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Introducing Umbria & Le Marche

For years Italophiles have waxed lyrical about Tuscany's natural, artistic and culinary wonders, without so much as a passing nod to its neighbours: Umbria and Le Marche. How they have missed out! This phenomenally beautiful yet unsung region is Italy in microcosm: olive groves, vineyards, sun-ripened wheat fields stippled with wildflowers and hills plumed with cypress trees roll gently west to the snow-dusted Apennines and east to the glittering Adriatic. In between, castle-topped medieval hill towns wait, glowing like warm honey in the fading light of sundown.

Then there are the region's artistic attributes, as the birthplace of Renaissance masters Raphael and Perugino, and sprightly composer Rossini; while St Francis of Assisi, St Benedict and St Valentine make the spiritual pilgrimage here a profound one. So next time you glance at the map and your eyes alight on old-favourite Tuscany, why not press on south? You won't regret it.