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:
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.
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.
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.
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.