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
  • Get to the point
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

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before