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Trip Report Heavenly 2-week Retreat in Umbria

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We've been back a while now, but today I don't have to spend money shopping for Christmas bargains, so I figured I'd finally finish off at least the Umbria part of our trip report! We started with a week in Rome, and I essentially got that "report" in while we were still there under the topic of "why didn't I bring sandals to Rome?" or something like that. I don't really go in for day-by-day blow-by-blows, but did want to share my "best-of's" because lots of Fodorites have helped us over the years.

Dates: September 16-29, 2011

Lodging: La Romantica - a lovely 1-bedroom flat in a renovated 16th century convent, in the tiny town of Bazzano Inferiore, in the commune of Spoleto. between the Appenines and Sibbiline mountain ranges. I also saw the other flat in the same building, La Passionata, which would accomodate 3 or more people comfortably and had a slightly better kitchen. (Although ours worked wonderfully well for the two of us.) We would go back in a flash.

The location of this apartment, for our "touring" purposes -- couldn't have been better. After two weeks, we felt like residents of Bazzano. The neighbors were delightful. The views were gorgeous. The closet space was unmatchable. The ability to do laundry was priceless :-)

Places visited: Spoleto, Montefalco, Trevi, Fonti del Clitunno, Perugia, Spello, Todi, Gubbio, Foligno, Norica, San Benedetto del Tronto ( It's a straight shot (including a 4.4km tunnel under Sibilline Mountains) from Norcia) Cortona, Bevagna, Orvieto. Sadly, we never made it to Castellucia or Assisi. - good spot down the road (SS3 to SP457) to Campello sul Clitunno where you can buy some lovely local Montefalco Rosso, as well as WONDERFUL local products - think truffle salsa, truffle butter and truffle honey, and pastas. mmmmm! We stocked our flat with wine from here (as well as a shop in Montefalco) and she told me how best to use the salsa (in omelets, on pasta, as bruschetta, etc.) NOTE: I used half a jar of truffle salsa in my turkey dressing yesterday and it was amazing! Still have an un-opened jar for later use...

Our favorite restaurants: Spoleto: a magnificent week-day lunch of fresh grilled trout, with rosemary potatoes and grilled zucchini at Ristorante Taverna dei Duchi via Aurelio Saffi, 1 Tel 0743 40323

Trevi: another wonderful week-day lunch in a beautiful restaurant -- the artwork on the walls is local and very very good. The food was ALSO quite wonderful. Ristorante Maggiolini via San Francesco n 20, Tel 0742 381534

Todi: Sunday afternoon lunch - cozy outdoor dining, first rate service and food. Mixed bruschetta and a fabulous soup of the day to start, insanely delicious lamb shank and smoked pork chop smothered in porcini and truffles. Dessert was lovely lemony cake in a rich sauce with mixed berries.

Perugia: Osteria Lanterna - We had a great lunch here. The setting is a bit dark, but it fits Perugia - or at least my feeling of Perugia. The best dish was Steve's pasta - tagliatella Lanterna -- (picture) It was so good, when a boisterous group of 3 young Americans came in and were checking out what everyone was eating, I caught someone's eye and said "You HAVE to order the Tagliatella Lanterna" Our secondi were probably a cinghiale with mushrooms (truffles?) and pork in the berries sauce. 500cl of house red.

We drank house wines at nearly all of these restaurants. The reds were usually Montefalco Rosso, or a Montepulciano or Barbaresco. We only had white at lunch in Spoleto, and whatever it was, it was perfect.

There were other restaurants we visited, and we truly did not have a bad meal anywhere. But I'm only recommending the standouts here.

Cooking at "home" was a joy. We shopped mostly at a Conad Superstore for regular groceries. The quality of dairy, meat and fish was high, and prices were higher than what we're used to in the US, but it still allowed us to save considerably over eating all our meals out. We are both pretty good cooks, and loved having fresh sage and rosemary available in the garden. (I also was able to pick up a pot of basil at the grocery store.) The best meals we made were chicken in white wine and sage, lasagna (which for the two of us provided three meals), wonderful pasta -- purchased local truffle salsa which dressed two pasta meals and breakfast eggs several days, and a fantastic Chianina grilled steak. Our landlord had provided some basics in the way of good linguini, pasta sauce, milk, coffee, olive oil, balsamic, and a lovely bottle of Falanghina (white wine). On our second day there, our little trip to Montefalco gave us a chance to taste and purchase olive oil (we bought a 500cl bottle of one that we really liked and actually used almost all of it across the two weeks) and Montefalco Rosso and Sagrantino - we bought a couple of Rosso and a couple of Sagrantino from the Romanelli shop. On some of our trips, we purchased bread and pastries from bakeries as while the bread from the grocery stores, was OK, it was better from the small shops. I really need to say, the eggs blew me away. The yolks were the brightest orange/yellow I've ever seen. And of course we enjoyed cheese everywhere, including some for dessert served with truffle honey.

It was pure bliss to have two weeks in Umbria. The drives were out of this world. For the most part we used tips for daytrips that our land lords left us, and they were great...or a couple of trip reports from here I'd printed off. Trevi was a surprise to us -- and if we'd visited it sooner rather than on our last full day in Umbria, it would have been useful! They have a great local historical museum (pretty much brand new) as well as a neat museum on the cultivation of olive oil. It was so close, we'd driven past it multiple times on our way elsewhere! One of the land lady's suggestions was to drive up, up, up to a neighboring village (Petino) the route for which wound through deep dense forestlands. On the way back down we realized the bright yellow sign postings on the trees identified the truffle hunting territories of various enterprise groups or families. We also enjoyed hiking the roads and market trails through olive groves at the end of our "street." We could have hiked all the way to Spoleto, but we ran into a local hunter with his dog on the Sunday afternoon we started out, and decided that perhaps we weren't dressed brightly enough for a LONG trek through that territory!

Here is a link to some of my pictures, it is the first time (I think) I've tried to share via the most recent Kodak Gallery option, so I'll try another link if this doesn't work!

This site should also contain the Roman photos...I don't think I've gotten through Ostia Antica yet, and I know these Umbrian shots are missing Trevi, Perugia, Bevagna, Todi, and Orvieto as well as an awesome classic car rally we lucked upon in Cortona! I'll try to get those up in their own album.

We were SO fortunate to have over a month for this trip. I'm splitting the trip reports up like this, though, because each segment truly stood on its own as a super vacation. (Still to come...Cinque Terre, Parma/Cremona, and Lake Como (Bellagio). Oh yeah, and 4 days in Prague where we met up with some longtime travel pals.)

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