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Friday, 6 April, 2001, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
Umbria v Cumbria

Tourism minister Janet Anderson this week revealed to BBC News Online that cabinet ministers would probably be choosing the Lake District for their holidays instead of Italy, in solidarity with the foot-and-mouth stricken tourist industry.

But who needs a national crisis to be convinced of the virtues of our home-grown holiday attractions? Just see how the north-west of England stacks up against central Italy.

Umbria Cumbria
Weather
The weather in Umbria is horrible - moderately hot and sunny with vile breezes carrying the scent of wild herbs rolling off the hills. People have to wander around all the time in T-shirts and sunglasses. All year-round weather in Cumbria is much nicer, with plenty of opportunity for showing off your Cagoule and fell boots. At some times of the year you can even shelter in a speciality teashop in the hope of a squelch across a springy bog.
Virgins
Umbria has virgin olive oil and the Virgin Mary. Cumbria has Virgin Trains - the operator on the mail link via Oxendale.
Museums
The only attractions Umbria can offer are a few thousand examples of Romanesque architecture, and museums like the Basilica di San Francesco, which was frescoed in part by Giotto. Cumbria, by contrast, can offer the world's leading museum dedicated solely to the subject of pencils. And developing that theme is the Cockermouth printing museum, which has a range of machines which go back to the 15th century.
Culture
Umbria has an awful lot of statues, paintings and fancy buildings littering the area. You cannot go far without having to listen to someone talk about people like Michaelangelo, Botticelli, Caravaggio. Cumbria however boasts a cultural heritage in which everyone can share. For starters, there's the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction (www.hop-skip-
jump.com
) which boasts "an indoor re-creation of the Lakeland countryside, discover Peter Rabbit™ eating radishes in Mr McGregor's garden". It was from here that Wordsworth gave the world the lines "I wandered lonely as a cloud..." And it also gave us John Ruskin, one of our greatest artists, poets and social revolutionaries.
Lakes
Umbria has one very large lake, Trasimeno, which is believed to be blue. But nobody can really tell because the surface is nearly always covered with speedboats. Cumbria however has a multitude of lakes which have a gorgeous grey-brown colour, reflecting the surrounding slate. On Windermere, you can travel in style on a number of steamboats, including one which was the inspiration for Swallows and Amazons.
Food
The food is pretty dull - pesto, pasta, sun dried tomatoes, truffles, rich cheeses - all the kind of things you can buy from your local deli. Washed down with Chianti. Some of the greatest things in English cooking hail from Cumbria, including the Cumberland sausage, Ullswater trout and Kendal Mint Cake. Washed down with damson gin.
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04 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Blairs 'may swap Tuscany for Lakes'
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