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((8))These Are Some of my Favorite Things((8)) - iamq and M in Umbria

((8))These Are Some of my Favorite Things((8)) - iamq and M in Umbria

Jul 7th, 2011, 04:14 PM
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((8))These Are Some of my Favorite Things((8)) - iamq and M in Umbria

Wild boar ragu over umbricelli, fresh strangozzi with truffles and fragrant porcini, flower petals transformed in art that made me sing, these are a few of my favorite things.

I apologize to Mr Rogers and Mr.Hammerstein, but I had to get that out of my system.

We recently returned from 11 nights in Umbria and I am having a hard getting focused and centered enough to get started on this report. That song did it somehow. LOL.

I have been planning another trip to Italy ever since our week in Rome four years ago. It was our first trip to Italy and I fell in love. This trip was originally supposed to be a week in Emilia Romagna and a week in Venice, then I happened upon some old posts of mine from 2005 where I was all charged up about planning a trip to Tuscany or maybe Umbria and that got me thinking about Umbria again. To make a long, drawn-out thought process simple, I ended up sh*t canning the Emilia Romaga/Venice trip in favor of a trip to Umbria. We'd spend 10 to 12 nights in one location, rent a car and tour the countryside exploring the hill towns, getting lost, and eating the local food.

Where to stay? After researching here and other travel boards I settled upon the area of Spello, Bevagna, and Montefalco to stay in. It seemed like a central location, close to most of the places I had wanted to visit and lots of folks suggested it as a good place for first time Umbrian visitors to base themselves.

More research. I found a great country inn between Bevagna and Montefalco, It sure looked nice and gets great reviews. It has a pool and the rooms are air conditioned, .but we aren't really country inn sort of folks. We like renting independent villas or apartments and being independent.

More research. Countryside versus in town? We normally like to stay in towns or small villages where we can walk to restaurants and have services close by without having to get into a car all the time. That was settled. Now, which town?

More research. I found what looked like a fantastic apartment in the town of Spello, an apparently lovely town that many rave about. Very large. Nice deck and patio with a view of the Valle Umbra, and it had air conditioning with screens on the windows! That's a combination almost unheard of in an Umbrian hill town!

More research. When? I get summers off, so it would have to be then. The earlier the better. Then I discovered this thing called the Infiorata that happens in Spello every year. It appeared to be a flower festival of sorts where the town's streets and piazzas get decorated by artworks made from flowers. Maybe we should go while the festival was happening. Italians know how to throw a party. The Infiorata happens two months to the day after Easter, so this year it would the weekend of June 25 and 26. The timing was perfect, the apartment was available and the decision was made!

More research. We'd fly to Rome, pick up a rental car, drive to Orvieto, spend the night in Orvieto, as I have always wanted to see the Duomo there. Then we'd spend 10 more nights in Spello as our homebase.

I have been working on photos albums from the trip and have them themed and I thought I would organize the report that way. So I will have sections for:
Infiorata of Spello
Out and About
Bottega Vignoli

Post an email address if you'd like links to the photo albums.

Next up, the boring and mundane travel particulars.
iamq is offline  
Jul 7th, 2011, 04:24 PM
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I would love to see your pics but many people do not like to post their emails on this public forum--can you post a link here?
bobthenavigator is online now  
Jul 7th, 2011, 04:28 PM
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Hi Bob,

I haven't figured out a way to post a public link on Picassaweb without my gmail address (which is my name) being in the link, so I am reluctant to post the links here. Any ideas?
iamq is offline  
Jul 7th, 2011, 05:20 PM
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Hi, iamq! I've used Picassa in the past. You can change your ID or Screen Name to be something different from your gmail address. You can also post your link not as public but for "anyone with a link" and then just post the link in your Fodors trip Report. If you want to see what mine looks like with this just go to https://picasaweb.google.com/1131192...eat=directlink
I've also started using Flickr which gives you some control over what you share.

Looking forward to your report!
elnap29 is offline  
Jul 7th, 2011, 05:57 PM
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I love a song that starts with wild boar ragu! I don't know what umbricelli is but I'm pretty sure I'd eat it.
Your post made me realize I've spent more time there than any place other than Rome.
I miss it.
pdx is offline  
Jul 7th, 2011, 06:09 PM
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elnap, that did it! Thanks for the help. I will start posting the links when I get them ready. Thanks again.

pdx, umbricelli are fresh, thickish, hand rolled pasta that look like worms, but taste much better.
iamq is offline  
Jul 7th, 2011, 06:17 PM
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Can't wait to hear more of the particulars. I love a good Umbria story. Will it involve farro and sagrantino? Do tell!
txtree is offline  
Jul 7th, 2011, 07:16 PM
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Waiting for that great Umbria story!
taconictraveler is offline  
Jul 7th, 2011, 07:18 PM
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Great start! Good to know it tastes better than worms
mms is offline  
Jul 7th, 2011, 07:22 PM
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I want pics! Here's one of my email addys:

[email protected]
annw is offline  
Jul 8th, 2011, 05:13 AM
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Hi iamq, you have my email address and I would LOVE to see pics. Thanks.
P_M is offline  
Jul 8th, 2011, 05:45 AM
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Okay...I want to mention some the travel resources that came in handy for this trip. The book I used the most was the DK Eyewitness book on Umbria. I used the 2004 edition and didn't suffer for using an older book. I love the way it gives detailed information on the must sees in each town and the use of color pictures and 3-D maps really helps bring things alive. I like this line of travel books.

The Cicerone Guide to Italy's Sibillini National Park was a great resource for orienting me to this area. I want to come back here and spend more time, possibly as part of a trip Le Marche region.

To a lesser degree, the Sunflower Guide on Umbria and Marche helped with routing and itineraries.

I used fodors of course. Not the books, but the forums. Umbria seems to be a pretty popular destination here I was able to get lots of useful information from the likes of BobtheNavigator, kybourbon, franco, zeppole and others.

Slowtravel.com is another source that really helped me out a lot. The philosophy over there is to spend as much time in one area as you can and really get to know it. This is how I like to travel mostly, so the site works for me. I joined their Italy forum and posted away like mad and was rewarded with accurate and first hand information from folks that live, and work in Umbria. Many of them travel to this region at least once or twice a year. It is all about the travel there...no drama. There is a strong Umbrian contingent on the forum there. Many of them blog about Umbria. I posted so much over the last year, I am now designated a "slow traveler".

Over the years, slowtravel members have written articles about traveling in Italy that were really useful to us. Everything from short lessons in speaking Italian, how to order food in restaurants to negotiatiing the car rental mess at FCO, to how to order in cafes to where to find the best ceramics in Deruta to all about pork products in Umbria and on and on. I printed pages of this stuff and I used it all.

Another book that was useful, particularly when we were in Norcia was Fred Plotkin's book, "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler". I literally used those pages as a guide on where we went to buy what we wanted while we there. It helped focus us as there were so many shops it would have gotten a bit daunting. We wanted to get the best that each shop had to offer and his notes helped. Along with the print out on Umbrian pork products from slowtrav, we were set and picked up some delicious food. The shop owners were happy to see their shops mentioned.

The Touring Club of Italy maps are the best out there and no one should go on a driving trip in Italy with out them! I love maps and these are beauties. They helped us narrow down some details when are trusty GPS got confused. I broght one for Lazio and one for Umbria/Le Marche. They are much better than Michelin.

I mention our GPS, which we ended up naming Stella. Stella had a hard time with Italian words that ended in "o". So Foligno became "Folina" and Spello became "Spella", but not just Spella, but SPELL-AAAAA. We laughed everytime she said it. We both thought it reminded us of Marlon Brando screaming "Stella" in "A Street Car Named Desire" so we named her Stella. Second choice was franco. You lucked out franco. LOL.

We would have been toast without our TomTom Stella. We bought it a few months before the trip so we would have time to play around with it and get all the maps updated, etc. It worked very well and got us places we never would have been able to find on our own, even with the good maps we had. It was a bit time consuming as you had to enter destinations and favorites and choose routes, etc, but we ended up doing a lot of that before we left anyhow and M, the techo-weenie was in charge of navigating, so I had little to do with the nuts and bolts of it anyway. I drove, which was a considerable contribution, made a lot easier with "STELLA!" BTW...it was cheaper to buy one on our own here before the trip than renting one from autoeurope.

more soon.
iamq is offline  
Jul 8th, 2011, 06:08 AM
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Looking forward to your trip report. I'm a big fan of the Slow travel site too.

Our GPS is named Louise.....as in Geez Louise! She has a new sd card for Italy. We have begun loading addresses for our first ever trip coming up in October.

As a hoot a few weekends ago I changed the language from "Australian" (we are from the US but prefer the voice of the female Australian on our gps), to Italian. It was, to say the least, an interesting afternoon, hearing the directions spoken in Italian. I don't speak Italian, I'm working on phrases and etc but it's a slow process. I was happy to know I at least understood the words for right and left.

I'll be waiting patiently for your installments and a link to your photos.

Thank you.

Cpelk is offline  
Jul 8th, 2011, 06:24 AM
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Even though we weren't driving, I loved my map of Tuscany from Touring Club of Italy so I could figure out where we were in relation to all the towns, small and smaller. We got ours there. Where did you get yours?

Ready for more!
elnap29 is offline  
Jul 8th, 2011, 06:30 AM
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>>>>pdx, umbricelli are fresh, thickish, hand rolled pasta that look like worms, but taste much better.<<<<

You've tasted worms?

>>>We got ours there. Where did you get yours?<<<

I bought a TCI map for Tuscany at my local bookstore. I think you can get them online also.
kybourbon is offline  
Jul 8th, 2011, 06:39 AM
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I got my TCI map for Tuscany online through the Globe bookstore in Boston. Great customer service. They even asked me if I wanted to delay my order to wait for a new release to come out, which worked out fine for me since I didn't need it immediately.

Cpelk is offline  
Jul 8th, 2011, 06:40 AM
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I have an older brother, so yes, I have tasted worms!

I bought my TCI map online from their website I think.

Life intervenes...more later.
iamq is offline  
Jul 8th, 2011, 07:35 AM
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ttt 4 later
annhig is offline  
Jul 8th, 2011, 12:28 PM
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Our American Airlines flight arrived on time in Roma at 9 am. I love those early arrivals. It gives you the whole day to get busy and get things done. In our case that meant getting to Orvieto.

Wow. The arrivals area at FCO sure has changed a lot in 4 years!I remember it being sort of a dismal and empty corridor. Now it resembles a multi-level mini-mall with stores and all sorts of services. It was a bit disorienting. We were looking for a place to buy a sim card for our phone. After a little looking around, we found a kiosk at the far left end of the arrivals area just across from the elevators up to the 4th floor where the walkway to the car rental counters are. We bought one (probably overpaid for it, but I wanted to have a working phone as we drove to Orvieto). We got the phone working and proceeded to go get our car.

We rented through Auto Europe. I had reserved a compact car such as an Alfa 147, but realized that I could end up with anything that fit that category. Europecar was the company who would actually rent us the car. In doing research about renting a car I had read warnings about being offered an "upgrade" once at the rental counter. Apparently what this can really mean is that the category of car you paid for is not available and you're going to get whatever is left. It doesn't mean that I reserved an Alfa 147 and poof, lucky me I now get a BMW. What some said is that you might end up with a large car like a van or a station wagon or something completely not suitable for two people driving around in small hill towns.

We get to the counter and this nice man looks my at voucher and says, "Oh, we don't have that car, but we will upgrade you to a Fiat blah, blah, blah. Ughhh! The dreaded "U" word. Red flags flying, I asked, "Is it a van?" "No." "Is it a large car?" "No" "Is it a station wagon?" "No" "Does it have a trunk?" "Yes." He said since there were only two of us he would give the two door version instead of the four door version. Okay...what the hell, we'll take the car I guess. I had no idea what I was getting, but what can you do? In retrospect, I could have asked to see a photo of it, but that hadn't entered my mind. We get the key and instructions on where it was located and off we go up to the fifth floor.

We get to stall number XXX and there sits a HUGE 4 door Fiat Doblo which is a combination between an SUV and a small truck. Think Honda Element meets Dodge minivan or something similar. It is everything he said it wasn't! We just stood there dumb-founded. I screamed a bit, then regrouped. There was no way I as going to drive that thing in Italy. So we walk back down to the fourth floor and get back to the counter, where we are waited on by the same gentleman. I say, "This car will not do. It is way too big and not what we paid for. I want a car in the category that I paid for. I don't want an upgrade. I want a compact car." It was first time I had ever turned down an upgrade! He looked at me, then he looked over to another guy. then he and a woman started talking fast and furious for a few minutes. Finally he says, "We have a brand new Fiat Punto. That will be good." I had no idea what a Punto was, so I asked, "Is is a small car?" "Yes" "Is it like the Doblo?" "Oh no!" This went on for another minute or so. Finally, I said "Great! We'll take the Punto." They didn't have the key for it, so we had to go to the counter that is near the stalls of cars and present them with the card for keys to the Punto. The guy looked a little perplexed and says, "It's brand new and has only 10 km on it." As if I was going to ruin this brand new car or something. I said, "Don't worry. I won't hurt it!" That lightened things up a bit and he laughed and the others at the counter laughed and I laughed. We got the key and turned around and there was the perfect car! It was small and cute and zippy looking. It was exactly what we wanted and needed! Success! This trip WAS really going to be an adventure.

I am so glad that I had read about this happening to others and not settling for the first thing they offered. They were probably counting on us doing just that. I ended up loving that Punto! It was fast and handled like a dream. I would buy one in a minute if they were available here. It was a turbo diesel and sipped the gas.

We loaded the car up, started the Punto, booted up Stella who started giving us orders, exited the airport and set off for Orvieto.

It is a somewhat strange feeling to realize that the trip you've been planning months or years for is finally starting to happen. I love that feeling.

Next...Food and eating.
iamq is offline  
Jul 8th, 2011, 02:11 PM
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lol, iamq - I'd like to have seen your face when you saw the van! but well done for sticking to your guns.

don't know why but we've never really fallen foul of the upgrade problem. the only time we got a serious upgrade it was just as well because the car we'd booked would probably have been too small.

looking forward to Rome!
annhig is offline  

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