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Archive for May, 2016

It is just so incredible, so stunning, so surprising despite its frequency this amazing Italian generosity, embracing character, genuine friendliness. My god we are humbled. We have been here two weeks and in that time we have been comped something – wine, dessert, coffee – at least a dozen times. It’s not that we aren’t generous in the United States, but the level of it here on a very personal level is – well, humbling.

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The prosecco was given to us as we sat down

You have to earn it, no question. And it springs from a genuineness on our part, but their response knocks your socks off. We don’t expect it and we don’t do it because we expect or hope for a certain response. That is why we are so humbled.

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Filet, roasted potatoes, chickory

I don’t want to discount the generosity of all who have shown it this past two weeks. But Cristian is over the top. We have been to his restaurant four times since we’ve between here and he has comped is two of  those meals. He comped our first meal – we always  have our first and last dinner with him. And he comped us last night’s dinner – kristi’s birthday. I’m sorry, but where would you get that treatment in the U.S.?

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Julia with Kristi and our panna cotta

This is why we love Italy, and Orvieto. Yes, we have been coming here for 14 years but the same longevity doesn’t translate in America. I’m not being critical, I’m just pointing out a beautiful characteristic of this sweet town that still amazes and stuns me.

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Julia, Cristian, and Rolanda our Trattoria d'Aronne family

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Today was the Corteo Storico, Orvieto’s incredible parade of hundreds in medieval costume. The parade was held but cancelled part way through due to rain. Still, we got to see two of the four elements, each different, each full of color, pageantry, drama. Here is one part.

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Our friend Alberto, who basically runs the parade

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Just a couple of the dozens of different flags

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The level of craftsmanship in the costumes, flags, weapons is just stunning. Such a treat to experience this exceptional Orvieto tradition!

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Thursday the twice weekly market is in town full of the freshest produce. We went and gathered goodies for a picnic to have in the courtyard.

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In the afternoon we went out to Palazzone vineyard on a beautiful afternoon. It is just incredible as the afternoon progresses how the light gets softer and softer turning the hills into the gentlest velvet.

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A bit of the lawn in front of the locanda built around 1200

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Orvieto in the background

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The view of Orvieto from the terrace where we tasted 4 wines and these delicacies.

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Back on the rock after dinner – an evening stroll.

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Just hard not to love this place!!

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At the end of our first full day we do a wine and food pairing dinner with Graziella, Rita, and Carla. We’ve done this dozens of times and it is always different. Amazing the variety, and the creativity of these powerhouse women.

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This was the appetizer plate. Eggplant flan with a squash puree on top, truffle on bread, arugula pesto and more. This was preceded with bruschetta using Rita and Carla’s unbelievable olive oil.

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Asparagus pasta

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For the secondo we had lamb and a salad. Not pictured was panna cotta with strawberries for dessert. Each course came with a different wine that Graziella helped us taste and appreciate with the food it was paired.

Next night we went to make pasta with Maurizio, followed by dinner on the pasta we had made.

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Emma, Maurizio’s daughter who I have known since she was one, joined us for her first ever pasta making lesson.

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Maurizio had this beautiful machine that rolls out the dough in a heartbeat. Very cool!

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Angel hair, tagliatelle, fettuccine, and papperdelle all coming from the dough we made.

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There are about 230 different pasta shapes in Italy! Maurizio showed us just a few of the possibilities.

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This long one I want to try at home. It holds lots of sauce. Need to go back and get the name of it from him! Then came the dinner.

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The appetizer plate that includes a little omelette, a little quiche, two baby pizzas, and one made with turnips. Mamma Mia!

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The primis. Two pastas – one with a ragu sauce and one with eggplant. In front is risotto made with saffron from his garden. Incredible! And he showed us a new way to get the risotto started I’ll be trying at home.

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The secondi. Wild boar, roast beef, bacon, roasted potato, and look how he made flowers with the veggies!

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Maurizio is a pastry chef by training. This was dessert, all of it delectable.

So that was two nights with of yum. Last night we ate at Cibus. The have a new, beautiful menu.

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A big bowl of mussels and sea bream. Two big, beautiful salads to finish the night.

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Cappuccino at the market before shopping for a picnic lunch. Food in Italy! Buon appetito!!

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We love staying at our convent B&B. It is so nice to have space to spread out, beautiful surroundings, the incredible history dating to 1400, the frescoes, caves, art. How could we ever stay in a normal old hotel? Here are some views of the garden.

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Here’s Kristi in a patch of sun knitting in the quiet.

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Giovanna is a lover of cactuses and has this collection outside the studio in which we have our art workshops.

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Such incredible variety. She also has some planted in the garden. And here’s a view of the marble staircase that leads from the ballroom and our rooms down to the first floor courtyard.

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And from the courtyard up to the patio above. Nice place. Come join us here!

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Italy has wonderful food. It varies by region, is not just spaghetti or pizza. Here is a little tour of our food from the last few days to give a sense of the variety and how beautiful it is.

We love eating with “The boys” at Vin Caffe.

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Most people go to Vin Caffe for a beer or wine, but they also have excellent light food. If ordering a drink they always bring a wonderful, ever-varied plate of appetizers as this one here.

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Two soups. One is a lentil-bean. The near one is a chickpea soup with bacala – salt codfish. Oh so good!

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Still at Vin Caffe, a mixed salad, buffalo mozzarella which is the silkiest, most divine mozzarella you can imagine, and a plate of radicchio with cheese and bread that has been put under the broiler. Oh my!

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We are now at Folk Osteria. Folk has innovative, nontraditional food, which is a sheer pleasure if you want something different. Here is prima salata pecorino cheese with tomatoes and asparagus. The cheese is made from sheep milk and is creamy. In front, a stew made from chickpeas and legumes served in a bread bowl.

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On to Bartolomei where, with our groups, we do our first night food and wine pairing. Faro salad, prosciutto and melon. Not pictured a barley soup.

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Mushroom pizza at Bistrotters which has Orvieto’s best pizza. Super thin, crispy crust, light sauce.

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La Palomba is a traditional restaurant known for their use of truffles. Here we have chicoria, a kind of green, a mixed salad, lamb, and a steak in red wine sauce.

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Or favorite restaurant is Torre Moro d’Aronne where our good friend Christian holds forth. Simply the best. Here eggs with asparagus baked in the oven, eggplant meatballs which you would swear is meat, and chicoria again.

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Desserts are killer, and if you can’t decide, head to the street and get gelato!!

Then there is the market. We do lots of picnics with our groups because it is light and we get such fresh produce.

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We also get salads for our picnics from Montanuccia’s

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Then you have to finish or start the day with coffee!

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So much food, such good food!!

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Back in Orvieto. I get here and my camera just jumps into my hand. I’ve seen it all before multiple times, but it still inspires, stirs the heart and soul. So here are a few pictures.

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As our friend Alberto says, “We dress or city” as the banners go up for the biggest celebration of the year, the incredible medieval parade of hundreds in period costume which will take place May 29. Below you get a sense of why Umbria is called the green heart of Italy. They have had a wet spring so it is really, really green!

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San Giovenale is my favorite church. So sweet, so dear, so simple, so beautiful.

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For those of you who have been here, you know we were morose last fall as our favorite cafe, Scarponnis, was closed. It was old world, traditional, formal. We watched as the space was being renovated. It is done and it is beautiful, modern, slick, cozy. Coffee is as good as ever and it is also a restaurant we will soon try. We once again are able to enjoy a coffee watching the market unfold on Thursday and Saturday. We knew the owner Valentina just a little bit and she is friends with our good friends Nick and Simona, with whom we cook. Have a look.

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A few more shots and then I’m off to enjoy the streets!!

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