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
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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea