Always a pleasure to write about shopping, especially for the wonderful Passepartout Homes
When thinking of the shopping possibilities in Umbria, one of Italy’s most picturesque regions, the strongest association for most people are the local food and drink specialities. Umbria has several celebrated wines, including Orvieto and Sangiovese. The region has been particularly successful in developing some red varieties in its lovely vineyards in recent years, notably Merlot and Pinot Noir, and it provides a fabulous rustic setting for tasting.
Black truffles are indelibly associated with Umbria, with the woods of Norcia and Spoleto proving almost half the nation’s output of the luxury product. Spaghetti with truffles is an unmissable treat when visiting the region. Pietralunga hosts the Mostra Mercato del Tartufo annually in October. Other local food delights to shop for include numerous sheep’s milk cheeses, lentils and mazzafegati, the liver and pork sausage dating back hundreds of years in origin.
Another locally-made but world famous delicacy is chocolate. Whilst it’s available in virtually all food shops all year round, connoisseurs flock to the huge celebration of all things chocolate, Eurochocolate, which has taken place every October for over 20 years –with both the truffles and the chocolate festivals, October is a great time to visit Umbria.
Despite these riches, it would be a pity to focus on wine and gourmet ingredients to the exclusion of the region’s many other retail opportunities. The region’s capital, Perugia, is a good place to start exploring the artisan shops and boutiques. Many head to the old town to invest in the famous local ceramics, in particular majolica. Perugia is also a great place to source fabric and textiles, including cashmere and intricate lace work. For those who want to deepen their knowledge of the venerable history of lace-making in the region, a valuable and charming spot is Panicale’s Museo del Tulle Anita Bellischi Grifoni near the shores of pretty Lake Trasimeno. Stylish bargain hunters should head for one of Umbria’s fashion outlets, such as Fabiana Filippi, Luisa Spagnoli or Brunello Cucinelli.
St Francis of Assisi’s home town and pilgrimage site does not generally offer the best value due to its huge popularity with visitors, but it’s a useful place to buy religious artefacts. Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi hosts a monthly antiques market which is well worth a look.
Fans of vintage will enjoy rummaging through the many outdoor markets in the region, but it is also one of Italy’s best spots for serious antique shopping. Many towns in addition to Assisi host weekend antiques markets, among them Terni, Spoleto and Narni. The best pieces and bargains tend to be available early in the day. With the plethora of goods on offer, it’s hard to select particular treasures, but antique homewares, farm equipment and jewellery all tend to sell briskly with expert international buyers and curious amateur collectors alike. In any event, part of the pleasure of the markets lies in soaking up the atmosphere and mingling with people lucky enough to call Umbria home.
By Phileas French, Luxury Travel Writer