Roccafiore Vineyard, Todi, Umbria, Italy, Discover Umbria


Here’s a secret: there’s a region of Italy that is just as beautiful as Tuscany but is a lot cheaper, with a whole different (and equally worthy) cuisine and wine scene. And the best part is many of its best parts can be visited in a very do-able in a day trip from Rome. A few weeks ago I went with two friends on a just such an excursion and now I get to tell you friends about it. Think – in one leisurely day: a vineyard tour, wine tasting along with a trained Umbrian sommelier, hearty snacks, a tour of a medieval town and cathedral, coffee in a sunny piazza, and a scenic round-trip train ride during which you can’t tear your face away from the window. It was a great fit for my group of friends, and I can also see this a perfect day for a family on vacation in Rome (no drinking age in Italy but do be reasonable!), and certainly for a couple.

Discover Umbria Tour, Todi, Umbria, Italy

Starting our tour with Discover Umbria – So close to Rome but so different that it FELT like walking through a gate.

The tour was organized with Discovering Umbria. Definitely do yourself a favor and go with this tour. They do all the heavy lifting for you. My friends and I met at the Rome train station at about 8am and boarded a very cheap train (about 15 euros) to Orvieto (a town worth a whole day in itself). During the train ride we talked and laughed, but I couldn’t help but point out the window every five minutes at the little villages punctuating the green hillsides, and the herds of sheep grazing in magic-marker green fields. It is spring, after all!

Roccafiore Vineyard, Todi, Umbria, Italy

What you dream of when you think “Walk in the Countryside.”

Arriving in Orvieto, we were greeted by Alessandra, a professional sommelier from Umbria, and her brother, whom Alessandra introduced with a laugh as “the driver.” We climbed in the comfortable SUV and off we went, on a quick (I was wishing it was longer!) ride through the countryside. Villas and farmhouses and vineyards and lakes and lavender fields to the left and right made us feel like we were worlds away from Rome – not just a short train ride. We arrived at the Roccafiore Winery and climbed out of the car, cameras in hand to try to capture the expansiveness of the countryside, the flowers and vines in the foreground, and the gigantic blue sky. How can you get all of that in a picture small enough for Instagram? Just as I was trying to come up with the perfect hashtag, we were called inside.

Roccafiore Vineyards, Todi, Umbria, Italy

I know the Roccafiore Vineyards are also functional but who could work with this view?

Roccafiore Vineyard, Todi, Umbria, Italy

Olive trees mixed with the vines at the Roccafiore vineyards. Find out why during your tour and wine-tasting….

Roccafiore Vineyard, Todi, Umbria, Italy

It’s early in the season. By September the vines will be weighed down by purple and green grapes ready to pop!

I’ve never had a tour of a proper winery in a proper vineyard. I’ve been to small vineyards poked my head into some warm rooms with big metal containers, but nothing like this. Here we got to see a real working vineyard – from the vines on terraces outside (which will be ready for harvest in September), to the temperature-controlled vats, to the oak barrels, and the machinery that bottles it all up at the end and gets it ready for our tables back home. We learned that one of the wines made there, Grechetto, was first described by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder who wrote in the 1st century BC ‘peculiaris est tudernis’ – it is typical of Todi. His description of the dry white wine with a slightly bitter (in a good way) aftertaste is still spot on.

Roccafiore Vineyard, Todi, Umbria, Italy

Roccafiore wine in oak barrels. I tend to spill a lot too when I drink good wine.

All of that learning sure makes a girl thirsty, right? We went into the hospitality areaof the winery, which has a comfortable and cozy tasting room. Our guide brought us bottle after bottle of wine that had been made, from dirt to cork, right there at the vineyard. A blush (I love a blush wine, don’t you? On a warm sunny day?), several whites and several reds, and I admit that I was the only one not to pour out the glass after a taste. Five glasses of wine with lunch on a work day? Don’t mind if I do. But especially when served with snacks like bruschetta and salame made from the cinta senese pig, who live their short but gloriously decadent lives right there at the farm. And, when we finished up our tasting (it was all delicious and if you ever see this brand, you can feel confident purchasing it, trust me), we got to go visit the little darlings. Those of us who eat meat should really appreciate that places like this exist.

Roccafiore Vineyard, Todi, Umbria, Italy

This is what you and your friends/family can expect at your Roccafiore wine-tasting with Discover Umbria. They’re ready for you and you’re definitely ready for them.

Roccafiore Wine-tasting, Todi, Umbria, Italy

A good wine-tasting has lots of wine…

Roccafiore Wine-Tasting, Todi, Umbria, Italy

…with lots of local snacks. The sausage you see there was made from the cinte senesi pigs that live on the property.

Todi, Umbria, Italy, Cinte Senesi

These cute piggies are actually cinte senesi. “Cinte” means “belts.” See why? These babes may have short lives but they are lived in muddy luxury.

Sidebar – have I told y’all that I am a major sucker for a beautiful hotel? The way some people are for cars or fashion – I have an illogical, irrational, giggly love for a nice hotel with a view, a pool, and non-carpeted floors. So! After lunch we got to take a tour of the Roccafiore Resort and Spa. I wasn’t staying there for the night but I wish I had been! If you want to impress your significant other or really just get away from it all in luxury, I can definitely recommend this place.

Roccafiore Resort and Spa, Todi, Umbria, Italy

The totally luxurious Roccafiore Resort and Spa, which you get to visit (not overnight) on this tour!

Roccafiore Resort and Spa, Todi, Umbria, Italy

View of Todi from the Roccafiore Resort and Spa.

Roccafiore Resort and Spa, Todi, Umbria, Italy

View of Todi from the Roccafiore Resort and Spa

Roccafiore Resort and Spa, Todi, Umbria, Italy

Inside the Roccafiore Resort and Spa.

The first half of the Umbria day trip was now over, and the second half was about to start. And for a history buff like me, this was maybe even better than the wine-tasting: a tour of Medieval Todi.

Todi is a tiny town in the middle of Umbria in the province of Perugia, clinging to the crest of a hill with views in every direction. Once upon a time it served as a defensive barrier between the Etruscans and the Umbri – a reminder that this land is definitely beautiful (and bountiful) enough to fight over for real. The name actually means “border” (tuture in Latin), and it has existed since about 800 years before Christ.  Maybe the reason I love history and travel so much is because it gets me out of my own head and my own problems. When I visit places this old, I always think, a little relieved, about what a speck of dust I am compared to the big picture.

Todi, Umbria, Italy

Todi sits perched on a hill, with sweeping views in every direction (what was once good for spying enemies, now makes an enjoyable lunch spot).

Todi, Umbria, Italy

The Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione – Renaissance church unique for its Greek cross shape, and designed (at least partially) by Bramante himself.

Todi, Umbria, Italy

Todi, Umbria, Italy – Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione.

Todi, Umbria, Italy

Inside the Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione

Todi, Umbria, Italy

Can’t have Architecture without the Arch.

Todi, Umbria, Italy

Todi: legend has it this hilltop town was once the site of an eagle’s nest. The eagle stole the clothes of a princess who was bathing in the valley below and brought her dress up to the nest. Now the eagle carrying a cloth is the symbol of this charming place.

Piazza del Popolo, Todi, Umbria, Italy

The Piazza del Popolo in the center of town.

Todi, Umbria, Italy, The Church of San Fortunato

The Church of San Fortunato – construction took so long that it spanned from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Builders took a long break in 1348 due to the plague (understandable).

Todi, Umbria, Italy

Inside the Church of San Fortunato

Todi, Umbria, Italy

A detail on the facade of The Church of San Fortunato in Todi. Our guide showed us some R-rated carvings that I shall not share on this page. You have to go see for yourself. But they were undeniable!

Todi, Umbria, Italy

A splash of color among the stones. Looks kinda like Venice without the water (or loads of tourists).

Todi, Umbria, Italy

I always think that the charm of a place is in the details.

Todi Cathedral, Umbria, Italy

Behind the Todi Cathedral in Piazza del Popolo.

Todi, Umbria, Italy

A sign of modern life in this ancient town.

People ask me all the time about day trips from Rome and this is one I definitely, definitely recommend. But for this kind of experience you definitely need a tour and a driver, and this particular tour was a bargain for as much as we got. Sometimes the best part about living in Rome is being able to get out of here, even for a day, and get some fresh air and even fresher food. This tour eliminates all the work and you can just enjoy a day in Umbria that you will not forget (even if you overindulge on the wine).

To book, go here.

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