About a 9 hour drive from the Haute Savoie is Todi in Umbria. Todi is about half way between Perugia and Terni, or Orvieto and Spoleto. Umbria is in the middle of Italy in the most beautiful countryside with an abundance of hilltop and medieval villages and towns. Not to mention fabulous restaurants, wonderful food, delicious wines and incredible olive oils. Fun fact Umbria is the only region of Italy without a coastline!
The city of Modena
We broke up our journey and stayed a night in the city Modena in the Emilia Romagna region, the home of Balsamic vinegar and sports cars! What a great small city with a buzzing vibe and plentiful restaurants. The Hotel Canalgrande is where we stayed for the night in the back streets of the old city. Once we found it, I would say it is worth the drive through tiny old streets to this opulent, elegant traditional hotel whose origins date back to 1530. It is the only 4-star hotel in the heart of the historical centre of Modena and it’s in a great location.
We found a delightful small trattoria in a side street called Osteria Romana di Modena for dinner on the street terrace, where we enjoyed local wines and delicious food.
The next morning we wandered the old historic area to find the fabulous covered food market, Mercato Albinelli on via Luigi Albinelli 13, which has been there since 1931. It is open Monday – Saturdays from 7am – 3pm and on Saturdays from 4.30pm – 7pm. You will find an abundance of local produce, the most fantastic selection of all things Italian and of course more types of balsamic vinegar than you knew existed!
Visit to Montepulciano
Next stop was a quick lunch and walk around the hilltop town of Montepulciano. We dined on pasta, truffles and of course the local red wine at Ristorante Ai 4 Venti overlooking the Piazza Grande! Before visiting a local winery to buy some Montepulciano wines at La Corte Medicea.
We stayed in a gorgeous farmhouse Le Bonheur di Todi, in the middle of an olive oil estate about 15 minutes outside Todi but with wide-ranging views of the Umbrian countryside and the hilltop town of Todi. What a great place to stay to relax and enjoy some peace and tranquility. We had different outdoor spaces to eat, a bbq area, a great garden and pool all with panoramic scenery. This was a good base for day trips out to surrounding towns like Orvieto to the south and Perugia to the north.
Highlights of Todi
Todi is perched on a hill with far reaching views of olive groves, farmland and rolling Umbrian countryside. Todi boasts a most gorgeous piazza (town square) enclosed by the 13th-century Palazzo del Capitano and Palazzo dei Priori. At one end of the piazza sits Todi’s Romanesque–Gothic Cathedral.
Below the town square is a large network of roman cisterns built in the 1st Century BC – you can visit and explore Todi underground – there are organized tours as long as you don’t mind the dark and small spaces!
A great landmark as you enter Todi and park before walking up the hill (or waiting for the bus to take you up) is the church of Santa Maria della Consolazione, designed in a classic Greek Cross pattern, fashionable during the High Renaissance.
Flavours of Todi
Todi is known for it’s simple and bold flavours. Wild boar in many guises, truffle with most things, Castelluccio lentils (often served with pork), great olive oils and a good selection of local cheeses, including a sheeps milk cheese (formaggio di fossa – translated literally means ditch cheese) which is traditionally aged underground.
Umbria’s best wines are the dark and powerful Sagrantino di Montefalco and the full bodied Rosso di Montefalco
Todi has a Saturday market with a wide range of local produce, woodland vegetables, wild herbs and normally a hot porchetta sandwich on offer.
The Olive Oils at Passo della Palomba, Todi, Umbria
Restaurants that we visited in Todi
La Cantina del Mercataccio for Sunday lunch was a great choice. Set down a tiny side street, more of an alley, the inside resembled old caves with great brickwork and the outside terrace was stunning with far reaching views over the Umbrian countryside. The cuisine was modern Italian, with some great menu choices and all really well presented. I’d certainly go again!
One evening in Todi we chose Ristorante Umbria, a more classic restaurant serving traditional Umbrian cuisine. Oh my what an amazing restaurant. Down a little side street off the main square there is a wood fire burning as you enter (for cooking meats) and then out onto the indoor/outdoor crescent shaped terrace with incredible panoramic views. We had a view of the kitchen and the hard working chefs from our table. The service was wonderful and friendly and the food was all really delicious and gave a great insight into local Umbrian dishes. I’d highly recommend dinner at Ristorante Umbria in Todi!
A table with a view at Ristorante Umbria, and here are a few of the dishes we enjoyed!
The Cheese Shop – Caseficio Montecristo is a MUST visit. It is on the outskirts of Todi and rarely have I seen such a selection of artisan cheeses. They also have a good selection of other local Italian produce and wines.
The traditional pottery of Umbria. Deruta is also a hilltop town in Umbria and Deruta Majolica is the name given to the style of tin glazed, decorated pottery that dates back to the 1500’s in Renaissance Italy.
We visited the factory store: Fabbrica Ceramiche Artistiche Torretti about 20 minutes north of Todi. You will find an enormous range of pottery here, apart from the plates, bowls and jugs, is furniture, lighting, decorations, in fact this place is for everything pottery! You can arrange guided tours and ceramics workshops too.
Well I hope this personal guide to Todi is helpful should you decide to visit. this was my first trip to Umbria and I found this a wonderful part of Italy with incredibly good food, amazing local produce and everywhere we went friendly people.