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Archive for the ‘Orvieto Experiences’ Category

One of the things I love about Italy is that it’s seasonal. We have grown so accustomed in the U.S. to having everything available all the time that we have forgotten how we once flowed with the seasons experiencing and appreciating things in their time.

Buffalo mozzarella from Campania

This is of course obvious with produce where we get tomatoes, albiet the tasteless, soulless fruit that it is in the U.S., all year long. When you come to Italy you find artichokes in the spring but not the fall. In the fall you find fall fruits and veggies you never see in spring. These seasonal variations are reflected in the menus at restaurants.

3 pecorinos with lemon, orange, pear and fig jellies

There is the less obvious. Chocolate can’t be found in the warm months. We won’t be able to give chocolate welcome goodies to our guests for a week or two more, and then only if the temperature has cooled down. Americans often complain, yet I think it helps us be more in tune with the season and to enjoy each season’s bounty and character all the better.

12 year old balsamico to gave the cheese

Then there is the incredible diversity of regions, of being local. We are getting more this way in the U.S., but the Italians take it to an entirely different level. We did a cheese tasting with Cristian Manca at his deli Gastronomia. What an eye opener. We had buffalo mozzarella from Campania, the area around Naples. It is specific to the area. We had 3 pecorino cheeses, each aged a different period of time. The one year old was from Grosetto. It was distinctly better. Then we had a 5 year old pecorino. Very strong but good. And he put a drop of 12 year old balsamic vinegar on one piece – balsamic from Modena. Unbelievable.

Graziella and Cristian

We finished with a Gorgonzola like none I’ve ever had, again specific to it’s area. It is so creamy you have to spoon it out of the 5 kilo wheel it is aged in. He sprinkled chocolate shavings on it and served it with a sweet wine I’ve never had before from Palazzone winery – a winery I have been visiting for 15 years. Even our foodie friend and sommelier Graziella Gasparri, who was explaining the wines we had with the cheese, had never had Gorgonzola with chocolate.

Gorgonzola, shaved chocolate and Palazzone’s wine

These foods all came from distinct geographic areas that are quite small. Beautiful variety and character specific to the locale. Palazzone wine maker Giovanni Dubini has always insisted that his wine taste like his vineyard, that it not try to be like every other wine of the same variety out there. He succeeds, and his wines are sublime.

Italy is full of wonders. I think the seasonal, local aspect of it’s culture is every bit as impressive as it’s art and architecture. Indeed, it is art.

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I walk seven to ten miles a day here in Orvieto. I love it. There is a richness to life that happens when you move at the pace of a human. You are in tune with everything around you. You see more. You observe more. You hear more of all the life going on.

It helps that it is a pedestrian friendly environment. Also helpful is the fact that everything you need is right here, so accessible. The city is full of little stores. There are grocery stores – much, much smaller than in the U.S. but they have all you need. Still, it is more fun to go to the various vendors for food. One place for your veggies and fruit, another for your cheese, one for bread, yet another for meat, and one for dessert. 

At these smaller stores you develop a warm relationship with the owners. They learn your preferences, help you find what you prefer or even hold it for you. This is part of the richness, the personal relationships you develop.

On the streets you begin to recognize people and exchange greetings. it is just so personal!

Italy is a sensory place. Being on foot enables us to appreciate and savor all those sensory experiences even more.

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We took our group to our friend Simona’s house for cooking. We went an hour early so they could sketch for the work they are doing with our teacher – Junelle Jacobsen

The country around Simona’s house is beautiful. A short rain brought is a stunning double rainbow.

We made a ricotta/pear/walnut/pancetta appetizer, pasta, a pumpkin/sausage/fennel flower ragu, and tiramisu.

Sweet dreams!!

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One of the alluring aspects of Italy is that there are so many layers. You peel away what you see and there is another layer, and another. This is evident on the street as you observe an arch within and arch within and arch speaking of years of change and transition. It’s beautiful.

Because we had a mosaic group in May we wanted them to see and be inspired by the mosaic floor of a Byzantine church underneath the “contemporary”church of St. Andrea. Here you see the layers. Byzantine underneath St Andrea and on top of Roman on top of Etruscan.

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Here is an Etruscan furnace underneath the floor of the Byzantine floor underneath the floor of St. Andrea. When the Romans defeated the Etruscans about 200 B.C. they banished them and shut the city down for nearly 700 years. Slowly, dirt piled up on top of the Etruscan ruins until the rock was finally reoccupied in the 4-500 A.D. period.

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The rough stone at the bottom is the base for the smooth stone on top – an Etruscan street. Above that is debris and then the base for the Byzantine church floor with the mosaics on the floor. The Etruscan streets ran northwest to southeast unlike the Christian orientation of due north-south/east-west.

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Here you see the mosaic floor, the “modern” foundation of  St. Andrea with the Byzantine column coming out of the foundation that had supported the Byzantine church ceiling above and still helping support the floor above.

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Pavers leading to an Etruscan well, once part of the street but then covered by the church 700 years later

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The rough block at the bottom is Etruscan. The smooth block, Byzantine. The concrete from St Andrea. The Etruscan foundation still at work 2500 years later.

Layers!!

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The second part of the Corteo Storico that we saw took place in Piazza Popolo. I am again amazed and impressed by the costumes, by the numbers who participate in this event, by the vibrance, intensity and beauty of the colors. A magical experience.

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It was disappointing for all that the Corteo was called due to rain. Look at all the people on the street after! But we still saw a great deal, in this out third one. So beautifully impressive. A work of love for so many including our friend Alberto. Grazie tante!!

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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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