Tag Archives: marco

Chiara and Marco’s Umbria

It’s summer at La Fattoria del Gelso and we are ready to host you in this awesome place in the green heart of Italy. We said summer and that means pool, drinks, fresh food and relaxing. We had this combination a couple of days ago and now it’s time to share with the guests. The farmhouse is ready with its flowers and this year we’re lucky to have a wonderful golden wheat crop set against the cozy sunset each evening. Like every summer, the chicken coop is full of friends: hens, guinea fowls, geese, ducks and our beautiful rooster (he is a good fellow, he understands that he can’t bother us early in the morning!)

Another beautiful corner is our garden. The asparagus has just finished, but a good substitution has just arrived: green beans are now the king of La Fattoria del Gelso. And we can’t wait for the tomatoes and potatoes that are coming next. And since we are in Cannara, we can’t miss garlic and onion. So… we have good weather, a good location, good food and what else? Of course good wine is always with us.


Next week we’ll have our typical pizza night and we are going to try our new favorite pizza: mozzarella, fresh stracciatella, anchovies and truffle! What? Did someone say truffle? Yes, we did. This year we have a new member in our family: Google, the truffle dog! Google and Marco go truffle hunting every morning and they are doing a great job. A lot of people are coming and we are ready to host them on tours, private dinners, cooking classes or whatever they might ask.


We try to do our best to give you an unforgettable experience in Umbria.

Marco and Chiara

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108 Hours in Cannara

108 Hours in Cannara 006Nothing says summer to me like spending a few weeks in Umbria, visiting friends, finding new and interesting products for the store, enjoying Umbria jazz, and, of course, relaxing by the pool. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out as planned- a lesson we learned last week during a whirlwind visit to to Cannara. with only 108 hours in Cannara – I warn you now, the details of this trip are not for the faint of heart, the easily tired, or the weak of liver- read along at your own risk

Thursday, July 14, 2016

After many days of postponing and rescheduling our trip, we finally made it to the airport, bags in hand, happily seated at our gate, ready for a short but amazing trip to our favorite place only to find out that the flight was delayed. Not just delayed, extremely delayed. By the time we finally (rather crankily) boarded the plane six more hours were gone from our already truncated vacation but we were determined to make the most of it.

Friday, July 15, 2016

108 Hours in Cannara 0056:30pm With our original scheduled arrival time in Rome of 7:24 am we had planned to have lunch with Simone in Bevagna. With the flight delay, however, lunchtime was long gone by the time we left Rome but we beelined for Simone’s anyway (after making a quick stop at Lufra to pick up fresh mozzarella di bufala of course).  We arrived at  le Delizie del Borgo just in time for Spritz O’Clock and spent an hour catching up with our fourth (and favorite) ‘son’ Simone over a platter of salamis and cheese.  

7:30pm When we finally made our way to the Farmhouse, Jennifer McIlvaine and Federico Bibi pulled up behind us with their adorable children, and after a few minutes of excited greetings in the driveway we opted for drinks in the living room.  For those of you suffering through the current east coast heatwave you will find it impossible to believe, but despite being the dead of summer, it was way too cold to sit outside!  

108 Hours in Cannara 002Inside we found Marco and Orusia firing up the pizza oven, and friends of ours from Washington who were staying with us at the Farmhouse soon returned from a day of touring. Not far behind them were our son and his girlfriend whom we picked up at the Foligno train station- the last piece of our group.

Marco outdid himself, as always, and our raucous group enjoyed pie after pie with a bit of spicy bomba and Birra Perugia.  A small taste of Nutella pizza to end the meal.

12:00am No idea what time it was when bedtime finally rolled around but it was definitely  a long day.



108 Hours in Cannara 007

Saturday, July 16

1:00pm After catching up on our zzzzzs our intrepid group headed to Bevagna for a “light” lunch with Simone.  It was another beautiful day and we happily enjoyed our meal outside in the park.

5:00pm I finally had to give in and take a quick nap while Bill took a group to Foligno on a hunt for a Sicilian pastry shop to satiate a craving for cassata, and a visit to the Granarium (our nearby zero kilometer granary, mill and bakery) for a tour and to buy flour, bread and cookies.


7:30pm – It’s a birthday celebration and we have invited several (see below) of our Italian friends to join us.  We were hoping to eat outside, but again it is too cold and the Italians want nothing to do with the chilly, fresh air.  We have Spritz by the pool and then head indoors where Marco has rearranged the dining room to accommodate our small party of 25.  In addition to the group staying with us we are happy to have Gerardo and Assunta Ribigini, Jennifer and Federico (tonight they are senza children), Albertino and Jessica Pardi, Zia Augusta, Alberto, Linda and GianLuca Pardi and Linda’s mother, Federico and Claudia Ribigini and Daniele Sassi.

108 Hours in Cannara 003

108 Hours in Cannara 0018:15pm Everyone has brought wine so we have a selection from Terre Margaritelli, Pardi and Tabarrini to pair with a favorite summer meal – fried sage leaves, onions, zucchini and zucchini blossoms followed by pasta with arugula and walnuts, mixed grill and vegetables from the garden.

10:00pm We have sparklers in the Birthday cake but the real fireworks are outside.  Marco has picked up a fabulous pyrotechnic display and Bill has it matched perfectly to Whitney Houston’s Star Spangled Banner.

Sunday, July 17

6:00am – early departure to Cantina Dionigi for a Hot Air Balloon Ride.  You can read about it here.

108 Hours in Cannara 008

1:00 pm – Lunch in Bevagna with Simone, Marco, Francesco Rustici and his wife Elisa, plus the group at the house.

An opportunity to introduce our guests to our favorite Italian Tradition – Sunday Lunch.  Our children have bravely endured lunches lasting anywhere from 3-7 hours and despite their protests as children they have come to love and expect them.  This is a meal where the food is slowly paced, no electronics are on hand and everyone is engaged in conversation.  

6:00 pm – Not a Menard record – but still an excellent leisurely lunch.

Back to the house with Ombretta’s children Silvia and Tomaso for a quick swim before the sun sets.

108 Hours in Cannara 010

7:00pm – Albertino and Jessica stop by to visit and we make plans for dinner on Tuesday night.

8:00pm – All plans of attending a local wine festival get scratched in favor of setting up the big screen outside and picking up pizza.  Another chilly night so we bundle up and hunker down to watch a movie.

Monday, July 18

108 Hours in Cannara 0099:00am – Up by 9:00 to play cards with Tomaso and Silvia (who have opted to spend the night) and say goodbye to our guests.  

11:00am – The sun is shining and we take a break to sit by the pool and swim with Tomaso and Silvia.

1:00pm – Off to Cantina Tabarrini to see the new renovation – it’s breathtaking.  Giampaolo’s plans and ideas are exhausting but the result is going to be amazing.  We are treated to an excellent meal prepared by Franca and Federica – food fresh from their garden and an introduction to a new label and the latest release of Montefalco Rosso.

6:00pm – Back to the house for a couple of quick business calls and emails – it’s a work day after all.

108 Hours in Cannara 0117:30pm – Dinner at Cantina DiFilippo

Roberto is just back from his winery in Romania but he has the horses all set up for a sunset carriage ride through the vineyard. Elena and Bianca Maria are fantastic hosts and we enjoy a flight of Asiago cheeses and plenty of wines.

Enjoying a beautiful night with friends with Assisi lit up and sparkling in the distance.

Tuesday, July 19

8:00am – Up early to pack and return emails.

1:00pm – Off to lunch at the home of Marco’s parents, Anna and Lodovico Palermi where we are joined by Chiara, Carlo Alberto and Viola and Chiara’s mother Mariella.

3:30pm – Back to the house to Visit with Augusta.

6:00pm – Time to pack up.

108 Hours in Cannara 0127:00pm – Off to Cantina Pardi for a farewell dinner of Jessica’s Korean specialities.  It’s not easy to find all the staples for a Korean feast in the heart of Italy but Jessica makes it all seem simple and delicious.

10:30pm – Quick stop in Bevagna to say goodbye to Simone.  The circle is complete.  We have seen everyone and enjoyed our brief visit.  It’s time to go home and share our experiences, stories and hopefully a few new tastes at Via Umbria.

108 Hours in Cannara 013

Wednesday, July 20

6:00am – Early morning and departure for Rome FCO and back to DC.  Bill gets the honor of captaining the early morning drive.  I sleep.

Not the most relaxing summer vacation – but it’s easy to trade in relaxation for good friends, good wine, and good fun. Italy is such a magical place, but the most special thing about it for me has always been the people and it’s trips like these that remind me how lucky I am to have found such a great community in Umbria. For those of you who were not able to come with us on this trip, we encourage you to keep apprised of the goings on in the store.  Rumor has it a few of these friendly faces may be popping up in Georgetown in the next few months. And for those of you looking to book your own vacations in Italy, give us a call! We are happy to share our experience, and our farmhouse with you.

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Nothing says summer to me like spending a few weeks in Umbria, visiting friends, finding new and interesting products for the store, ...

Travel Tips: Umbrian History

Umbrian history is long and steeped in history and culture. The region of Umbria is crossed by two valleys: the Umbrian valley from Perugia to Spoleto, and the Tiber Valley, from Citta di Castello to the border with Lazio. Travel expert Marco Palermi tells us about his favorite places to visit.

There are many hills and historical towns in this area, such as Perugia, Assisi, Norcia, Gubbio, Spoleto, Todi, Orvieto, Castiglione del Lago and many other small cities. To simply wander through these beautiful hill towns will immerse you in their extraordinary history (from Etruscan to Roman, to Napoleonic), but there are a few places of note that are my favorites:

Ipogeo dei Volumni

The wall around Spoleto – A great example of classic, ancient Umbrian design and style

Ipogeo dei Volumni – An Etruscan archaeological site near Perugia with crypts, tombs and sculpted marble sarcophagi

Carsulae – An wonderful old Roman town on the way to Terni, and one of the most impressive archaeological ruins in Italy. It was even once used as a quarry for building materials transported to cities like Spoleto!

Trasimeno Lake – Roman history buffs will love to explore the battleground for the biggest Roman defense in response to Hannibal’s invasion from Carthage.

This only scratches the surface of the rich history Umbria has to offer, and during your travels to Umbria, you will most definitely find your own favorite corner of Umbria that will offer you a look into the past, as you stand in the present.

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Umbrian history is long and steeped in history and culture. The region of Umbria is crossed by two valleys: the Umbrian valley from Perugia ...

A Tidbit on Umbrian Culture

It’s impossible to describe all of the quirks and traditions of a culture in one blog post, the best way to learn about it is to experience it! Traveling in Umbria is such a unique experience, especially if you leave your tourist mindset behind. However, if you’ve never experienced it (or if you’re about to go for the first time!), here’s what Marco has to say about Umbria in a nutshell:


Umbria is a landlocked part of Italy, and because of that, the relationship to the land is strong and lasting. There is a lot of heritage in this region, and the respect for all parts of the natural world is an important thread that binds this area.

Of course the food and wine is excellent, but there is something to be said about the history of Umbria, and its close ties to St. Francis, who is not only important to Umbrian culture, but to the whole of Italy, as its patron saint.


When people think about St. Francis, they think about peace and kindness, and that is what you will find in Umbria. Not just the absence of war and fighting, but the pursuit of harmony with others and with nature. It is this feeling that underwrites and upholds most Umbrian people, and truly influence the culture. Pax et bonum! We say, as the Franciscan order’s motto, Peace and Salvation!

Farmer in his Field

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It's impossible to describe all of the quirks and traditions of a culture in one blog post, the best way to learn ...

Travel Tips: Drink up in Umbria!

Its’ Umbria – Drink Up!  Traveling in Italy the wine flows as easily as water at some tables. And although Italian wines from all regions have an established reputation, we’re pretty partial to those that come from Umbria. And it’s hard not to be. Once you’ve traveled there and toured some of the vineyards, you’d be loyal to them as well! Here’s what Marco Palermi had to say when we asked him about what to taste in Umbria:

Ah! The wine and beer! Umbria is unique for its small family-run farms, and extensive biodynamic and organic wineries. There are many areas for wine production in Umbria, including Orvieto, Montefaclo Torniamo and Assisi, just to name a few.

The most grown type of grape is the Sangiovese, and Umbria is the center of production for this type. The Trebbiano and Grechetto grapes make delicious white wines, but when talking about wine in Umbria, one cannot miss the Sagrantino from Montefalco. This jewel in the crown of Umbria is the most delicious and prized wine in Umbria, and will change how you view red wine!

Bill and Suzy, your hosts at our vacation rental house, are both wine lovers and wine aficionados. Not only will they make sure you get to sample the full range that Umbria has to offer, but they are a wealth of information, and can answer any questions you may have about the wines – including how best to drink them!

But wine isn’t the only thing to indulge on in Umbria. Umbrian beers have grown in popularity recently, drawing from the monastic traditions of brewing that were popular in Umbrian history. San Biagio beer was one of the first breweries I’d heard of and tried, and they are definitely worth a taste. Lots of breweries thrive near Colifiorito, which is famous for its pure water springs, that enhance the taste and production of beers in the area.

In fact, actual Benedictine Monks brew beer up in the monastery in Norcia, and it is possible to buy that beer all year long, or plan a trip around August 15th, when they open the monastery to the public. Now if Norcia is too far away for authentic monk beer, definitely make a stop at Casa Norcia in Santa Maria Degli Angeli in via de Gasperi and try some a little closer to the villa. Other great breweries to try are: Birra Perugia, Khan beer, Birra Dell’Eremo (a close stop between Mt. Subasio and the villa), and Flea Beer.

The popularity of beer in Umbria has definitely gone up recently, and with good reason, the beers are truly delicious, and excellent paired with a slice of pizza or a torta al testo!

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Its' Umbria - Drink Up!  Traveling in Italy the wine flows as easily as water at some tables. And although Italian wines ...

Travel Tips: For the Kids

Traveling with children can be a bit like attempting to take a herd of wild antelope for an evening stroll: they have their own wants and needs and leap in every direction. And while sipping wine will help an adult cope with the madness, it’s not an option for the kids. Fortunately, an escape to Umbria is just as fulfilling for kids as it is for adults.

Everyone always talks about what adults can do in Umbria, from touring vineyards to participating in food tours, but there are also plenty of activities for kids to do, either while parents are busy, or together as a family. Marco Palermi, Umbrian travel expert, has two lively young children in tow, so he knows first hand where to go to keep kids entertained:

Canarra is very kid friendly, even if the wine isn’t! Near the villa, there is the Victor Ugo bar that has a nice playground and other activities for kids, and this can be great for a nearby activity on most days. There are also excellent walks nearby, that parents can enjoy as well, like the “Tosco di San Francesco” (the St. Francis Forest). There is an entrance fee of three euros, in order to maintain the historical area, but it’s worth it. It’s a lovely walk that starts on the right side of the main church of Assisi, goes behind the hillside of the town, and crosses a bridge that passes over a stream whose source is in Mount Subasio Tescio. Interestingly enough, Dante wrote about this exact stream and river that pass by Canarra in his writings on Assisi.

The main castle in Assisi, Rocca Maggiore, is also a wonderful spot for kids to explore. The views from the main tower and even outside the castle are absolutely stunning, and not only is there history to learn, but kids appreciate the areas to run around and enjoy the sun. If it’s a rainy day, there is an indoor playground nearby that kids love! From trampoline tower, to slides, this place will brighten up any rainy day, and although there is an entrance fee, there is little restaurant inside it that often has great deals.

Assisi Rocca Maggiore

Finally, in Perugia you will find Città Della Dominica, a wonderful park and one of the oldest theme parks in Europe. It was created by Luisa Spagnoli, the inventor of the Bacio chocolate, and is set along the hill that overlooks Perugia. It’s a great way to spend a day surrounded by nature, as there are great sites for kids to interact with animals of all sorts, including the white donkey, a species that almost went extinct if it weren’t for Citta della Dominica! Tickets don’t need to be bought in advance, but easily can be through the website.

Il falconiere Freddy e Darko

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Traveling with children can be a bit like attempting to take a herd of wild antelope for an evening stroll: they have ...

Travel Tips: What to Eat in Umbria

When traveling overseas in unfamiliar places, it’s easy to seek out familiar foods rather than trying something new or unknown. This is quite a crime in Italy, a country with a distinctive culinary reputation that shines through in a wide rage of traditional dishes, cooking styles, and local ingredients. This varies from region to region, so before traveling to Italy, it’s a good idea to find out what foods are unique to the area you’re planning to stay in. Luckily for you, we have some insider knowledge from Marco Palermi, Umbrian travel expert, on what to eat while staying in Umbria:

Food is very important in Italy, and in Umbria, pork is king–both cured and fresh are fantastic, but the real treat is sliced porchetta from the porchetta trucks parked all over town. The best porchetta comes from Costano (they have a porchetta festival in mid August), but if you find the truck parked out front of the Conad Grocery store in Cannara, you won’t be disappointed.

Porchetta Truck

Most of what we eat depends on the season. In December you will see a lot of fennel, cabbage, onions, and tomatoes. Wild asparagus is abundant in spring, and mushrooms in the fall. What you will eat depends on when you are here as much as where you go. For us, seasons, traditions, and religion are often an excuse to eat–which is why you will see things like torta di pasqua (traditional easter bread), fried strufoli or frappe with honey during Carnival, and goose in August for the feast of the harvest. However, there are Umbrian delights that are always great year round.

Shopping for Seasonal Produce

Torta al testo is a staple to Umbrian gastronomy that cannot be missed. It’s a sandwich made of flat unleavened bread that is flame-cooked, and filled with the most delicious Umbrian flavors. You cannot go wrong pairing these with an Umbrian beer. And of course, after a great lunch, you must try gelato. The gelato around Cannara is all very good, but Bar Gennaro is the place to go.


One town to know about (and visit before you leave Umbria) is Norcia. Its very well-known for its pork products (prosciutto, sausages, salamis) and also for its winter black truffles. The town is about an hour and a half drive from Canarra, but if that’s too far away for you, head to Santa Maria degli Angeli and visit Casa Norcia, a restaurant known for serving delicious meals and typical produce from the Sibillini mountains.

Another excellent experience is to visit a rosticceria, which is a kind of grocery store that has ready-to-eat meals, but unlike any ready-to-eat meal you’ve had before! It can be anything from lasagne to roast chicken, and it’s a very traditional Sunday activity. Good rosticcerias near la Fattoria del Gelso are Cucina’a in Foligno or Falaschi Gastronomia in bastia Umbra.

And no trip to Italy would be complete without sampling the cheeses available. From the Pecorino of Norcia to the Mozarella of Coliforito, there is no shortage of cheese to tempt your palate. Check out the nearby cheese stores in Santa Maria Degli Angelia, Brufani and Broccatelli, and try fresh creamy mascarpone, soft burrata caciotta, and wonderfully sharp pecorino.

Cheese and Meat Plate

There is no way to capture all the delicious foods available in Umbria, but starting here should give you a wonderful start to a true foodie experience.

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Travel Tips: Outdoor Activities

If you Google Umbria, the first result will be a Wikipedia article that says “Umbria is a region of historic and modern central Italy.” And while the article covers basic facts about the region, the best way to learn about the area is to talk to people who live, eat, and explore in Umbria. Every Tuesday, we’ll be sharing expert travel advice from native (or nearly-native) Umbrians so that you can live vicariously through their words, or take their tips to heart and travel to Italy yourself.

As spring rolls in with summer close on it’s heels, people are beginning to venture outdoors. And while you might be familiar with activities in your own backyard, trying to find something to do in a foreign country might be a bit daunting. Flipping through brochures or scouring the internet for travel guides is one solution, but if you ask a local, you’re more likely to experience the area like the locals do.

Marco Palermi, travel expert and your guide at our vacation house rental in Umbria, joined us in our Georgetown location last month for our Travel Tuesday cocktail event and shared his secrets to getting the most out of your Umbrian trip. Here’s what he had to say about outdoor activities:

There are a lot of different activities that people can do in the area. Hiking is very popular for guests. The trails through Mount Subasio are well marked, and there are many trails that follow the Topino river from the house. Those trails are very good because they are flat, which makes them easy for leisurely walking. This is great for families with young kids. The trails are also the best way to go bird watching–we see a lot of Airone (a kind of stork) walking in the water near the main bridge.

Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi

People can bike on the trails as well, and if it’s something you’re interested in during your visit, we can suggest routes that will last anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour and a half. For example, a favorite bike trip is from Cannara to the lower part of Spello, where a road takes you towards Santa Maria degli Angeli, and then back to the house. It’s also possible to take bikes on the train to reach some of the most popular and beautiful destinations for outdoor exploring, like Lake Trasimeno and the Spoleto or Trevi areas.

For those interested in running, you can use the same trails as for hiking and biking. During the winter, typically a Sunday in mid-December, there is a race called Invernalissima of Assisi that anyone can sign up for. Pros can run the 21 km course, and for those less used to running there is a 5km run. There is also a run from Perugia and Assisi every two or three years, so if that’s something that interests you, let us know and we can find out when it is happening. Finally there is the “Marcia Della Pace” every year between September and October, which is a peace march that anyone can join without pre-registering. It’s a great way to meet lots of people while walking from Perugia to Assisi.

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If you Google Umbria, the first result will be a Wikipedia article that says “Umbria is a region of historic and modern ...

Photodiary: Food and Wine Tour

After a day of gathering, walking, and eating, what’s a slightly jet-lagged crew to do?


Head to Bevagna for the classic ritual of #spritzoclockin the restaurant of our good friend, restaurant owner, and chef Simone


Our group nestled into the evening hour, apperitivo drinks in hand.


And with a little visit from Salvatore, the hour was complete.

Salvatore Denaro _DSC0257 _DSC0268 _DSC0278

Then back to the nearby Fattoria Del Gelso, where our caretaker Marco was busy prepping a simple Umbrian dinner.

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After a perfect, and perfectly tiring day, what you really need is a home-cooked meal and some local wine.


Stay tuned to see where our crew is off to tomorrow!


Ci Vediamo!


Via Umbria





Day I Part II Read more

After a day of gathering, walking, and eating, what's a slightly jet-lagged crew to do? Head to Bevagna for the classic ritual of ...

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 ...