[ July 16, 2004 ]
Did you know that… Umbria is the “Green Heart of Italy?”
A region that is little known—at least not as celebrated as its neighbours, Tuscany and Latium. And yet, it has so much to offer! Its emerald beauty, multitude of forests and rolling hills are just the beginning. Umbria also enjoys a captivating history and a rich artistic heritage. Add to this the delectable culinary traditions and a vast array of local products that offer a taste of the land. Nature and culture come together to offer enjoyment at its purest and finest. A region definitely worth discovering!

Voyage through time

The region of Umbria, with close to one million inhabitants, is shared by two provinces: Perugia, which is also the name of its capital, and Terni. It is a region alive with history. Umbria, named for its inhabitants of the VIIIth century B.C., the Umbrians—a group of peaceful agricultural people—bears signs of the passage of the Etruscans and the Romans, and also boasts a number of ancient towns whose medieval architecture has been remarkably preserved.

A tour through the main Umbrian towns is the perfect way to explore the region’s rich history: Assisi, the birthplace of Saint Francis, whose life inspired the frescoes painted by Giotto in the Basilica of Saint Francis; Orvieto, perched atop a spectacular volcanic rock, boasts one of the most beautiful cathedrals of the peninsula; Gubbio; Perugia, the colourful capital; Spoleto, which holds a yearly international festival… ancient cities rich in Roman sanctuaries, Gothic palaces and superb cycles of frescoes.

Umbria’s modern-day flair!

The city’s cultural effervescence comes through in its internationally renowned festivals:

The Umbria Jazz festival, which literally takes over every street and spot of Perugia from July 9 to 18, will celebrate its 31st anniversary this year! An ideal venue for world-renowned artists!

And the ever-popular Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, from July 2 to 18, which, since 1958, has given visitors the chance to witness the coming together of Italian, European and American culture in a magnificent setting composed of grandiose medieval monuments, Roman architecture and some of the oldest churches in Italy. The line-up of activities includes prose, dance and song as well as film presentations and scientific debates.

And, of course, who can forget the bounty of this generous land which constitutes a most refined gastronomy!

A gastronomy composed of ingredients such as truffles, trout, Castelluccio lentils, Norcia meats and mountain cheese in addition to several wines worthy of their accompaniment!

There are in fact 2 DOCGs (wine of Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin)—Montefalco Sagrantino and Torgiano Rosso Riserva—two prestigious red wines, 11 DOCs (wine of Controlled Designation of Origin) and 6 IGTs (Typical Geographic Indication). The vast array of grape varieties includes many which are local—Procanico (Umbrian version of the Trebbiano), the Malvasia and the Grechetto, which are predominant in Orvieto, the Sangiovese and the Sagrantino, which serve as the basis for the two DOCG wines but which can also be found in Merlot, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc. And, even if the most prestigious of this region’s wines are red, it remains that 60% of the wine produced in the region is white.

Umbrians are proud of their truffles! There are some 30 varieties, including white truffles, black truffles and the scorzone estivo (summer truffle). These heavenly delicacies help spotlight a variety of artisanal products such as creams, butters, oils, sauces, meats, etc.

In terms of olive oil, there exists an “Umbria DOP” (protected denomination of origin) which authorizes the use of five olive varieties: Moraiolo, Frantoio, San Felice, Pendolino and Agocia. This green gold is an integral part of traditional Umbrian cooking.

Delectable regional recipes abound! Truffle lentils, onion croutons, goose stew, Umbrian cakes—all with a taste of the high-quality wines born out of the hills of this region!

Those who master the language of Dante can whet their appetite at the following Web site: http://www.cookaround.com/cucina/regionale/umbria/index.php. It is definitely worth a visit.

Others can let themselves be tempted by the recipe of the month (in French and English!) and whip up a typical Umbrian dish! Click on Recipe of the Month.

Ingredients available in Canada:

Groupe Cufrol: extra-virgin olive oil and organic food products

Represented by Les Aliments Romanelli
Cipolloni: extra-virgin olive oil (www.cipolloni.com)

Represented by Papille
Piselli: pastries and desserts

Represented by Les Importations Verona Ltd.
Muzzi: pastries and desserts

Represented by Favuzzi International
Renzini: extra-virgin olive oil and typical food products (www.renzini.it)
Interpan: pizza, foccace, frozen breads
Il Frantoio : extra-virgin olive oil (www.ilfrantoio.com)
Podere Vaglie : wines (http://users.pandora.be/de.slijperij/Vaglie/).

So, enjoy an Umbrian getaway by indulging in all of the culinary treasures this region has to offer!

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