The word "feast" implies abundance. Next June, Ciclismo Classico Top Guide Andrea Vitali unveils A Feast in Umbria, a truly special bicycle foodie tour he personally designed in the luscious, beatific, and abundant 'green heart' of Italy.
A true citizen of the world, Top Guide Andrea Vitali was born in Rome to a Milanese father and a Pennsylvanian mother. Thanks to his parents’ work as missionaries, he had a peripatetic childhood, living in various places in Italy–Sicily, Naples, Rome, Verona–as well as in numerous other countries, including Romania, Ukraine, South Africa, Mexico, Uganda, Botswana, and Mozambique. Andrea eventually settled in a small hilltop Tuscan village near Volterra, where time passes slowly and people still gather outside their houses in the cool summer evenings to play cards, tell stories, and share a glass of wine.
Ciclismo Classico Top Guide Andrea Vitali
Over the years and throughout his travels as a guide, Andrea became more and more enamored with the region of Umbria. Working and traveling there extensively, the region's perfect blend of nature and history began to own a special place in Andrea's heart. He shares: "This is where it all began...the beginnings of art...beautiful Romanesque churches...ancient Roman artifacts. In Umbria, agriculture is thriving today as it always has in this lush, verdant place. There is so much to learn about life and simplicity by mingling, eating, and celebrating all things Umbrian with the gentle folks living in these villages—nearly frozen in time. Here, I feel at home."
Minus the crowds that flock to neighboring Tuscany, Umbria is chock full of gorgeous stone villages, perched on hilltops or in flourishing valleys. Historically, this serene place is best known as the birthplace of several saints, Saint Benedict and Saint Francis of Assisi being the most famous, and for a religious tradition that earned the region such names as Umbra santa (sainted), Umbra mistica (mystic) and La Terra dei Santi (Land of the Saints). The landscape itself has contributed much to this mystical reputation and it’s impossible to miss the strange quality of the Umbrian light—a luminous silver haze that hangs over the gentle curves of the landscape.
Umbria, the Green Heart of Italy
Umbria is all about charme. But charm in the most authentic way possible. Foreigners are buying up abandoned farmhouses in Umbria as they did in Tuscany twenty years ago. Fortunately, local tourism in Umbria has done nothing to curb the region’s renewed sense of identity and youthful enthusiasm, nor to blunt the artistic or agricultural initiatives that have turned Umbria into one of the most flourishing cultural and top foodie destinations in Italy. In the know. And, that's exactly where we want to be. This special feast awaits you.
Andrea's Top Guide Feast in Umbria, a limited-run Ciclismo Classico itinerary (running twice in June 2018, back-to-back dates) that unlocks the treasure chest of this lesser-known region, linking a variety of peaceful bike rides to some of the most important towns and villages, wineries, and producers. Taking place during Umbria’s most important and lively medieval festival, it’s full of great surprises. As Andrea puts it: “You have little wine towns that also have special wine or ceramic boutiques and tiny shops appealing to travelers, but the local people live and work in these places as well. This sets it apart from some of the more over-run wine towns in Tuscany.”
Ceramics at Deruta.
"I love Central Italy….and have a particular fondness for Umbria because it has retained its simplicity and, to me, feels much more medieval. Villages lost in time...local people very welcoming, warm and humble. It's just so peaceful."
The main piazza in Bevagna—where the colorful, medieval Mercato delle Gaite takes place every June.
Umbria is known for it's incredible, colorful festivals that are still a central focus of life for the local people in small villages. Most of these events are planned out and require year-round engagement. It's impressive to witness the profound significance and importance of these events as well as the pride and committment to keeping these traditions alive; costumes, theater, pageantry, music and dance still thrive with intense support and participation—even among the younger generations.
Bevagna: Mercato delle Gaite
In addition to the medieval festival in Bevagna, Mercato delle Gaite (Festival of the Guilds) an event included on Andrea's trip, there are other, fascinating ancient festivals in the region such as the Festa dei Ceri (which coincides with our Bike Across Italy tour), the Giostra della Quintana, a famous jousting festival in Foligno, Calendimaggio (May Day) in Assisi and the Infiorata in Spello where the streets are literally carpeted with zillions of flower petals. Other more modern Umbrian festivals celebrate international arts, chocolate, and jazz music.
Quinessential Umbrian hilltop village views
In essence, A Feast in Umbria is a deeper delve into stunning cycling roads, loaded with amazing local experiences including a cheesemaker's farm, a cooking lesson in a private home, lunches on organic farms, tastings of Sagrantino di Montefalco (and other Umbrian) wines in smaller, boutique, tucked-away wineries. It's about immersing yourself in Umbria with superb oste (host) Andrea Vitali as he introduces and shares with you the dearest, most precious Umbrian people—and their places or homes. Let's go meet Andrea's friends!
"This is the ultimate foodie trip, like no other," Andrea boasts. Umbrian food has the uncanny qualities of both honesty and authenticity. The cuisine in Umbria is about good flavor, freshness, and simplicity. Its rich soil provides an unlimited number of amazing seasonal ingredients which are simply prepared to highlight the true flavor of each dish. The traditional methods still used in the production of such typical ingredients as Norcia’s cured meats, local artisan cheeses, regional wines, and farm raised meat—ensure the absolute best quality of all of these products. Umbria is birthplace of the ancient art of butchery, and home of the treasured black truffle. Its cuisine is unique to the region, and authentic to it’s ancient origins. Umbrian food is healthy, hearty, and born from “cucina povera”—much like it's neighbor, Tuscany, but with its own individual twist. Umbrians have always relied on the natural resources harvested from their extensive fields and forests. Its honest, Central Italian home-cooking at its very best (and enjoyed year-round—without the crowds!).
On Andrea's Feast in Umbria, he shares an abundance of his best kept (quiet) Umbrian secrets. Shhhhh. Spread the word—but not too loudly!