It’s always fun to travel to Umbria with people who’ve never been there. First-timers have an idea in their heads of what Italy will be like so they typically go to Rome or Venice. Although there is MUCH to love about seeing these cities, the overcrowded tourist spots, overpriced and underwhelming meals (if you don’t go venture OUT of the main tourist streets) can sometimes disappoint or not match that picture in their head.

BUT​ ​when​ ​you​ ​take​ ​them​ ​to​ ​Umbria, a country-side town in between Florence and Rome, it’s​ ​a​ ​perfect​ ​match.

This particular trip, we began in Paciano, a quiet town in Perugia. This will be our home base for the entire vacation. Paciano has rolling hills, scenic landscapes, a small medieval walled in town, grocery stores and some wonderful restaurants close by. It gives us the opportunity to enjoy our favorite neighboring towns, such as Citta Del Pieve, Panicale, Castiglione Del Lago (many more) and it’s also a great key spot to travel by train or car easily to some of the bigger destinations that we wanted to take our friends. By the time we arrived, we were all in need of a nap. But after pulling into the driveway of the villa that we’d rented, we all came alive…including the teenagers! We find that when you are blending more than one family (this time we had three) a villa is worth the choice for many reasons. In addition to a great amount of indoor space you also can have outdoor space for young children or families to enjoy.

On this particular day, we headed to the closest market and bought fresh, delicious ingredients for us to be able to celebrate the 4th of July. Why not have an American cookout in Italy? 🙂 By evening, we were all ready to shower and and explore Citta Del Pieve. The twelve of us drove to Christian Palazzi’s fantastic restaurant, Bistro Del Duca. We called ahead and asked Christian to prepare a “family-style” celebration for our group. He would provide us with a typical dinner with many of the typical Umbrian foods bought fresh that day.

Citta Del Pieve is a treasure of a town. It has just the right amount of activity while being a small town. There are a few fantastic restaurants in this here. Bistro Del Duca is in a quiet nook of the town with a very small sign…all “signs” that we would feast on an authentic Italian dinner.

As we sipped prosecco in the underground tunnels where Christian keeps his wine, we knew this was going to be a treasure of an evening.

We sat at a large table outside, as the breathtaking sunset captured our attention over the valley of hills in the distance.

The meal was slow, relaxed and spectacular. We were served beautiful, delicious food that Christian painstakingly prepared with the freshest ingredients by himself in the tiny cucina.

A wonderful fresh berry cheesecake (made by the waiter’s mama), rich espresso and smooth limoncello topped off the evening. Our evening was coming to a close as we were the last to leave the bistro. We all stood inside of the bistro saying “grazie” for the special night it was. Our friends had an opportunity to hear Christian’s love and passion for connecting people to the beauty of the town, the ingredients and the way of life, as he shared his heart. We sure do love the Italians.

This, my friends, is ​the​ ​perfect​ ​match​ of what the heart of Italy has to offer.​