Tag Archives: tour

Carriage and Feeding

The highlight of Day 1, on which eight of our group, including Suzy and me arrived in country, had to be the carriage ride with Roberto. It’s not easy picking just one favorite on a day that included lunch in Santa Maria degli Angeli, a walking tour of Assisi, a visit and winetasting at Roberto’s winery and a marathon welcome meal prepared by Chiara. But when you get to spend a half hour with Roberto DiFilippo, the inspirational owner of DiFilippo and Plani Arche wineries, being transported in a carriage drawn by the horses that work his fields, listening to his philosophy of organic and biodynamic farming while you clip clop through rolling fields that are home to his vines, licked by the cool, crisp, late afternoon autumn air, how could that not be the highlight?

It’s that sort of experience, making the acquaintance of one of the area’s top winemakers and immediately boarding his ten person carriage, entering his world at his invitation, becoming his guest and his friend, that makes these food and wine tours so special. Half an hour later, our group of eight guests find themselves sitting in Roberto’s tasting room enjoying his wine as he and his colleague Valeria introduce them to grechetto, trebbiano spoletino, sangiovese and sagrantino, not to mention Roberto’s special Vernaccia di Cannara.

Some of the couples on this tour arrived in our little corner of heaven knowing one another, but by the end of that first day, a day on which all shared and experienced so much together, everyone – those who had already been friends and those that became friends today – had become part of the same family. And so it goes here in the tiny village of Cannara, where Suzy and I have brought part of our family, our oldest son Austin to help manage the group, that we bid a late goodnight, bellies filled and souls sated, to our new family with whom we will share much this week.

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy

Horsing Around in Umbria Read more

The highlight of Day 1, on which eight of our group, including Suzy and me arrived in country, had to be the ...

New at Via Umbria: Ancient Grains

You might think that a grain is a grain is a grain. You would be wrong.

It is difficult to define what makes something a uniquely Italian experience. It is so much more than any one thing – maybe it comes down to the bounty and place, where people care about and protect the land and create a culinary history that is deep and wide.

Out of that history are ancient Italian grains: the black chick peas, farro, millet, new grain flours and they are generations old and unique in flavor. Quite simply, there is nothing like them. Whether used to create a simple pasta, or mixed with vegetables of the season, these grains carry a story that you will remember long after you have taken your last bite.

These ancient grains will be sold in Via Umbria, re-opening this fall in new form with a full market, prepared food, and a demonstration kitchen.

Part of our past Food and Wine tour this October included lunch made right on the Il Molino farm, where guests savored pastas made from the farm’s farro and senatore cappelli grains, both ancient grains that have been rediscovered and popularized (for a reason) of late. Both pastas served were full of a distinct and cut above in flavor, mouthfeel and satisfaction.

Il Molino Ancient Grains

After lunch guests toured the mill and watched the ancient grains be milled into fine or coarser flour and an exposition of beans and legumes, most of them tracing their roots (literally) to ancient forebears and unique to small, particular areas in Italy.

Ancient Grain

And Via Umbria is bringing it all to you so you can cook it for the people you love. You will also find them used in the prepared foods you can purchase at Via Umbria to bring home and serve the people you love.

Flour from Ancient Grain

Interested in the daily means and special dinners? Send an email to events@viaumbria.com and we will send you menus and updates this fall.


Ci Vediamo!

—Via Umbria

Simple, authentic and delicious Read more

You might think that a grain is a grain is a grain. You would be wrong. It is difficult to define what makes ...

Bill’s Journal: Feed Me

_DSC0182We’re back in Umbria for our annual fall pilgrimage, our fall Food and Wine tour. This year Suzy and I are hosting two small groups over two week long itineraries, which we plan to punctuate with a brief side trip to Piemonte (for the White Truffle Festival) before returning home to DC. We have the small matter of reopening Via Umbria to attend to back home.

Returning to Umbria, particularly during the fall harvest, is always a homecoming of sorts for us, summoning up a host of emotions and memories. It is a special time of year, with the orange and rust hues of the vineyards, each one in a different state of harvest, combined with the early evenfall to create a sense of quiet and peacefulness tinged with just a po’ di malincholia.


_DSC0009-2We come to Umbria this year as we have for the past eight, on a mission to offer our Food and Wine tour guests an opportunity to discover with us the Umbria we have come to know and love. A land where the earth gives forth an incredibly rich bounty, coaxed lovingly from nature by men and women who respect nature by taking what it has to offer and leaving it better off than they found it.

But we come this year, too, with eyes even wider open than normal, seeking to put our finger on those elusive sights, sounds and smells that when combined together shout out “benvenuto in Italia.” To identify those iconic details that define Italy so we can bottle them up and bring the back home with us, spraying them into the air on Wisconsin Avenue so that our customers, breathing deeply of them will know what it is to experience Italy.

Our Food and Wine tour this year is not just an exercise in loving the here and now, it is a mission to capture and bring home the essence of Italy so we can share it. For nearly two decades we have been bringing back pieces of Italy to share with our customers. This fall we are tasked with bringing back the nature of Italy itself.

Food and Wine TourHow better to understand Italy than by experiencing the bounty of its land and its people. And so we started our trip, a group of eight, by exploring the Etruscan town of Todi and the Umbrian settlement of Gubbio. By delighting in the recounting of the history of these places by a guide with palpable pride in her land. By lingering over meals of local meats and cheeses, regional pastas and wines that come from here and can only come from here. By getting to know Simone, our driver, and each other.

What better way of exploring what makes Italy Italy and what makes Umbria Umbria than to arrive at the farmhouse on our first day and to discover Ernesto Parziani, the chef and owner of our favorite local restaurant Perbacco, in the kitchen of our farmhouse with his daughter, preparing the first night’s dinner. To spend time in the kitchen with Ernesto and Agata rolling balls of baccala, pureeing broccoli for gnocchi alla romana, of discussing the menu, discussing family, discussing nothing at all.

_DSC0751_DSC0288What better way of enjoying our first evening in Italy than by sitting down over this home cooked feast and culinary history lesson with the new friends we have made, our travel companions for this week, along with Ernesto and his wife Simona. To drink wines that our friends the Pardis have labored over just a dozen miles from here. To talk and eat and laugh and relax deep into the night long after most mortals would have succumbed to jet lag.


Suzy and I have long maintained how difficult it is to neatly and cleanly and succinctly define Italy and the Italian experience. There simply is no one thing that says it all, no Tower of Pisa, no fettuccine alfredo, no Madonna col bambino that one can point to and say, “ecco qua, Italia!” Yet we keep coming back, time after time, and millions of visitors keep making the pilgrimage to the boot each year for that something special that speaks to them.

In the end, maybe it is just simply its incredible bounty that defines Italy, that makes Italy Italy. Perhaps that is the magic potion Suzy and I are searching for. Italy itself didn’t even exist a little more than 150 years ago, a crazy quilt of city-states, kingdoms, alliances and fiefdoms then and even now resembles less a well ordered English country garden and more the wild, natural orto that we find when we step out back, behind our farmhouse kitchen.

After our first night back in Umbria, following a day of discovery, of enjoyment, of relaxing and of peace and contentment, perhaps we are inching closer to understanding the secret that is Italy. Perhaps it is not one thing that makes Italy Italy, perhaps it is the sweep, the bounty of this place. But those things – the food, the wine, the landscape, the history, the art, the lyrical language, crazy drivers in tiny cars and museum-like cities – they are not the answer themselves. They are the things that satisfy the cravings that Suzy has. That I have. That our tour guests have. That Ernesto and Simona have. Each craving personal, each craving as deep as the soul and each craving desperately in search of satisfaction. Put simply, Italy feeds what you hunger for.


Italy, with its richness and its willingness to let you live in the here and now, scratches the itch, the longing in our souls for connection and meaning. And as far as we have figured it out, it does it better than any other place on earth.

Perhaps that is the secret of Italy, the ingredient we can bottle up and bring back to Georgetown with us. Suzy and I certainly look forward to testing this hypothesis for the next three weeks.

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy

With all that Umbrian magic Read more

We’re back in Umbria for our annual fall pilgrimage, our fall Food and Wine tour. This year Suzy and I are hosting ...

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 ...

Dancing with the Stars

Back in my youth there was a period of a couple of months when I owned a Corvette.  It was pretty cool.  I felt pretty invincible and like I had arrived, driving around with the top down, not a care in the world (other than getting bombarded with gnats in the face).  One day I remember driving along the Rock Creek Parkway in DC with a friend of mine when we passed a Mustang and he exclaimed, “the enemy!”

This scene was repeated automotively a number of years later when I purchased a BMW sedan.  Driving along Connecticut Avenue to work, every Mercedes I saw made something race in my heart.  Mercedes seemed to be the natural antagonist to BMW.  (Years even later I would buy a Mercedes and suddenly they were no longer the enemy).

Every great thing has its natural, not so much opposite, as opposition.  Yin has its yang.  Hertz has its Avis.  The Red Sox have their Yankees (although until the 1990s the Yankees may not have realized it).  And so for Italy it is – perhaps and in some contexts – France.  Italians tend to live their lives in the moment without thinking too much about how others live their lives and for the most part are accepting other cultures without giving them too much thought.  True, they do bristle at others occasionally (perhaps reserving most of their ire for the German).  But in my mind the one people that they seem to silently compare themselves to the most are the French.

Both value food.  Value art and culture and their proud histories.  They both produce olive oil and wine – boy do they produce olive oil and wine.  In a way they are like close cousins who like each other but are probably happier when the other one is not in the same room with everyone else.

So please don’t tell our Italian friends, but for the past days we snuck away from Italy and have spent time in the capital of enemy territory – Paris.  Taking up refuge in an apartment in the 7th arrondissement, in the shadow of the Eiffel tower we have walked eggshells trying not to enjoy France too much, while trying to sup all the pleasures it has to offer before returning to Umbria tomorrow.  I wonder how Jimmy Carter would judge us.

So being in France has caused us a little uneasiness to balance our joy, but we are completely unapologetic in having arranged a day trip to Reims and Epernay, the epicenter of the Champagne region of France.  Put simply, we love champagne and any and all sparkling wines.  To not visit the land where brother Dom Perignon accidentally discovered the secret to making sparking wine (reputedly exclaiming upon drinking the elixir for the first time, “it’s like drinking stars!”) would be a sin of the highest order.   I certainly don’t want that blot on my permanent record.

Day 8 001

And so we spent the day in Reims and Epernay devoted to one thing only.  Learning about and drinking – mostly drinking – liquid stars straight from the black hole that produced them.

One of our favorite champagnes is Veuve Clicquot.  There are many followers out there with whom we have shared a bottle or case in the past, and so a visit to the old widow Clicquot’s estate in Reims not just made sense, it seemed like a religious pilgrimage.  It was just that.

Day 8 008

Arriving at the estate, a modern but mostly modest reception area decked out in glass and the ubiquitous orange (Clicquot calls it yellow) color, we spent an hour or so on tour, learning about the widow’s contribution to modernizing and expanding the reach of champagne (God bless her).  Then the tour of the caves, underground chalk caverns originally excavated by the Romans two thousand years ago to obtain building materials but which now form a vast network of chambers where sparkling wine is aged, bottle fermented, and refined.  Here fermented wine is fermented a second time in the bottle, producing champagne’s unique taste and signature bubbles.  Here it is riddled or rotated over time to move the spent yeast to the neck of the bottle where it is ultimately degorged, the mass of solids ejected from the bottle and replaced with a secret elixir of sugar and liqueur.  Here is where the magic happens, below ground, out of sight, as if by some magic hands or ancient spirits.

Day 8 004

And what happens in the bottle, underground is truly the work of some benevolent spirits.  Back in the tasting room we sample the grande dame, Clicquot’s prestige vintage.  Its color and appearance reminded less of a gold liquid than soft, liquid gold itself.  And the taste was the same.  Pure gold.  Pure heaven.

Day 8 005

Suzy and I posed for a few obligatory photos in front of the iconic orange (yellow) signs, savoring the gift that was present in our glasses.  Whether Dom Perignon actually uttered those words he is said to have exclaimed, it truly was like drinking stars.  And whether you call them etoiles (French) or stelle (Italian), the stars undeniably look kindly upon all – French or Italian, or even American – who untwist the cage (six turns), ease out the cork, fill up a flute and pay homage to those brilliant men, women and even widows whose brilliance brought us stars in a bottle.

Day 8 007

Day 8 010

Ci vediamo!

Bill and Suzy

(and Drinking) Read more

Back in my youth there was a period of a couple of months when I owned a Corvette.  It was pretty cool.  ...