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Guest Blog: Discovering Todi in Italy’s Umbria Region

Please join us in welcoming Justine van der Leun to The Window Seat. She is the author of the travel memoir Marcus of Umbria: What an Italian Dog Taught an American Girl Above Love, which hit the shelves this month. You can learn more at her website.

During my year in the bucolic Umbrian village of Collelungo–population, 200–I could open my bedroom window and see the ancient city of Todi, perched high above on a hilltop. Most travelers taking in Umbria hit up the glitzier tourist destinations—Spoleto, Orvieto, Assisi, Perugia. But taking the road less traveled can be even more fulfilling. Not featured prominently in most guidebooks, Todi offers visitors a chance to take in a fully authentic Italian experience away from the throngs of tourists. Really? Todi? If you do it right, certo! Here’s how:

todi

Once you arrive in Todi, and before you pass through the medieval gates, stop at the striking Santa Maria della Consolazione at edge of the hill. The early 16th-century Renaissance church, with its hand-carved arches, houses an altar in which sits an image of the Madonna. From there, hop on the central funicular and ride up into Todi’s center.

Wander the cobblestone streets to reach the Piazza del Popolo, Todi’s sweeping central square. The picturesque piazza is surrounded by palaces: The Romanesque Cathedral, with its immense fresco, sits on the North side; the Palazzo dei Priori, with its bronze eagle, stands to the South; and the Palazzo del Popolo, containing the art gallery, rises to the East.

todi

Once you’ve had your culture fill, mangia at Todi’s best restaurant, Pane e Vino. The tiny, Slow Food-centric enoteca passes the true Italian restaurant test: their simplest pasta dish (with wild boar, tartufo, or field asparagus, depending on the season) will make you swoon.

Stepping off the beaten track adds depth to a trip. Exploring the gorgeous towns surrounding Todi will take you to the farming heart of Umbria. Head down through Ponte Naia, at the base Todi’s hill, and stop in at La Mulinella, an osteria that offers excellent local fare (savory roasted pigeon and house-made fettuccine with goose ragout are specialties) and a verdant outdoor patio. If you want an up-close view of the landscape, arrange for a guided horseback trek through pine forests and sunflower fields at Centro Ippico Tashunka.

Continue on through miniscule Izzalini, which boasts a single bar and a sign-less bakery, where you must pick up a custard-filled croissant for the next day’s breakfast. Then chug up the hill to Collelungo. Stop in at Bar Le Stelle, where owner Cinzia will serve you a creamy gelato or a strong espresso. Then, get those sore post-horseback muscles massaged at Acquaghiaccia Country House just down the road in Morre.

End the day with a casual dinner in nearby Fiore at Rosa dei Venti—a modest place, warmed by a wood-burning fire in the winter and boasting a broad patio overlooking swaths of untouched farmland, offers inexpensive, crusty pies (recommended pizzas: sausage and white arugula). Maybe that’s why it’s the local favorite.

justine

After a day like that, you’re sure to get a good night’s sleep. Groups or large families, can rent the beautifully restored, amenity-packed Villa Diana, owned by the hospitable Nini family, in the lush Collelungo countryside. For couples or budget-minded travelers, Il Capricorno is a simple, spotless inn on a small farm in the stunning village of Aqualoreto; the bedrooms look out onto lemon groves or the Apennine mountain range. And Owner Tiziana Barbini will deliver you fresh-baked bread in the morning.

In and around Todi, you get la cultura, il cibo, il vino, and loads of bellezza. Hosts like the Ninis and Tiziana add the feeling of la famiglia. Your Italian experience? Totally fulfilled.

guest

From time to time, the Window Seat publishes articles and blog posts written by guest authors to give you a fresh perspective on the world of travel.

Comments

Susan Kennedy
Reply

Looks very tranquil. a world away from my only experience of Italy, which is being in Rome listening to the sound of thousands of car and scooter horns 24 hours a day! Ciao Bella!

sonni
Reply

i have often wandered through italy via the internet as well as france and spain. but i have always been pulled a bit more towards italy. with this particular showing of todi and her wonderful people, i am still daydreaming and still hopeful that one day a loved one would share a very special moment of time, with a very special place, at the most perfect time which could be any time. thank you for sharing your experience of todi.

yours magazine
Reply

I’ve been to lots of countries in Asia, and am currently living in India, from these winter holiday, I plan to backpack through some of the countries in Asia.Can someone list me some good tourist destinations?

domestic electrical
Reply

I am going to spend around a week on the West Coast. Which makes a more exciting travel destination, L.A or San Fran?

Punta Cana Paradise
Reply

Todi looks magnificent. Tranquil and relaxed, the simple life. Thanks for sharing.

Kathy Shaper
Reply

I am always on the lookout for non-touristy “hidden gems” to travel to. Todi looks like a wonderful place.

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