Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town. The following interview was originally published in my Italy guide.
Today I’m happy to introduce you to Gian Domenico Trojano, a photographer, part-time chef, and music festival enthusiast here to tell us all about Palazzo d’Assisi – the city of many churches.
First, tell us about you.
I moved to Palazzo d’Assisi about two years ago for work, but my mom has lived here for 10 years, so I was already familiar with the area.
I was born in Perugia and lived in a really small village called Mercatello near Marsciano, another big city in Umbria.
In my free time, I love to discover new places in my region. I also love to go and recharge in places like Monte Subasio, Lago Trasimeno, Bosco di San Francesco, and Cibottola with my dog and my reflex camera. If I want to see people, I go in Perugia, where I have friends who manage bars and restaurants.
In the summer, I go to see traditional historic festivals like Quintana in Foligno, Infiorata in Spello, Calendimaggio in Assisi, Gaite in Bevagna, Festival of Colors in Spoleto, Todi International Hot Air Balloon Grand Prix, Corsa dei Ceri in Gubbio, and Palio dei Terzieri in Citta della Pieve, and music festivals like Umbria Jazz in Perugia, Trasimeno Blues at Trasimeno Lake, Music for Sunset in Isola Maggiore, and Dancity in Foligno.
Sometimes I go free climbing in Pale with a friend.
If someone is visiting Palazzo D’Assisi for the first time, what do you recommend they see or do?
Visit Assisi, Santa Maria degli Angeli, Bevagna, Montefalco, and the countryside. If you like the history, make sure to see Basilica di San Francesco, where you can see some frescoes of the best 1300 A.D. artists like Cimabue, Giotto, Martini, and Lorenzetti. Under Piazza del Comune, there’s the roman forum.
Rocca Maggiore has a fantastic view of the valley, Eremo delle Carceri gorge, Duomo di San Rufino, and Basilica di Santa Chiara.
If you like extreme sports, you can do paragliding on Monte Subasio, rafting on the Nera river, and free climbing in Pale.
If you like to walk, there is a lot of trekking around (or you can rent a horse). The only thing you won’t find in Umbria is the sea.
Let’s talk about day trips…what nearby places should everyone make sure to visit?
The places to visit absolutely are Assisi, Monte Subasio, Bevagna, Spello, Foligno, Montefalco, Torgiano, Perugia, and Corciano.
Tell us about the local dishes. What should people try here?
The food that definitely represents Umbria is the torta al testo, a typical pizza-bread made with flour, milk, yeast, lard, and olive oil and cooked on fire with testo, a typical cast iron skillet. You can fill it with sausage, cheese, ham, etc.
Other products to try include Giano dell’Umbria’s black truffle, Norcia’s cold cuts, Colfiorito’s lentils, Trasimeno Lake’s fagiolina (a legume that is produced just around Trasimeno Lake), Cannara’s onion, Colfiorito’s red potatoes, Civita di Cascia’s roveja (wild pea), and Trevi’s black celery. Together with Tuscany, we also produce the best extra virgin olive oil in Italy. Most of these products are under the supervision of the Slow Food Association.
Baci Perugina (small chocolates with hazelnut in the center) are very typical and world-renowned.
There isn’t a typical drink, but you can find some really good wine like Sagrantino di Montefalco (an autochthonous vine that you can find only in Montefalco) or some artisanal beer.
What are your top three favorite bars and restaurants?
Magnavino in Bastia at Via Isola Romana 3 has really good wine and food.
If you want a great sensory experience, you need to go in Nun Relais Spa-Museum Restaurant in Assisi; you will eat the best products from Umbria with a modern presentation.
If you want a really good pizza, go to Taverna del Maniscalco at Viale Michelangelo 69 in Palazzo d’ Assisi.
In Perugia, my favorite places are Frittole, at Via Alessi 30, for really typical cheeses and cold cuts and Civico 25, a fantastic small restaurant with easy dishes and high quality products located at Via della Viola 25.
Finally, Osteria Stella, located at Via Narcisi 47A in Casaglia (five minutes from Perugia) is amazing for both food and wine.
Is there anything tourists do that locals find rude or strange? What can we do to better fit in with the culture?
It’s strange to drink cappuccino during a meal and put ketchup and potato chips on pizza.
What is the best way to meet locals and make friends?
The main thing is curiosity, the desire to know and to fit in with the new culture. Try to be open and you will meet locals.
What is the best place to go take beautiful photos of the city?
Anything else you want us to know?
If you go to Trasimeno Lake, you need to eat in Faliero restaurant (at Località Montebuono di Magione) where you will try the best torta al testo of the region. If you have time, you should to visit Marmore Falls, the Roman remains of Carsulae, and Lake Corbara near Terni (the second largest city in Umbria).