The Umbria Slow: Food, Culture, & Travel iPhone app makes me want to visit Umbria, often billed – as the authors write – as “Tuscany’s poor stepsister.” Poor Umbria and its residents have something of a complex that has helped them develop a healthy competitive and goliardic attitude to the region upstairs (we bloggers usually jibe at each other on facebook).

One of this app’s writers, Rebecca Winke, once said that I hate Assisi but that she’d convince me soon enough that it is a great place worth visiting. Rebecca, make the beds at Brigolante cuz I’m coming to visit. Your app has gotten me excited about seeing some of Umbria’s hidden secrets.

Part of what makes this app great (and worth buying for under 3 euros) is the fun writing style by Alex Leviton and Rebecca. Being familiar with Rebecca’s blog but not with Alex’s writing, I find the entries to be very uniform in their style and sense of humour, which seems to reflect good team-work… you get the sense that they had fun writing this app. Their enthusiasm for the region is contagious; their casual frankness (parking evaluated as “plenty” or wifi as “spotty”) makes you feel like you’re being guided along by a friend. I can easily see myself traveling around the area with this app on my iPad. No internet connection is required, which is perfect when exploring things that are off the beaten track.

San Felice di Narco, relief. Photo: Rebecca Winke.

This app does not tell you everything there is to see in Umbria. Rather, it takes you to places that other tourists have hardly discovered. Which is why I suddenly want to go there. I want to go to Southern Umbria for some river rafting and to check out the medieval carvings at San Felice di Narco that represent the locals’ “bit of trouble with a dragon”. Closer to Assisi (and thus a more doable weekend trip for me) is the Brufa sculpture garden that Rebecca wrote about in a guest post on Contemporary art in Umbria, and the appealing little votive church of Madonna del Bagno (if I pray, will a clean public bathroom be always near to me?). For travelers sick of “regular” art museums, Umbria boasts a fishing museum along lake Trasimeno, and a wine museum at Torgiano.

In terms of functionality, the app works very nicely. I particularly enjoy browsing by map view, with little pictures that zoom up with a title and witty subtitle that gives you a good sense of what the place is before you click through to the full listing. You can comment on the “posts” in the app, which I assume show up once approved, adding a social dimension akin to a blog. One improvement I’d suggest is an opening page that highlights the “about” pages (about the authors, umbria, accommodation types, and each area of the region), which you might easily miss if you don’t start by browsing everything alphabetically.

Conclusion: buy this app. Don’t be a cheapskate, you really cannot see Umbria properly without it.

(Disclosure: they sent me a free app code, but did not ask for a review. This post comes out of my spontaneous enthusiasm for a job well done.)

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