Casa

Vinopalooza Photo Diary

Highlights:
A tour of the Diogini vineyardl, a fabulous view at from the winery, and dinner prepared by Chef Simone at the villa (pasta, and lamb stew, and artichokes).
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Day II Read more

Highlights: A tour of the Diogini vineyardl, a fabulous view at from the winery, and dinner prepared by Chef Simone at the villa ...

Easter Presence

Famiglia 011One of the things we have found so appealing about Italy and the Italians throughout the years is their ability to slow down and enjoy the life that is right before their eyes, noses, ears, tongues and fingers. Often summed up in the phrase la dolce vita, we have built our business and our lives around spreading the gospel of slow. And we even sum it up in Via Umbria’s tagline – Discover | Savor | Share.

Italians don’t just pay lip service to savoring life, they simply cannot ignore this genetic predisposition, ingrained as it is in their DNA. More than once when involved in business negotiations or getting to know a new supplier we would break for lunch and rather than continuing the negotiations over the meal all talk of business would be banished until the last grappa was consumed. Usually three or four hours later

But despite being ambassadors for this way of life, we have always had a difficult time walking the walk. Anyone who has travelled on one of our tours and who has gotten to take a peek behind the curtain knows that in organizing these apparently carefree experiences, the reality is anything but. It’s not just that the candle is burnt on both ends, the leftover wax is literally doused in lighter fluid and until the table itself is set aflame and the house afire.

And so as we returned to Italy last week, the first five days to be shared with both our daughter and one of our sons, we resolved to be truly Italian. To slow down and put aside all thoughts of work or business, anything that would distract from enjoying the here and now of being with our family. And despite not just a mountain, but a whole range of Everests that demanded our attention – more than you, dear reader will ever know – we did a pretty good job of staying focused on the things that matter. Family. Friends. Connections.

And what a memorable and meaningful five days it was.

  • ♦  Arrival lunch at Trattoria da Oscar in Bevagna, our first visit but definitely not our last.
  • ♦  First night’s dinner at Perbacco, a homecoming every time we see Ernesto and Simona.

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  • ♦  Our first visit to the winery at Villa Sobrano near Todi, learning about how the sandy soil in that part of Umbria imparts a mineral characteristic to their Grechetto and then getting to taste the proof over a simple but delicious lunch with the owners.

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  • ♦  A sunset visit to Diego’s farm, Calcabrina, where a local Franciscan monk was offering his Easter blessings (in exchange for a sack full of Diego’s caprino cheeses), washing down the milky freshness with some light rose and some fresh sagrantino.

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  • ♦  A home cooked dinner at the farmhouse with Simone, where we welcomed in the spring with a bistecca and a menu of fresh artichokes prepared four ways (grilled, steamed, fried and raw in salad).

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  • ♦  An Eastertime visit to the artisanal chocolate producer Ellegi, where they are lovingly working overtime to create chocolate Easter eggs filled with surprises.

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  • ♦  Lunch and a winery visit at Terre Margaritelli, where our friend Federico defied the odds and shook of the pressure of being told he gives the best winery tour in all of Italy by delivering the best winery tour in all of Italy while his wife Jennifer prepared the best porchetta in all of Umbria.
  • ♦  Dinner at casa Simone e Desiderio with our new best friends Roberto and Elena DiFilippo (and their daughter Bianca Maria).
  • ♦  A leisurely lunch of “leftovers” at home by the pool, under cool spring skies.

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  • ♦  A visit to Birra Perugia, where the owners not only kept the doors open for us an hour and a half after closing, but shared stories and glasses of each of their beers with us.
  • ♦  Carlo Magno pizza eaten fireside at home, followed by a late night movie viewing in the upstairs sitting room.

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  • ♦  A day trip to Florence featuring lunch at the Birreria Centrale, our original haunt on our first trip to Italy, and an enormous dinner of bistecca and Brunello at Francesco Vini, capped off by a tour of the restaurant’s cellar, built into the original Roman amphitheater that occupied the spot nearly two thousand years ago.

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  • ♦  An early morning send off of our youngest son as he embarked on what would turn out to be a 24 hour journey back to the west coast and college as we pulled up stakes and headed to Verona with our daughter for VinItaly.

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Five short days with family. But when you slow down and savor each moment as we did this week, it seems like a blessed eternity. The Italians definitely have gotten something dead on right.

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy

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What a Week Read more

One of the things we have found so appealing about Italy and the Italians throughout the years is their ability to slow ...

Pizza Paradiso

Day 12 012Only in Italy can you sit down to a dinner of a dozen pizzas and describe it as “a light dinner.” Welcome to pizza night at la Fattoria del Gelso.

We have enjoyed pizza all over the peninsula, from Puglia to Piemonte, from Udine to Umbria. Several years ago, joined by our friends Pete and Nancy we devoted a full two and a half days to touring every pizzeria Naples could throw our way, eating and judging our way through nearly a dozen of the world’s most highly regarded pizzerias sampling scores of margheritas, marinaras and pizze bianche.

Day 12 015Pizza is an Italian icon but one with many variations and many personalities. Frequently we hear spirited arguments about the virtues of a soft, fluffy crust versus a crisper, cracker-y crust. We tend to side with the former but respect the latter.

One of the favorite activities on our Food and Wine tours (as well as our weekly rentals) is pizza night with Marco. Being Umbrian, perhaps Marco is not a natural born pizza maker. But over the past couple of years he has thrown himself into the pizza making process with such gusto that today you might mistakenly think he had been born in Naples. Of particular pride is his handmade pizza dough, a recipe introduced to us by our Cannarese neighbor Jennifer McIlvaine but worked and reworked by Marco. In our simple outdoor oven Marco is able to coax a fluffy, doughy crust that has volume, substance and flavor.

Pizza night is a hands on affair, with guests participating as much or as little as they wish. Most help stretch out some of the doughs. Most help top pizzas with tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and assorted other ingredients available in the farmhouse kitchen, including local Cannara onions, fresh sausage from Norcia, truffle sauce, vegetables from the garden and myriad other toppings. Some of the favorites are gorgonzola, pear and nut, sausage and onion and anything with truffle.

As you can see below, pizza time is not just for our adult guests. Earlier this month Marco’s children Carlo Alberto and Viola joined him in the kitchen to make pizzas and then enjoyed them at the table along with their mother Chiara.

Welcome to pizza night at la Fattoria del Gelso. Buon appetito!

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy

The best "light dinner" Read more

Only in Italy can you sit down to a dinner of a dozen pizzas and describe it as “a light dinner.” Welcome ...

Porziuncola

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“George Washington slept here.”  So proclaim signs ringing in an impossible number of villages and towns along the East coast, each seeking to burnish its reputation by associating with one of our most famous and respected forebears.

“In questo luogo santo Francesco insengno le laudi di Dio…” announces a small shrine, barely noticeable along the road that connects our village of Cannara to nearby Bevagna.  It is on that spot that our native son, Saint Francis of Assisi, is reputed to have delivered his Sermon to the Birds.

Continue reading Porziuncola

The Peaceful Land Read more

“George Washington slept here.”  So proclaim signs ringing in an impossible number of villages and towns along the East coast, each seeking ...

Good Morning

20130917 004Often – well, pretty much always -we take for granted the little stuff, the daily stuff, the routine stuff. And this is certainly true when talking about our first activity of the day here in Italy – breakfast. Continue reading Good Morning

Breakfast is Ready! Read more

Often – well, pretty much always -we take for granted the little stuff, the daily stuff, the routine stuff. And this is ...

What I did on my Summer Vacation

Six weeks in Italy.  Tomorrow it’s a wrap.

It’s been a trip.  Literally.

Hope you have some fun looking back at all the people, places and things we did.  All the food we ate, the wine we drank, the friends we laughed with.  Thank you to everyone who made these last six weeks special, to the Americans who came as guests and left as friends, to the Italian friends who came as friends and whom will never leave our hearts.

Thank you, on behalf of everyone who has ridden in our oversized van, shared an oversized meal and dreamt oversized dreams, to those who made this time so special – Wendy, Marco, Maria Pia, Daniele, Alvaro.

And thank you to all who have shared this piece of Italy with us over the past month and a half, who help us build memories that will last with us for a lifetime.

Salute.  Cin-cin.  Perugia!

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy

[click on an image below to launch a slide show.]

 

After Six Weeks Read more

Six weeks in Italy.  Tomorrow it's a wrap. It's been a trip.  Literally. Hope you have some fun looking back at all the people, ...

Same Old?

This morning we said our goodbyes to the group of six with whom we spent the last week sharing our Umbria. As is always the case, the goodbyes are tinged with sadness, an abrupt, forced severing of the bonds of friendship that grow so easily and strong here in this country. At least we have a new group arriving this afternoon to look forward to. Continue reading Same Old?

How a Week Went By Read more

This morning we said our goodbyes to the group of six with whom we spent the last week sharing our Umbria. As ...

Keep it Cool

Greetings once again from Umbria. Il cuore verde d’Italia. The green heart of Italy. Not doing a great deal here on this trip – we have a few guests in tow with us, but no planned itinerary, no pressing program of things we have to do, to check off, as is the case with our organized food and wine tours. Just a lazy, relaxing but thoroughly enjoyable summer visit. Continue reading Keep it Cool

Even when it's 95 degrees Read more

Greetings once again from Umbria. Il cuore verde d’Italia. The green heart of Italy. Not doing a great deal here on this ...