Uncovering Italy’s Superlatives in people, places and things

La Mia Umbria by Livia Firth

Umbria gets under your skin, and no one knows that better than Livia Firth MBE, co-founder and Creative Director of Eco-Age. Since childhood, she’s enjoyed Umbria’s dynamic landscape with Città della Pieve as her backyard. Livia shares her Umbria with ISSIMO.

Umbria seems like a magical region, almost a Narnia of green. . .

Umbria is full of hidden gems and sacred spaces, also there far less tourists than other nearby regions, like Tuscany.  The skies of Umbria are famous for these clouds which always look like they are “suspended”, almost painted. But what makes it really magical are the people – there is a huge sense of community, lots of small villages, lots of farmers… including my brothers! 

What is your typical Umbrian life?

Spending as much time as possible in our farm, Il Quinto Sapore, which my brothers Alessandro and Nicola run. It’s a family adventure we started two years ago, and it truly changed our lives. My brothers call it “Agriconcura” i.e. how to cure yourself with good vegetables, but at the same time how to cure the earth for her to give back good crops.  It’s an ancient method of farming, which includes organic and biodynamic processes.

What are the places in Umbria you love the most?

I love Città della Pieve, our town, and I think it is pretty unique. It was the town of Perugino, the famous painter from the 1400 (he painted some of the Umbria’s clouds as well!) and we have the narrowest alley in Europe – Vicolo Baciadonne (the “kiss the women” alley – as two people can go through without touching each other). But there are small jewels like Castel Dei Fiori, a tiny and hidden medieval town with 20 residents, and the nearby hidden natural pools in the forest, where you suddenly feel like you are in a paradisiac location somewhere in the world.

Vicolo Baciadonne aka the “kiss the women” alley

Top nature sites in Umbria?

There are many and you find them in all the travel guides – from Cascata delle Marmore (the waterfalls) to Orvieto, where you can also go and visit the tunnels under the city, or Solomeo, the small town where fashion brand Brunello Cucinelli produces all his collections, and Castiglione del Lago, where you can hire a boat and go to the island Maggiore to eat for lunch!  ah! also Rasiglia and its water sources near Foligno….

Cascata delle Marmore

Not-to-Miss experiences or places for first time visitors

On top of some of the things I highlighted above, surely horse riding in the forest with Ina, a magical horse whisperer, who runs Great Horse Spirit

Any not-to-miss experiences?

Well…. last Summer we hired a Balloon (mongolfiera), an old fashion one, with the weaker basket and all – we flew over Umbria like this and it was pretty extraordinary.  And, if you are that kind of person, you can paraglide in Umbria in several locations….

Share with us a little on food- are there any particular dishes da non perdere?

Bico, a sort of white pizza bread, with ham inside, is the perfect Umbria’s sandwich.  Pici is our hand made pasta speciality, which is usually dressed with tomato sauce and aglione (a very special Umbrian garlic which we also grow and sell at Quinto Sapore) and plenty of truffle dishes….  Then, if you are not vegetarian, there are lots of meat specialties, but I am not the right person to ask that as I do not eat meat!

Not-to-miss restaurants

Full disclosure: I like very simple food and simple restaurants. So do not come to me for advice if you are looking for gourmet cuisine!  In Citta della Pieve, our town, Silvana does the BEST pici in the world, Coppetta the best BBQs and pasta cacio e pepe which is served inside the parmesan shape, and Serenella the best pizza.  Then there are plenty others across the region like Molino 49 – but I tend to stay local and eat local a lot…. oops.

Cacio & Pepe served from the Parmesan shape at Coppetta

Lastly, who is your favourite Umbrian artist?

Franco Arminio, a poet like no other. During the covid period and up to today, he posts poems on his IG with his mobile number and encourages baratto among everyone – I give you a poem and you give me a chicken for example. It’s truly emblematic of what Umbria is.

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