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Archive for December, 2009

The Season to Receive

It is, of course, the season of giving. But it is also the season of receiving for, while I love to give, I also have come to understand it is just as important to be able to receive. So, in this season, I am led to reflect on all the receiving we do when we are on our trips in Orvieto each spring and fall.

One of the reasons to travel is that it is a tremendous way to learn – not just about the places  you visit, but about yourself. It is through contrast that we see ourselves more clearly. One reason I love staying in one place for a week so much is that you have the time to truly recognize  and think about the contrasts. If you rush from place to place when you travel, you are so busy  keeping your schedule that you don’t have time to observe deeply, to interact in a meaningful way with others, to get to know a place.

When we travel to Orvieto we have the time to observe, interact and get to know. And what I  recognize in this season of giving and receiving is how much people in Orvieto give us and those  who travel with us – how much we receive.

Some of our Orvietani Friends

Some of our Orvietani friends

It is hard to describe, nay, it is impossible, to relate the warm, open welcome and honest  hospitality we receive from so many people in so many ways. Here is a sampling.

  • The convent Bed and Breakfast at which we stay is a nest, a retreat, a nurturing home. Without fail we are treated to some incredible, delectable food prepared by the hands of our hosts. But what stuns and humbles us is the loving, joyous welcome they provide.
  • Across the street from the B&B Alberto works in his ceramic shop named “The Court of Miracles.” He puts down his work whenever we walk by to talk with us and share insights on life and living in Orvieto. Alberto is in charge of preparing the 400 museum-quality period costumes worn in Orvieto’s most important community celebration, a job he has to perform for weeks in advance, every night from after dinner until late into the night. What does he do during this most intense and busy period of his year? He invites our groups to a personal tour of the costumes he is readying.
  • Erika, nearly 50 years as an American ex-pat in Orvieto, married an Italian, raised her children in Orvieto. She offers her time, her car, her insights and knowledge so we are better prepared and ready for our guests. She selflessly gives of her time to our groups, and acts as translator whenever we need it.
  • Vicenzo, the dentist who pays a house call on a moment’s notice because one of our guests has a toothache.
  • Pier Giorgio, incredibly busy as the director of Slow Cities headquartered in Orvieto, inviting us into his home for an aperitif and dessert, and inviting us to countless events in Orvieto open only to native Orvietani.

The list and gestures goes on and on. And so this season it is with true humbleness that we reflect on the receiving we do in Italy. We receive and those who travel with us receive as well. How lucky is that?

More friends from Orvieto

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Marcella and Food

If you haven’t discovered Marcella Hazan and you like Italian food, do yourself a favor and check her out. An Italian, she learned to cook when she married her Italian born, but New York raised husband. They moved to the US after marrying where she learned to cook in order to feed her working husband. She splits time between Italy and the US and so is knowledgeable about the differences in available food.

I’ve failed to find a recipe that isn’t great. And she has some different and enjoyable ones. Here are a few comments from the introduction to her cookbook Marcella Cucina which speak to why we love Italian food so much.

  • “I am not interested in fusion or cross-cultural hybrids. in rootless, inconsequential cooking that does not communicate a clear sense of identity, of place.” This is quintessential Italy in my opinion, and one of the reasons we love it.
  • “The universal quality that Italy’s regions can claim for their cooking is that it is kind to the palate. It is food that charms the palate with flavors that are fresh, clear, plain-spoken, direct.”
  • “Except on pasta, there are no sauces as such, just the unlabored juices that issue spontaneously from making a roast or a stew or a fricassee. On pasta, sauce is used with restraint, to coat, not to blanket.”

We often mistake what Italian cooking is. It is the simpleness and fresh ingredients that make it exceptional. Marcella’s recipes are just that – simple and delicious.

If you are looking for a Christmas gift for someone who loves to cook, one of Marcella’s cookbooks would be a good choice!!

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Women’s Only Trip

Kristi has lots of women-only activities, and we have often thought a women’s only trip to Orvieto would be fun. It is an ideal place for a variety of reasons.

  • It is simply a great size for getting around on foot.
  • There is so much to do that nearly all interests can be met.
  • It is completely safe – we never hear a siren and have never had a minutes problem.
  • It has an amazing variety of stores – leather, clothing, food, jewelry, accessories, art, cosmetics, gifts.
  • It has simply exceptional food.
  • The wine, and olive oil and other local produce is to die for.
  • It has a killer cathedral and amazing art.
  • It has a long history dating to the Etruscans in 800 B.C.
  • The vineyard we visit has a dreamy owner!!

The catalyst for deciding to do a trip  just for women, tapping into all Orvieto has to offer, was the several days we spent in Castiglione del Lago in October. (I plan to blog about this sweet town.) We were sitting in the piazza one afternoon when we noticed a group of women. One was a serious photographer, another a serious shopper, one had jogging clothes on, one was organizing their afternoon aperitif. They were having a great time!

Nothing against the guys mind you, but sometimes women do just want to do their own thing. So our Girlfriend’s Getaway is going to be offered twice a year, take in all Orvieto’s charm and allure, and simply be a good time. We are also offering it to a group of 6 women friends or more who want to go any time of the year – Orvieto has a jazz festival between Christmas and New Year.So gather up your friends and join us. Of course, I’ll be around, but just to make sure you have all you need!

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