Moving on from the Big Three (Rome, Florence, Venice), we’ll spend some summer Golden Days, dreaming in the Italian countryside…
Years ago I met editor and publisher Kathy McCabe, through her wonderful Dream of Italy newsletter. Kathy is Italian-American (on her maternal side–like me), and she also has a great passion for Italian travel. The award-winning newsletter she created brings readers excellent information about Italian travel AND colorful entertainment to guide them to an authentic Italian experience, much deeper than what you’ll find in guidebooks. Check out the Dream of Italy website and blog for a tasty taste of it.
I’ve had great fun traveling around Italy with Kathy, and am excited to hear that she’s created a tour for November 2010. It’s called Umbria Harvest Week: Food, Wine and Ceramics and she describes it as a convivial, engaging and relaxing week filled with authentic Umbrian experiences. The group will meet with local Umbrian families who’ve been perfecting their crafts for generations ─ from winemaking and harvesting olives to truffle hunting and >sculpting ceramics.
So I asked Kathy what her Golden Day in Umbria would be, and she says:
Known as the balcony of Umbria for its 360-degree views of the landscape and vineyards below, the charming town of Montefalco is at the center of Umbria’s most important wine-making areas. This is where Sagrantino di Montefalco, a premier wine made with 100% Sagrantino grapes, and Montefalco Rosso, typically a blend of Sangiovese, Sagrantino and Merlot are produced.
There are few better places to sample the local vintages than Enoteca L’ Alchimista, tucked in the corner of Montefalco’s main piazza. (Piazza del Comune, 14, Montefalco, 0742 378558, Closed Tuesdays).
The main floor of L’Alchimista features a small but well-stocked wine store. In fact, this is one of the few local shops to carry the high-quality productions of Paola Bea, a rising star in Umbria, receiving international acclaim. The enoteca was opened by 20-something sommelier Cristina Magnini who convinced her mother Patrizia Moretti to join her to do the cooking in the intimate downstairs dining area. The two women make a winning team (other family members have since joined the business) offering simple regional cuisine terrifically paired with local wines.
This is the kind of place where you would do well to trust your server’s suggestions for what to eat and drink. You will likely start with a selection of crostini topped with sausage or Pecorino and pear or the famous local black celery. This is also the place to try torta al testo, a traditional Umbrian flat bread stuffed with cheese and prosciutto.
In the middle of wine country, vino is an essential ingredient in many recipes. Don’t miss barbozza – pig jowls cooked in Sagrantino wine. Or if the thought of pig cheeks scares you away, be sure to indulge in the Gnocchi Sagrantino. A few glasses of wine might convince you to try something you wouldn’t ordinarily be “game” to eat – tagliatelle with pigeon. You might be surprised how much you like it.
Tips: Park at the entrance to the town of Montefalco and walk up the steep hill to the center. Along the way, you will pass several shops selling everything from jewelry to serving platters made from olive wood. These make for unique gifts. While in Montefalco, you might want to visit Museo Civico di San Francesco home to the incredible fresco cycle Life of Saint Francis by Benozzo Gozzoli.
Grazie Kathy–you’ve made me hungry and dreaming for this trip!