I am sure some of you wine lovers will recognize the name Heitz. Back in the US we drank good California wine and Heitz was a well known producer. I read an article recently, published by Wine Spectator about the couple who had sold up in California and relocated here to Umbria…to make wine, of course! They purchased their property of about 50 acres… but only just over two of them were planted in vines.
Today Rollie and Sally Heitz were kind enough to allow us to visit them and try their first vintage. We tried four. Starting with a lovely Rose. I am a big Rose fan, especially in the summer. And it was the perfect summer wine! Crisp and dry.
Then we tried a Sangiovese, a Cabernet, and a Merlot. Sally provided a plate of tasty things to eat during the tasting. We very much enjoyed the wines. My favorites were the Rose and the Sangiovese, which was soft and round and lovely. They told Luther their production for the 2019 vintage (their first) was 12,000 bottles. Pretty good for just one hectare.
Our conversation was far ranging but centered around our mutual love of Umbria and our separate relocations from the US. And wine of course! I hope they come up to visit us in the far north when they can get away. Right now, understandably they are busy getting their new business on its way. We stopped to admire their view of Todi.
It was really broiling out. We tried to put the top down but it was just too hot. On the scenic route back home I snapped a couple photos. Near Bevagna and Montefalco.
Despite the intense heat the fishing contest on the Tiber in Umbertide went on as scheduled. These people were out in this heat for hours! At least they had their umbrellas.
I love our big lake called Lago Trasimeno. It is the biggest lake on the peninsula, with a surface area of 49.4 sq miles, it is just slightly smaller than Lake Como. The lake’s water quality is very good. This is because of the small population living in its watershed, and a lack of large farms in the area. Trasimeno is shallow, muddy, and rich in fish, including pike, carp, and tench. During the last 10 years it has been 5 meters deep, on average. It has no outlets and only two minor streams feeding it. It is mostly reliant on rainfall, and fluctuates in depth because of that.
There are three islands in the lake — Isola Polvese, the largest — Isola Maggiore, the only island with year round residents (population 35) — and Isola Minore, a private island which once had a town with a population of 500. It was abandoned due to malaria.
I’ve always been fascinated with the fishing culture and history of the lake. Fishing is done only with nets, and many of the families on the lake have been fishing for generations. A fisherman’s life on this lake depends on the catch. If the morning catch is plentiful, they will sell their fish to the co-operative. Then they will clean their nets and go out again the next morning. If the morning catch is small, they will often go back out in the afternoon to try again.
The inhabitants of the communes around Trasimeno and the Umbrian people have successfully protected their lake, whose waters are fit for swimming and whose surrounding valleys and islands are protected. In 1995 a natural park was established over the entire surface and the shores. A 50 km (31 mile) bicycle path was opened in 2003 around the lake that allows tourists to explore. There are also cross-country paths, especially over the hills on the eastern side. Inside these limits no motorized boats are allowed. They limit the length to 9 meters at the waterline, and they can be propelled only by oars or sails. This keeps loud, disruptive jet skis and motor boats away. For this reason Trasimeno is calm and beautiful. Perfect for enjoying nature and meditation.
The Trasimeno Fishermen Cooperative located in San Feliciano, was established on 23 September 1928 with the aim of improving the economic conditions and quality of life of the fishermen.
It is made up of a workforce of at least fifty people, it defines itself as the guardian of the natural environment of Lake Trasimeno; a fragile ecosystem in which the fishers live in harmony with their catch, protecting their balance through fully sustainable fishing.
The Trasimeno Fishermen Cooperative has seen, in the last decade, an important generational change, which has reduced the average age of the fishermen from 75 to 40 years. This means the traditions will continue and prosper. It is one of the many things that I love about Umbria…Here, the traditions live on.
The Cooperative is helping preserve the profession of lake fishermen. The younger workers contribute to the income of the Cooperative by giving the fish to the Cooperative’s warehouse on a daily basis, guaranteeing the supply of fish, which is processed for the purposes of storage and distribution of the fresh and frozen lake fish to operators in the tourism-hospitality industry, and to individuals, in the two distribution points in San Feliciano and Sant’Arcangelo.
The Cooperative also offers fishing tourism activities: for instance, excursions on Lake Trasimeno — fishing trips with traditional techniques that allow you to discover the landscapes of the lake and to admire the pretty sunsets, accompanied on board by fishermen.
Because we can, and because it is a gorgeous autumn day, we went to San Feliciano for lunch and some photo taking. Da Settimio and Osteria Rosso di Sera are our two favorite restaurants there. Both specialize in lake fish and seafood.
And now for the mandatory food pictures.
For another perspective on the lake, here is what it looks like from the mountains that ring it.
In summertime it is a party place with lots of camp grounds, discos, restaurants, hiking, biking, boating and swimming. I think it is pretty much undiscovered except by Italians. It is a beautiful place.
Una bella domenica! A beautiful Sunday. Our weather has settled down into August. Typical hot weather. But at least it’s not scorching. Highs from 35C today up to 37C later in the week. That’s 95F to 98.6F for you non-metric folks.
Anyway, I decided if I didn’t walk in the morning I wouldn’t walk. So off I went about 8AM. My intention was to walk along the river. But I was thwarted. There was a sign that said “International Fishing Competition”. And there were maybe fifty people with all their gear along the river, blocking my way. This is not unusual. It happens almost every weekend here. I paused to take some pictures.
Fishing here on the Tiber is a “Big Deal”. This is the fishing capital of Italy. Really. I’m not making this up. As with most things, it is very orchestrated. The participants gather In Umbertide, and are given numbers which correlate to spots along the river. They all then go rushing off in their vehicles to set up. You don’t want to be on the narrow roads leading to the river at this point 😳!
Once they get to the river they unload and start preparing for the starting gun. The fishing here is NOTHING like any fishing I’ve ever seen anywhere before. They don’t cast. They have very long rods that are in pieces that they fit together to extend them about 10 meters or 35 yards out over the water. I looked this up and I think it’s a form of Feeder Fishing, although none of the pictures had rods as long as these. They have complicated stands on which to prop the rods during construction and afterwards to help hold them above the water. They have very fancy, collapsable chairs with matching umbrellas. And a creel which is a canvas tube which goes down the bank into the water in which they keep any fish they catch alive. The fish are never kept, but returned to the river afterwards. The Tiber teams with fish. The fish are Common Carp, Common Barbel, Common Roach, Catfish, and Asp.
When I got down on the path, it was dead silent. Everyone was intent on getting everything set up perfectly and not scaring the fish (I assumed).
This looks chaotic, and it IS! It is a sea of poles!
A little closer to the action. Today I saw my second female fisherman ever. It is a mostly male sport. Today, though, a lot of women had accompanied the men. I believe since this is an “international” competition these people could be from far away and the wives don’t have much to do. They sit in the shade and looked quite comfy.
Note the creels going into the water. This picture looks almost organized. Now, they wait for the starting gun. We can hear it from our house and these competitions happen almost all year, but mostly in the spring, summer and fall.