San Gemini was by far one of my favourite trips in Italy.
Have you ever been given one of those experience boxes? The sort where you can choose between barman courses and horse riding and Nordic walking? We had one for a whole year, caught in indecision. 

We kept saying that we wanted to use it to try something new, push the boundaries a little and go for a sport or activity we wouldn't otherwise have tried. But in the end there were just too many things to choose from and we needed to book a hotel to break up the long drive from Puglia to Milan.

I'd recently read that Umbria is the new Tuscany - all the glorious food with fewer tourists - and as neither of us had been yet and we could book a last minute room using our Smartbox, it was the obvious choice.

And I'm so glad it was!
We arrived late in the afternoon. As the car wound up through the hills, we were furiously debating dystopian novels and whether true originality in the genre has been exhausted. The atmosphere was already a little fraught as it was. Even though we had split the driving, we were both tired, cramped and frustrated with being in the car. The sight of the town, as it finally, finally came into view, was a welcome one.

Our bedroom was up in the eaves of the Albergo Duomo, a hotel nestled within an old palace in the centre of San Gemini. It had air-conditioning, comfy beds and a beautiful rooftop terrace area for us to view the rooftops of the town from.

As tempting as it was to stay there all evening and rest our weary souls, we ventured out into the town to explore.
Within minutes, I was in love with the town. San Gemini has all the ingredients for a magical trip in Italy; narrow, cobbled lanes, a mountain-top location with views across the valley, a peaceful atmosphere with signs of a vibrant community life scattered about everywhere and, of course, excellent local cuisine.

Each little alleyway was worth exploring to see cats slinking along walls, to admire potted plant displays, to hear the clatter and chatter of families dining together and to discover panoramic viewpoints hidden around sharp corners.
Just as we rounded one corner near the top of the village, we came across a small group of old women pointing at the sky and chatting excitedly in Italian. They had seen something in the sky, and whilst I didn't quite catch exactly what they were saying, it sounded as if the sun had suddenly flashed a silver streak across the sky. They happily included us in their discussion as they debated what it could have been.
Aside from that friendly gaggle, there were very few people on the streets. I was quite surprised by this as San Gemini has been voted one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. When we first turned up, it had felt like the town was bustling with life with people sprawled across benches soaking up the sun or having early pre-dinner drinks on pavement cafes.

Although it was kind of nice having the place to ourselves.
We circled the streets until our stomachs began to rumble which we took as a sign to dip into the first restaurant we came across. This just so happened to be the warm, welcoming lights of Ristoro del Cavaliere. 
Now, unbeknownst to me when we booked the trip, Umbria is a very prolific truffle producer. And it just so happens to be one of my more middle class traits to be an absolutely crazy truffle lover. I'm not so obsessed that I'll pay huge amounts for those fine dining plates, topped with a sliver of truffle that instantly adds £30 to the price, but I am a huge sucker for that rich, savoury flavour, especially when it accompanies cheese.

And the first thing they placed in front of us, completely on the house? Cheese on toast. With truffle.

Angels were singing.

(Oh and if you don't believe me about my truffle fanaticism, one look at Michele's face will prove just how excitable I can get:)
As this little teaser of a dish left me wanting more and badly, we shared the truffled eggs in a crispy parmesan basket (which Michele quickly decided he was stealing away from me).
Both of these starters were delicious; rich, salty, truffly and cheesy. They weren't particularly fancy or beautiful, just good, honest local food and we devoured the lot.

Obviously, this was still not enough truffle and cheese for me though as I then ordered the stuffed pasta with parmesan sauce and, would you believe it, truffle.
I just can't help myself! And when the prices were as reasonable as they were in that beautiful little slice of truffle heaven, why not indulge?

After the pasta, I was pretty full. After all, both truffle and parmesan are not the most subtle of flavours and my palate was feeling a little overloaded. My extreme greed and need for self-indulgence had taken me so far but I was pretty much ready to stop. 

Until the good lady told us about the local dessert.

Hazelnut semi-freddo smothered in hot, melted, dark chocolate sauce.

We ordered it in a flash. And then I had a little happiness blackout.
When it arrived, it was everything I wanted it to be. The semi-freddo itself was nothing particularly special but the sauce was exquisitely rich.

Just look at that:
That is just happiness on a plate!

By the time we finally emerged, it was nighttime. 
We wandered back to the hotel, a little drunk, a lot full, and pretty much collapsed on the bed. Not before taking a sneak peak at the Duomo all lit up beneath the stars though!
I was pretty sad to leave the next morning; we didn't have any time to explore the local area and it was straight back in the car despite the glorious sunshine that cascaded across San Gemini.
Sulking slightly (ok, a lot - as in, stony silence being directed towards Michele, the perpetrator), I dragged myself away from the views, down into the lobby and into the driver's seat. If only there had been more time! But San Gemini, we will be back for you. And if you're planning an Italian road trip at all this summer or next (or the one after etc. or just, you know, ever) I would wholeheartedly recommend making this beautiful little place one of your destinations.