In a perfect world, I would come back to this blog post every once in awhile to dust it off and add new fonts of information for planning a trip to Umbria. As we know, this is not a perfect world. Your mileage may vary.
Well, the world isn’t perfect…but I did manage to get back here to update this post in under two years, which is a pretty good turn around time for me.
I have two resource suggestions in which I personally have my paws, both of which have come into being after this post was written and both of which you can read all about here.
Umbria Slow: Food, Culture, & Travel: an iPhone app with pretty much all the information contained in this blog, but boiled down to fit on your mobile device screen. My co-author is Alex Leviton of Lonely Planet fame, so it’s a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll…and all Umbria.
Umbria on the Blog: This is where I am more actively blogging about Umbria now, because they pay me. What I get when I blog here is personal satisfaction and backed up ironing.
Also, I dabble sometimes on Gogobot. You can take a look at my Nearby Faves and Raves here:
Best Guidebooks For Umbria
I am very cautious about overusing printed guidebooks. While it’s handy to toss one in your carry-all when you travel for some one-stop referencing of maps and sites, art and history, local customs and practical information, there is much more complete and timely information available online. Many guidebook authors are not based in the countries they are covering, and much of the information (especially regarding lodging, restaurants, and hours of museums and monuments) goes quickly out of date.
That said, I adore the Umbria guide published by Cadogan Guides. Adore. I have never met prolific travel writers Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls, but when I do I will either take them to dinner or marry them. They did live in Umbria for a few years, and their knowledge of and affection for this region permeates every page of their instructive, engaging, and light-hearted writing. This is the guide you want.
There are also a couple of niche printed guides that I like:
For walks and hikes in the region, I mention a few possibilities here.
For driving itineraries, Sunflower Book’s Umbria and the Marche by Georg Henke or Frommer’s 25 Great Drives in Tuscany and Umbria can do in a pinch (though I think you can get the same itineraries and maps with a little online diligence).
For the foodies out there, Christine Smallwood’s An Appetite for Umbria: The People, the Places, the Food is a feast for the eyes, soul, and palate.
Unfortunately, the latest edition from 2006 has begun to show its age. Rather than as a guide in the strict sense, I suggest using this as more of a coffee table book to remember your visit to Umbria (and to duplicate the cuisine at home, as there are recipes!).
Best Official Websites for Umbria
There are times when I am painfully reminded that Umbria is not Tuscany (aka the Italian poster child of successful web marketing), and one of these times is when I am searching for information from the official government tourist agency websites, which are generally a) awful b) ugly c) poorly organized d) rarely updated and e) badly translated (if at all). Okay, let’s just go with a) awful. That said, there are a few out there that are worth a look:
I like the official regional website primarily for the downloadable maps and proposed itineraries.
For some information on the regional cuisine, you can take a look here.
A jaw-droppingly complete and engaging website for biking in Umbria is here.
For planning a winery visit, La Strada del Sagrantino association offers an informative and well organized website.
The Park Service can’t manage to provide decent trail markers half the time, but their website is surprisingly chock full of information about the regional parks.
I love to get off the beaten path a bit, and a great place to start is with the Most Beautiful Villages of Italy site.
One of my favorite sites for pure quirky pleasure is the Strada dell’Olio DOP Umbria. Great information for visiting oil mills in Umbria, but also check out their Unusual Sites, Local Personalities, and Wanderings pages.
Best Personal Websites and Blogs for Umbria
I can’t speak highly enough of Bill Thayer’s Website. Bill is a lovely curmudgeon (and I say that with much affection…I wouldn’t have it any other way) who has walked about 2,000 km all over Umbria, taking detailed photos and notes. His site isn’t flashy and his delivery can be dry, but there is simply no more complete online resource for Umbria than his juggernaut of a website.
I also love:
Life…Italian Style - American chef and Umbrian resident Jennifer tells of life and food in this region.
Discovering Umbria - Alessandra organizes wine and food holidays and customized tours in Umbria…and writes a wonderful Umbria blog.
Villa in Umbria - A lovely blog with some gorgeous photography.
For foodies, you can’t go wrong with local cooking class instructor. Again, Jennifer’s cooking (with a little Life in Umbria thrown in) blog at Life…Italian Style, Deborah’s Italian Food Forever and Simona’s Sagra in Casa are allo winners.
Best Travel Forums for Umbria
I have been, over the years, either a lurker or an active participant in every major travel forum out there. Only one, however, have I stayed true to over the years for the pure quality and scope of information, friendly vibe, and sense of community. Slowtalk (the forum for the Slow Travel website) is where it’s at. I have never seen a question go unanswered there (use the search function before posting, though…chances are your query has already been discussed!).
Best Local Resources for Umbria
Umbria still uses the anacronistic posters plastered along roadsides and on billboards, which is a good way to get an overview of what’s going on while you are in the region (many have the website address for the event at the bottom, for more information). One of the best resources for current festivals and events is the monthly VivaPerugia magazine, which you can buy at newspaper stands for €.80 They list cultural, music, and art events, restaurants, food festivals, courses, children’s activities, and some practical information (the location of pharmacies, gas stations, and a train schedule). The magazine is in Italian, but the listings are easy to decipher even if you don’t speak the language.
Each town also has a local tourist office, which—at best—provides up-to-date event information, maps and brochures for local sights, and logistical travel information. At worst, it provides a life lesson in surly government employees. It can go either way.