many have said to me, “We ‘did‘ Florence. We ‘did‘ Rome. We ‘did‘ Venice. We ‘did‘ Cinque Terre…” (And only one of those is in Tuscany, by the way.) Each of those places is marvelous beyond belief. Each of those will make you head-over-heels in love with Italy. Yet you can come to Italy, never go to any of those Big Four, and if you’re willing to nestle in and root around, you can come away as enthralled as ever. You can meet people not yet weary of tourist throngs, eat foods specific to a 50 kilometer radius, find lodging in buildings from the 1400s. History, Art, Culture, Foods… and open-hearted folks are scattered from the heel and toe of The Boot in the south, all the way up to the mountainous top of The Boot in the north, (where you have to remind yourself that you’re still in Italy).

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Fresh tagliatelle with shaved black truffles in Umbria.

I keep coming back here and to all that Italy offers of itself to me. I have nestled in. I have rooted around. And now this place has roots in me and a part of me is at home here. Now I can’t stay away. I crave the hearts of those that have become dear to me. I crave the foods I can’t find in Seattle. I yearn for the visual details that ignite my artist/designer’s eye. This is the eighth year that I have made this trek and long pause in this foreign country (including one 14 month stint). It has become hardly “foreign” anymore, and more familiar. I’ve “gone deep” and it pleases me.

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From Milano, eastward almost to the coast of the Adriatic Sea, then south to Città di Castello, Assisi, Bevagna and Orvieto in Umbria, then west to Follónica on the opposite coast, then back up north past Pisa, the exit for le Cinque Terre and back to Milano.

Last week I ventured into the land-locked center of the country to the region of Umbria, with my friend and incredible painter, Loredano Rizzotti. Umbria was region number 19 on my list and we had an itinerary that included Città di Castello, Assisi, Bevagna and Orvieto, ending in the seaside town of Follónica. All I can say is “Go to Umbria!” It’s lovely. There’s MUCH to see and many flavors to savor.

Today was a clear-sky day in Milano after a day, yesterday, of downpours. It’s on the brink of autumn. All was right with the world as I went out to do my grocery shopping one block up the road toward the Duomo. I continue to marvel at my being here, and count my blessings.

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