By Melissa Parke
This time last year my husband Warwick and I started an extraordinary tour in Umbria, Italy.
The tour is organised each year by Antonella Nichinonni, originally from Spoleto, but now living in Melbourne with her Australian pilot husband, Robert Alder, who is from Perth.
Each year Antonella takes a small group of Australians (five to twelve people) with her to visit her home province of Umbria. Our group was seven people – four from Perth and three from Melbourne.
Our tour included front-row seats at concerts at the Umbria Jazz Festival and the Spoleto Arts Festival, visiting many hilltop towns including Assisi, Montefalco, Orvieto, Spello, Trevi, Gubbio and Montefalco.
We also went truffle hunting, wine and olive oil tasting, did a cooking class, ate at local restaurants and in peoples’ homes, and were driven in classic cars through the countryside.
It was different from any other tour we’d done because we did not feel like tourists; we felt like we were visiting friends and were truly immersed in the local culture.
We stayed in three lovely hotels over a two week period, so there was not too much packing and unpacking to be done.
One of the people we met on this wonderful tour (during lunch at his hotel overlooking the beautiful Lago Piediluco) was Ignazio Campoccia, president of the Umbria Regional Hotels Association.
He sent me an article he’d written, in the hope that more Western Australians might be interested in travelling to Umbria. Here it is translated into English.
Travel to the Heart of Italy
By Ignazio Campoccia
I am the manager of a hotel in Umbria, but I also enjoy writing articles. I am not a journalist, so when I write singing the praises of my region, perhaps I risk not always being believable. I therefore present Umbria as others have seen it.
One day, about 30 years ago, a guest in a luxury hotel in my adored city of Spoleto said to me, “I spend my life travelling around the world and I believe Rocca Albornoziana and the Ponte delle Torri are truly extraordinary – more inspiring and important than the Colosseum at Rome.”
This may only be a matter of opinion, but it deals with a simple truth.
A study by the University of Kentucky in the early ‘90s identified the Umbrian city of Todi as the most liveable city in the world, naturally confirming a long-held belief of we Umbrians.
More recently, the delights of the region were identified by Washington Post journalist, Anthony Faiola, who visited places like Montefalco, Castelluccio of Norcia, Torgiano, Perugia, Assisi and Spoleto.
He wrote of saints and artists, acts and passions, sites and civilisations, gastronomic delicacies for gourmands, and refined palates who “live to eat” but would find it, funnily enough, unnecessary “to eat to live”.
He described his total immersion in Umbria’s atmosphere and activities, an experience no doubt helped along by generous amounts of the wine Sagrantino of Montefalco.
“From that magical summer onward, the misty vistas of the central Apennines, the fresh-from-the-farm cooking and the comforting intimacy of Italian culture would become my benchmarks for judging the quality of life everywhere else,” he wrote. “I drank the wines and in their flavour I could taste Umbria – the bursting, comforting, warm heart of Italy.”
More and more travellers are coming to Umbria to discover this for themselves.
“Yes, to travel,” says the iconic song by Lucio Battisti, an Umbria native. He meant travel as a metaphor of life – a voyage within a voyage, full of unforgettable experiences.
One such voyage was enjoyed by a small group of Australians in the European summer of 2017, who travelled around Umbria in classic cars from Spoleto to the Cascata delle Marmore and to the beautiful Lago di Piediluco.
The tour, An Italian Affair, was organised by Mrs Antonella Nichinonni, originally from Spoleto and now resident in Australia, with the collaboration of CAMES (Club Auto e Moto d’Epoca Spoleto) presided over by Pietro Testaguzza, and aided by tourist guide Daniela Cittadoni and photographer Francesco Andidero. See http://www.anitalianaffair.com.au
Goethe, in Travel in Italy, wrote:
“I climbed to Spoleto and I was also on the aqueduct, which was at the same time a bridge between one mountain and another. The ten archways that tower over the whole valley, constructed of building blocks, have safely resisted the centuries, while the water runs constantly from one end to the other in Spoleto.
“And this is the third of the works of the ancestors which I have before me and of which I have the same impression, always grandiose. The architectural masterpieces of the ancient people are truly a second nature, and those works can be used and are for civilian purposes. It’s the same with the amphitheatre, the temple the aqueduct”.
Let’s hope we Umbrians are successful in giving travellers the perfect welcome in the land of the good life, sweet water, verdant woods and fertile plains watched over by vigilant eyes from our towers.
This is a welcome from the land of saints, where artists have the means to express the best of their callings; where all humans can live, whether tourists or not, and experience the heart of Italy, a green heart steeped in art and Christian mysticism.
Please come and visit us in magnificent Umbria. At only 50 miles from Rome, we are waiting to make you feel at home.
Ignazio Campoccia, Presidente regionale (Umbria) ADA, (Associazione Direttori di Albergo Italia), GM Hotel del Lago Piediluco – firstname.lastname@example.org
Antonella’s website is: http://www.anitalianaffair.com.au