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Trip Report Rome, Umbria, the Marche- 3 weeks

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With the good fortune of frequent flyer miles augmented by the falling euro we decided to book a last minute trip to Italy for May, 2015. We are in our early 60’s, like to have a mix of hiking to offset the eating and drinking, and prefer to stay in small inns. We try to stay at least 3 nights in any one place, using single night layovers only when trying to get from point A to B.

This trip report will not be an in depth narrative of our every move. In hopes of actually finishing it I will give an overview of our general observations, the itinerary, our accommodations, and dining highlights.

We planned this 3 week trip at the last minute, but had no trouble booking the type of places we enjoy staying at. Our last trip to Italy was 14 years ago, reason enough to go. Originally we thought to head south of Rome, possibly spending a week in Sardinia. That will need to be another trip. Friends who have moved to the Marche urged us to visit them, and I felt a circular drive from Orvieto north to Gubbio and then south through the Marche would be the better trip this time around.

For those who are interested in the photo log my husband took: https://plus.google.com/photos/114413210604778104209/albums/6148651122999981217?banner=pwa

General Observations

It had been 14 years since we had last visited Rome in mid-June. We were astounded how crowded it was in mid-May, and were very glad that we had visited all the “must sees” on our previous trip. The Campo dei Fiori has turned into a solid wall of vendor booths, not the farmer’s market stands we remember. The Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon was filled shoulder to shoulder – perhaps there was a special event – but, again, not the manageable crowd we remember. The Trevi Fountain is scaffolded and turned off, crowded even so. We didn’t even try for the Piazza Navona which was “our” neighborhood square previously. Rome remains a fascinating city, just be prepared for crowds.

Things to remember when planning a trip:

Unless renting a car at the airport, car rental agencies close at 1 on Saturday and remain closed Sunday. They also close for the mid-afternoon break. Many shops are closed on Sunday. Be sure to check the opening days if there is something you want to visit. For example, our stop in Todi on the way to Bevagna was somewhat fruitless as most things were closed on Monday.

Itinerary

Rome – 4 nights (Borghese Gallery tour, Jewish synagogue tour, train to Orvieto)

Orvieto – 2 nights (can be done in 1 day but we were glad for the time, rent car on last day)

Bevagna – 5 nights (Spello, Assisi, Montefalco, Deruta, various other hill towns)

Monterado – 3 nights (Gubbio on the way, Urbino, Frasassi Caves, Senigallia for seafood)

Poggio San Marcello – 2 nights at our friend’s home (various winery tours, Conero coast)

Smerillo – 4 nights near Sibillini NP (Castelluccio ring walk, Gola dell Infernaccio, Ascoli Piceno)

Spoleto – 1 night (return car, train to Rome)

Rome airport hotel – 1 night (6:50 a.m. flight…)

This itinerary worked well for us. I would change 2 things. Our accommodation in Monterado was fabulous, worth it for the fun factor, but there is nothing in Monterado save a bar and a restaurant which did not come recommended. Everyone kept asking us if we had been to nearby Corinaldo so we stopped in. It is a beautiful little town, so I recommend looking for accommodation there. The other change I would make is to take one night from Smerillo so as to have an overnight in Ascoli Piceno.

Accommodations - As time permits I will write full reviews for Trip Advisor with brief notes here.

Rome – VRBO rental apartment in Trastevere http://www.vrbo.com/626730, great location for us, great value, wonderful restaurant next door

Orvieto – BnB Ripa Medici http://www.ripamedici.it/IndexEng.html , fabulous breakfast, bargain at 80 Euro for the quality of stay in town.

Bevagna – Relais Genius Loci http://www.geniuslociumbria.com/, our most expensive stay but high quality. We sprang for the larger rooms due to the length of our stay. 176 euro cash (185 euro cc)

Monterado – Castello di Monterado http://www.castellodimonterado.it/ How many times can you stay in a castle? Lovely hosts, faded but fabulous rooms, modern baths. 130 euro

Smerillo – Contrada Durano http://www.contradadurano.it/home/index.cfm Informative host who provided excellent suggestions regarding hiking and dining. Dinners currently not available, nor the sitting room pictured. Spare, but comfortable, rooms. 85 euro

Spoleto – Hotel San Luca http://www.hotelsanluca.com/en/ Great location, helpful staff, nice room

Rome airport - Best Western obtaining United miles for booking. Met the need, friendly staff, clean room, comfortable bed, 5 a.m. shuttle

Dining - With the exception of seafood restaurants on the coast, we found dining out to be a great value – especially compared to the San Francisco Bay area. There isn’t a mark-up on wines, either. The biggest change we noted is that it is now generally accepted to share orders “uno per due”, or to make a meal of several antipasti. As portions seemed quite large to us we found ourselves sharing courses after the first few days of gorging on fabulous pasta. In 3 weeks we only had one bad dining experience and that was mostly due to attitude.

Rome:
Roma Sparita – no stand-outs, but fine
Osteria la Gensola – went two times, everything we ordered was top notch, friendly service
Roscioli – fun, deli/wine bar atmosphere, huge portions

Orvieto:
Caffe Montanucci – good place for a quick lunch, snack, coffee
Antico Bucchero – we had a lovely lunch here and great wine by the glass
Le Grotte del Funaro – very nice dinner in a beautiful restaurant although no stand outs

Bevagna - this seemed to be the centered of great food for us:
Trattoria di Oscar – creative, limited menu with seasonal changes
Serpillo – in Torre del Colle, known for their Grand Buffet antipasta bar
Pizzeria il Menestrello – in Assisi, good place for salads and wood oven pizza
L’Alcimista – in Montefalco, great wines, good food, we liked the atmosphere and coziness, went twice
L’Antico Forziere – near Deruta?, our inn hosts took us here, prosecco upon arrival, lovely presentations, stand-out dishes were beet pasta, duck pasta, roast pigling, pear cake

Senigallia
Al Cuoco di Bordo – expensive, high quality fish, grilled mixed seafood was outstanding

Castello di Pierosara (near Frasassi Caves)
Da Maria – The type of place where the family at the next table sends wine your way. The place was jammed, the din was full bore, the waitresses were friendly and efficient, the food was great. Ravioloni with walnut sauce was especially good.

Portonovo
Da Emilia’s – excellent grilled fish, pastas were so so with very few clams

Rosora
Vittoria il Graditempo – our party of 6 ordered almost everything on the menu, all quite good especially the frito and the salumi/cheese platter

Spoleto
Il Tempio Del Gusto –One of the best meals of the trip, creative dishes paired with lovely wines. We were there during a weekend of a food and wine festival and the chef had prepared a set menu paired with wines from Caprai vineyards.

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