There are several weekly street markets near us that are always fun to visit. They mostly sell clothes and the stuff of every day life (kitchen accessories, gardening supplies, curtains, bed linen, and so on) at reasonable prices, as well as food – in particular, local fruits and vegetables, cheeses, Umbrian and Tuscan salamis, hams and the famous Umbrian porchetta (roasted pork seasoned with fennel, garlic and other herbs).
The markets can be found in the following locations:
Chiusi Scalo, near the train station, every Monday morning.
Castiglione del Lago, through the streets of the old town, every Wednesday morning.
Camucia, below Cortona, probably the largest market, every Thursday morning.
Citta della Pieve in the main piazza and along the streets radiating from it, every Saturday morning. (Secret: Here you’ll find the best fruit and vegetable stand in the area, though best to arrive early and prepare to queue.)
Occasionally there are special markets, sometimes based around a theme (e.g. food or crafts) or for a particular holiday. These usually include products not normally a part of the weekly markets.
Umbria has a thriving tradition of handcrafted artisan works – ceramics, linens, embroidery, olive wood objects, leather goods, wrought iron – and there are several towns where you can find a number of shops selling these beautiful items, particularly Orvieto, Assisi, Gubbio, and Deruta. In Paciano you’ll find fine hand-woven clothes and items for the home at the Penelope weaver’s atelier.
Umbrian and Tuscan food specialities
In addition to their fine extra-virgin olive oil and wines, the food of these central Italian regions is famously, utterly delicious. Most supermarkets have deli counters featuring cheeses, cured meats, sauces and so forth, but it pays to visit specialty shops where you’ll find a wider choice and some really top quality products. Those closest to us are in the old town centre of Castiglione del Lago and in Chiusi Scalo; further away you’ll find them in places such as Orvieto, Perugia, Pienza, and Montepulciano. Umbria is particularly known for its long tradition of artisanal production of pork and wild boar products, such as prosciutto hams, sausages, pancetta, and salamis.
A shop window in Orvieto
Umbrian black truffles
Another Umbrian speciality is the earthy, aromatic black truffle (tartufo nero) that comes primarily from the area around Norcia in the mountainous southeast of the region. Truffles are grated or sliced fresh onto homemade pasta, embedded in cheeses and salamis, made into toppings for bruschetta and omelettes, and added to sauces. It is not always easy to find fresh, whole truffles for sale but bottled sauces (salsa tartufata) and truffle-infused olive oil are widely available.
The most well-known cheese of the area is pecorino made of sheep’s milk, with production centred in the Val d’Orcia/Pienza area of southeastern Tuscany and also around Norcia. There is an excellent little pecorino shop in Chiusi near the train station that is linked to the Pianporcino farm in Pienza. Pecorino is available fresh, semi- or fully aged, and at speciality shops you can find varieties made in a number of ways, for example with hot peppers, truffles, wine, or wrapped in walnut or grape leaves.
The pecorino shop in Chiusi
Pulses (legumes) are another of Umbria’s prized agricultural products – the fine lentils from the high plains of Castelluccio in the Appenine Mountains and the delicate little fagiolina or bean of the Trasimeno area are two of the better known examples – and can be found in most shops selling Umbrian regional products.
Clothing and Accessories
If you’re shopping for Italian clothes, shoes, and accessories, there are many good quality shops in the larger towns, particularly Siena, Perugia, and Arezzo. Closer to Paciano is the Soldini shoe store at Po’ Bandino, on the way to Chiusi. Here you’ll find a wide selection of casual, sport and dress shoes of Italian and international brands as well as Soldini’s house brand, for sale at good discounted prices. At the back is a selection of men and women’s clothes and accessories, luggage, and some travel supplies.
Valdichiana Outlet Village
There are also outlet stores, the nearest being at the Valdichiana Outlet Village, about a 45-minute drive from Paciano at the first A1 motorway exit (Bettolle) north of Chiusi-Chianciano Terme. This is considered to be one of the best fashion outlets in Tuscany, with discounts of 30-70% on famous Italian and international brands, from Benetton to Enrico Coveri. There are 140 shops altogether, offering clothes, shoes, accessories and products for the home at affordable prices.
The most prestigious outlets in Tuscany are found closer to Florence. These include The Mall, located at Reggello (exit the A1 at Incisa-Reggello just south of Florence) featuring top Italian fashion designers such as Gucci, Armani and Valentino, as well as international fashion stars such as Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent. Practically next door to it are the popular Prada and Fendi factory outlets. Two miles away is Dolce and Gabbana’s outlet. Be warned that whilst prices are reduced at the outlets, purchases here still involve a lot of money!
The Prada outlet store near Florence
In the area between Lake Trasimeno and Perugia there are a number of knitwear manufacturers (called maglifici) offering their clothes at factory outlet shops. Many of these specialise in 100% cashmere garments, others also offer clothes made of mixed natural fibres. The nearest to us is Fioroni Cashmere at Pucciarelli, off the main road towards Lake Trasimeno. Panicale Cashmere has a boutique in nearby Città della Pieve and a factory outlet about half an hour to the east, in Pila, south of Perugia. Another is Lamberto Losani Cashmere based in Magione, on the eastern side of the Lake, selling only women’s clothes. Maglificio Marilina and Corso Vannucci Cashmere are two others in the same area, selling clothes for men and women and accessories such as hats, shawls and gloves.
Fioroni cashmere sweater detail
Brunello Cucinelli and students at the School of Arts and Crafts in Solomeo
Of international renown is Brunello Cucinelli, whose luxury cashmere attire for men and women is sold in high-end boutiques around the world. Cucinelli is one of Umbria’s most successful entrepreneurs who has attracted fame and attention to his little village of Solomeo on the way to Perugia from Paciano. He has invested heavily in the town and its people, restoring buildings and piazzas, creating a School of Arts and Crafts, a theatre, a classical music festival every summer, and a library. You can visit this pretty hamlet and Cucinelli’s outlet store, where there is a 30% mark down on prices