Tripping to Tarquinia, Italy’s we… JPo

Tarquinia: The very name is evocative. Despite having been to Italy seven times, I had never heard of Tarquinia until last summer. But will spreading the word spoil this gem? Where is Tarquinia? In the province of Lazio, less than 90 minutes north of Rome.

Grassy mounds of the mysterious Etruscan people, buried for thousands of years, grand villas and gardens, prize-winning pizza and a medieval city that charms. A population of perhaps 17,000 in winter swells to 40,000 in summer, as Italians flock to its beaches.

There I was amid 38 bell towers – the higher the tower, the wealthier the family.

These towers are from the Middle Ages.

Tripping to Tarquinia, Italy’s we… JPost – Travel – Travel News via @twitterapi http://ow.ly/hIKHV

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Italy: Alps – On the quiet side of Mont

Descending close behind my guide, Beppe Villa, my head rises when I hear shouts coming from a few hundreds metres to the right. A second guide is traversing fast towards us, his skis rattling on the glass-like snow. I stop as the men talk and reach for their mobile phones. I learn only later that they are calling Alberto, their friend and another guide, who, while leading his group, has fallen down a crevasse.

I’m high on one of the world’s most famous descents, the Vallée Blanche. A continuous off-piste run of nearly 20km, it offers even intermediate skiers with reasonable fitness and a sense of adventure the chance to marvel at one of the Alps’ most stunning regions in the shadow of Mont Blanc. Of course there are risks, posed chiefly by shifting cracks in the glacier, but they remain happily slim and the valley has become a must-do for any skier who itches to leave the piste far behind.

Italy: Alps – On the quiet side of Mont Blanc – Europe – Travel – The Independent via @Independent http://ow.ly/hIKo2

Umbria travel guide via @Telegraph

A few years ago, Umbria was known, if at all, as Tuscany’s less alluring sister. Not any more: these days Italy’s “green heart” is every bit as celebrated as its more famous neighbour. The reasons are simple: the region has all Tuscany’s attributes – and a few more.

True, it doesn’t have the big set pieces of Florence and Siena, but it does has a coronet of far more intimate and easily visited hill-towns – Perugia, Assisi, Orvieto, Gubbio, Todi, Spoleto and Norcia. Each has enough to keep you busy for a day or more, and none is more than a few miles from the next, making Umbria manageable and straightforward to explore.

When you’ve exhausted these towns there’s a second tier of charming and even more intimate smaller centres, such as Montefalco, Bevagna, Spello, Trevi, Narni, Bettona, Città di Castello, Città della Pieve and more.

There’s also the same glorious pastoral scenery as Tuscany – the olive groves, vineyards and cypress-topped hills – as well as high mountain landscapes such as the Monti Sibillini that are the superior of its neighbour’s own Monte Amiata or Alpi Apuane.

Umbria is also a region where the food, wine, art, culture and architecture are the equal of any in Italy. Norcia, with its truffles, hams and cheeses, for example, is a gastronomic centre par excellence; Orvieto’s duomo is one of the country’s finest cathedrals; Spoleto’s summer festival is one of Europe’s major cultural events; and Assisi’s majestic Basilica di San Francesco contains frescoes by Giotto and others that mark a turning point in the history of Western art.

Finally, there are qualities to Umbria beyond towns, truffles or cypresses. Umbria mistica – mystical Umbria – some have called it, or “la terra dei santi”, the land of saints, after the hundreds of saints born here, including St Valentine and the two fathers of Western monasticism, St Francis and St Benedict.

It’s hard to put your finger on what sets Umbria apart – some quality to the light, a haze to the hills, a certain gentleness to landscape – but once you’ve visited you’ll understand, and wonder how this varied and beautiful region ever languished in its neighbour’s shadow.

Umbria travel guide via @Telegraph http://soc.li/mlTYeqH

Umbria has all Tuscany’s attributes – and a few more

Umbria has all Tuscany’s attributes – and a few more

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