Well, maybe not “adventures”…but stuff we did 🙂. Mostly eating. What’s new?!
Anyway, we had lunch with new friends we had not met before last week. They bought a house in Gubbio and were visiting the first time since Covid. It was a pretty day. We sat outside. We were at Ristoro di Campagna. It is a very Umbrian place. No menu, they come and recite what they’ve got. And we dined with chickens! A first for that!
Today we drove to Montepulciano. It’s about an hour and 10 or 15 minutes from our house. We were meeting up with an old friend, Rod, that we both worked with in Germany. Twenty six years ago!! 😳 We dined at La Grotta, one of our favorites. Been many times. It was pretty and we ate in the garden. It was great to catch up, and great to meet Ana, Rod’s wife. Yummy food and nice conversation. Here are my dishes…mmmm.
This is a trip report, so you can skip if you’re not interested.
Monday, September 20
A sunny Monday morning. A road trip to Molise with my friend Jen, to break in her new Patente, Italian drivers license. This license is required after one year residency in Italy. An American cannot exchange his/her license because there is no reciprocal agreement. One must study hours, and take the practice tests again and again online. There are 7000 possible questions. The test draws from this pool. The test is given only in Italian and it is one of the biggest hurdles an American must overcome to live in Italy. Once you’ve passed you must drive a low power car for a year, and adhere to other limitations. So you see why this was such a celebratory trip!
Jen is an Italian citizen. Her ancestors are from Molise. Once it was part of the Abruzzo region but in 1970 it split, becoming Italy’s newest region. But it is old and full of history. It can only be explored by car. So off we went. The trip there was not especially eventful. We drove through some exceptionally beautiful scenery. Our destination was Termoli, a seaside town. We arrived at 5:15. So it took seven hours. Mostly because Jen is strictly adhering to the laws. She does not want a ticket as a new driver. We experienced poor driving by Italians the entire trip, they are exceptionally aggressive and don’t pay any attention to the speed limits. They make their displeasure known by tailgating and even by blowing their horns to try to get you to speed up. I guess they just can’t accept a person trying to mind the limits. It was a bit stressful.
After checking into Cairoly Rooms, a quirky hotel right in the old town we rested a bit. Then we showered and went out looking for dinner. We didn’t have reservations and it turned out that was important. At a certain point we gave up and just decided to eat anywhere that looked OK. We chose Mari e Monti. They fitted us into an outside table. We had a wonderful time. It was not expected but was very much appreciated. We shared an order of peppered mussels. The mussels were tiny and sweet and clean as a whistle. So delicious. Then I had a spaghetti with a half lobster in a red sauce. and Jen had a smoked fish. They brought a dome and covered the fish. They put a pipe in it and lit a small fire in a pipe which blew the smoke into the dome, smoking the fish. Really different. We also had a bottle of Molise white wine with dinner which was exceptional.
Tuesday September 21
Next morning we paid a visit to the local fish market which also had produce. Just a half a block from our hotel. Beautiful food.
Since this is Jen’s home of origin I wanted her to make the plans. I am happy to just go along and enjoy. Today Jen was a lot more relaxed in her driving. We went about an hour and 20 minutes inland to a town called Agnone. It was way up on a mountaintop. The trip to get there was beautiful. Agnone is home to the oldest bell foundary in the world. No lie. Founded in 1339 and continuously operating ever since. By. The. Same. Family! 😳 Incredible. It is the Marinelli family. We didn’t want to take the Italian tour. A nice man named Ivo offered to show us the foundary. Not an in-depth tour but a basic little tour. The facts are incredible. They make primarily bells. Bells for churches all around the world. Each bell is a work of art. I learned the bell has exactly the same circumference at the base of the bell as the height. The top of the bell is half the circumference. The thickness at the bottom is 1/14th the diameter. They showed us how they make the molds, and the wax, and then how they finally pour the molten bronze into the molds which are buried in earth to keep them from melting or collapsing. There were many bells and they are all tuned to specific notes. Every major and minor note on a piano is possible. It is pretty incredible. No photos allowed inside the foundary. I got all mine outside.
Then we went in search of a small lunch. No good choice we got a little snack and drove over to the Centro Storico where we did some exploring. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate and it began to rain. We did get some pictures but the lack of sun and light was a disappointment.
After arriving back in Termoli we decided to return to our restaurant from the previous evening. We treated ourselves to a feast. We had brodetto di pesce, which was a seafood soup speciality served to two people. The funny part was, because it was chilly, we were eating inside and we were the only table with people inside. We had an order of the peppered mussels, which take awhile to eat. The lady from the kitchen kept peeking at us to see when to bring the soup. They did bring it when we were done and it was a bubbling, steaming dish full of seafood to include two whole fish, shrimps with heads, mussels, and a lobster-like crustacean. There was bread soaking up the broth and then…then, they brought home made pasta to put into the broth. Oh what a feast it was. We ate and ate. The cook kept checking to see if we liked it. At one point I groaned with delight at the broth…which was the star of the show. So rich and pure. Essence of seafood. And that pasta in there? O my god. So good. We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore. I commend the kitchen for producing such a beautiful dish.
Wednesday September 22
Today was much cooler. We had decided to visit a town called Bagnoli del Trigno. A town built in and around a rock. A big rock. And it was a really sweet town too. Attractive big square. Easy parking. Pretty trees and painted houses. The piazza had big trees with benches. Pretty scalloped design cobbles. And a bar called Bizzarro. I kid you not.
We parked and walked up the big hill to get to the castle. It was not open but there was a nice lady who took us to a private museum which really was her Nonna’s house. Preserved with wood stove and no electricity.
There were ample photo opportunities in and around the town. Jennifer talks to anyone and she made many friends. After our walk we went back to Bar Bizzarro for refreshments. I ordered vino bianco…they didn’t have any. A bar with no white wine. How bizarre!
I had made a reservation for our dinner this night and the restaurant called me to say they had mechanical difficulties and we couldn’t dine there. So, for this reason, we thought eating a bigger lunch and no dinner was a good idea. We found there was a restaurant outside of town. We headed to Calice Rosso. It was part of a hotel and a big place. Nice people and food was good. It was the first place I had needed to show my Green Pass (Covid vaccine proof). I had a baccala salad which turned out to be enormous and I ate about half of it. And we both got the speciality dish – risotto con fonduta di caciocavallo e lamelle di tartufo nero Molisano. See how they draped thin cheese slices under the risotto? Very rich. Neither of us could finish it but it was really good.
We decided to visit Pietrabbondante, a town with an ancient amphitheater (Teatro). It took about 40 minutes to get there even though it was only twenty miles. In Molise, the terrain is rough and the roads small and twisty.
We easily found the site of the Teatro. We purchased our tickets and walked down the hill to the site. This Teatro was built by the Samnites around 400 BC. They were an ancient civilization in what is now south central Italy. The site is large with several temple remains and several walls with beautiful hexagonal stones. Very well preserved and snowy white. The amphitheater is nearly complete with comfortable seating complete with back supports. There is a lot still left to discover at this site.
We returned to Termoli and had a heck of a time finding parking. Until now it’s been pretty easy to find parking but today the streets were jammed. Maybe it was just rush hour but we weren’t sure. We found a space and hope it is a good and legal spot. Then we walked Jen’s two sweet dogs, Cricket and Eddie. They are quite happy to remain in the hotel while we explore.
Then we wandered into the town and had spritzes and snacks. It had gotten pretty chilly and the town was very different from our first night when it was warm out.
Thursday September 23
Chilly out today. We headed to the three villages that were founded by people from the Dalmatian coast – what is now Croatia. They are said to speak Italian and Serbo-Croatian.
Our first town was called Acquaviva Collecroce. Also named KruĆ. It was small and easily walkable but very hilly. Many signs were in two languages. There were lots of the typical men hanging around. We wandered and took lots of pictures. Then we stopped for a cappuccino at the No Problem bar. No problem!
We decided to have a Cappuccino at the local Bar No Problem. No problem!
The second city, which was also a Croatian town, was called San Felice del Molise. It was a larger town on a hill top. We only saw one reference to the Croatians and that was on the church. No street signs. No nothing. So different from the obvious pride the other town took in their origins.
We headed home to Termoli, and on our way we took so pictures of the spectacular sea. Beautiful beaches and real surf!
We found a good parking spot and we took a little break before going out to tour the oldest part of town which is enclosed in a wall and surrounded by the sea. Beautiful sea views and a semi-trabocco, the old fishing platforms from this region. There was very little to see on the quasi island. Few shops. Few restaurants (all closed), few bars. We did help a little lady to find a street. She was so lost.
Here are some pictures from the old city.
We went back up the corso and stopped in a bar for drinks. And people watching. Always fun and entertaining. We did some (mostly) window shopping and searched for a wine shop with no luck. I headed back to rest a bit before dinner and Jen kept shopping.
After a break, we headed back to the old city and our restaurant Svevia. I highly rated place. They were a little disorganized upon our arrival. The man opened the reservation book to the 21st and nodded and took us to our table. Only thing was…today was the 23rd! 🤦🏻♀️. Then someone came and asked what name the reservation was in. I told him Nancy. We got our bottle of wine and had ordered and they came AGAIN to ask the name. Each time acting as though Nancy was a totally expected name. I have to think whoever wrote my name down misspelled it or something. Mattered not since by this time we had our wine and couldn’t be kicked out!
We ordered and our first course was brought. I had ordered a sublime puréed fave bean and chicory with shrimp wrapped in lardo. Jen had gnocchi with shrimp. Mine was small so I finished first. They took my plate while Jen was still eating…VERY. BAD. FORM. Then they tried to take HER plate before she was finished. Unexpected in a Michelin rated restaurant. My secondi was gamberi Catalan-style. Very good big crustaceans with a diced veggie sauce. Served cold. With tools to crack the legs and a pick for the meat. I happily sat and disassembled my gamberi. Very yummy. Dessert was a ricotta whipped with chocolate sauce. And cookies. Very yummy.
Friday September 24
Homeward bound. Up an at ‘em and on our way by 9:30. Took five hours on the Autostrada Adriatico. It runs from Bologna to Bari. Good road. Quite a bit of traffic. Except for the frequent construction zones it moved along OK. ~~~~~~~~ So, on our trip we learned a few things. How to pump our gas. How to park and not get towed away. How to pay tolls. All good.
My personal observations: Best restaurant: Mari e Monti Best dish: brodetto di pesce Best site: Teatro in Pietrabbondante Best town: tie between Agnone and Bagnoli del Trigno.
I bet most of my readers don’t know Molise. It is very much the forgotten sister. Their Tag Line in their tourist brochures is “Molise, non-esiste” or, “Molise doesn’t exist”. I am here to say it does exist, and I think it is worth a visit. It is also one of the regions with the 7% tax scheme for those who are contemplating a move to italia.
In case you thought we never did anything…today we did a little day trip to explore a town we drove past last month. Cagli, in the Marche region, our next door neighbor. We are actually very close to both Le Marche and Tuscany here in the Upper Tiber Valley. We went the scenic route. It was a beautiful day. Perfect for the top down. Here are a few pictures I snapped along the way. I was very surprised to see a lot of the trees were changing their colors already. And even more surprised to see mostly orange. It is not a common color here. More yellows. Very few reds.
But then…a thunderstorm! Funny. I’m no meteorologist but I’m interested in things like how the big Apennine mountains affect the weather patterns. On the west side of them all was clear and no rain in sight. But once into the mountains I suppose the weather gets disrupted by the mountain ranges? I dunno. And I’m even more interested in the weather on the eastern slopes and the Adriatic. Anyway, we had a bit of a downpour just when we arrived into Cagli. We had to take cover in a coffee shop.
We had reservations in La Gioconda Ristorante. When the rain let up we found it and decided to eat inside since it was still sprinkling and cool. They did not ask for our Green Cards. The place was nice. The food good enough but not special. The service perfect. And they had a few nice touches like gifts from the chef, house made bread, and separate truffle and porcini menus. I went with the porcini, one of my favs.
After lunch, we walked around the Centro Storico.
There is always something to love in an Italian town. No matter how far off of the beaten track. We had a lot of fun, and a lovely day.
This is a Trip Report, so skip if you’re not interested ~~~~~~~
We decided to do a trip while the window of opportunity is open for us. Who knows how long it will last. One of the last three regions we haven’t yet visited, Sardinia, or Sardegna as the Italians call the island. It is north of Sicily and just south of Corsica in the Mediterranean. Things are not too good covid-wise in Sardegna. 2.3% RT. And they are having big wildfires on the west side of the island. Devastating the farmers. Sadly we read these fires are arson. The people who set them are firefighters who will be hired at €100 a day to fight the fires. Despite these issues we decided to go through with the planned trip.
We opted to fly. You can drive to the west coast of Italy and take a ferry. That way you’ve got your car. But we decided to fly. We could fly out of Perugia to the southern end of the island and drive three hours to our chosen destination. Or we could drive 2 hours to Ancona on the Adriatic and fly into the airport in the northern part. We decided on this one. We had not flown out of Ancona before. It’s chock full of the so-called low cost airlines. WizAir, RyanAir, Volotea and Vueling. It was a pretty easy drive except for construction zones. We had arranged to park off airport and that all worked well. We got checked in with all the hordes going to either Olbia (our destination) or Catania in Sicily. Lots of young people flying. The plane left on time and arrived 15 minutes early. We picked up the rental car and headed north to the Costa Smeralda. Emerald coast.
Really interesting terrain. Rough, rocky and reminiscent to me of the US southwest. Susan said it reminded her of Baja. There were enormous, wind sculpted rock domes thrusting up dramatically. And in the distance serrated ridges shot high into the sky in jagged peaks. There were houses and hotels all hidden out in this desert-like landscape. The ones I could see were much like the adobe houses in New Mexico with clay exteriors painted in pastel earth tones. With flat terracotta tiled roofs.
Our hotel is called Grand Relais dei Nuraghi. It is a small boutique hotel with only about 30 rooms. Many of the rooms are in separate cottages or duplex cottages. We checked in and got unpacked. Went to the pool for a glass of wine and later we had dinner reservations.
The food was good without being notable. They do half pension so many of the guests eat there every night. It’s not open to the public. I had a very nice shrimp appetizer, a carrot soup and then the “catch of the day”.
~~~~~~~ Wednesday July 28
Above was the breakfast buffet. I thought it had gone the way of the dinosaur since Covid but it’s obviously back.
Today we went to explore “Billionaire” coast. The town of Porto Cervo. This town didn’t exist until the Aga Khan fell in love with the coast in the 1950s and decided to create a playground for the rich. He did accomplish that! He purchased the land from the poor inhabitants for a pittance in the 60s. They didn’t value coastal land, they were, in fact, frightened of the water from whence all invaders came. For these people being in the mountainous interior felt safe. The Port was built in the 80s and it is the best in the Mediterranean with 700 slips. The real estate here is THE most expensive in Europe. An eye popping $300,000 a square meter (!)
We had a lunch reservation at the only Michelin One Star restaurant in the area. Ristorante ConFusion. As the name implies, it is a fusion between Sardegnian food and Asian food.
We arrived and parked in an underground lot. We walked around the shopping area which was pretty and unusual and completely unlike anyplace I’ve been in Italy. It’s like being in Palm Springs or Boca Raton.
Towering over everything were the mega-yachts in the harbor. You could walk in and gape. Which we did! We looked up the names of some of the yachts. One is owned by a Saudi. One of the biggest was owned by a Walton daughter of the Walmart empire. These yachts cost millions of dollars.
After some refreshments out of the hot sun we walked to our restaurant. Pretty place that felt comfortable and not pretentious…except for the fact that they bring a selection of glasses so you can pick your shape! That was a first. Chef Italo Bassi was very friendly and accessible. There were only two other tables so he had time to chat. We decided on a la carte for two of us and the Chef specialty 3 course menu for the other two. Prices were breathtaking, but the food was too.
Here are some of the dishes.
After our return and naps we went poolside and had drinks. It was very lovely. They bring a nice plate of food to enjoy with the wine so that was plenty. We didn’t really need to eat dinner after the mega-lunch.
~~~~~~~~ Thursday, July 29
This was the day we decided to go on a catamaran to the Maddalena archipelago. This is supposed to be the prettiest island group. There are some roads on the main island and you can ferry over with your car. There are a few towns as well. But the most popular way to see the islands is by boat. And BOY is it popular!
We left the hotel at 8:30 for the 40 minute drive to Porto Sardegna. We got there no problem on itty bitty roads to the very tip of the mainland. There we found a yacht club. A very cute yacht club. With cottages built into the rocks and hobbit bathrooms. At the bottom, a cafe. We hung around and finally boarded around ten. There were 18 of us plus three crew. It wasn’t crowded. It was mostly younger people. Plus one middle aged couple. The oddest group was a foursome of two boys and two girls from Calabria. They spoke a Calabrian dialect mixed with German. Really. Very odd.
We all boarded and were briefed about the boat, and how to use the bathroom. Then we took off. It was a nice boat called Alice. I know most of you won’t know this, but it is not the woman’s name…but the word for anchovy in Italian. Pronounced al-ee-chay. The boat was named Anchovy, because it skips over the waves Captain Alessandro said. There were two more crew, Ely and Sandro. Our first stop was Spiaggia Rosa. A pretty spot with amazingly blue water. We went swimming.
While here we had antipasto with bruschetta, olives, cheeses, salumi, and bread. Our next stop was Calla Vergine. This was so popular there were literally hundreds of boats of all sizes. Amazing. The water was lovely, calm and blue-blue.
I took this video to try to show just how many boats there were. Note: videos don’t usually play in the email version of this blog. To see it you want to go to NancyGoesToItaly.com
It was lunchtime and our Chef crew member Sandro, made a nice pasta lunch with rigatoni and lots of tuna. Served with beer, wine and cold drinks. It was delicious. Then we had fresh fruit, cookies, and Mirto, a potent drink made around here from myrtle.
There was one more stop. The famous pink sand beaches. I was the only person who opted out. It was REALLY hot and it was a ride on the rubber tender to the beach, then a hike over the hill and down, but you couldn’t go on the beach. The beach is protected by a full time caretaker because people were stealing the sand. No joke! One guy was caught with 3 pounds of sand and they fined him €3,000. Anyway, I decided to skip it. The rest reported I was smart not to go. I got to see the less than impressive pictures. While they were gone I went for another swim. The water is nice and cool and so salty it’s impossible to sink.
We returned at 5:45. It was really fun. I’m glad we did it. It is a thing everyone should see. The Maddalena islands are spectacular. But boy were we all whipped. It really makes you tired being in the sun and wind and sea all day. When we got back we all just opted for showers and room service. I slept very well!
~~~~~~~ Friday July 30
Supposed to be 102 degrees this day. That is HOT. And the humidity is quite high. After our breakfast we had reservations to visit a winery called Carichera. It is one of the best and biggest producers.
We were greeted by Anna. She told us about the history of the vineyard and the family as well as the types of wines they produce. The family name is Capichera.
Next we were transported by golf cart through the vineyard to a brand new tasting facility. The entire vineyard has drip irrigation. Still, some of the vines were suffering.
Along the way she showed us some of the indigenous plants to include the myrtle, from which they make the Mirto liquor. Then the pretty strawberry bush which flowers in November and fruits in summer. The honey is said to be very healthful. It is also rare since bees often do not pollinate that late in the year so they produce little honey. Anna said the people of Sardegna are some of the most long lived in the world. This is because until recently the people only ate what they produced which is very healthy. Little was brought in. There was no globalization. Until only 60 years ago they still mostly lived in stone huts with no running water or electricity.
We arrived at the tasting room which was blessedly air conditioned. The big windows had nice views of the patchwork vineyards.
We decided to do two tastings and share. Luther and I got two Vermantino white wines, and two red. They only use the Vermantino grape in Sardinia to produce the white wine. The red was a Syrah and a Syrah blend. Very unusual grape in Sardinia.
The placemats had the names of the wines so you could place your glasses in the right spots. Look at the names of the wines above. Most are in Sardegnian dialect. It is a very strange language. When I got back, I looked up lingua Sarda. Turns out there are three Sardinian dialects. Then the top part of the island speaks a Corsican dialect because Corsica is very close. Then a small town, and area to the west speaks a Catalan dialect. Very interesting. So the wine names we’re in the Logudorese Sardinian dialect.
We had lunch reservations at Li Neuli. It’s the restaurant at a country club. It was nice. Air conditioned and a pretty room. Interesting menus with much fresh seafood served crudo — raw. To include sashimi, an octopus carpaccio and fresh tuna. I picked the octopus and a nice scampi dish. Just the right amount.
This is the Sardinian, cracker-like bread served everywhere. They even use it as a plate, putting it under cheese, fruit and salumi.
A good day. We finished off with drinks by the pool with our bartender friend Luca. ~~~~~~~~~ Saturday July 31
We didn’t have much planned beyond lunch today. We breakfasted lightly because we had decided to return to ConFusion because we all liked it so much. I took some more pictures of the pretty buildings.
The lunch was wonderful as the last time. I only got an antipasto and a secondo. That way I would have room for dessert.
This is Filippo. One of Chef Bassi’s chihuahuas. He was cute.
An excellent lunch. It’s probably good that this guy is not closer to where we live!
Later, when we went for our customary glass of wine at the bar beside the pool at seven, we had to say goodbye to the sweet bar keepers. Luca and Gabriele. Two young men, small in stature and dark with beards. Quite handsome. They had to dress in the hotel dark pants with shirt and dark vest with a tie. Sometimes I felt really sorry for them because it was damn hot in the sun in those hot clothes. But they were both very nice and seem genuinely to like us. Sometimes you wonder with these employees. They have to be friendly but these two seemed to be really happy to know us. Anyway, sorry to say goodbye. I wish them well in the coming times. Which could be difficult.
~~~~~~~~~ Sunday, August 1 Thanks to Susan we got late checkout. Our flight is at 9:20PM. We can keep our room until six. A big thank you to our hotel. So we have this air conditioned space to share until we go to the airport.
We had hours to do things so we decided to go to the other big wine producer, Surrau. They had a three wine tasting with a nice plate of local cheeses, three meats, grapes, wine jelly and apple. Very nice. It was a big facility and very reminiscent of the California tasting rooms. Again that similarity to California.
Then we drove up into the mountains to a small town called San Pantaleo. It has the only piazza in our part of Sardinia. It also has attracted artists. Cute place. We visited the piazza and the church.
The town is full of little stone buildings. These are the typical houses that the people lived in before globalization.
The town nestles up against these massive, wind sculpted granite mountains.
We decided to have lunch here in a place called Zara Cafe. Cute family owned place. Dad is the cook, Mom and son run the front. We had fresh grilled fish. So good.
We returned to the hotel and stayed until five. Then for the horrors of travel nowadays. If we didn’t catch Covid here, we never will. Crowds of young, and, I’m sure, unvaccinated people. No social distancing possible. Everyone was good about wearing the mask at least. But it was horrible.
The flight was fine. It only takes 45 minutes. We landed at 10:40PM. Got our car just fine and decided to drive home. Only an hour and a half and it was fine. It was great to be home with our poor cats. The temperatures have been in the 100s and the house was very hot. I threw open the windows and hopefully it will cool off tonight. ~~~~~~ Now for my best and worst… Our hotel.Grand Relais dei Nuraghi. There were some glitches but they work hard to fix things. And they let us stay eight hours after checkout for free. 👍 The two bar tenders, Luca and Gabriele, need special thanks for their always cheerful care. Best food — ConFusion Best outing — Catamaran to the Maddalena archipelago. Best thing — those brilliant, cool, clear, electric blue waters! Worst thing — Olbia airport. All in all a fun trip. Would I go back? Probably not. It was not the “real” Italy. It felt like the US in many ways. The landscape and architecture looked like the US desert southwest. Because of this really big difference from what we are used to, it was a great get-away if only because we felt far away from home, in an exotic place for six days. I’m glad we went. I know we missed the interior for the most part and the south. So I can’t speak to those parts. Of the two islands, Sicily and Sardinia, I’d pick Sicily.
In five days we will know if we got Covid. We were hyper aware of the threat. The rate of transmission in Sardinia is the highest in Italy. And there were hordes of young people, most likely to not be vaccinated…or to follow the rules. We were in very crowded inside venues. The young people from Calabria on our catamaran tour were unlikely to be vaccinated and no one wore masks. I will report back!
Today we had yet another excellent adventure. More correctly we had an excellent Pranzo. Luther had read in a column he subscribes to called Doctor Wine, about a albergo and restaurant that was highly rated and not very far from us. It is called Tenuta Borgo Santa Cecelia. No one I know has been there that I know of. It is not new. They said it was opened in 2014. Closed for a while because of the earthquakes and then got closed again by Covid. A rough road.
It is in a beautiful place. It took about 25 minutes by car to get there. It was in the middle of nowhere, but that nowhere was amazingly, stunningly Umbrian beauty at its best. You could see the Apennine Mountains in the distance. And all around, because we were way up on a ridge with 360 degree views, farms and forest. The Tenuta came into view. A group of honey colored buildings.
We were welcomed and seated on a pretty terrace. We proceeded to be wowed by the food. Sometimes you can’t help but wonder how a place that’s fairly remote gets their business. The place was perfectly and stylishly decorated. The lawn was manicured. It was elegant but without being stuffy. Comfortable and welcoming. And where did they get a chef so talented as this one to come out there? We did ask. He is from Gubbio. This restaurant is about halfway between Umbertide and Gubbio. He trained in the north and has cooked all over the North. But the owner of the Tenuta lured him home from Bologna. So. Let’s see what he could do! This first one is the view from our table.
This was the gift from the chef to start us off. Such a nice presentation. On the left are egg shells filled with a very creamy, very cheesy custard. The orange dots are “smoked butter”. It was great. The one on the right has two potato bread balls with a house cured slice of venison. Pleasantly tangy.
We ordered and the antipasti arrived. I just got shots of Luther and my dishes. He got what translated as tuna of rabbit. It was beautiful and the vegetables with it were the star, and Luther never raves about vegetables. Mine was puréed smoked cauliflower with a cream on top. Porcini mushrooms and cauliflower and crunchy brined almonds. I think it was one of the best things I’ve ever had. I should say, the veggies come from there, the game is wild from the property. They actual forage for some of the vegetables in the forest and fields around there.
We all chose a secondi. I ordered the venison, Gary and Luther got the lamb and Susan got the pigeon. All were superb but my venison was the star. It had a wild herb pesto with it and a foraged green.
Hungry yet? 😁 Our wine was about perfect. Lungarotti Rubesco can’t be beat.
The portions were perfect for us and we had room for dessert. They had four different ones. We got one of each and shared. Mine was honey, whipped cream and honey gelato. Luther had Mont Blanc which was pie-like. There was also a pear one, and a chocolate one.
Finally, a goodbye gift. A chocolate cookie with a dab of coffee cream, and a chip with a Campari reduction. That Campari had a real bite.
It was a very wonderful lunch. Our friends, Susan and Gary and Luther and I have always enjoyed a new restaurant to try. This one was especially liked because we are just getting to exercise our freedoms and it was such a surprise. A real FIND as we are fond of saying. We will go back. And it is a great place for us to bring guests, if ever we get them again!
We drove to Foligno and took the 9:20 Frecciabianca. Comfortable train, fast and with few stops we arrived by 11am. When we exited the Termini Stazione we first saw a vaccination clinic set up in front in the parking lot. I’ve heard Lazio, the Region that Rome is in, is doing very well with the vaccines. Most of the people waiting looked young.
We took a taxi for our 11:30 tour. I bought the tickets online. We’ve only been to Rome four or five times in our lives. This was a very different Rome. As so many have said, it’s empty. Our first trip there many years ago we foolishly drove. When we FINALLY got to our hotel the desk clerks asked “what made you think you could drive in Rome?!” We have avoided it ever since. But yesterday? The taxi zoomed freely down the wide and mostly empty streets. It was a breeze. I said to Luther “we could do this!”.
The taxi let us off at the bottom of Capitoline Hill. Now it is a series of museums but back in the Roman times it was where the Senate met. It’s up high with great views all around. On our way we passed a great viewing point for the Roman Forum. It was empty, save for a couple of families. Once up on top, it again was quiet. As Luther said, “you could hear a mouse dropping…” sorry 😊. We found the entrance and went into the exhibit. Do read the article I linked above to understand where these Marbles came from, how the man who collected them locked them away in a filthy space for years and years. See below picture I borrowed.
Now they shine brilliant, bright white. I found the faces of the statues so expressive. I did take a “few” pictures. So I’ll post some here. Hard to choose which to pick, so I put a lot in. They all come from Rome or Greece and are dated from around 200 BC to 300 AD. I will include text in the captioning under the pictures if I can remember anything.
We were hungry now and had reserved a table in a restaurant nearby. Ristorante Dulcis in Fundo. Took us a while to figure out how to get off the Capitoline hill and down to the normal streets. On the way we passed a great overlook of the Forum. Amazing. And with only a couple people in it.
Then this place was tucked away on a small, and quiet street. Nice outside space. Yesterday was the day restaurants can serve inside, but I prefer to be outside. As we sat down, I spied, with my little eye, another patron eating a plate of oysters on the half shell. I haven’t had them since my last trip home which was two years ago now. We got menus, in English. I hate English menus. So I asked for Italian ones. But the oysters were nowhere to be seen. The word for oysters is Ostriche. But when I asked they assured me I could get them. So I did! And then a plate of fat noodles with shrimp. Very good. Luther got the antipasto fruiti di mare. Seafood plate. And then a spaghetti with shrimp.
All in all the day in Rome was great fun. We returned on the 5:25 Frecciabianca and were back in Umbria by 7pm. One of the reasons we like it here is that both Rome and Florence are easy day trips. It’s good to visit the big city, but I want to live in a smaller town. For me, big cities are fun only in small doses. ~~~~~~ Today is Republic day which commemorates the end of the Monarchy in Italy. The people voted to do away with them. It’s a national holiday. Buona festa della repubblica! 🇮🇹
Of course, outside is our only choice right now but that set to change next week I think. We had originally been going with another couple but turns out they got their vaccination appointments right at the time of our lunch so they had to cancel. It had been so long since we had been to l’Alchemista we decided to just change our reservation to two and still go.
A gorgeous day today too. Sunny and highs of 28C or 82F. Montefalco is a hill town about fifty minutes from us set in the famous Sagrantino wine region. It is also known for it’s high quality olive oil. Here are some pictures along the drive taken from the car so not the best. I have always thought this is the prettiest part of Umbria.
We reached the hill town and I took a picture from just outside the walls. The big, round mountain is Monte Subasio. The pilgrimage town of Assisi is on the left of the picture on the mountain side. The plain has the town of Cannara, famous for its onions. Back in Roman times it was a lake.
We were greeted like long lost friends and seated on the outside dining terrace. It is in the main square and has spread out to about double its previous size. It was so nice to see all the happy faces, not just of the diners but even the wait staff seemed happy. It has been a long dry spell of them so I’m sure they are pleased to be back.
We had their delicious olive oil, brilliant green, and their homemade bread while we chose our food. They brought us a gift from the chef which was delicious. A small scoop of cheese and cream whipped almost to a custard with a drop of blood red pepper jelly and a crispy fried piece of faro. Sorry, I got carried away and took a taste before I thought to photo it.
My meal started with La Stracciata, scrambled eggs with truffles. Light and tasty. Then I chose the hamburgher, as they spelled it. It was nothing like a regular hamburger. They described it as “gourmet, knife cut, beef hamburger on guacamole, carmelized red onions, crunchy bacon, and ‘Brancaleone’ cheese from Norcia”. It was very good. Pictures…
And to see the inside…
Excellent Montefalco Sagrantino.
It was a lovely lunch on a lovely day. And it was a real pleasure to do a little road trip out of our area. ~~~~~~ Enjoy your holiday everyone. Let’s hope the summer stays safe and we can all have some fun.
I’m getting tired of this cold wet weather. May is usually so reliably nice. But not this year. Last weekend up to Monday was nice. Then the cold damp came roaring back for the rest of the week.
Big news! Finally. After almost two weeks. We managed to get into our garage! Whoo hoo! Things always take longer that you expect here in Italia…one gets used to it… Now we can take the Angelo Giallo out for a spin. (Note to self…get a second door key)
We still aren’t doing very much interesting so I’ve not been writing too much lately. We did go out to nice dinner with friends at San Giorgio this week. It was fun and good to get to know our new friends. I had Bottoni…a pasta dish. Means buttons. 🙂 descriptive as are so many pasta names.
While I was waiting to pick up my Tikka masala on Takeaway Thursday. I took this pretty shot of the Lido – the park by the river. Once it actually had cabanas and people went there to go swimming, go dancing and sun bathe.
This is now….
This was then… so very different from now. Dancing and partying. You can find this same vibe today along Lago Trasimeno. In summertime it is disco dancing and partying non-stop. Lots of Italian tourists. Nowadays you will see women…I note there are none in these pictures except the dancers.
Today, the Saturday Market. I picked up some coriander plants at the Books For Dogs/Libri per i Cani special plant sale. Then we met some good friends at Bar Mary for drinks. They just arrived home from the US this week. They have a home in Montone and are residents of Italy so can come here with no problem. We were interested to hear their experiences for their trip home. They said many people trying to travel without citizenship, residence or an acceptable, essential reason were turned away by the airline in the US.
This man, nicely dressed with his “man purse”, on his bicycle had a 3 liter container of vin sfuso from the wine booth. Looked like a nice rosato. You can just see it in his left hand. Wish I’d gotten a better view! It was classic!
Italiano phrase for today. “Ho messo in ordine tutti i libri” — in English — “I tidied up all the books”. Pronounced…oh mays-so in or-dee-nay toot-tea ee lee-brie. ~~~~~~ Get vaccinated everyone, if you can. Here in Italy it is slow…but in the US everyone now is eligible — so please, do it for the greater good…and thank you 🌈!
We took a drive Monday up to Arezzo in Tuscany. We visited a big grocery there that we like. We drove the Porsche which hasn’t been driven since January. The trip takes around 40 minutes. It was nice to see new scenery for a change. And to stock the larder with food.
Over the weekend we were awakened at 5am by our resident Hoopoe. Our bedroom window was wide open and he perched on the clothes line just outside where he proceeded to sing his (loud) two note song which is the origin his name, they say. Oddly, just last week I opened a bottle of wine which had a glass stopper rather than a cork. I noticed something painted on it. It was a Hoopoe! It seems every time I turn around I’m reminded of this cool bird.
Saturday local market was cheerful. We still have mostly winter vegetables. But I saw asparagus today. Also, everyone has piles of fresh eggs. The chickens lay more eggs in the spring apparently.
Plant booth had some pretty plants but I was going to take a trip up the hill outside of town to the big greenhouse so I just admired his flowers.
I’m happy to see both of the bars are welcoming folks.
San Giorgio, the restaurant across the piazza from us. They are happily serving lunch and dinner again.
I went out to the nursery just outside of town. I bought petunias and a bunch of herbs. I still need the sweet alyssum I normally plant and couldn’t find. I guess it will become a quest! This is the view up to Civitella Ranieri, the castle that hosts fellows in the art world. They were empty last year so I hope all goes well this year. Isn’t the sky pretty and the winter wheat so green!!
Spur of the moment we decided to have lunch at Patrick’s Enoteca. I’ve missed it. The “clown” train passing on the tracks across from Patrick’s.
So that was my week. Oh, except I locked the key to the door of our garage inside the garage. So now we can’t get to the car! And we were going for a ride today. Oh well. We are trying to figure out how to get in! This was the very thing I reminded myself never, ever to do…and I did it 🙄 ~~~~~~ Italiano phrase…”era un bellissimo sabato”. In English “it was a beautiful Saturday”. Pronounced — era une bell-ees-see-mo sah-bah-toe. ~~~~~~ Stay safe everyone! 🌈
Well, today was our first foray out of our house with friends to actually eat at a RESTAURANT!! We went with friends to Calagrana who have a new menu and have their outside terraces open. It wasn’t really warm, but it was warm enough and it didn’t rain. I count that as a good day. Here are pictures of my food. I’m sure you’ve all missed seeing these 😁 ha ha!
First I had Chef Alberto’s tartar…it was piquant and perfect. This was a new dish.
Next I went with the cappelli di preti or priest’s hats. Bi-color pasta filled with goat cheese and ricotta in a butter sage sauce. Mmmm.
It was a good day. Piano, piano we slowly move forward… Stay safe everyone 🌈