In today’s mail, my latest National Geographic Traveler magazine has a feature story called, “Italian Road Trip: Exploring Umbria’s Hill Country.” Every month when I get this magazine, there are stories that all but bring me to my knees. My passion for travel is such that I lose myself in imagining a stroll through the streets of Copenhagen, or the scent of a field of lavender in Provence.
But this month, I go immediately to the story on page 52 because just three weeks from today, I will be landing in Rome and anticipating the week ahead exploring and experiencing – of all places – bella Umbria.
On my first trip to Italy in 2005, my cousin Carole and friend, Carol, and I went on an 18-day Rick Steves tour of Italy. We flew into Milan and began the trip meeting the group in Varenna, a picturesque town on Lake Como. This amazing tour took us from there to Verona, Venice, the Dolomites, Florence and Siena, the Cinque Terre, Umbria, and finally Rome. We saw a lot and had a remarkable time. This was truly a wonderful way to be introduced to this incredible country, and I would recommend the Rick Steves tours to just about anyone. (Note: you do have to be in reasonably good physical shape; Steves’ tours can be demanding and aren’t the best choice for the elderly or infirm.)
But back to Umbria. By the time we left Siena, having had a medieval dinner the night before, I was feeling very queasy. The bus pulled into the parking lot at the foot of Assisi and I was in misery. I stayed behind, sick as a dog, while the group explored Assissi, and also stayed back at our room at the agriturismo the next day when everyone went to a winery and to Orvieto. So, I missed Umbria!
Photo of Orvieto
I am so looking forward to visiting both Assisi and Orvieto, as well as – most likely – Spoleto and Perugia. We’re also going into Florence for a day, since Donna has not been to the Uffizi yet and seeing David and the other treasures there is such a moving experience. I toured Florence briefly on that first trip, rented an apartment in Florence for a week on my second trip to the city a couple years later, and will joyfully return to Florence for a day next month – or any time, any year, for any amount of time. I simply love Florence.
National Geographic Traveler recommended Spoleto and Orvieto, and also suggests Todi, which lies between the two. I’m also interested in Montereggiano, which will have a medieval festival while we’re there, Arrezzo, and Montalcino. But – there is so much to see and do! I will be completely delighted to experience whatever comes our way, without feeling pressured to conquer a town or two a day. Notches in the belt are not the point.
Instead of traveling with my dear travel “buddy,” my cousin Carole (we have another trip planned together for October, though), I am traveling for the first time with my brother, Bob, and sister-in-law, Donna. Months ago they were offered the use of a brand new home in Umbria that was recently completed by friends of theirs from Dayton. They asked if I’d like to join them, and my reply, of course, was a most enthusiastic YES!
The house is located very near the north, and slightly eastern, shore of Lake Trasimeno. This lake is the largest inland, non-glacier, lake in Italy, right in the heart of Umbria. The closest little town is Passignano.
So, how lucky is that?! I’ve been having kind of a crappy day. I’ve felt just vaguely cranky – like a two year old who hasn’t taken a nap. There’s nothing awful going on, other than my ongoing frustration with my weight. But it’s such an embarrassment to even mention something so superficial, I’m not going to go there.
The magazine arrived today, just when I needed a lift. Just when I needed to get beyond my petty concerns and remember how fortunate I am and how much I have to look forward to.
I’m going to Umbria – and life doesn’t get much better than that.