Your Italian Travel Tips — A Taste of Umbria by Martine Bertin-Peterson

Photograph taken from a mountain top, looking down on the hills of Umbria, dotted with villas and trees
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! For my February edition of “Your Italian Travel Tips,” I am happy to share a guest blog written by my friend Martine Bertin-Peterson from  Goût et Voyage Taste and Travel.

I recently discovered, and fell in love with Martine’s website and the culinary tours she offers in France and Italy. Read on to learn a bit about Martine and her tour company  Goût et Voyage Taste and Travel. Then, read Martine’s guest blog with the beautiful photos she has provided and take a short virtual tour of the towns in Umbria through her eyes. I’m sure after reading her blog you’ll want to visit to Umbria yourself and see all the wonders this unique Italian region has to offer!

And… Martine has graciously included a copy of my pocket travel book, Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” as a part of the package for the guests on her next culinary tour of Umbria. I’m so happy to have provided a small contribution to her tour group!

Here is how Martine describes her passion for France and Italy:
Goût et Voyage was founded by Martine Bertin-Peterson to bring together her lifetime passions of travel, cooking and culture.
Creating unforgettable memories, Martine serves as the escort for all Goût et Voyage culinary travel adventures. The signature program, “Taste of Provence” is also offered in Italy, Taste of Umbria & Tuscany.” 
Martine’s background and experience are as wide-ranging as her interests. She has decades of culinary experience gained through formal and informal cooking courses in the United States, France and Italy. Born in France and fluent in 5 languages, Martine has traveled to more than 50 countries across 5 continents.  She has escorted travel groups throughout Europe and Latin America over the past 30+ years.




A Taste of Umbria

by Martine Bertin-Peterson

Umbria, the “green heart” of Italy, is Tuscany’s quieter, less touristy neighbor. Avoid the traffic and hustle and bustle of Tuscany and spend time in Umbria’s charming medieval hill towns, visit its cultural sites and its taste its regional specialties.

Round table is set for lunch on an outdoor patio in Umbria with a view of the olive groves and surrounding mountains.
Charming table set for lunch “al fresco” in Umbria

Assisi, the home of St. Francis and a UNESCO World Heritage site is perhaps Umbria’s most famous- and busy- town. The Upper Church of the magnificent Basilica tells the story of St. Francis’ life through 28 frescoes by the renowned 13th century artist, Giotto. The equally impressive transept was painted by Giotto’s master, Cimabue.  I am not usually a fan of recorded “guides” but it is worth a few euros to grab the ear sets at the front of the church and listen to the history and description of these well preserved works of art and devotion. 

Not far from Assisi is Perugia, the capital of Umbria. Skip the lower town with its urban sprawl and head to the historic center where you’ll find a variety of museums and architectural sites. Perugia is a bustling university town with lovely shops and cafes, and of course, the Perugina chocolate factory, just outside of town (open for tours daily). I prefer to visit Perugia at the end of the day, when the centuries old ritual of the “passegiata” takes place. Snag a seat at an outdoor cafe, order a Aperol spritz and watch as all of Perugia takes its pre-dinner stroll.

Visit Spoleto, home of the annual music festival, Festival of 2 Worlds in June and July to catch world-class opera, dance and orchestral artists. Gubbio, Umbria’s oldest village is also worth a visit. Its Roman theater, mausoleum and palaces and towers offer glimpses into daily life of the distant past.


Courtyard with beige brick building and steps to doorway lined with red flowers in pots and iron terrace lined with purple flowers all bathed in sunlight
Courtyard in the town of Spello, Umbria

Take a break from these better known towns and head to Spello, home of the Infiorata Flower Carpet Festival, ( If you are lucky to visit Spello during the festival (June 13-14, 2020) you’ll witness stunning floral “carpets” throughout the town in celebration of the feast of Corpus Domini. Even if you can’t make the Infiorata, the homes and shops in Spello are decorated with colorful flowers all Spring and Summer.


Colorful plates that look like flowers standing on tiles with a similar floral pattern.
Ceramics from Umbria

Deruta, the ceramic capital of Italy, is definitely worth a visit if you are interested in Italian  crafts. Many of the ceramic shops invite visitors to watch as their artisans create dishes, platters and wall hangings in traditional patterns and shapes. These pieces make thoughtful gifts for friends and family. Custom pieces, like my lemon wall hangings, were designed by Ceramiche Artistiche Gialletti Giulio,  upon request and were safely shipped to my home. 

Wooden serving board with cured meats found in Umbria, such as salami, prosicutto, and hard cheeses. Center of soft Mozzarella cheese in a bowl.
Cheese and meats typical of Umbria

To take advantage of all this sightseeing, you’ll need to fortify yourself with the region’s specialty foods. Pork and pork products – ham, sausage and all manner of “salume” reign supreme. Pair these with the local sheep’s milk cheese (pecorino) and a hunk of the oven-baked, unsalted bread, typical of Umbria. You’ll want to accompany your meal with an Umbrian wine, Sagrantino di Montefalco or a Grechetto from Assisi.


Many of the local wineries are small and family-owned. For a modest fee, you can have a tour of the vineyards and cellars, followed by a guided tasting of several wines accompanied by nibbles of  salami, bruschetta, cheese and olive oil. A listing of these wineries may be found here:

-Gout et Voyage© 2020





Your Italian Travel Tips – Productive Relaxation, Italian Style in Panicale

Blogging in Italy Panicale in Umbria
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! About once a month (or so), I have been re-blogging posts that describe the lesser known places in Italy – or the more well-known viewed in a unique way – under the heading, “Your Italian Travel Tips.”

For May 2019, I am featuring Judy and Len, a retired couple who now live part time in the town of Cortona in the Umbria region of Italy, and write the blog Blogging in Italy.

I was intrigued when I read Judy and Len’s latest blog to see that they had visited a town so small it is not easily found on the map and is definitely off the radar for most tourists. The town is called Panicale, and I had never heard of it before.  I found Panicale on my map of Italy by locating Florence in Tuscany and then heading steadily southward through the towns of  Arezzo and Cortona.  Finally, I crossed into the region of Umbria, where Lago Trasimeno (Lake Trasimeno) came into view. Along the southern fringe of the mountain range that borders Lago Trasimeno, I finally found the town of Panicale, which is the topic of their blog.

The blog “Productive Relaxation Italian Style” is a charming description of how the couple Judy and Len spent a typical day in Italy enjoying the people, food and scenery, and includes many photos of Panicale –  which, as it turns out, is a hidden gem of a town that has a history dating back to the Romans.  Included in the visuals is a beautiful ancient map of the town. Oh – and you will also find the secret of how to grow a hearty crop of your own zucchini this summer, as the couple are avid gardeners.  What better way to spend a part of your day Italian style – even if for now, it is only to read about it?

Judy and Len’s philosophy can be found in this excerpt from their blog “Productive Relaxation, Italian Style”:

In Italy, there is a sight commonly found in smaller towns – men sitting on benches, or standing in small groups, discussing everything from local politics to international sports events. Meanwhile, their wives are shopping, visiting, cooking, cleaning, etc.  What they all have in common is the phrase: Siamo in pensione, or, we are retired. 

We, too, take this retirement thing seriously. Take productive relaxation for example, not an oxymoron but instead an art.

To read the full blog, click on the title: Productive Relaxation Italian Style

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on and Learn Travel if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip to Italy! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel