It was such a pleasure to revisit this spectacular region this April and I’m looking forward to bringing a small group with me in (next fall 2015).
As our “home base” Montefalco is perfectly situated for our stay in Italy’s heart, Umbria. Staying in a family-run agriturismo during grape harvest, we will enjoy local cuisine, wine tasting, truffle hunting, guided visits to nearby historic hill towns and much more!
It was 19th century poet, Giosué Carducci, who called Umbria il cuor verde d’Italia, the green heart of Italy. As the only landlocked region in Italy, with neither a coastline or a border with a foreign country, it does indeed occupy Italy’s heart. Known for it’s verdant hills and valleys, picturesque medieval hill towns and unique cuisine and wines, Umbria will steal your heart!
In the center of Umbria is Montefalco, also known as “la ringhiera dell’Umbria”, “the balcony of Umbria”. A picturesque medieval hill town, it is perched on top of a steep hill dominating two large valleys and possesses a spectacular panoramic view of the glorious green heart of Umbria. Within the steep 12th century medieval walls, with its cobbled streets, charming piazza and frescoed churches, Montefalco is a gem indeed!
Montefalco’s centuries old history is characteristic of medieval hill towns; marked by battles, drama, destruction, and revival. Her name and identity came from 13th century emperor Frederick II (after doing battle with the pope)who rebuilt and named Montefalco in honor of his imperial eagle insignia (so the story goes).
With a population of about 6,000, once you enter the surrounding medieval walls, you will find Montefalco welcoming, extremely easy to explore and far more low key and less touristy than many of her neighbors. As with so many of Italy’s hill towns, Montefalco has a full complement of churches and historical monuments worth visiting. The main piazza, Piazza del Commune, offers the perfect starting point for your explorations. It’s also the perfect place to linger and be seduced by Montefalco’s quiet charm while sipping a glass of vino or aperitivo.
Montefalco’s central location also makes it the ideal choice to explore other nearby and worthwhile hill towns such as Bevagna, Spello, Foligno, Trevi, and even Assisi, Spoleto and Perugia. (A note regarding logistics in Umbria; getting around can be a challenge if you’re using public transportation so a car – if you dare to drive- or joining a tour is strongly advised.)
Montefalco is well-known for many things including its religious art, frescoes and paintings by prominent Umbrian artists, including Perugino and Gozzoli, which adorn the walls of its many churches and sanctuaries. The most famous of these is the museum inside the Saint Francesco Church, considered to be one of the most interesting medieval churches in the area. You can even walk in the steps of at least 8 saints that called Montefalco their birthplace including patron saints St. Forunatus and St. Clare of Montefalco (known as St. Clare of the Cross).
Feeling virtuous? Now it’s time to learn more about something else Montefalco is famous for, its wine! Part of this area’s wine trail, Strada del Sagrantino, the land has been planted with grape vines from as early as the Middle Ages. Today Montefalco is recognized for its high quality red wines which include: the Montefalco Rosso DOC, the Montefalco Rosso Riserva DOC, DOCG Montefalco Sagrantino Passito and the Montefalco Sagrantino Secco DOCG.
The perfect accompaniment to those amazing wines are delicious local specialties. Since we’re landlocked, don’t look for seafood on the menus but with a wide variety of salami, grilled meats and game, fresh local produce and specialties, your palate will be pleased! (Did I mention the spectacular virgin olive oil and truffles?)
And, if that’s not enough, how about a little shopping? Every area has its specialties and Montefalco’s is its beautiful, high quality fabrics. Save room in your suitcase for the exquisite tablecloths, napkins, tea towels and other hand woven linens inspired by local techniques, colors and designs.
This piccola città has so much to offer! Aren’t you glad you came? Don’t say I didn’t warn you! You’ve lost your heart already, haven’t you?
A few more reasons to visit Montefalco, the “balcony of Umbria”…