By Mitchell Murdock:
Last week, I toured Umbria with an Italian family. My vacation was much more than sightseeing, however, because the family was its own show. Example: one time when we ate at a restaurant, one of the boys set the tablecloth on fire.
We stayed in a hostel in Foligno, and from there we branched out: we rafted down Corno River, went spelunking in Mount Cucco, and sampled salami from Brancaleon. I learned some excellent swear words and received some much-needed definitions of the hand gestures used by all Italians.
An obvious highlight of touring with Italians was that we were given access to personal tour guides. When we went rafting, they pointed out remnants of Roman bridges. When we visited Assasi and saw St. Clare’s hair collected at her death, we decided the hair was fake. I learned that the residents of Spello have balcony garden contests.
The family also explained how Umbria highlights some of Italy’s historic North-South differences. Since I am quasi-familiar with Naples, I had a point of reference; most Italian’s seem aware of Naples’ garbage crisis, but are also quick to admit that Naples has the best pizza and mozzarella. Unlike Naples, Umbria is clean, and tourist-friendly. The towns in Umbria are historical and aesthetic, but have a rural, rustic feel that makes them distinct from the cities characterized by artistic extravagance farther north.