Crystal clear – Umbria in winter

Of all the places I’ve ever visited in the world – and I’ve visited a lot, believe me – my favourite is Umbria in Italy.

Of course, “favourite” is a subjective thing. Comparing Iceland to Greece, for example or Thailand to Canada is a little deciding which is preferable; chalk or cheese? And if you ask me what my favourite destination is in the depths of January, I’m far more likely to go for sunnier climes than I am at the end of August after a particularly hot summer.

Nevertheless, Umbria’s gently rolling hills in a warm September golden light remains the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever seen – for my own personal tastes.

I enjoyed New Zealand’s dramatic scenery, and I love the vineyards of “Le Sud-Ouest” of France. I love the Cotswolds, the Lake District and I love some of America’s dramatic city-scapes – in which New York stands out, of course.

I also love the beaches and islands of Thailand, the Greek white-walled islands glistening in what always seems to be a brilliant white summer light, but still, Umbria ultimately carries the day for me.

I don’t know exactly why this is – and it’s easy to like somewhere in a warm September glow – so I decided, last winter, to see if I would still love the mountainous undulating Italian middle country in the depths of December.

And to cut a long story short; I did. Umbria isn’t as accessible in December of course. But with a good guide book, safe and warm in North Face  gear from head to toe and my favourite old walking boots with a good pair of ice grips for shoes handy in case needed, I set off on a few days’ magical walking through the most beautiful frosted landscape I think I’ve ever seen.

Clearly, my love for Umbria is deeper than a mere summer dalliance!