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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 9th, 2011, 07:52 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 9,404

I am SO relieved to know umbricelli tastes better than worms!!

Your opinion of Taverna del Lupo in Gubbio is exactly the same as mine. I thought they were WAY too stuffy, tried far too hard to be "the place to dine" and were very overpriced for OK, but not great food.

It was really the only dining disappointment of my last trip, which is far too long ago now.

Loving your report!
Dayle is offline  
Jul 11th, 2011, 08:08 AM
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Hi again,

As I mentioned above and in the captions in the photos, some of best meals were at "home" made with products we purchased in either in town or on the road during that day's travels.

We scored big in Norcia. I took Fred Plokin's section on Norcia with us because he makes several suggestions on places to get the best of this or the best of that. It proved very useful, as those of you that have been to Norcia know, there are a gazillion shops that seemingly sell the same thing, but want you to think they are the masters of a particular type of pork product.

Here is a link to the slowtrav page on Umbrian pork product. I proved extremely helpful:


We purchased most all of our meat products from Norcineria Ercole Ulivucci, Via Mazzini 4. It is off the main drag a bit, so it is a little quieter, smaller and lower key than some of the other shops in the square or on the main drag into town.
In Plotkin's book he raved about his ciauscolo, so went in there for that, but ended up buying a Coralina, some prosciutto, and a Fiaschetta. Of the salamis, the Fiaschetta was my favorite. These are pear shaped and are slightly spicy. Delicious. Ercole was very pleased when I showed him his name in Fred's book and he recommended the ciasocolo. He gave us a little extra at no charge. (just what we needed!).

Another spot we wanted to visit was a nameless bakery run by an apparently sweet and lovely lady. We found her onCorso Sertorio 13. She doesn't bake bread, she makes these cookies and sweets that are incredibly good. Some are like "raviolis" filled with crema, or hazelnut or chocolate, etc, etc.

She was so kind to us! She showed us each and everyone of her products and talked about it (in Italian, I got about 20% of what she said). She gave us samples. We had a great time with her. We ended up 10 or 12 of her cookies and things. They are fantastic. I would make a stop there again and again. The ones that were filled with cream were my favorites. She spent considerable time and effort trying to draw us a map to get the Caseficio Sociale di Norcia, a cheese consortium of sorts. We never did find our way there, but did end up buying some fresh pecorino and some 24 month aged pecorino from a chesse shop near Uilvucci's shop. We broke into the aged stuff the other night and it was heaven. If anyone has been to Caseficio Sociale di Norcia and knows where it is, I would appreciate directions for next time.

We had a great time in Norcia. It is cute and very tidy town with a lovely main piazza. Our shopping excurions were the highlight of our hour or so there though.

Olive oil is everywhere in Umbria. We ended up buying from three producers, the aforementioned Genious Loci, Hispellum and Antico Frantoio Nunzi. I had desgins on visiting more places and buying more brands, but time ran out and I didn't want the trip to turn into the "Great Forced March" for olive oil.

Thanks to franco for mentioning Nunzi! We had the most incredible experience there! I let them know we were coming, so they were expecting us. They are located outside a small town called Cantalupo just north of Bevagna on a little white road. Amazingly, Stella got us there with no problems. One could have easily driven by with noticing the name painted on an old pressing wheel.

Luca Nunzi and his is mother greeted us warmly. As Luca took us on a tour of their facilities, moma went to to make us some bruschetta. Luca explained that they are using two methods now to make the oil. The old method of crushing the olives with the marble wheels and the method which is similar to the old method, but technology is new and more advanced. Luca spoke some English and I understood about half of what he was saying, so much of the explanation of the new machinery was lost in the ether. He is clearly proud of their operation and is eager to get the oil out there to the general public. I believe their website is up and running now.

After the tour, we got treated to slices of wonderful toasted crusty bread drenched in their oil. some with just salt and others with fresh tomatoes. The oil is truly delicious. It is smooth and mellow at the start, but has a surprising peppery finish at the end that really makes for a nice taste. We bought some oil of course.

We left there feeling the warmth and hospitality of the Umbrian people in a very big way. Sure, it was a business transaction, but it was more than that. There was sharing and stories and laughing and a warmth not commonly felt in transactions where I come from. We felt this from many people ran into. The aforementioned cookie lady and Ercole Ulivucci being two others.

The other producer I wanted to visit, but didn't get a chance was Romanelli near Montefalco. I could have kicked myself as we were in Montefalco one day and could have visited their shop in town, but we just didn't think about at the time. Oh well...

Hispellum is both an olive oil producer and retailer in Spello. The shop in town is full of local products from pasta to cheese to truffles to prepared preserves to of course olive oil. We really liked the oil here and bought two bottles of it. It was not as smooth and mellow as Genious Loci's or as explosive at the end as Nunzi, but it was sort of nice mid ground between the two. We liked our purchases, but now that we are home it is clear that we should have bought a lot more than we did. Next time...
iamq is offline  
Jul 11th, 2011, 09:20 AM
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Orvieto and Todi

As mentioned above we spent our first night in Italy in Orvieto and stopped in Todi for a look-see and lunch on our way to Spello the next day.

We stayed at Hotel Duomo in Orvieto. Prior to booking I was considering the Virgilio and I am glad that I chose the Duomo. The Virgilo looks lovely, but it is right on the Piazza and some of the rooms have windows overlooking the Piazza. I guess that could be a good thing or a not-so-good thing, but I was glad to be slightly removed from the piazza at the Duomo. Our room was huge and on the third floor with views out both sides towards gardens on one side the the Duomo on the other. The bath was large. The a/c worked well and it was quiet at night. This is where I would stay again if we were to come back for another night or two. euro 140,00 which included a nice breakfast.

Our time in Orvieto was limited, but we crammed in as much as we could without feeling rushed. After our gut-stretching lunch at La Palomba we walked around the backstreets a bit and then made our way to the Underground Tour office.

As we were walking, I noticed a lot of nice shops selling everything from linens to olive wood to of course pottery. Orvieto is a town where one could drop a considerable amount of money on some very nice, unique things. There was one ceramics shop in particular, that looking back now, I wished I bought some things at. It is located on the piazza sort of kitty corner to the Duomo. They carry more modern and abstract things than other shops in town and I fell in love with some of the raku bowls he had. I should have bought them, but we had just gotten there...blah, blah, blah, you know the story. Who knows what else I will see in the next 11 days? There was the planned trip to Faenza in a few days to see my heros, the Vignoli Sisters...so I passed and now I regret it. Oh well...NEXT TIME!

We got to the Underground Tour office just as the last English speaking tour of the day was starting, so we paid our fare and off we went. I recommend this to anyone visiting Orvieto, however my expectations were slightly out of line with the reality of the tour. I thought the caves we'd be seeing were natural caves. I was imagining stalagtites, etc... As it turns out the caves are man made, were functional and served many purposes for the land owners and townspeople above, which WAS interesting to learn about. It was a well done presentation, the corridors are well lit and done in a semi-artistic manner which added to the experience and we saw a lot. I think the tour lasted about an hour or so, which was perfect.

After the tour we started examining the Duomo. What an amazing piece of architecture! The facade is unlike anything I had ever seen.

I am not a major appreciator of religious oriented art and this cathedral is choked full of famous works. The things about the interior and exterior of the Duomo that impressed me most were the graphic details such as the moldings, the frescoed desgin work on the columns and the areas that framed the art works, and the lovely mosaic and tile work around the altar. It was all spectacular and so impressively done. I am an amature potter and seeing these designs and patterns was inspirational and put things in a historical context for me as I am constantly wondering where artists get their ideas from. Often it is from the past and that could be clearly seen from the designs and patterns found in the Doumo.

Another impressive feature of the Duomo are the black and white striped exterior sides. I love modern design and this patterning reminded me of the modern as much as the gothic. We walked up and down both sides a few times appreciating the stone work and the gargoyles overhead. One could come back here several times and still enjoy and appreciate it.

I think Orvieto would be a place to come back to for several reasons. There are ton of good places to eat here. I had hoped to have at least one more meal here, but after our late lunch, dinner was out. The are so many areas to explore and we concentrated our wanderings around the main piazza area and down a few sides streets. There is clearly so much more to explore.

The people of Orvieto were wonderful. annw mentioned to me in a post about how wondeful the passagiata is in Orvieto and she was right. Everyone comes out and it was like a street party! I loved that part of our day there the most. An image that is stuck in my mind from that time was when I looked up a side street and there was this old woman sitting on a bench surrounded by a young family. The old woman had he arms around a little child and was squeezing her saying over and over "bella, bella, bella, bella, bella..." The old woman was in heaven and the child was squirming around like a bug. It was a classic image, one I was glad to have seen. I thought to myself, "Yes, Bill you are in Italy now, now doubt about it!"

The countryside around Orvieto is lovely too and worthy of a future visit. It would be fun to rent a country house in this area some day.

Our much too quick trip to Todi later...

Here are some photos of Orvieto and Todi.

iamq is offline  
Jul 11th, 2011, 03:42 PM
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Todi is a lovely little town that I would have wanted to spend more time in. We took the funicular to the top and walked towards the piazza. It is a gorgeous piazza! We explored the buildings and spent some time in the Duomo. The Rose stained glass window is not be believed! We did some window shopping. Again, I found this pottery shop with some amazing works in it, that I should have bought, but it was only the second day and who knows...blah, blah, blah. I didn't even get the business card of this place. We wandered past the piazza to a nice park-like area that had amazing views of the valley beyond. Like the area around Orvieto, the surrounding area here was lovely and rural and from this high looked like a patchwork quilt of different colored fabrics.

After our lunch we left for our appointment with the house person for the apartment we rented in Spello. If we didn't get there by 4 pm we would be charged an extra euro 25,00. I had never heard of that before, but I didn't want to test it.

Here is the photo album I put together from our stay in Spello. I will prattle on about it later.


We timed our trip to Spello so we could be there the weekend of the Infiorate Spello. I cannot begin to explain what an experience it was to stay here during this event. If you want to know more about what the Infiorate is this link will do a much better job of explaining than I could.

What I can tell you is that if are interested in partaking of this, plan to spend the whole weekend in Spello. Arrive Friday and leave Sunday afternoon. Being in town allowed us to see these marvelous creations being made and to watch as the town was transformed. Seeing the change and watching the town get into it was remarkable.

http://www.infioratespello.it/ Google should translate it.

Here is a link to my photos of the Infiorate.


Enjoy. Back with more later.
iamq is offline  
Jul 11th, 2011, 04:29 PM
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You are driving me crazy, iamq! More, more!!!

God, I love Italy.
charnees is offline  
Jul 11th, 2011, 04:29 PM
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Oh, iamq, I am so happy to see the Infiorate in Spello!! We saw the "homespun" one in Montone last June, while we were staying there, but we had heard that Spello had a particularly fantastic one.

You must have been thrilled to see this - a sort of once in a lifetime event for us Americans.

I'm so enjoying your report.
I want to go back to Umbria and spend more time in the Southern towns such as you did.

Did you tell us where and what your apartment was? Did you like it? I'll go back up top and take a look.

Thanks again, and waiting for more!
taconictraveler is offline  
Jul 11th, 2011, 04:35 PM
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No, I haven't talked much about Spello yet including the apartment. That will be next. Stay tuned. The photo link above for Spello has pictures of the apartment in it though.

It was thrilling...and almost surreal in a way.
iamq is offline  
Jul 11th, 2011, 04:38 PM
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PS I love your photos, they are making me homesick for Umbria.

and I particularly like your quote: "plan the plan, not the outcome!"
taconictraveler is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 06:14 AM
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Spello ended up being the perfect place for us to stay and base ourselves for 10 days. We love this pink hued, vertical, flowered bedecked town and I hope to return to it someday for a longer period of time.

We got off to a bit of rocky start though. We were to meet Nadia at the Piazza at around 4. There is paid car parking at the Piazza. We pull up and find a spot and just as M is to set about locating the ticket meter, there is Nadia waving for us to follow her. We were bit discombobulated, so we just sort of dropped everything and took off with her.

Speaking Italian, then English a mile a minute she quickly guided us up and down these narrow "roads" and stariways that wound this way and that. I am thinking, "How the hell am I supposed to remember how to get back to the car?" It was like a maze...a pretty maze, but a maze. I looked at M and he had this look on his face that said "WTF?" So off we go into the depths of ancient Hispellum in search of our apartment. Nadia was wonderful, but that day she knew one speed: FAST.

We get to the apartment and are blown away! It is in a gorgeous rebuilt stone villa that sort of forms the outside perimeter of the town. There are parts of the ancient Roman wall on the property. There are four units and we are in the Augustus Unit. Nadia takes us inside and QUICKLY gives us the low down on everything. It was a whirlwind tour that left our heads spinning!

The apartment is huge, well laid out and has everything an American in Italy could want. It is the owner's unit. She stays there when she is in Spello, so it is naturally well designed, well furnished and fully equipped (mostly).

Still disoriented, and not really sure where in town we were, my big concern was parking. PARKING! We'd forgot to put money in the meter at the Piazza! I ask Nadia about where to park and she was not clear at all about where to go. She mentioned a few areas that of course meant nothing to me as I did not know where she was talking about. I think I had an idea, but wasn't sure. ARGHHHH. After a quick tour of the apartment, Nadia left us. We sat there a bit overwhelmed and bewildered. We knew we had to get back to the piazza...but how? After about ten minutes of looking we found a map (why hadn't I brought one? Bad planner, bad planner!) of Spello in the house and set off.

Our trip back to the car wasn't that bad and relieved our disorientation a bit. While convoluted, it is a small town with all roads, walkways, stairways, seemingly leading to the main piazza. We found out way back to the car and had recieved our first of many gifts from this town: a euro 40,00 parking ticket! Welcome to the fair Umbrian hill town of Spello! Ughh.
Oh well. I shoved it in the glove box and would deal with it later...or would I?

We retrieved our bags, FED THE METER and actually made it back to the apartment without getting lost.

It felt good to be there, but we still really didn't know WHERE we were in relation to the rest of the town and had to find out where to park on a regular basis.

Hark! What's that we hear? A male voice speaking American outside? Quick! Get him! M flys out the front door and there is Lou. Lou is our downstairs neighbor. He and his wife had been in Spello for 5 days already. Veterans! Lou would end up being our parking and overall Spello newbe savior. M struck up a conversation with him which ended 20 minutes later with Lou walking us around town a bit and showing us where he and his wife park there car. He didn't know it, but Lou had very bright halo over his head.

Whew...with all that behind us, I felt much better and we set about getting unpacked and settled in our fabulous digs in this quirky, but apparently lovely and friendly town. I forgot about the ticket, denial is a good coping mechanism, and we started thinking about things like, "We need to get some coffee for tomorrow morning. What about something to eat tonight? Let's check out that bakery." and the all important. "Let's get some gelato." We were "home."
iamq is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 06:59 AM
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Love your report! Looking forward to more. Glad you enjoyed Orvieto and were in Spello for the Infiorata.
annw is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 09:44 AM
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Iamq - can you post a link to the apt in Spello?
hazel1 is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 01:22 PM
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Here is the link to the apartment:


We stayed in the Augustus unit, which is the only unit I would stay in. The building used to be an olive oil and wine storage place, so the ground floor apartments are sort of cave-like and don't have a lot of natural light and air circulation. All the units are designed and furnished with style and top quality things. Our unit was the most "conventional" in terms of layout. It also had its own porch and fantastic views.

While I am on views, let me say that one of the things we didn't particularly like about our side of Spello and the view from the apartment was the immediate view of the suburban sprawl that spread out below the old walled city, and the close proximity to the freeway and the sound associated with that. The far off and intermediate views were spectacular and the sunsets from this side of town were to die for. The views from the other side of town were more pastoral and peaceful. Having said that, this would not keep us from renting this place again. It is just something to mention in order to keep one's expectations aligned with reality.

Or daily rountine in Spello went something like this:

-up fairly early. I'd get the espresso maker going on the stove and then run down to the Forno mentioned above and buy too many goodies.

-coffee and eat until satisfied. Plan out the day. We usually knew what we doing or where we going, but sometimes we winged it.

-Leave the apartment by 10:00 am to where ever we were going.

-Do what ever we planned on doing, which was usually on destination or possibly a side trip.

-Lunch at or around 1:00 pm

-Wandering and/or more doing or winging it.

-Back to Spello by 5:00 or 6:00 pm or so.

-Rest and refresh.

-Prepare our "light" dinner and snacks. Eat on the porch at 7:30 or 8:00, resting and recapping our day as the sn would begin to set.

-Go for a walk and get gelato. Then walk the town. Sometimes we go up past La Bastiglia and out along the trails. Sometimes we'd explore areas we hadn't been too. It is a small town, so after a few days we were doing loops that took in large parts of the city.

In bed and asleep by 10:00 or 10:30.

The big deviation to this was the Infiorate. During Infiorate weekend we stayed in town from Friday evening until early Monday morning. Each "circuit" of the course of artworks took about 2 to 3 hours to walk and watch what was going on. Starting around 3:00 or 4:00 on Saturday afternoon we'd start making the rounds and seeing how the various groups were doing. We continued this into the night until around midnight. Went to bed and got up around 4:00 am and started doing the circuit again. We did one go round and then went back to the apartment and rested and then joined the hoards at around 9:00 am and joined the party. We really wanted to maximize the benefits of staying there. Watching these groups work into the night and then again see what they had accomplished by 5:00 am was really interesting and a lot of fun.

One of the reasons we like to stay in one place for a longish period of time as opposed to 3 days here, 2 days there, 4 days there is that we get to establish a routine and get to know our surroundings and in most cases the people there. I knew we'd be around for a while so I was more open to get to know the baker and butcher. We got to recognize people and they got to know our faces and we became friendly with many of them.

I think we could have probably done more each day had we really wanted to, but I wanted there to be some relaxation to this trip, not just go, go, go. I was doing all the driving and that can get old real quick too.

We didn't make it to Spoleto or Perugia. We also didn't get to San Pietro en Valle. For a variety of reasons we didn't make it to the Mercato in Bevagna. I regret that the most, but it just didn't work out.

Out and About next...
iamq is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 01:50 PM
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iamq - this is my sort of trip. I love it when the butcher, baker and candlestick maker start to know you.
annhig is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 03:49 PM
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Bill -- your trip reports are the next best thing to being there! Italy is wonderful - thanks for giving me this vicarious pleasure.
cm318 is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 04:11 PM
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You know annhig, there was this candlestick maker...

One thing my photos don't really do justice to in town is the bright splashes of floral and plant color everywhere on people's homes. It is one of the things that makes this town so special. They have fashioned these amazing hanging gardens and potted plant sanctuaries around their homes. The residents seem to take great pride in them. One of the great pleasures of going on our evening walks was to enjoy these beauties and explore the little alleys and see what sort of gardens were there. One evening I had a broken Italian conversation with a woman who was looking out her window admiring her plants below. I told her how lovely everything looked and asked her how she did it. She said in English, "Love".

I am glad you are all enjoying the trip report.
iamq is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 06:23 PM
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I am so enjoying your report. It brings back fabulous memories of parts of my trips #2 and #3! So many people think of Orvieto as a quick stop type of town on the way to Rome - just see the duomo, maybe the cave tour...but we stayed 3 nts and just loved this town! The passagiata - the best I've experienced in Italy so far. Lovely shops, artist's galleries, incredible food. So glad you fell for Orvieto too!

And Spello - I will definitely go back on my next trip. Special place.

Can't wait to read the rest!
Dayle is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 07:46 PM
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Hi Dayle,

Yes, I did fall for Orvieto. I'd go back just to eat at La Palomba again. And then there's that ceramics shop...
iamq is offline  
Jul 13th, 2011, 06:38 AM
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You sound like us! We have found a place in The Marche (LaTavola Marche) near Piobicco. We stay in an agriturismo run by a wonderful young American couple. We rent a car and spend our days exploring the area and our nights eating the husband of the couple great local food. A perfect vacation for us.
willperson is offline  
Jul 13th, 2011, 07:17 AM
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Spello photos are wonderful! We only saw post cards of them on our visit there! Terrific report!
TDudette is offline  
Jul 13th, 2011, 08:30 AM
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I looked at the apartment photos and found it tempting. But what floor is it on? And how many stairs into it? (knee problems, for me)
charnees is offline  

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