A Perugia Highlight: Umberto
Ah, Perugia, “city of the infinite view”, as Henry James wrote. Pre-Roman Etruscan city gates, a stunning 13th-c. fountain, frescoed and wood-inlaid guild halls, a majestic medieval courthouse, a 15th-c Papal fortress, a stunning frescoed pastry shop and meandering picturesque backstreets all entice. And not only. Alot more to be discovered – if your wanders head you in the right direction.
You simply can’t leave Perugia without a visit to Umberto, serving up the richest hot chocolate (and this IS the “citta’ del cioccolato”!) for over fifty years. And Umberto’s cappuccini warmed up my roommate and I in the icy fall of 1969 during study breaks: we studied Italian at the University for Foreigners and lived in an unheated apartment. In December, we studied in our beds, coats, hats and gloves on! When we tired of turning book pages with gloved hands, we headed for Umberto’s latteria – to warm our hands over his steamy cappuccino. He looks the same, the cappuccino is still Perugia’s best – as any perugino will tell you.
In his cafe’, “the locals” gather to read the newspaper and chat as they savor cioccolato caldo con panna (“hot chocolate with whipped cream) or cappuccino con panna. The whipped cream appassionati might even indulge in a maritozzo con la panna or cannoli di cioccolato con panna: pastries to entice the eye as well as the palate. Creamy yogurt with honey, sheep’s milk ricotta,and buffalo mozzarella are sold, too, in this latteria (“milk shop”). You’ll often see an elegantly-dressed Perugia signora at the counter as Umberto dishes up for her a few cups of whipped cream: maybe to stop the strawberries for a desert that evening.
Why buy any other sort of whipped cream if you have access to Umberto’s? He whips it by hand – all day, off and on. Try it – you’ll taste the difference.
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