Think of Tuscany and Umbria – beautiful scenery, beguiling hilltop towns; Siena, Cortona, Assisi… Pozzuolo?
OK, few people may have heard of Pozzuolo, but it’s actually more typical of the region than its famous cousins. Maybe nothing much to look at, but well placed and much more relaxed than the tourist hotspots, all of which are within one hour of this quaint, sleepy little town.
Photo: Gordon Cragie
As central Italy goes, Pozzuolo is pretty much, well, dead centre. A two-hour drive from each of the airports in Rome, Pisa and Bologna, an hour from Florence and 40 minutes from Perugia. Once here, two hours driving west takes you to the clear blue waters of the Med, while the same time driving east over the Apennines will take you to the equally attractive Adriatic.
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Mind you, if you prefer your water-based activities to be a little more accessible, a mere five-minute drive takes you to Castiglione Del Lago and Lago Trasimeno, Italy’s fourth largest lake behind the more famous Garda, Maggiore and Como.
The region is so dependent on the attractions and bounty of the lake that the locals are almost obsessive about how full or, more worryingly, how empty it is. Currently everyone is happy as a good few years of persistent winter/spring rainfall – Umbria isn’t called “la cuore verde d’Italia” (the green heart of Italy) for nothing – has topped up the levels to pretty much full.
Lake Trasimeno. Photo: DepositPhotos
But enough about water. Look at the other attractions of being here. Montepulciano. Orvieto. San Gimignano. Pisa. This list goes on and on, all within an hour’s drive of Pozzuolo. And that’s only the well-known ones. Drive around and you’ll come across any number of beautiful little places, unchanged for hundreds of years, all boasting the attractions that keep the tourists coming back.
Yet stick around in Pozzuolo itself and you'll discover that this seemingly unremarkable little town actually has a remarkable history. It had huge strategic importance towards the conclusion of World War Two and was once at the epicentre of efforts to stop Germans advancing.
Pozzuolo has survived the demise of some traditional local industries, like textiles, and opted to maximise its natural resources. Agriculture will continue to be the basis of life here, with tourist activity neatly fitting around the rhythms of the countryside.
Photo: Gordon Craigie
The attractions will remain what they have always been – climate, food, wine, coffee, culture and a pace of life that simply allows people to… live. And live well.
And for readers who aren’t blessed with the opportunity to live that ‘sweet’ life here, you can continue to sample it in small quantities by visiting and helping to keep these small businesses alive while enjoying your own dolce vita, even if only for a week or two.
If you do visit then, while you’re planning your trips to Cortona, Siena et al, don’t forget to check out Pozzuolo itself.
For a leisurely afternoon you could start by taking a perfect caffè in Bar Controvento before strolling the short distance to the beautiful 12th-century Chiesa Dei Santi Pietro e Paolo.
Photo: Gordon Craigie
Around another corner lies the imposing Palazzo Moretti – venture inside and learn the story of Pozzuolo’s most famous son, the scientist Franco Rasetti.
If all this culture has worn you out then perhaps it’s time for some retail therapy at Lesti or Camilloni, two unusually large clothes shops for such a small town.
By now it must surely be be l’ora dell’aperitivo, and time to return to Bar Controvento to sample the early evening hospitality before heading for great pizza at Ristorante Da Gigi.
Sounds like a fine day to me!
Gordon Craigie is a freelance feature writer and journalist who divides his time between Scotland and Italy. You can see more of his work at gordoncraigie.com.
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