Umbria lies in the shadow of Tuscany and Latium, its regional neighbors. In fact the closely associated Italian word ombra literally means “shadow.” For me, this region certainly is overshadowed by Tuscany, its well known neighbor to the north. For most Americans when Italy comes to mind it is associated with the enchanting wonders of Rome, Florence, and Venice. Often it’s here our mental images are entertained by Lucy Ricardo frantically stomping the grapes, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck dashing about the streets of Rome, and Mel Gibson as the famed Roman Gladiator.
Italy is a great tourist destination. On any visit you are sure to find a rich history and tradition laced with a bit of local color. In my travels I first try to enjoy the big tourist areas, then wander a bit in search of the local color and character. This is how I first discovered the region known as Umbria.
Umbria is famous for its unique cuisine. Far from the heavy spaghetti and alfredo sauces we’ve come to think of as “Italian,” Umbrian cooking is light and tasty. Recipes often contain fruit, locally cured ham, mushrooms, veal, and light pastas. Many times the main courses are laced with truffles.
The truffle, a warty mushroom-like tuber with a powerful flavor, is used in gourmet recipes the world over. Truffles are a delicacy and bring lots of money to the well informed truffle hunter. However, finding them is not an easy task as they grow underground and out of sight. The “truffle hunter” is usually aided by a little dog that can smell the truffle’s scent and will lead its master to the treasure. Once the little dog finds a “bed” of truffles, it begins to paw and dig at the ground. The hunter then takes over, giving the dog a pat on the head and a nice little meaty treat for its efforts.
The truffle hunter eventually reaps the reward from his harvest of the truffles, but it is the little dog who does the dirty work, scratching around the surface finding the treasure below. In some ways I am just like the truffle hunter and his dog. I have a passion for travel. I love to explore, scratch around, visit the forgotten, and dig up treasured destinations. My “reward” is the chance to share these with those who travel with me.