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Oct 10, 2013 12:05 PM

November in Italy - Bologna Tuscany or Umbria? Rome always on the table

Hi All - I'm planning a week long trip to Italy for my birthday next month. I've been to all of these regions except Umbria. Of course November is an offseason in Italy and probably the worst time to go but I am going nonetheless. If you're currently living there please share which destination is optimal given the time of year and length of stay. Of course the food among many other reasons is a big plus for Bologna and the Emilia Romagna region but if you have any other suggestions for roughly 6 nights, please share.. I ask in Chow because food/eating always plays a major role in my vacation destinations. Thanks!!

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  1. Hi Jessicablock, I think November is one of the best month to go to Italy and if you have already been to EmR and Tuscany, then Umbria is your answer. There is so much to see and the food is incredible. Umbria is the slow food capital of Italy. It has one of the best wines and cheeses in the region and of course, truffle season starts in November. Perugia is heaven for chocolate lovers, Gubbio and Assisi great for history and Montone for a romantic escape. I love Emilia Romagna but I wouldn't stay in Bologna for more than a couple of nights unless you are a serious foodie and bound by your eating schedule. Modena is a better choice to relax and of course there is Maranello near by if you are interested in renting a Ferrari for a short test-drive. Modena is also best for shopping, in my humble opinion. You didn't specify your budget, likes, so I have very little information to go by. If you are driving, which is what I would do from Rome since Umbria is only a short distance away, then you can stay in Assisi, Gubbio and possibly Montone if you like to relax a bit. From there its approx 2,5 hrs to Bologna, so if you like to drive, you can definitely do so. Gubbio, Bologna or Modena, Arezzo and back to Rome? The weather is still nice in November in this part of Italy. We usually go there at the end of November, December and January and its beautiful. In order for you to try what the region has to offer within such a short period of time, I suggest little shops, markets. Buy their cheese with truffles, dry salami and bread. I love their wines. Its virtually impossible to find good Umbrian wine in the US. Their reds are very good but they are famous for their bruts or vino spumante. Our favorite restaurant is in Gubbio and called Ristorante di Porta Tessenaca. Try La Palazzola (vino spumante) if you can find it. Pasta with truffles is a superb dish on its own but their slow cooked boar is the best we ever had! Porcini mushrooms are always on the menu. Hard to describe, you have to eat it. If you need more recommendations and details on places to stay and restaurants, please let me know when you finalize your itinerary. Safe travels.

    16 Replies
      1. re: Longroadahead

        Wow this is really helpful and great to know. Flights to Milan in Nov are half the price of going to Rome... ie: 400EUR to milan and 800EUR to rome from ny. I think it may be too difficult to get to Umbria from Malpensa but i'll think of my options and start checking it out.

        Would you recommend flying into Malpensa and then taking the fast train to Firenze .. spending the night and then leaving for Umbria the next day for 5 nights? If you think it is MUCH easier to fly into Rome we may just bite the bullet. As far as a base in Umbria, all the places you mentioned look beautiful! I'll have to research some of the hotels and figure out which is best given the 5 days we have. I actually did know that about truffle season so all the more reason to make it work! Thanks again!!

        1. re: jessicablock

          I assuming you are driving - the drive from Malpensa would be about 4.5 hours. all the way to Perugia (you probably would not be going that far) You may want to stay a couple of places in Umbria - maybe also considering visiting Arezzo to which I think you can travel by fast train from Milan (if you havent been in that part of tuscany) or even Urbino in Marche, not that far from Gubbio. These towns, along with Asissi, were among our favorites in past visits and we ate very well in the area - although our particular dining places are not worth recounting, our visits were so long ago.

          1. re: jen kalb

            Thanks Jen for the added feedback. I 'm on the fence because I am thinking of taking the train from Milan to Florence.. 1 night in Florence, and then 3 -4 nights in Umbria. havent quite nailed down the base yet in Umbria (maybe Assisi Perugia or Montone). Trying to figure out what would be most sensible. Somehow i feel like once you rent a car and have to drive in Italy, things happen and it becomes a little more stressful than the train especially given the fact that the whole trip is only 1 week long. Excited to nail down good foodie places once we decide on our location though!

            1. re: jessicablock

              Driving is best because not only you can stop and explore places, its not exactly easy to get to any towns in Umbria, except Perugia. I am not aware of any train stops in Urbino, and I may be wrong, but direct train goes only to Perugia and from there you will have to change train to get to Assisi (I think in Santa Maria but I am not 100% sure) or take a bus.
              There is a direct bus that goes twice a week to Assisi from Florence. Check this out:

              Although it is possible to rent a car in Assisi or Perugia to avoid driving long distances, if you are not comfortable driving in a foreign country, its better to choose a train or a bus option. If you are set on taking a train, would you consider a different option(s)? Not sure how flexible you are but you can look at Dolomites. Perfect time to go. Check out Bolzano. Amazing places all around, an easy train ride from Milan, much to do and see in that area and the food is absolutely wonderful. It is a nice alternative if you want to avoid renting a car. Any hotel can organize day trips for you and you can take a bus and check out interesting places in the area.

              1. re: Longroadahead

                Hi - I've driven in various regions of Italy in the past (including Palermo! ha) and other countries - I just felt like with only 3 -4 nights in Umbria it wasn't worth the hassle of dealing w/ a car rental.. i'm editing the post as now im starting to see what you mean and a car rental is probably the right idea. More to think about.. Thanks for the added insight on Perugia..definitely great to be aware of.

                1. re: jessicablock

                  Perugia is nice but keep in mind, it is a university town, The University for Foreigners and University of Perugia are there. It gets very busy, especially on the weekends. Service is not something the restaurants there are famous for. The city also has some immigration problems.
                  Perhaps, the most fascinating site in Perugia is the remains of a medieval city that are hidden from a plain sight. It is located under the Rocca Paolina fortress.
                  Other than that, it doesn't have a lot to offer, and you need just a few hours to see Perugia. It is ok as a base but you don't want to spend a lot of time there. Anyway, it seems like you figured it out. Have a good trip.

                  1. re: Longroadahead

                    Do you think its best to rent the car in Perugia or Foligno? I guess ill have to see the schedules from florence to each of them.. Probably easier in Foligno since the rental car is at the railway station.. I narrowed it down to the following places so if you have a personal experience at either of them please chime in:

                    Bevagna - L'Orto Degli Angeli
                    Spoleto - Palazzo Leti Residenza d'Epoca
                    Assisi - Residenza D'epoca San Crispino
                    Cannara - Palazzo delle Signorine

                    Thank you

                    1. re: Longroadahead

                      I love Perugia - "immigration problems", perhaps, but also much more cosmpolitan than most smallish Italian cities. Where there aren't "immigration problems" the drug dealers are Italian. It is a beautiful town with spectacular views.

                      I'm no longer young but prefer a university town to a dull place with mostly seniors. The students don't frequent the more upscale restaurants; the professors might, though Italians also "eat in" a lot.

                    2. re: jessicablock

                      Umbria (apologize for gross generalization) is basically a country landscape with hill towns . Certainly you could tour parts without a car, by train, say, but that would be limiting your seeing some of the most beautiful towns (what you would probably be going to Umbria for) or requiring you to spend a lot of your limited time navigating the local transportation network. That has gotten increasingly difficult as more italians rely on cars. You might plan a trip involving only train travel, there is plenty of great stuff to see that would be accessible in 3-4 days but do you want that to be the limiting factor? wild boar, porcini, fresh oils, local sausage and pastas, the wines of montefalco and other localities, fish from lago di trasimeno - Im looking forward to hearing about this trip if you make it!

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        Hey Jen! I decided on renting a car.. LifeItalianStyle pointed out there is a rental station right near the Foligno train station so that works out well. Thanks for the input. Where would you choose as a base given the 3 -4 day time period? Probably best to choose a hotel vs self catering since it's not a week+ vacation.. I'll definitely give a good trip report once we're back!

            2. re: Longroadahead

              La Palazzola does produce some metodo classicos, but i would not in general say the region is famous for sparkling wine, far from it. Whites (lovely with the cheeses) and reds (big bold obes that go lovely with the meats), even some desert wine and a specialty sweet wine with cherries, but no wine person would say spumante is what Umbria is famous for. The food is great, especially if you are a meat lover or heavier things in general (which is just fine in November!). Just be warned it will rain a lot and a car is definitely very recommended for going around.

              1. re: vinoroma

                Vinoroma...Agree with your remark. Respectfully, some of the bruts we had in Umbria are more complex than any of those we tasted in Asti/Piedmont.
                Also, I happen to think that Riccardo Cotarella is doing a wonderful job at La Palazzola and they did get an award this year for their spumante. We don't drink bruts much but theirs are memorable, especially Rosé. "excelling at" would be more appropriate for the description above.
                I am definitely not a wine person but I like good wine. Thank you for your input, btw.

                1. re: Longroadahead

                  I'll "third" La Palazzola! I used their Gran Cuvee and Rose Brut at my wedding. Scacciadiavoli also makes a great Spumante e Rose Spumante Brut from Sagrantino grapes - very interesting!


                  1. re: LifeItalianStyle

                    Thanks all! Keep the food and vino reccos comin! Once I nail down our hotel/apartment I can figure out the eats.

                  2. re: Longroadahead

                    I am sure glad you like the bruts and they are good, no problem with that! I guess it was just the wording "famous for" that got to me, because they surely are not. As to asti - i do understand what you mean, but have to clarify you are comparing apples with oranges - or bread with chocolate cake? ;) Different grapes, different production method (which is essential for sparkling wines), different sweetness and alcohol levels - these have almost nothing in common other than being made from grapes, and are also intended for completely different purposes. If you liked the palazzola bruts, do try Franciacorta wines - i think you will enjoy this denomination very much.

              2. Have you considered Piemonte? We are going in a couple weeks and it sounds wonderful. And very close to Milan.

                1. Definitely Umbria! ...but I'm biased ;-)
                  November is still a nice time to travel in Umbria. Apart from the fact that it is prime time for both white and black truffles, it is also the olive oil harvest, which means new oil. The freshly pressed olive oil is incredible - it has a fluorescent green color and is extremely tannic and peppery - very unique - and it is only considered "new" for 2 months. All of the olive oil mills will be open the first week of November for Frantoi Aperti and restaurants will be dousing the new oil on everything for the whole month.
                  If you are here the first weekend of November, there is also a wonderful little festival in the town of Montone called Festa del Bosco.
                  As for arriving, Rome is definitely best, but if you think it is cheaper to fly into Milan and make a stop along the way, then do so. If you are taking the train (from either Rome or Milan), know that Foligno is actually the main train station of Umbria, not Perugia - there are many more direct (or fewer changes) to/from Foligno. Then there is an Avis car rental right there in the station as well. I strongly recommend renting a car for your stay in Umbria. Many of the most beautiful areas are not reachable by train.
                  I recommend that you stay either in the central valley area: Spello, Cannara, Bevagna, as they are between both of the main highways, or the Todi/Derutas areas which are close to the E45. All of these towns are perfectly located for easily traveling around Umbria.
                  Here is a link for some of my favorite places to stay and eat:

                  1. I think of November as a great time to travel -- crowds are gone, reservations are easier and the brisk weather is good for walking (which helps limit weight gain).

                    We're just back from a 16-night trip that included 3 nights in Orvieto (3 nights Rome, 6 in a cooking/eating school, 3 in Sorrento) and it definitely was the food highlight. See separate post The town is lovely and easily accessible by train. Prices are very reasonable. It gets a bit crowded with day trippers on weekends, but no moreso than Rome on any weekday.