Trasimeno, sea of tranquillity

When politicians return to Westminster, writes Chris Caldicott, Paradise is regained in Umbria

The great thing about the approaching party conference season in Britain is that Umbria is rapidly emptying of Westminster politicians. So, from September, you can enjoy Tuscany's neighbour unencumbered by New Labour or old Tories. Strict building controls forbidding any new developments outside urban areas have kept rural Umbria looking like a Renaissance painting: a destination of beautiful central Italian countryside and charming, ancient hill towns. By staying close to the shores of Lake Trasimeno (Italy's fourth largest), there is also a chance to enjoy some waterside relaxation, and tranquillity.

Getting there

Umbria's low-key status as an international tourist destination is confirmed by its lack of airport. Florence is closest to Lake Trasimeno, but usually the more expensive to reach; only Meridiana (0171-839 2222) flies direct from the UK, for a lowest fare of pounds 254.30 including tax (with a pounds 15 weekend supplement). Flights to Rome and Pisa are usually cheaper; call a discount agent such as Sky Shuttle (0800 129129) for good fares on scheduled or charter flights, such as pounds 188 return for a charter from Gatwick to Rome Ciampino on Air 2000.

International train connections offer only a slightly cheaper and much slower option. Local train connections link both Florence and Rome with Castiglione del Lago, and via Terontola with Passignano on the lake shore.

Getting around

A car is by no means essential for exploring the area around Lake Trasimeno: local roads that are little used (except in high summer) are fine for cyclists with lots of gears. This is hill country; local young men seem to view the gradients as a convenient challenge. Every time a hill gets the better of you a group of them sails past in designer cycling gear puffing with macho determination.

All the lakeside towns are connected by buses and by boat. Towns of interest further away are all accessible by train or bus. The big advantage of having a car is access to the more remote hill towns and countryside, down unsurfaced roads. Car hire is available from all the airports; a modest car costs around pounds 250 a week.

Where to stay

For a romantic option there is a place called Sauro (00 39 75 826168), on Isola Maggiore, right in the middle of the lake. The price is 80,000 lire (pounds 33) a night for two people, bed and breakfast, with dinner in their excellent restaurant at around 25,000 lire (pounds 10) a head. The best choices on the lake shore are in Passignano - including camping grounds such as the Europa (00 39 74 827405), budget hotels such as the La Vela (00 39 74 8227221), and the rustic grandeur of Villa Paradiso (00 39 75 829191).

For those in search of self-catering accommodation - and with such fine local ingredients available, it can be very appealing - there are some beautiful traditional villas up in the hills above the lake. The most stylish selection is available on the estate of Castello Di Reschio, near the Tuscan border. Here, old stone Umbrian farm buildings, accommodating two to 10 people, have tastefully modernised interiors, swimming pools and sensational views. Villas can be booked by the week in the UK through CV Travel (0171-581 0851).

What to do

Outdoor cafes and restaurants along the lakeside and in the old town of Passignano provide welcome shade for a morning coffee or light lunch, or seductive, moonlit fresh fish dinners.

Some visitors swim in the lake waters, and many more enjoy fishing. The quiet countryside around the lake is ideal for walking and horse-riding. The local tourist offices produce a guide called Tourist Itineraries in the Trasimeno District, detailing walking and riding trails.

A good day's bike ride, or easy drive, to the south, is the medieval walled hill town of Panicale. Here two fabulous frescoes - The Coronation of the Virgin and The Martyrdom of San Sebastiano, both by Perugino - can be admired in the church of San Sebastiano.

A little further on is Citta della Pieve, Perugino's birthplace - another dramatic hill town, more frescoes. Climbing above Trasimeno to the north are the hill towns of Castel Rigone and Preggio, both with restaurants serving good Umbrian food and offering stunning views.

Venturing further into Umbria, Gubbio is a timeless stone town perched on the steep slopes of Monte Ingino, the summit of which can be reached effortlessly by taking an extraordinary birdcage-style funicular which glides over the treetops. The provincial capital, Perugia, is a charming and sophisticated university town. St Francis's home town of Assisi, the Gothic splendours of Orvieto and the old Etruscan settlement of Todi are all worth the effort if time allows.

What not to do

Italy has high rates of car crime. Although the risks are considerably lower in rural Umbria than in urban Italy, remember that anything left in a car is vulnerable.

Who to ask

The Italian State Tourist Office, 1 Princes St, London W1R 8AY (0171- 408 1254)n

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Day In a Page

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore