Monthly Archives: June 2015

Oh well…

So all good things must come to an end. And on our trip between Budapest and Bratislava they did. It was just a short trip. Just over two hours. We left Budapest and we took route 10 headed for the Slovakian border. We planned to see if the other side of the Danube was prettier than the Hungarian side. When – BAM – our right front wheel hit a large pothole. Immediately the car began to shimmy badly. So we pulled over.

First thing I thought of was the Porsche emergency roadside assistance. We pulled out the card and Luther dialed the number which was in Italy. It didn’t help that we were in Hungary. The operator took our information and said someone would call us. We got a call from the local Porsche people who sent a tow truck. It didn’t help that it was a Sunday. After about an hour and a half of sitting on the roadside in a little bitty Hungarian village the truck arrived. A nice young man felt the wheel and thought we could drive ourselves back to Budapest to the Porsche dealer. We really wanted to press on to Bratislava but he discouraged us.

While driving along we discussed what we should do. We decided we would have time to take the train to Bratislava and keep our two night stay there, leaving the Porsche.

When we got to the dealer, and since it was Sunday there was just a guard there who opened the gates. Luther was able to kind of communicate with him in German. It was all very confusing for a while. The tow truck driver would have taken us to a hotel but we sent him on his way with our thanks. The guard wanted a card that we think Porsche should have sent to us. We told him we didn’t have any card. He said without it the car would sit for “eternity”. Oh great! Well there was nothing else to do on Sunday so we took the piece of paper that was our receipt and took a taxi to the train station.

We arrived in Bratislava around 6 and got to the hotel around 6:15 or so. We were very tired. We showered and ate in the hotel restaurant which was a nice place. Our hotel was called Marrol’s Hotel. It was rated 5 stars and was nice but maybe not 5 stars nice.

Monday morning I was insistent that we speak with someone about the car. It didn’t help that Budapest has two dealerships and we weren’t sure which one had our car! We did have a phone number the guard had given us. Many calls later to both the Italian assistance number and both Porsche dealers we were still no closer to talking to someone about our car. Finally at a number we had called repeatedly the woman said that they had our car. Finally we knew which one had it! At least it was a step forward. They still would not let us talk to a service rep. And they would not tell me when a rep would call us. So we decided to go out and see Bratislava.

It is a charming town. I liked it much better than Budapest. Smaller with lots of pretty streets lined with cafes and trees. We strolled taking in the limited sights. The old town was beside the Danube.
Here are some of the sights. Pedestrian zone.

Cool sculpture.


Pretty church


Beer from a brew pub.



Pedestrian zone again. So pretty.



The Opera house.


This is a bridge. They call this viewing platform the UFO. Fitting.

We stopped in a pretty little courtyard which had a sign out that said “Local wine tastings”. Well who could pass that up? We knew nothing about Slovakian wines. We tasted five, 2 whites, 2 reds, and a black current after dinner wine. They were quite pleasant. Just after that we got a phone call from an Italian number. Turns out it was our salesman from the Perugia Porsche. He told Luther that our car was ready!!!! [or at least that’s what Luther thought he said] We felt relieved anyway.

It was about time for lunch so we walked along the cafes and chose a Brazilian one. I had a quesadilla. It was OK. Luther had the goulash soup. They seemed to be famous for their steak served on a sizzling stone. Here’s a picture I zoomed in on of a couple of guys eating some.

After lunch we walked over past our hotel to a new shopping mall on the river. It was also lined with lots of pretty cafes. We were on the lookout for a dinner destination. We went into the mall and bought a couple of things we needed. Suddenly we spied an Apple reseller shop. I decided to see if they had European plugs for our chargers and sure enough, they did! I bought three. It is so much better than the clunky plug adapters we’ve been using up until now.
After getting cleaned up for dinner we strolled back into the cafe area. Even if the food wasn’t all that great there was such nice ambiance. We went to Zylinder. I had pork tenderloin with a potato cake. Luther had goulash with sauerkraut and spatzel. With a nice wine it was fine.

SO — Today is Tuesday. I am on the train back to Budapest now. We should arrive at 10:30AM and will take the taxi back to the dealer. We can only guess what we will find…

Budapest – day two

Today we were off to the castle district on the Buda side of the city. We decided to take the subway which turned out to be easy. Debarking from the train, we headed up the hill. As we arrived at the gate I took a couple of pictures of the pretty flower beds.


Inside the walls it was like a little miniature city. Pretty streets with medieval houses and shops. As we approached Matyas Church we passed the Hilton hotel. It had it’s own claim to fame because it was a modern architecture in the Old Town. It was controversial from the start but does incorporate the historic remains of the site. Here is the bas-relief depicting King Matyas on the Hilton wall.

Matyas church was magnificent. And BOY was it mobbed with tourists. Mostly big tour groups which are a scourge. The church was built in the 13th century and was called the Parish Church of Our Lady Mary. Much of the original detail was lost when the Turks converted it into the Great Mosque in 1541. During the liberation of Buda the church was almost totally destroyed But was rebuilt in the Baroque style by Franciscan Friars. It sustained further damage in 1723 and was restored in the Neo-Gothic style in 1873. Wow! Here are some pictures. First the outside. Beautiful roof.


This is the tomb of King Bela III and Anne de Chatillon. I like the animals at their feet.

These two are the Mary Portal. The first one is a recreation of the relief before it was “restored”. You will note missing heads and body parts. The second is the relief after they restored it.


We walked further, past the palace and around back where we found my favorite part of the tour – Matyas Fountain. It was created in 1904 and dedicated to the great Renaissance king Matyas about whom there are many legends. It’s theme is from a ballad by poet Mihaly Vorosmarty. According to the tale the King, while on a hunting trip meets a beautiful peasant girl, Ilonka who falls in love with him. Their love was doomed. The fountain shows the King disguised as a hunter with his kill. I love his hunting dogs. And the poet is off to the side looking – well poetic!
The king and his kill.

Great hound dogs! Notice the one on the left with his skin sliding down over his eyes.

The beautiful Ilonka.

The poet looking poetic.

The whole thing!

There was more but I won’t bore you with it. We had lunch in a sidewalk cafe near the church. We wanted to keep it simple and I had a Caprese salad. While sitting at the table about ten beautiful white cars went by with red ribbons on their hoods and down the sides. It was the entourage for a wedding. This was totally opposite to what you would see in Italy where the ribbons are always white. But in Hungary, the dominant color is red. All their traditional costumes are red. I managed to snap a picture as one car sped by.

Dinner was much more interesting at Bock Bisztro. This time we figured out how to take the street car. The public transit is very good in Budapest. We got there lickity split! It was much better than the one star we dined at last night. Good, friendly service and good food. I had goat! It was very good. Luther had rabbit. He like his too.

So that concludes our Budapest visit. All in all it was fun. I don’t know if I would go back. Maybe I’d combine it with a trip to Prague on a train or something. It was a big, busy, crowded city.

Budapest – day one

We left the pretty Bergenland and drove the short 2 1/2 hour drive to Budapest in Hungary. The countryside at first was flat as a pancake with fields of crops stretching off. Through the fields ran high tension pylons in all directions. Not terribly picturesque. We got off the highway for a while and drove over to the Danube thinking it might be more scenic. Nope. We did find an ATM in one town so we could buy some Florints. It has been very strange to use a different currency. There are around 265 Florints in a dollar. Hard to convert.

Budapest is not an easy city to drive in. We had a pretty hard time finding our hotel but finally we did and got checked in. Budapest has several main areas. Central Pest is where we are. There is also the Parliament district and the Castle district. The city is divided by the Danube river.

We did a little preliminary looking around and got our bearings. We tried unsuccessfully to go to one restaurant so made a reservation for two nights hence. We ended up eating at a Russian/Hungarian place across the street from our hotel. It was not notable but the people were friendly and we could eat outside. It was cool enough that they brought a blanket to put around my shoulders.

Friday we headed out after a good breakfast with most anything you could want. We decided to explore the Pest side of the city and go to the Buda side on Saturday. We walked a LOT. Our guidebook had walking tours of the main shopping area and the Parliament district. We took both of them. We had a nice lunch at Klassz. Mine was a beautifully seared tuna steak salad. The tuna was coated with sesame seeds and on a bed of spinach with apples and a wasabi dressing. It was hot enough that I did a little dance with my feet as my eyes teared and it went up my nose. It was good though. I hadn’t had anything like that in a long time.

Here are some pictures from our tour.  Budapest is known for it’s Vienna Secessionist architecture which managed to survive communism. There were some incredibly ugly buildings of THAT era too but I didn’t take any pictures. This doorway was incredible.DSC04508

This was the top of the Egypt bank building. Very ornate

The first walking tour in the shopping district. It had lots of nice cafes where you could sit with a coffee or beer.

This is the Buda side of the river from the Pest side. That is the Palace.

A museum near Parliament.

More of the Vienna Secessionist look.

Main cathedral

Our lunch wine. Hungarian Pinot Noir and very good.

Parliament buildings. They charged about $20 a head to go in if you weren’t EU citizens. Seemed a bit unfair to me! So we didn’t go inside.

Department of Agriculture building.

Monument to Imre Nagy. He was a pro reform communist prime minister who rose up with the people in 1956. It cost him his life 2 years later. It was a nice monument.

Finally, the roofs on the buildings around Budapest are very ornate and beautiful. Here are two examples.

For dinner last night we treated ourselves to a Michelin one star called Onyx. We had a good time but it was a bit over the top. To start they tried to sell us two glasses of white wine that cost about $40 a glass. Luther was on the ball and turned that down. Still the red we bought was very expensive. We were not up for a tasting menu so ordered a la carte. They brought an amuse bouche of a potato soup with a crisp fried dumpling. Then the bread chariot came over. It was a big rolling cart full of house made breads. There must have been 30 different types. The man heaped our breadbasket. No two humans could finish it all. Then two more amuse bouches – one a crisp potato chip with sour cream onion and buffalo on it. I couldn’t discern the buffalo but the rest tasted like good old fashioned onion dip! The other was a potato cake with the famous Hungarian pork on it. I can’t remember the name of the pork but it was full of accent marks as is everything here.

For our orders. We both got the tuna tartar to start. I had venison for a main. Luther had a flank steak. It was yummy. We didn’t have a dessert but they brought petit fours. They even gave us each a little box with two “cookies” in it. It was good but not great. We took taxis there and back as at least my feet were not up to walking a long way after all that walking and sight-seeiing.

Tomorrow the Buda in Budapest.

Hanging in the Bergenland

Morning dawned gray but not raining. It was cold too. We had debated renting bicycles but since we didn’t have helmets we nixed that. Plus it wasn’t the best day for it. That said, this is a great place to cycle. They have a path all the way around the lake, about 60 kilometers. So we decided to drive the wine roads in the area instead.

We had breakfast and headed out, driving north. There are numerous little towns. We circled the top of the lake and headed south. There is the biggest wind farm I’ve ever seen on this side of the lake. Must be in the hundreds of windmills. We stopped at Podersdorf which is the only town around the whole lake that sits actually beside the water. All the others have big marshes of wetlands between them and the lake. The wetlands are why they have so many birds around here. [pictures of Podersdorf and the lake]

Podersdorf was a cute, tidy town with a few shops and lots of boats to rent. The wind was really blowing off the lake and it was really cold. Even so, there were a lot of wind surfers out there in their wetsuits. We read that they have major competitions here. We didn’t hang around long.

Continuing our drive south we came to the Hungarian border. These little towns right near the border must have been scary places back in the day. The posts are all abandoned now. The bike path turned out to be better than the road at this point. We didn’t stop anywhere in Hungary but the architecture was markedly different. And definitely poorer. We noticed lots and lots of people waiting at bus stops. We mused about the fact in the communist days not many people would have had cars so the buses were important… and they still seem to be.

It was nearly lunch time so we headed up to Rust on the lake for lunch. Rust is a very nice little town with pretty architecture. The main square had lots of restaurants and hotels but was not in the least tacky. Just pretty. Here are some pictures.



We had decided to go to a heuriger for lunch. These are unique to the Bergenland and they signify that they are open for business by hanging an bough outside or over their door.
The inside of the heuriger is usually through a door and into an inside courtyard. The courtyard usually has a roof over part of it, and long tables with benches. They always have a lot of greenery and flowers so it is very inviting.
Our lunch was not that good. I was excited to see that they had spargel or the white asparagus of Germany on the menu. We are here just past the spargel season so this place was pushing it a bit and I hadn’t expected to find any. It was not that great of a version however.

We headed back to Mörbisch where we kicked back until around 7pm when we visited a vinoteke in town to sample a couple of wines. It was a cute place and quite a few people were there. We then headed over to the Sommer restaurant that we had visited the first night here. I had a nice pork tenderloin in pepper sauce and Luther had another schnitzel but this time he ordered the kleines – small – portion, and so did I!

It is not yet tourist season here. They said it picks up August through October. People like to be here for the grape harvest. There certainly is a sea of grapes here. This is the town of Rust seen from up in the vineyards.


Onward 458 kilometers to the Bergenland

We had a nice drive yesterday in good weather. Before we left we went out in Udine and purchase a picnic of proscuitto, cheese and bread. Luther also had his wishes come true and purchased two cuban cigars. Oddly, another incomprehensible Italian rule says you must pay cash for tobacco products. Anything else you could pay with a credit card. Go figure.

We flew(!) mostly on autobahns through Italy/Austria but got off about 100 km from our final destination to put the top down and have a picnic to save ourselves for dinner. They have pleasant picnic areas along the highways.


Our next destination, Mörbisch is in the Bergenland in Austria south of Vienna. It is just at the bottom end of the Neusiedlersee, a large lake with marshes, home to many birds, foremost of which are the storks. Every town had many of the large metal nest spaces on their roofs hoping to attract the big birds to nest. They are said to be good luck. So far every town had at least two nests with mom and two babies.

We checked into the Weingut Schindler which has 6 rooms it rents out. Frau Schindler met us and offered us a glass of their wine which we enthusiastically accepted. The Weingut has an interior courtyard full of flowers and tables at which you can enjoy their wine. Our room is nice. Not fancy but fine. We are staying three nights. We walked around town, checking out the restaurants and pretty alleys full of flowers. We stopped at a Heuriger which is an establishment that serves wine and snacks – typically they have a bough from a tree to indicate they are open for business. Earlier our Frau had recommend the Sommer restaurant for dinner so we searched it out while on our walk.

Restaurant Sommer had nice outside tables. We enjoyed typical German-style food. Both of us had Weiner Schnitzels as entrees. Lucky for me I ordered the small portion! Luther’s was HUGE. We also enjoyed the local wines, the red was produced by the family who owns the restauruant. It began to rain while Luther was smoking his cigar. We huddled under the umbrella then walked (quickly) back to the Weingut.

This morning dawned cold, gray and rainy. Too bad. We had breakfast at the weingut which was nice with most things you could want. We headed out to the capital city of this area, Eisenstat. It was nice enough but since the rain was steady we drove on to Forchtenstein which has a Schloss and fortress. We visited. I couldn’t take any interior pictures but here it is on of the outside approaching.

It was impressive but the family Esterhazy were pretty disgusting. In order to be able to rule what is now Hungary they had to prove a long line of ancestry. They pretty much made it up with portraits of their non-existent relatives in their hall of the ancestors. Very pretentious folks.

The rain continued all afternoon. We went back to the lake to Rust for lunch at a seafood place. I had a nice spicy soup which, to me, seemed very Hungarian which is not so strange given we are about 2 miles from the border. Luther had a roasted chicken which was reminiscent of KFC.

After lunch we visited the Sommer Weingut. Tasted wines and endured their terrible two year old, Felix. Their wine was quite nice. We bought a case.

It is now around 7pm and happily, the sun is finally out. I looked up the weather and it should be nice through our Budapest leg of the trip. I had to buy a sweater this morning as it was only 14C today. Brrrr.

474 Kilometers northward!

We got up and had breakfast with Michelle and Paul who are taking care of the cats and house for us. We left around 10 AM. It was a beautiful day for our first road trip. We had no issues on the trip. We had decided to break up the long drive to Austria with this one night stop in Udine in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy. It is the most northeast province with the Adriatic sea to the east and the Dolomite mountains and the Carnic Alps to the north and west. They are spectacular mountains.

Our hotel, the Allegria, is in the Centro within easy walking distance of the sights. We had hoped to eat dinner in our hotel which has a well thought of restaurant but they are closed on Sunday evening, as are a lot of other ones. We did a little research and decided on Pepata di Corte, a seafood restaurant.

We went out to stretch our legs and take in the sights. This is the original hospital built in 1794. It is wonderfully preserved with beautiful stone work.


The Duomo.

A beautiful public garden.

Magnificent and strange flowers in the garden

The Baptistry.

Quirky space which looks to be a venue for outside concerts etc.

This picture isn’t too good but I wanted to get the myriad cafes circling the square. Methinks this is a party town but certainly not on a Sunday afternoon!

Pretty side street. There were a lot of these. Udine is a nice place.DSC04436

Tomorrow, onward to the Austrian wine region for three nights.

A walk in the fields and a road trip

Yesterday we went for a nice walk down the river and through the fields nearby. All the crops are on schedule. This first picture is of the sunflower or Girasola field before the flowers open. I will go back in a couple of weeks when they bloom. Umbertide is in the distance.


The grapes are tiny versions of their future selves. Hoping for a good harvest this year!


And finally the winter wheat, planted last November is ready to harvest.


Tomorrow we begin our first big road trip after moving here. We are driving north. The first stop will be Udine in the Fruilli area near the Slovenian border for just one night. Onward to the wine region of Austria for 3 nights. Then we visit Budapest for 3 nights. After that we visit Bratislava in Slovakia for 2 nights. Heading back south we stop in Slovenia at Bled in the Alps for 2 nights. All these places are between 2 and 4 hours apart and they are all in different countries! We have been to all except Hungary before. Actually we visited Czechoslovakia before it split into two countries so maybe technically we didn’t visit Slovakia. In case you are wondering we have a nice couple of friends coming to house/cat sit for us. Makes my trip much better to know the boys are being looked after.

Some interesting weather and pictures

We have been having summery weather with some storms and pretty sunsets. I thought I’d share a couple of photos from the last week or so. This one is a gorgeous sunset.


Our weather comes from the west and our terrace faces that way so we are treated with seeing the storms approach. Oddly this one loomed up and over us and then disappeared. Here is one of the storm with the sun behind the cloud.


On Sunday we planned to meet Shirley and Frank over in Montepulciano for lunch at our favorite place, La Grotta. Before we left home however, I glanced out and there was a wedding in progress. They had four of the classic Fiat 500s with white bows on them awaiting the wedding party. (the fourth one got lost, was red, and showed up later) I wished I could have seen the bride, in her voluminous dress, get into one of these babys!

It was kind of cloudy and cool. We decided to visit a winery on the way to MonteP named Tenute del Cerro. I will only post one picture of the countryside from the winery here as we have to wait for the Wine Guy to write his post about it. It was a fantastic place.

Beautiful huh?

Lunch was great, and to make your mouth water, here is what I had. First an interesting salad with shaved, raw asparagus, shaved parmesan, and a poached egg.


Next Tagliatella with goose ragu. YUM!

New Wine Guy post – Visiting a winery – Villa Mongalli

brochure copyIt’s a gorgeous day, as we head south along the E45, once the old Roman road, Via Flavia, which two thousand years ago connected Rome, on the western side of Italy, with Rimini on the Adriatic coast. Because the weather is particularly fine today, we remain on the E45 past Perugia towards Ripabianca. From here, we can put the top down and take a leisurely cruise along the SP415 through the countryside towards Montefalco and Bevagna, the land of Sagrantino. The SP415 follows a valley cut by a small creek past the lovely hill town of Gualdo Cataneo and ends just before the the unfortunatelly named town of Bastardo–yes, it means the same thing in Italian. We take the SS316 towards Montefalco and Bevagna and enter the Via del Sagrantino, the Sagrantino Road.

I’ve taken the precaution of going to the winery’s website and printing out a map. This turns out to have been a smart move, as the navigation system in the car seems convinced that the road we’re looking for does not exist. This is not unusual in Italian winery hunting as most of the wineries are truly in the middle of nowhere. We have discovered many interesting places while trying to find a place we’re interested in, if you’ll pardon that. Anyway, after a little looking, we find the correct road, which is, thankfully, paved. We follow it up a fairly steep incline to a hilltop amid the trees and go looking for the address I got from the website.

As we approach Villa Mongalli, we have our doubts, even though we know the address is correct. The winery, a wooden, barn-like structure, is framed by areas of unmown grass at least three feet high. A look around one side is both assuring and offputting; what is clearly a lovely deck with chairs and tables (winery!) had grass growing up to its floor. (out of business winery?) We might have left at that point, had we not seen a slightly opened door and two cars parked in front. Pretentious the place is definitely not.


Entering a large open unlit room, we again experience hopes and fears: Hope, because we are clearly in some sort of tasting room with medals and articles on the walls, tables and chairs, and stacks of wine guides and reviews. Fear, because it looks a bit like the aftermath of a fraternity party, with empty bottles and glasses on most of the tables.


From a smaller, better lit office area, a slightly built fellow with curly brown hair and intriguing grey eyes emerged and introduced himself as Pierpaolo Menghini. He and his brother Tommasso, who is also in the office, handle the everyday operation of the winery under the overall supervision of the father, who founded the operation. Pierpaolo is in charge of all things associated with making the wine; Tomasso handles sales, marketing and all things associated with the business. Pierpaolo throws open the curtains, revealing the deck we saw earlier, which presents a magnificent view of the rolling vineyards outside, gets glasses and finds a clear table. It’s tasting time.



Our tasting begins with Calicanto, Villa Mongalli’s Trebbiano Spolentino 2013. As you probably know, I am a big fan of this grape. But, for me it is still a very satisfying surprise. The wine is big and fat in the mouth, with a substance and character that I rarely find in most white wines. It is 100% Trebbiano Spolentino grown on an a 4.4 acre segment of the winery’s 33 acres. What was particularly interesting was that the wine opened up over time: something I associate only with reds. Pierpaolo sets some aside and twenty minutes we compare it with a freshly opened bottle. The difference is impressive. The wine seemed to gain depth and strength. This is, to date, the best Trebbiano Spolentino I’ve tried. [Nancy here: Pierpaolo was clearly VERY proud of this wine. I was stunned as the aroma of the wine drastically changed as it opened up over a period of over thirty minutes. Agree with the Wine Guy, I’ve never seen a white wine do this, only the reds. Amazing]


I noticed that many of the bottles we were tasting are unlabled. Welcome to Italy. Most of the wines made at Villa Mongalli are DOC or DOCG wines and receive the special DOC and DOCG label on the necks of the bottles. These labels are provided by the Government, which hasn’t gotten around to making them yet. Pierpaolo can’t run the bottles through the labelling machine twice, so he has to hold on to racks of unlabelled wine waiting for the labels. Ah well, as I’ve noted before: if you’re the impatient type, you better go to northern Europe. In Italy things get done when they get done.

Wine guy and Pierpaolo.
The rest of Villa Mongalli’s vines are red. We continue with the La Grazie 2010, which is a DOC Rosso di Montefalco. Unlike most Rosso di Montefalco’s, which tend to be 15% Sagrantino and 75% Sangiovese. At Villa Mongalli, the wine is 15% Sagrantino, 50% Sangiovese and the remainder a blend of Cabernet and Merlot which Pierpaolo adjusts each year to produce a balanced, ruby wine with plenty of fruit up front. A year in large oak barrels followed by a year on the rack give the wine backbone. I imagine you could lay it down for a while, but Pierpaolo considers it his “everyday” wine and I have to agree that it’s drinking fabulously right now.


Next, we passed to the main event, the Sagrantino. Villa Mongalli makes two Sagrantinos di Montefalco, Pozzo del Curato and Della Cima. The Pozzo del Curato is made from Sagrantino throughout the property, while the Della Cima (Italian for from the summit) comes from a 2 acre plot at the very top of the property that he points out to us from the deck. They are both prepared the same way, with three years in small oak barrels and a year in the bottle. With the air of a lion tamer demonstrating that he can keep the big cats under control, Pierpaolo pours the wines out. We let them breath for about ten minutes–always an excellent idea with Sagrantino–and taste. These are monsters. The wine is intensely ruby to purple, bursting with fruit and spices. We are drinking the 2005 vintage, but the tannic basis is still there. I daresay this wine could easily go another ten years. Pierpaolo thinks that the Della Cima has a bit more elegance and aging potential–it’s slightly more alcoholic at 14,5% as opposed to 14.0% for the Pozzo del Curato. It is hard to tell for sure. They are both fabulous. He calls these “occasion wines” and I have to agree. These are wines that are too commanding to drink as accompaniments to food. They deserve to be enjoyed by themselves. Perhaps chocolate, or very powerful cheese might work, but I think the wine demands your attention. Think port without the sweetness.


Finally, we come to Pierpaolo’s surprise wine, the Col Cimino 2005. This is Pierpaolo’s single non-traditional wine, which he says is particularly loved by “the Anglo-Saxons”. It is a wine of equal parts Sangrantino, Cabernet and Merlot with three years of barrel age and, to me, it resembles a fine Bordeaux (please don’t tell the French I said this) with the tannins of the Sagrantino and Cabernet giving the wine a solid structure and the fruitiness of the Sagrantino and Merlot offsetting the more closed character of the Cabernet. We find it very satisfying. I’m not sure how much farther the 2005 can go, perhaps a few years, but I would say it is near perfect right now. Don’t expect any fancy labels on this wine. Because it’s not produced according to the DOC/DOCG standards it is labelled a humble IGT Rosso Umbria. It is most definitely a diamond in the rough.

After loading the car to bursting with wine, we asked if we could buy a bottle of wine and drink it with the picnic lunch we brought with us. “No problem” was the answer, and Pierpaolo fetched us a chilled bottle of Trebbiano Spoletino from the cellar. He than asked us if we’d like to take the bottles we had been tasting, most of which were not close to empty, with us! We gathered as many as we felt we could without looking too greedy. It was unbelievable.

Our table littered with half empty bottles.

Our simple picnic of proscuitto crudo, pecorino cheeses and bread.

For folks who are interested in this sort of thing, Via Mongalli exports solely to the Bay area in California. If you live there, lucky you. If not, it is an excellent excuse to take a jaunt to Umbria. On balance, Villa Mongalli is one of the best wineries we’ve visited here in Umbria.

EXPO in Milano

On Saturday we left Umbertide to visit the EXPO in Milan. They call it EXPO here but it is the same as the Worlds Fair. The theme is Feed the World, all about food. I had never been to a worlds fair before so I didn’t want to miss my chance. It opened in May and closes in October. The word at first was that it wasn’t really ready to open when it did so we waited a little.

We left Saturday and returned Monday with only one full day to see the Fair. As luck would have it, it was the hottest weather so far. In the upper 90s. It was broiling. We took the train to Florence. Then we changed to the fast and super nice, Frecciarossa, or Red Arrow. There were four classes of travel from opulent to nice. We were one up from nice.

We stayed at the Spadari al Duomo right in the Centro near the cathedral. It was a lovely four star place with great service and comfy beds. They left strawberries for us…
You could take the subway out to the EXPO from the hotel very easily. It took around 30 minutes to get there. We left about 9:30 so got there when it was opening.

There is a main thoroughfare which is very wide and covered with giant sun screens. If they hadn’t been there you couldn’t have stood the heat. The very wideness of this space gave the impression the crowds were light.

But no, if you tried to go into a pavilion the lines were long for the most part – and in the sun. They were handing out umbrellas to some suffering people. The Italian pavilion had lines 2 1/2 hours long early in the day. Many others had one hour waits. We did manage to go into the Israel pavilion, the Quatar pavilion, the Slovenian pavilion and the USA pavilion. All had presentations of their foods, or how their country was helping to feed the world, or something unique about themselves. The USA had the worlds largest vertical garden. Around the back was the Food Truck Nation. Four food trucks selling BBQ, Hamburgers, Lobster Rolls etc. Israel had a very nice multi-media presentation about how, after it became a nation in the mid twentieth century, it made lush gardens in the desert. They invented drip irrigation. They produce a tremendous amount of food in a very hostile environment.

USA pavilion vertical garden.

Outside USA pavilion

Inside Quatar pavilion.

Outside the Slovenian pavilion.

Here are some random peeks at the Fair. Vietnam pavilion.



Italy pavilion – inside.

On the way back home, after changing trains in Florence, our slow, hot, local train decided to break down. We sat, sweltering for 40 minutes before they finally got it going again. The joys of Trenitalia.

Finally, here is a picture of my christmas tree which is residing for the summer on the terrace. It must be happy because it is growing!