Discover the splendors of Umbria all year round! Every month entices as you’ll see below – and click here for more news!
Around farmhouse fireplaces, families gather in the winters to share rural wisdom. Orvieto launches the New Year with the Umbria Jazz Winter Festival and on January 6th, the “living Nativity” scenes draw visitors to the mountain villages around Assisi. Children celebrate the arrival of the good witch, la Befana on January 6th. January 17th, the Feast of St. Anthony, is a special day in Assisi and Perugia is in festa on January 29th, celebrating San Costanzo, their patron saint. Join the locals in Cascia at their festival celebrating rural traditions, rural cooking.
When we farmed, January was the month of the pig slaughter. Up at Catecuccio, (near Assisi), our farm neighbors gather on Saturday nights for dancing and feasting. In January, few tourists are on the move and the beauty of empty piazzas, the silence of empty churches and the lower prices of lodgings all entice! Each and every hilltown offers magic.
February, too, is a quiet month in Umbria and uncrowded medieval backstreets and lodgings at reduced rates attract the traveler. I head to the States in early February for my annual cooking lessons/lectures U.S. tour. Time to bring Umbria to the U.S.!
I return from my annual US tour (see February) in mid-March, when the pruning of olive trees and grapevines starts in Umbria. Our farm neighbors gather for dancing on Saturday nights at Catecuccio, near Assisi. As you roam any of the hilltown gems of Umbria, you’ll notice the emerald greens of the sprouting wheat, oats and barley backdropped by the silver greens of the olive trees.
If Eastertime happens to fall in March, join in the Assisi Good Friday celebrations. The day before Easter, head to the countryside churches for the blessing of the cheesebreads. If you’re here end of March, join in the vernaccia wine festival in Cannara, not far from Assisi.
Ah, Umbria, “Italy’s green heart”. Most tourists will arrive later in the spring, making March an ideal time to visit!
Easter generally arrives in April (though not always!) and Good Friday in Assisi and Holy Saturday in the Assisi rural area are not to be missed. In early April, join in the vernaccia wine festival in Cannara. Head to Gubbio on April 25th to join the “locals” celebrating the Liberazione in 1945. At April sagra events, villagers invite you to enjoy the best in home-cooking and join in ballroom dancing.
On April 30th, when the maggiaioli (“May singers”) sing in the arrival of May with traditional songs outside of our home as dinner draws to a close. A tiny hill town near Gubbio, San Pellegrino, brings in May on the night of April 30th with a most curious celebration.
At the end of April, wild asparagus start sprouting in our woods, adding a special addition to dinners in our farmhouse. As you walk Assisi, look for Novella selling bunches of wild asparagus at the fruit and vegetable market.
May is the month of wondrous festivities in Umbria, “Italy’s green heart.” In early May, Assisi’s astounding medieval festival, Calendimaggio, takes over the town with four days of splendid pageantry and in Gubbio, the beloved Ceri are carried down into the town in solemn procession. The exhilirating Corsa dei Ceri takes over in medieval Gubbio on May 15th. May sagra events animate small villages all over Umbria and you’ll want to join “the locals” for the best in home-cooked Umbrian cuisine – and ballroom dancing. During La Corsa dell’Anello in mid-May, Narni once again brings alive its medieval history – and with what passione! On May 22nd, Cascia celebrates St. Rita, patron saint. Not far from Todi, San Terenziano celebrates la porchetta in May – join in! (Note: the Infiorate festival in Spello is a “moveable feast” and generally falls in June – but occasionally, in May).
Wandering the Assisi backstreets in May, you might find Novella, selling wild asparagus at her fruit/vegetable stand. Head to the countryside near our farmhouse to hunt wild asparagus with me. What goodness! Or join Olga and Americo for a dinner of springtime goodness – and Olga might even cook the wild boar he hunted! Americo might pull out his accordion and serenade you with Umbrian folk music as you feast.
During our “farming years“, June was the month of haying. On June 24th, I’ll join our rural neighbors as they celebrate the feast of San Giovanni. You may wish to join them and why not head to Grello for their amazing evening festivities? In Gubbio on June 2nd, the children run the small Ceri in the same mad race up the mountain which the men run during the Corsa dei Ceri (in May). I never miss another splendid Umbrian festival, the Infiorate, annual highlight of the hilltown gem, Spello. Assisi‘s Infiorate are hidden away in the backstreets – but created with the same passione.
In mid-June, tiny mountain village, Vallo di Nera, celebrates the goodness of every imaginable cheese variety with a charming festival. On June 22nd, Gubbio’s Forty Martyrs, World War II heroes, are remembered by all the townspeople in a moving celebration.
Towards the end of June, head to Bevagna for a medieval banquet in medieval costume! Feel their passione for the town’s medieval history and medieval traditions during the astounding Mercato delle Gaite festival. Castelluccio – in the mountains of southeastern Umbria – is a vast floral panorama at the end of June, with wildflowers in full glory. You’ll want to join “the locals” in savoring the best in Umbrian “home-cooking” – and ballroom dancing! – at le sagre (they’re all over Umbria from April to late October).
Don’t miss Spoleto at the end of the month for the Spoleto Festival.
July always brings back memories of past harvest-times on our farm in the Assisi countryside. In early July, the flowerings of Castelluccio simply astound. In mid-July, glorious medieval Perugia erupts with the explosive energy of Umbria Jazz (N. B. Umbria Jazz heads to Orvieto for Umbria Jazz Winter). All over Umbria, local food festivals, le sagre, offer the best in Umbrian specialties and a unique opportunity to connect “with the locals.”
When we farmed, August was the month of fruit-juice bottling, tomato sauce bottling and the preparation of endless types of summer vegetables under oil. Sagra events in Umbrian villages gather the farm people for home-cooking and ballroom dancing. The mountain area near Assisi backdrops my favorite sagra in mid-August.
In September, sagras and local festivals animate Umbria, eg., the Baroque festival Quintana in Foligno and the extraodinary food festival, I Primi Piatti, there at the end of the month. Enjoy mild weather with an outdoor dinner near the Nera River in Scheggino. In late September, join the locals in Gualdo Tadino for their medieval festival Giochi de le Porte.
Join in the celebrations for the Feast of St. Francis, October 4th in Assisi, “crown jewel” of Umbria’s medieval hill towns. You’ll want to join “the locals” on the following day, October 5th, as they wander the booths of the huge street market filling the town.
Towards mid-October, Trevi‘s Black Celery festival entices. This is the season for wild boar hunting and if you’re lucky, farmwoman Giuseppa might invite you for cinghiale at her farm near Deruta. If you’re here end of October, join the locals in Pianello for home-cooked Umbrian goodness at their local sagra.
Like many a farm woman, when not cooking wild boar, she might be hunting wild mushrooms. At the end of October, head to Gubbio for the White Truffle festival. You can’t miss a taste of truffles: a true taste of Umbria! Olive oil, too: Umbria’s olive oil is considered the best by top European chefs. Find out for yourself at the Open Olive Mills festival at the end of October, November, and early December.
November starts out with “sweets, saints and cemeteries“. This is the month of olive-picking and pressing. Enticing food festivals take place all over Umbria in November: Assisi’s olive oil festival, Bevagna’s hazelnut celebration, Foligno’s honey festival, Montone’s festival of woodland goodness – and one of our favorites, San Martino in Colle’s chestnut festival. On November 11th, the Feast of San Martino, farm families all over Umbria enjoy roasted chestnuts and the new wine. On And if you’re a truffle-lover, don’t miss Valtopina’s truffle food fair at the end of the month. Ah, November, the month of chestnuts, olive oil and truffles!
The climate has been warming up rapidly over the past few years, making December quite a wonderful time to visit. The weather can be quite mild, tourists are few. Charming medieval piazzas are deserted in most of Umbria’s medieval hilltowns and hotel prices are lower. In early December, Assisians celebrate the arrival of La Madonna. Near Christmas, stroll Assisi, taking in the town’s befittingly simple decorations. Tiny mountain villages around Assisi attract visitors with “living manger” scenes and Gubbio tours entice especially in December: you’ve never seen such a Christmas tree!