I cannot tell you how beautiful Umbria is in the fall. Breathtaking. These two were taken by Barbara Roy Chawk Skinner a virtual friend of mine who recently visited Umbria. They were taken from the Montefalco wine region. Exquisite.
On Monday my friend Susan and I went to the Rocco Ragni outlet shop. Did you know Umbria is well known for the manufacture of quality Cashmere? Well it is. There are many high-end, as well as lesser known, manufacturers here.
I’ve always been curious as to why it is produced here in such quantity. The raw material comes from goats in Kashmir. It is the undercoat they produce to survive the very harsh winters there. Super fine stands with air pockets for insulation. I read it is called duvet! Hence the name of our warm covers!
At the end of the eighteenth century this material – thanks to the English and French trading companies and then to the subsequent textile revolution in the following century – took on an ever-increasing value. These were the times when cashmere shawls cost more than a horse carriage, when queens and empresses would confirm the noble qualities of this material by wearing large and rich cashmere capes and cloaks. So it became very profitable to produce. I still don’t know how Umbria started to produce this material.
Rocco Ragni is a famous producer. We happen to have one of his three boutiques in Umbertide. He also has an outlet store in Compresso. A little Borgo of 1,500 people. It is in an impressive old stone building and this is also where they produce these fine products. The family lives in Compresso, and the Headquarters is there. They also have a showroom in Milan. I will say, although their sweaters are not cheap, the prices here are not exorbitant like some of the more famous houses. This is where the outlet store is. Would you have guessed? Sometimes things are hard to find here!
After I bought three sweaters….😁…then I took some pictures of the outside scenery. This place is up in the Umbrian hills and quite remote, hard to find, but amidst very beautiful, perfectly Umbrian, landscapes.
We were so happy to welcome Luther’s brother Mike and his wife Anne. Along with their daughter Rachel and her husband Alex. They had not managed to visit since we’ve been here so it was great to show them around. Their trip was only for five nights here so a whirlwind visit. They brought gifts! Hominy in cans for me and some beautiful spices. And a couple of boxes of cigars which Luther sent to his brother before they came.
Our normal strategy with guests is to do a mix of things but lunch is always the focus and the big meal of the day. We try to choose from our favourite restaurants to give a variety of foods from basic Umbrian cuisine to more adventurous chefs. We were blessed with pretty much perfect weather almost the entire time.
WARNING: there are a LOT of food pictures on this post .
As always, travel is fraught with uncertainty. They were booked to fly from Washington DC to Montreal to connect with a direct flight to Rome. They missed the flight to Montreal so were re-booked through Paris. This put their arrival around six hours later than planned. But still they managed to get here in time for our pizza night dinner at Calagrana. Always fun and the pizza is the best. We headed back home to put them to bed. Speaking of that, we have three bedrooms but it felt a bit crowded so we rented an apartment at Borgo Fratta, a new vacation apartment property here in Umbertide, walking distance from us. It turned out to be an excellent choice. Mike and Anne were very comfortable in their own space and we had Rachel and Alex with us.
Monday. Our first day and we had an appointment at a winery in the Montefalco area. Cimate, a winery new to us but they could give us a tasting and tour so we went with that. It turned out to be an excellent choice. Paolo is the owner and he took us around. At the end we had a tasting and a lovely plate of cheeses and meats that complemented the wines.
The winery had beautiful views.
Here are our tour and tasting pictures. This was the first winery who “raisins” their grapes, or part of them, prior to making the wine. This increases the sugars and reduces the juice. The sugars become the alcohol in the wines so this doesn’t mean the wines will be sweet. The first three pictures are the racks and the grapes drying.
We headed to explore the small town of Montefalco and had lunch there at l’Alchemista. It is situated in the unique piazza which is in the hill top and a round, rather than square space, with all the streets radiating like a wagon wheel. It was sunny and warm and wonderful. This happens to be the time of year for Sedano Nero, or the black celery only grown in Trevi, a nearby hill town. It is a Big Deal here. l’Alchemista always has menus featuring these local ingredients. This top picture is of my Sedano Nero appetizer. Very reminiscent of lasagna but with celery instead of pasta. Nice and light.
I made a Stuzziccheria for us for dinner. It was meats, cheeses, and fruit. Then we had a big surprise for dessert – Luther noticed they had just brought in Panetone Christmas cakes, the very first of the season, at our wine store, so he brought home a caffe and cream one. Yum.
Tuesday. We planned to go to Assisi today. Always a treat. I never tire of this town.
We visited the Basilica di San Francesco. They seem to be forever changing how you can visit. This time we entered the lower church, visited the crypt and then ascended to the upper church. It was empty. There were not the throngs of the past.
Then we wandered up the shopping street and settled in at Osteria Piazetta della Erbe, one of my all time favs. It was shady under our tree once we switched with a group of women. This restaurant has a “traditional” and a “fusion” menu. Both so good. But for me it is fusion all the way!
After Assisi and lunch we headed to Deruta for ceramic buying. Everyone found things they liked. This night we had Tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce at home for dinner.
Wednesday was a designated “down” day. No long car drives. First, cappuccini at Bar Mary, and people watching in the piazza. The big market was in Umbertide this day, so we explored the market. We picked up some Porchetta pannini and explored a little of our town. Rachel and Alex bought a plaque from our local Deruta ceramics shop, for their front door with their house number. It will be sent to them when it’s completed.
We then drove to Montone. It is just ten minutes away and a lovely little hill town. We took in the views of the mountains and fields and wandered the small streets. Then we went to Antica Osteria for lunch.
During our lunch there was a funeral right in the piazza. Here, when someone dies, they lay in state in their home and all their friends and family come and pay their respects. Then they transfer the body to a casket and they remove it to a hearse. During this time the funeral bells ring and the onlookers watch respectfully.
We stopped for gelato for dessert after our dinner. We got chocolate, pistachio, and cherry. Tonight I made pasta e fagioli. We practiced at playing Briscola, the Italian card game. Interesting.
Thursday. Today it was off to Gubbio. An excellent medieval city not far from us.
After visiting the church at the top of the town we headed back down, and winded our way to the Funivia. A method of transport to the top of the mountain to visit the church of Saint Ubaldo, patron saint of Gubbio. This method of transport is a lift composed of individual cages holding two standing people. It is a bit scary for most so only Rachel and Anne went up.
Then we had lunch at Il Lepre (the rabbit). It was pretty good. Mike really loved his pork.
After lunch we tried to visit our local Frantoio, or olive mill to show them the process. Alas, it was closed. There just are no olives around here this year. Then we drove to the Chiesa di Monte Corona, an ancient church near Umbertide. It has a crypt built in the 1000s and an upper church consecrated in the 1100s. It is to me a place of calm, but also power. There is a monastery up on top of the mountain with monks who tend the church. this night we had Pici con Ragu di Cinghiale. Pasta with wild boar ragu which I had made prior to their visit.
Every night we had all watched L’eredita, a game show which we’ve been watching for years on our own visits here. It is helpful for learning Italian. Lots of words. It is funny how people get into this game even if they can’t speak Italian. We’ve initiated many, many of our friends and guests to this show and it is always a hit. It comes on RAI1 every night at 6:45. If you want to watch it you can stream it on RAI on your computer from anywhere. Do the time conversion. It is good to help learn Italian too!
Friday. This was their last day with us, and the day they head back to Rome for their early flight on Saturday. We decided to caravan down to Orvieto to visit the town and famous cathedral and then have a farewell lunch and launch them on their way home. We ate at Trattoria la Palomba, a very traditional place with great food. It was a short visit that flew by but we all had fun, I think.
All good things come to an end. At the moment I write this they are near to landing back in the US. I sincerely hope they can come back soon. Next time we will go somewhere together as a group and rent a villa. Maybe in Puglia. It will be fun! Thanks for coming to beautiful Umbria and we will see you soon! 💕
I am so happy to have had this return to normalcy and I hope this continues. My niece Rachel, a nurse, spent a long year working the Covid wards at John’s Hopkins. A very hard thing to do. She is our hero!
Today my friend Elizabeth Wholey arranged a wine tasting and lunch for us. It was a pretty day and we took off north — way north. To the very top of Umbria. It meets up with Tuscany and to the east Le Marche. Three regions. This winery is not in a wine region. It is in an unlikely location. And they are focusing on the Pinot Noir — Pinot Nero — wine grape. Also an unlikely choice. The winery is called La Palerna. It is at an altitude of 650 meters. High above the upper Tiber valley. Owned by Luigi Merendelli and his wife Paola. They own a large packaging company called Vimer. Here is the view from the winery.
We were greeted by Rosanna. She has worked for the Vimer industries and the family in different capacities for a long time. She is Swedish born but was raised in Luxembourg. She married and moved to the Upper Tiber Valley with her husband who is from here. Now she is in charge of sales and marketing of the Palerna winery.
We toured the property with the permission of Paola to include their beautiful grounds.
Rosanna took us around the property. We saw some of the vines and also the orto, or vegetable garden.
Next we toured inside the winery. These are the methode champenoise bottles. They are turned a quarter turn every week and slightly tipped higher. It encourages the sediment to slide into the neck where it can be popped out before corking.
Rosanna provided us with a lovely antipasti to complement the wines we tasted. They are very proud of their Methode Champenoise sparkling wine. Nudo di Palerna. 100% Pinot Noir.
She sources her food locally. We had a big platter of toasted bread drizzled with their oil.
We had the Mozzarella di Bufala from la Fattoria Montelupo. I buy mozarella often. I am a huge fan of the cheese made from the milk of the water buffalo. It is famed from down south in Campania. I’ve had it a number of times and am always blown away by the rich creaminess. It is NOTHING like common mozzarella. Well, I am here to tell you this is the real deal. Made from the milk of water buffaloes just north of us. The fat in both the olive oil and the cheese is cut by the sparkling wine which is why it’s paired. A marriage not to be beat!
Next we tried their Rosatto. Or Rose to us. Made from Pinot Noir and Sangiovese grapes.
She paired this one with meats. Salami and cured ham or proscuitto. Also from a local producer – Azienda Agricola Pigolotti. Along with a plate of bruschetta with pomodori…tomatoes.
Next we had. This was an everyday quaffing wine. Only €8.00. This is a normal price for decent but not fancy wine. We had this one with two local cheeses. Both pecorino.
Then, the prized Pinot Nero. This is not a normal grape here. We have only seen it at one other place near Orvieto. Sr. Merendelli fell in love with the French Pinot Noir and decided to dedicate much of his vineyard to this grape.
And finally Cospaia1441. It is made from Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It is nice with a lot of fruit and boldness. But the best part is where it got it’s name. It seems the border between Tuscany and the Papal State of Umbria was not fixed. There was constant fighting. So, finally, in 1441 the two agreed the small river running from the Marche down to the Tiber river would be the border. The north would be owned by Tuscany and the south would remain a Papal state. Due to a technical error, they seemed to not mention an island in the river. So it was neither Tuscany, nor Umbria, but a free and independent republic for almost 400 years! The label has a floating island on it held up by balloons. The motto of the land was “perpetua et firma libertas” — “firm and perpetual liberty”.
Here are Rosanna and my friend Elizabeth.
An excellent excursion. Other than a bit of haze it was a beautiful day. Let it be the first of many more!
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 had a nice overnight with friends to Senigallia. It is an easy drive. About 1.5 hours if you don’t stop anywhere. We planned some visits to wineries along the way so it took longer. Most of the trip, outside Umbria, was in Le Marche. A pretty region similar in landscape to Umbria except for the proximity to the Adriatic.
Our first target was Matelica. The landscapes and views are beautiful. It’s agricultural and also pretty mountainous. They’re are lots of wineries. They make primarily Verdicchio which is a nice white wine. If you find a good producer, it can be very complex. We chose ColleStefano. A nice property. All the wineries are in the middle of the harvest and the crush so we had a bit of trouble visiting them. We bought a case of the Verdicchio and a few Rosati (Rosé).
Our next goal was finding a place to have the picnic we brought. We visited another winery. We could purchase, but not taste because the family was busy with the harvest. No place to picnic.
Off we went towards Senigallia. No picnic tables to be found. Finally along the Lungomare, the sea coast, we found a small park with a table. The town is quite empty. Quiet. We checked into our hotel, TerrazzoMarconi. Our view.
The evening was a fancy dinner at a Michelin 3 star restaurant Uliassi. Seafood. It sits right on the beach. It was sprinkling as we walked to dinner. We had to wait a bit for the doors to open. Here are a few pictures.
A nice evening.
Thursday morning. We had a nice if surprising breakfast. Buffets have disappeared since the advent of Covid. We had seen none until today when they had a completely open buffet. No glass covers over the food or anything. No restaurants in the Marche took our temperature or contact info. I suppose all the regions have their own rules. We even had a mini-bar, also a thing of the past since Covid.
Luther and I took a walk on the beach. It was hot!
We got underway and headed for another winery for a tasting and to purchase. This one was near Jesi.
After our nice tasting we headed for Fabriano and lunch. There is good news. And there is bad news. We arrived and parked and walked to our intended restaurant. They were closed. So we went to a small piazza not far away where there was a nice bar. So we settled in and ordered lunch. The bad news was, the food was awful. I can’t remember when I’ve gotten such bad food in Italy.
The town of Fabriano is known since the 1300s as a primo paper making city. They are even a UNESCO heritage site for this to this day. I love this city. Here are some pictures.
It was a fun little giro. I must keep in mind that the sea is very accessible and go more often.
This is a mini trip report. We decided to do an overnight to one of our favorite areas, Abruzzo. We also traversed Le Marche on the way. The motivation was to revisit a restaurant we had visited a couple years ago that we really liked then, and also to arrange a winery visit and tasting. To get away for a while. Change of scenery.
We were just coming off of a bad heat spell that had broken with storms. We left on a Tuesday morning with fresh air and sunshine. Perfect top down weather. We drove south through Spoleto and headed east along the river and through the gorge that cuts through the mountains to Norcia. Then over the mountain pass and down into the flats near the Adriatic sea.
Our winery, called Tenuta Torretta, was up in the hills just into Abruzzo. We had an appointment at 2:30. We were having some pretty spectacular thunderstorms. The winery had amazing views to the Gran Sasso mountains and the sea. And a ringside seat to the lightening show as the storm moved up the coast.
Here is the storm over the Adriatic. Lightening streaked from clouds to ground as we watched.
Later, after the storm passed. The sea is a pretty aqua.
Here is the view towards the Gran Sasso – I’m sure it’s spectacular when the storms aren’t around.
The view out over the olives and through the vineyards is gorgeous.
We were met by Cinzia (the Italian version of Cynthia, my sisters name). And afterwards her sister-in-law and her father. It became a real family affair. I think they have missed having visitors during the Corona lockdowns. Anyway we sat outside at plastic tables and tasted three whites, a Vermentino, a Pecorino, a Chardonnay. The big surprise was the Cerasuola, a wine made from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes which they allowed to sit with the skins for only half a day. Then the skins removed. But in that short time the wine becomes quite red, redder then a Rose but served chilled just the same. And more full flavored. Then we had two reds. Along with the wine we had good bread and sausages.
I liked all the family. The two sisters were super friendly. And the Dad mostly talked to Luther about the winery. He was probably our age. We bought three cases (of six). It was WAY more than a tasting and I think it lasted almost 2 hours! This is the kind of experience I enjoy most here.
Here are pictures of the wines we tried and the sausage nibbles we had along with bread.
We headed down to our destination for dinner, Villa Maiella in Guardiagrele. The hotel is mostly empty. From the breakfast tables there were five rooms occupied. It is also a very basic place. It sorely needs an upgrade. The bed was comfortable enough and the AC was great.
The claim of this place is its restaurant. It does not have an a la carte menu. Just tasting menus. Differing sizes. We didn’t feel up to a 12 course dinner so we chose the smaller menu. It was good-ish. Not as good as I remembered from last time. The biggest downside was the dining was inside. Widely spaced tables but still, I am not comfortable in an enclosed, interior space. And most tables were full.
The morning dawned very cool and partly cloudy. Someone said, we went from August to October overnight! We had a nice view of the Gran Sasso mountains, the biggest in Italy and they are now a large park. We had a nice breakfast in the basement. The hotel, after reopening from the lockdown, moved the reception into the basement.
We set off for home, deciding not to visit another winery. We drove through almost continuous thunderstorms all the way up the coast super strata. This highway is very nice. It runs from Bari all the way to Ancona. We turned inland and passed through some of the pretty Marche countryside. The rain finally let up just after we arrived in Umbria. All in all a nice short getaway and change of scenery.
~~~~~~~ Stay safe everyone and be vigilant. 🌈 andrà bene.
The coronavirus would have infected nearly one in five Americans, 60 million people, in the first few weeks of the outbreak without shutdowns or social distancing, according to a peer-reviewed study led by the University of California at Berkeley. The paper credited quarantine policies with preventing hundreds of millions of cases globally through early April, and a separate study estimated that shutdowns saved at least 3.1 million lives in Europe.
This is incredible. And so worth it. I know it was hard. On us. On the world economies, but just look at all the lives saved! Yay us! ~~~~~~~~ Every 2 weeks we get a new proclamation here. I know many people really want to come here to Italy, for a vacation, or because they own a second home here. And I completely understand. But, as of now, there is no provision for anyone from any non-EU member nations to be allowed in. Unless you are a registered resident here, or have family to tend to, or a medical issue. And can prove it. And then you must quarantine for 2 weeks. In a hotel, at your expense, or a home you own. This may loosen up sometime in July or August but we must wait for the next proclamation, which is June 15.
Now for some fun stuff! Today was a nice Tuesday. We had reserved a spot ahead at a winery for a tasting at Arnaldo Caprai. Near Bevana and Montefalco. Nice day. Not hot at all. Skies full of all sorts of clouds and blue. It was our first “outing” other than the 2 Lunches we’ve had. We arrived and Camilla, the nice person in the tasting room told us we could sit on the terrace and she gave us the wine menu. Last fall, when we were here it was packed and there was no way to sit on the terrace. Today, it was only us. Quite nice! We chose a white wine each. And she brought a nice plate of meats and cheese, along with crusty bread with good oil drizzled on it. It was a perfect repast. We had another white, then switched to Rosso. Camilla said it was nice without all the buses full of Germans and Swiss. She said all they have had lately is Italians. But we did spot a car from Luxembourg. They were a ways from home. Anyway, a perfect little trip. Some pictures.
Yesterday was a Very Busy day and I want to share it with you.
It started out pretty early. We had an appointment with my knee surgeon at the hospital for X-rays. It was the standard 45 day post op checkup. I’m happy to say I’m fit as a fiddle. I’m now cleared to walk normally up and down the steps, which I did with very little problem. I’m very happy!
It was a pretty day (mostly) with a lot of fall colors and watery blue skies. Not too cold. To go from our house to the hospital in the city of Perugia we can take the SuperStrada around the city (faster but busier), the road that goes through the middle of town (tiny one way streets) or the pretty 2 lane road through the mountains. So, on the way to the hospital Luther took us through the city. On the way home I chose the mountains.
The road goes by a winery and agriturismo we like so we stopped to buy some wine. They also raise pigs which become prosciutto. Here’s the big ole sow. The piglets had run inside. The pens are super clean, and have inside and outside parts.
We also stopped at a place we’ve been passing all the years we’ve been here. It is an enormous castle and a beautiful golf course. We were looking for the restaurant that was supposed to be there. We drove up to the castle which is shuttered. Word has been it was supposed to be an upscale hotel, they also advertise condos for sale. For a long time it was covered with scaffolding but it had been removed a year or so ago. Yet still it is not open. Somebody put a lot of money into this property with the 18 hole Trent Jones golf course.
Old olive groves surround the castle
The golf course. We don’t have many golf courses in Umbria, or Italy, for that matter. It had a number of people playing. The sign at the entrance says welcome in Italian, English, German, and…Russian. Tells you who they are hoping to attract.
We had been invited to la cena (dinner) by our friend Vera. She is such a gem. Her suocera (mother-in-law) was having a big dinner for friends and family. No special occasion that I could discern. I was a little reticent but decided I need to mix more so we said we’d come. Vera said not to expect much. It was a down-home feast with the contadini (contadino means farmer) so local folks – working people, farmers.
I will tell about it in pictures 🙂 Here is Vera and her suocera.
The meal was going to be in the garage. As garages go, it was a nice one. Here is the cinghiale who watches over the scene.
I asked what the wires across the ceiling were for. I was told they were to hang the grapes that they dry to make Vin Santo. It is for personal consumption. The grapes are allowed to raisin to get sweet before they make it. They don’t make it every year so no grapes were hanging.
What garage do you know that has a crackling fire? It was for warmth but also for roasting chestnuts at the end of the meal.
Beside the fireplace inside sat Silvester, the ancient Tom Cat. He’s 13 years old and never been to the vet. Not castrated…Italian men don’t allow “cutting”… he didn’t want to be bothered or touched. When he moved it was the slowest I’ve ever seen a cat move. He must be hurting 🙁 But he did seem to be enjoying the fire’s warmth.
Just outside is their big forno (wood oven). And the outside fireplace. Both were roaring hot.
Here is the pork liver (I am fairly certain I’ve never had pork liver before) that had been cooked for both the crostini and the secondo, much to Luthers dismay. Not really, there was plenty of food and he tasted it. We were surprised Italians love liver so much!
The meal begins with crostini. One, liberally dosed with the new olive oil, the other, fegato (liver). Very, very rich!
Beginning the polenta. Two kinds of corn meal…Add to the boiling water, bring to a boil again and continuing adding hot water, “til it is right”, cook, stir.
Takes a LOT of stirring to make polenta
The polenta is pronounced ready.
To go on top, a luscious ragu. It had simmered for hours and hours in the biggest pot I’ve seen in a home kitchen! It was pork bits. All sorts with bones and all. Plus lots of sausage. By now the meat was off the bones. They scooped the meats out and put them on a separate plate. Then they took the tomatoes, which the meat had simmered in and scooped it into a separate dish. Rich and mouthwatering.
To serve, the polenta goes in a plate, add meat and sausages, and top with rich tomato sauce.
Two long tables. All men at one, all women at the other – hah! (Kids were upstairs) Very typical. After a while Vera and I moved over to the men’s table. There is no rule or prohibition to sit together. But the men and women prefer to talk of men’s and women’s things so why sit together?
I had fun. It had been a long day and I was pretty tired so we had the dolce (dessert) and headed home before the chestnuts were roasted. A very traditional, home cooked meal that couldn’t be beat! And a unique experience.
We’ve had a lot of wet dreary weather. Not cold, just damp and gray. So, this weekend, Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be pretty and sunny with no rain. We said, “let’s do something!”
Tiber on our way to the garage.
Sunday was the festival of San Martino. One of my favorites. On the 11th of November, Italy celebrates San Martino, a soldier of the Roman Empire who became a Saint for his great humility and generosity.
The story goes that while he was riding at the gates of the city of Amiens with his soldiers, he met a poor, freezing beggar, cut his own military cloak in half and shared it with him. That same night he dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given to the poor man and thanking him for his compassionate gesture.
It is also said that at the moment he shared his cloak, the sun came out and that is why what in the U.S. is known as Indian summer, in Italy is called Estate di San Martino: a short period of time during the first weeks of November characterized by relatively good, warm weather.
Well, our weather was quite nice today so, in honor of San Martino we went wine tasting!
We visited Arnaldo Caprai winery. There were lots of people there maybe because hardly any wineries are open on Sundays. It was a nice operation. Pretty tasting room, nice outside space. We did the standard tasting, grechetto white, montefaclco rosso, and sagrantino. We also asked to taste the Pinot nero and another Sagrantino. They brought us plates of bread with the new oil. And also they brought out plates of just roasted chestnuts. In honor of San Martino. We bought some wine and a bottle of the new oil.
Now for lunch. Five years ago, almost to the day, we had dined at Locanda Rovicciano We enjoyed it then so we decided to go back. It is an ancient building at the end of a dirt road. As you drive down the road you pass a number of houses that are surrounded by junk and the neighborhood looks really ugly. But once you pop out at the end it is quite pretty. It is also a B&B and there were several groups of Americans. How they found the place I’ll never know!
We had reserved and it’s good we did as the place was packed. I had the scrambled eggs with white truffles to start. Just outside of where we sat I could see a flock of white chickens. I knew where my eggs came from. They were brilliant yellow as are all the eggs here sourced locally. Happy chickens. The chef brought out two tiny white truffles and placed them on a tiny scale. They are sold by weight. He shaved one onto my eggs and recorded the grams. A yummy treat and not something you can get just anywhere. Luther had maccheroni with cheese and sausage. Real comfort food and a huge plateful.
Fried bread for munchies.
My first bite.
Eggs with truffles
For secondi I had the pigeon cooked under a brick on the fire. Luther had the lamb. I had spinach and Luther had the roasted potatoes for our contorni. A nice meal.
Back in Umbertide the festival of San Martino was in full swing. There were booths with flea market type junk and booths with hand crafted things like woolen hats and scarves. There was a big tent with the new olive oil all sourced from just near here. And the fires were crackling with the chestnuts roasting. I bought a cone of them along with a bottle of Umbertide oil from Monte Acuto. The band was setting up on the stage. The Nowhere men. They played old rock and roll. All in all a nice fest and a nice day.
Our friends couldn’t have asked for nicer weather. Autumn in Umbria is spectacular in an entirely different way from the brilliant greens of springtime.
The visit was with two friends. Eunice, one of my besties from my Book Group, and her husband Mark. Eunice was unable to come with the initial group of Book Group friends a few years ago. We had to make that right! So we experienced it again, with some new adventures thrown in so she has some experiences unique to her.
Our first outing was to Todi, one of my favorite towns in Umbria. Very high on a hill, it is fairly large and completely medieval. The heart of town is the Piazza del Popolo and here you find many gorgeous buildings to include the People’s Palace and the Captain’s Palace. The latter houses the Civic Museum and Gallery. We also found, for the first time, the funicular from a nice parking lot up to the top of town. It eliminates any arduous hill climbing.
Interesting door knob on our walk from the funicular to the Piazza.
One of the prettiest buildings and one of the only green areas is San Fortunato. Built originally by the Romans and converted to a church in the 1100s.
Also in the Piazza is the Todi Cathedral which features a rose window.
The Captain’s Palace. Very Venetian looking I think.
We had a nice lunch in one of our favorite restaurants, Ristorante Umbria.
The view from the walls which was also enjoyed by our restaurant.
Next up, a visit to Tom and Maximus. This will take a little explaining. Mark and Eunice are big Bernese Mountain dog fans. They have had several over the time I’ve known them. Their latest is Quinn who is 3 years old. When they heard Tom and Carol had a puppy named Max they wanted to meet him. So I asked Tom if we could come up. Well he’s a fine fellow and decided on a BBQ lunch for us all. It was a beautiful, clear day and we drove high up into the mountains to his house. Unfortunately Carol was in the UK because her father was ill so our friend , Joanne, who is Tom’s neighbor came up to join us.
We sat outside where it was breezy and much cooler than I had expected. I brought my World Famous Ribs for our contribution. Tom must have spent hours preparing all the food we had. We had an excellent time and the time flew. When I looked at my watch it was 6PM!! That’s what happens with a lunch here in Umbria with friends. Thanks Tom!
Pretty planter at Tom’s house.
Basil makes a nice arrangement on the set-up table.
The table and view.
The dessert was spectacular. And not too heavy.
Maximus (7 months old) was quite shy and took a long time to warm up to us. Everyone took time sitting on the floor with him. When we rose to leave he suddenly became very friendly! Funny pup. He also likes men more than women.
Our last real outing was to a vineyard in Bevagna, a small town in the wine growing area of the famous Sagrantino grape. It was another spectacular day. The winery Luther chose was Villa Mongalli. We had visited it 2 times before. A family operation consisting of the semi-retired father, two brothers, and their wives and small children. The last visits we had were with one of the brothers, Pierrepaolo. This time his wife, Natasha, conducted the tasting. We tasted a spectacular Rosato, a white Grechetto, a Rosso, two Sagrantini reds and one more, super smooth Montefalco Rosso. We, of course, bought several cases, and Eunice bought one for her planned soiree on the terrace of their rented house.
Sagrantino di Montefalco
Array of our bottles in the sun.
The vines are loaded. This is Sagrantino. They said it won’t be ready to harvest until late October.
We tasted a couple of theses. They are unbelievably sweet!
View across the acreage with grapes and olive groves. Pretty patchwork. I think Bavagna and Montefalco hills are the prettiest scenery in Umbria.
Natasha sent us up the road about a kilometer to a church with picnic tables. It was a lovely place. Way up high with excellent views. And the temperature was perfect!
Our picnic tavola. Prosciutto cotto and crudo, a nice pecorino and two flat breads. We drank a bottle of the Villa Mongalli Rosato. Prefect way to have lunch and not over eat too much.
Eunice and Luther.
View from the table of the medieval town of Bevagna. One of my favorites.
We drove on down to Bevagna after our lunch and strolled the town. Pretty streets.
I loved the sparkling sun on the fountain water.
After a two day break we joined up on their last night in Umbria at their rented house. We had a nice evening snack table outside on the spectacular terrace. It has perfect sundowners view as my British friends would say.
We really enjoyed Eunice and Mark’s visit in Umbria. It is always fun to show people around and it got us out of the house and into the beauty of our region!