More insider guides for planning a trip to Umbria
These are unusual times, and the state of affairs can change quickly. Please check the latest travel guidance before making your journey. Note that our writer visited pre-pandemic.
In Casa Vissani, between Todi and Orvieto, Umbria boasts one of Italy’s most celebrated restaurants, but its rarified two-Michelin-star cooking and €130-plus (£112) per person price tag are very much the exception. Instead, the region’s culinary strengths are its many long-established trattorias of the old school variety – small, homely and often family-run places that have been producing simple food for locals for decades – and its abundance of robust ingredients such as truffles, mushrooms, lentils, hams, spelt and mountain cheeses.
Redibis has a remarkable setting – the three dining rooms are part of the ambulatories of the town’s former Roman amphitheatre and present an elegant and stylish mix of the historic and contemporary. Many of the seasonal dishes rework venerable recipes, with the original date recorded on the menu. This may sound tricksy but it invariably works: thus strappatelle al rancetto al profumo d’erba bona (handmade pasta with tomato and bacon and marjoram sauce) dates from 1935 and dolce dell’attesa (dried fruit compote with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce) from 1925.
Contact: 00 39 0742 362120; foodie.bio
Opening times: Wed-Mon, 12.30-2.30pm, 7.30-10pm; closed for a period during January and February
This is a wonderfully intimate, pretty and comfortable place to dine, a (tiny) part of a former convent of rough stone walls and wooden beams. The simple things such as homemade pastas are done well but most dishes have a creative (but never too over the top) twist. The short-crust pastry caramella antipasto, filled with melted cacciatina cheese, Parmesan and truffle, is outstanding – you’ll eat one and want another immediately. It has been a menu staple since the restaurant opened in 1991, as have some of the delicious puddings, notably the ice-cream-like-semifreddo made with fresh peaches.
Contact: 00 39 0743 223256; ristoranteapollinare.it
Opening times: Daily, 12.30pm-2.30pm, 7.30-10.30pm; closed on Tues from Oct or Nov until Easter
Reservations: Essential for lunch and dinner
Norcia is a no-nonsense mountain town with a superb gastronomic tradition, one that has found refined expression in the one-Michelin star and Relais & Chateaux listed Vespasia. The dining room is bright and clean-lined, with modern art on the walls, but it occupies part of the stables of a Renaissance palazzo, so it retains some pleasing period details. Neapolitan chef Valentino Palmisano spent time in Asia, and adds an occasional Asian twist to some dishes without straying too far from his Italian roots. Menus change regularly, but in this part of the world, anything with truffle should be high on your wish list.
Contact: 00 39 0743 817434; vespasianorcia.com
Opening times: Daily, 12.30pm-3pm, 7.30pm-11pm
Taverna del Lupo, Gubbio
The ‘Tavern of the Wolf’ has been in business for more than 30 years in a fine 14th-century building full of pillars, broad vaults and arches of ancient stone – try for a table in one of the more intimate vaulted nooks. Go ahead and spend excessively for one of the many excellent truffle (tartufo) dishes on a menu that might be described as ‘Umbria revisted’ – though there’s plenty of other choice, with the homemade pastas always a good bet. Don’t overdo the antipasti and first courses, though, because millefoglie al caramello is a must for pudding.
Contact: 00 39 075 927 4368; tavernadellupo.it
Opening times: Daily, 12pm–3pm, 7pm–10pm
Reservations: Recommended at weekends, during summer and around public holidays
Prices: ££, £££ with truffle dishes
Coccorone has prospered for several decades, updating its décor from time to time – warm reds and creams and dark woods in the current incarnation (with unvarying medieval arches, big fireplace, and sturdy wooden ceiling) – while maintaining its high standards of polite, restrained service and food that always has the capacity to surprise. Normally you’d look for a standout dish – and the grilled meats are always persuasive – but here it’s a wine you have to taste: the local Sagrantino red, along with its sweet, dessert version, Sagrantino Passito. Both feature prominently on the wine list, but also in the cooking as part of sauces to accompany pappardelle pasta and the meats.
Contact: 00 39 0742 379535; coccorone.com
Opening times: Thu-Tue, 12.30pm-3pm, 7.30pm-10pm
Eating in the touristy town of Assisi can be fraught, but the Balducci family, owners of this humble but reliable trattoria, ensures steady standards, with Margherita in the kitchen producing Umbrian classics such as stringhozzi alla Pallotta (pasta with mushrooms and olives), zuppa di fagiolina (soup with sweet green beans from nearby Lake Trasimeno), or piccione alla ghiotta (pigeon) and a chunky coniglio alla cacciatore (rabbit stew). The two dining rooms are simple: plain white walls, tiled floor, and a hint of a beamed ceiling, but an open fire lends it warmth and atmosphere in season.
Contact: 00 39 075 812649; trattoriapallotta.it
Opening times: Wed-Mon, 12pm-10pm; closed for a period late February to early March
Al Mangiar Bene, Perugia
Al Mangiar Bene (‘Where you Eat Well’) occupies part of a memorable medieval building, distinguished by venerable stone walls and immense brick vaults. The fittings are plain – simple wooden tables and chairs – but the food is carefully and skillfully prepared. They’re proud of their local wines and microbrewery beers (including organic and bio-dynamic options), and of their (listed) locally sourced ingredients. The cooking is mostly classic Umbrian, so go for the classic option of umbricelli, a thick, chewy pasta made from just water and flour (no eggs). Pair with a choice of sauces, the heartier the better – wild boar, say, or guanciole (pig’s cheek) and tomato.
Contact: 00 39 075 573 1047; almangiarbene.it
Opening times: Tue-Sat, 2.30pm-2.45pm, 7.30pm-10.45; Mon. 7.30pm-10.45pm
Reservations: Recommended for dinner
Pane e Vino, Todi
Guidebooks to Todi steer visitors to Ristorante Umbria, off the town’s picture-perfect piazza: nothing wrong with that (though the food can be variable) as long as you’re sure to eat on the terrace, which has views over half of Umbria. But for honest food at honest prices, Pane e Vino is informal, family-run and has cosy, rustic dining rooms and an attached wine bar. For sheer variety, the house starter (antipasto della casa) offers a great selection of cured meats (including boar, venison and goose), cheeses, crostini and more. Pasta might include tagliarini with lemon and fresh tomatoes, with more ambitious venison and truffle main dishes available in season.
Contact: 00 39 075 894 5448; panevinotodi.com
Opening times: Thu–Tue, 12.30pm–2.30pm, 6.30pm–10.30pm
Reservations: Recommended for dinner
Al Pozzo Etrusco da Giovanni, Orvieto
This tiny spot, named after an Etruscan well beneath it (which you can visit) wins no awards for décor, which might be called trattoria monastic, with a few tables, the odd painting and an unforgiving tiled floor. But it offers very good, local, seasonal food: the wild boar with a sauce of blackcurrants and Sagarntino wine (bocconcini di cinghiale) is a winning combination of the punchy and the delicate; but be sure to leave room for puddings, which are small, presentational works of art, and change day to day.
Contact: 00 39 0763 341050; alpozzoetruscodagiovanni.it
Opening times: Wed-Mon, 12.30pm-2.30pm, 7.30pm-9.30pm
Reservations: Recommended for lunch and dinner