Feeling at Home: A Couple in Umbria Offers an Intimate Italian Experience

Article excerpt

Tuscany's trademark rolling hills and laid-back lifestyle represent the Italy that weary souls often dream of. But Umbria, the adjoining central Italian region, best known as the home of St. Francis of Assisi, offers equally picturesque charm without the throng of tourists. No longer referred to as Tuscany's "gentler sister," Umbria, and its charming hill town of Spoleto, offers its own unique travel experience.

Spoleto is a city steeped in both ancient and medieval history and modern civility (it was a Roman colony more than 200 years before the birth of Christ). With less than 40,000 people, part of Spoleto's charm is its narrow cobblestone streets. Here, folks stop to "take a coffee" in one of the town's many piazzas, or public squares, as well as chat with friends during the nightly passeggiata, or evening stroll. This is what attracted 32-year-old Chicago native Aminah Ricks to this town. She has since founded Il Regalo (www.ilregalo.com), a business that exports Umbria's trademark handmade Deruta ceramics, handcrafted Montefalco linens, and gourmet foods. She has also, with Fabio Cuzzi, launched Il Regalo Tours, a travel service that offers visitors an intimate experience.

"Maybe a person who comes here is not just looking for the standard tour, but something introspective, snore spontaneous," says Cuzzi, who's also lived in Spain and Canada. "It's a return to the simple life."

Adds Ricks: "Personalized tours based on the preferences of our clients is our specialty, and we include places not listed in the major guidebooks to create a tailored and unique experience. …