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tcreath's Italy trip report....Umbria and Rome with a small slice of Tuscany

tcreath's Italy trip report....Umbria and Rome with a small slice of Tuscany

Apr 6th, 2006, 06:26 AM
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tcreath's Italy trip report....Umbria and Rome with a small slice of Tuscany

I will start by saying that my trip report is not nearly as entertaining as others on this board (It must be some special gift I am lacking in...) so my report may be kind of dull. My apologies!

The Itinerary
March 18th � March 28th
5 nights in Umbria and 3 nights in Rome.
5 nights in Le Case Gialle (http://www.lecasegialle.com/)
3 nights in Apartment on Vicolo di San Guiliano (http://www.sleepinitaly.com/files/apt_sangiuliano.html)

Background
DH and I are both in our mid/late twenties. We have been to Italy before, but Umbria was new to us. I will start out, first, by saying that we are not foodies, so if anyone is looking for a really descriptive food report, you�ve come to the wrong place. That being said, we do like good food; we are just, unfortunately, very picky eaters. We both love history, wine, meandering around small towns, and beautiful drives. I did a lot of research, on here and in guidebooks and online. I wanted to say thank you to everyone who ever posted about Umbria. Your comments have been invaluable in helping us plan for this trip and I am, once again, extremely grateful to be part of such a great board and all the wealth of information it brings.

Flight Details
We are from St. Louis but drove the 4 hours to Chicago for our flights. We flew American from Chicago to Brussels and SN Brussels from Brussels to Rome. The flight was mostly uneventful�.well, with the exception of my driving DH crazy worrying (well, at least the parts when I wasn�t in an Ambien-induced sleep) about our short 50 minute layover time, especially when that 20 minute layover turned into a 30 minute layover because our flight was delayed. Luckily there were so many people (40) on our flight that were scheduled on the same flight from Brussels to Rome that they held the plane for us because otherwise we would have certainly missed our flight.

Day 1 � Rome to Gualdo Cuttaneo
We got to Rome, picked up our bags, and made our way to the Avis counter to pick up our rental car that was pre-booked through Auto Europe. I will give a good tip to those renting from Avis: it�s worth the time to sign up for the free Avis Preferred program online. There is a separate line for members and basically you get to �cut� in line and get help sooner. We had very little paperwork to fill out and were on our way within about 10 minutes of getting to the counter, and that was with us asking for a map and directions.

We found our way out of FCO fairly quickly and easily. This was our first time driving around Italy and DH was pretty nervous. We decided a few months ago that we would head to Bracciano on our way to Umbria. My husband found Bracciano online a few years ago while planning a different trip to Rome. It�s a really neat town on Lake Bracciano, about 30 miles north of Rome. We were mainly interested in the town because there is a large castle that sits in the middle of it that we thought looked very interesting. We had planned on stopping for lunch and to wander around the town. Unfortunately that plan didn�t quiet hold out. Jet lag and my DH�s nervousness over driving in Italy payed its toll on us, and we did very little in Bracciano except walk a few blocks, take pictures and manage to get ourselves lost. After a few wrong-way turns, we were back on our way. (For those that are interested, information on Bracciano and the other towns on the lake can be found at http://www.lakebracciano.com/lakebra.../paesi_en.html). We ended up stopping at an Auto Grill where we had a small lunch of panini and bruchetta.

Our goal was to make it to Case Gialle before sunset, and that was a good decision because it wasn�t the easiest to find. However, it was worth the effort. This place was gorgeous. We stayed in Le Terrazza and couldn�t have been happier. Case Gialle is on an organic olive oil farm, and the whole farm was just gorgeous. It sat on a hill amongst gorgeous olive trees, about 2 km from Gualdo Cuttaneo, a very small (and kind of spooky!) old hill town. Our apartment had a nice big bathroom with the largest shower I have ever had in Europe�and lots of hot water! We had a decent sized kitchen and a nice bedroom. The floors were all terracotta colored tiles and the ceilings were made of dark wood. Gorgeous! The best part, though, was our balcony and the views. We had fresh bread delivered every morning (although, admittingly, Umbrian bread is certainly not the most tasty bread I�ve ever encountered), and small bottle of their olive oil, a bottle of red Montefalco wine, some preserves, and coffee and tea were left in the apartment for our enjoyment.

We unpacked and took a short hour-long nap and then got ready for dinner. Our apartment had a list of recommended restaurants in the area and which days they were closed. We decided to head down to Bevagna, where we ate at Ottavius (I believe that is the name). I had the best gnocchi I�ve ever eaten! It was in a sagrantino sauce with pieces of pancetta�delicious! DH had a delicious ravioli dish, and we split a liter of the house wine. After a few cups of cappuccino we were on our way back to the apartment where we quickly crashed for the night.

Day 2 to follow shortly�

Tracy

tcreath is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 06:38 AM
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mmmmmmmm. Gnocchi in a sagrantino sauce with pieces of pancetta in Bevagna?

Franco must be onto something. ;-)

nessundorma is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 01:09 PM
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Yay...I am happy you are writing this! I am re-living Case Gialle through you. Your trip was long but you made it and even went out for dinner the first night; very impressive.

We walked up to the castle in Gualdo Cattaneo under the almost-full moon, and also had a spooky experience (in addition to almost getting hit by a few drivers surprised to see 5 crazy people walking up the hill). No people around, lots of cats leading us up steep streets and then...disappearing, a light going on way up in the castle right when we walked below it. Mysterious.

We ate at a good place in Bevagna called Osteria Podesta. Didn't try the restaurant you mentioned, but Bevagna was our "headquarters" for our shopping etc. Sweet town.

Looking forward to more episodes and thanks for posting.
annabelle2 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 01:31 PM
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LOL annabelle2....I think the drizzling rain and heavy haze made Gualdo Cuttaneo seem even more "eerie". Still, it was a neat town to wander around in, even if that only took about fifteen minutes!

We loved Bevagna! Such a neat town. I had some wonderful pastries at a little patisserie in town, and the locals were very friendly to us.

I will get to the Foligno section later, but we too had the same problem that you mentioned in another post...that town was very confusing! I guess the ring road threw us, but we went round and round Foligno, trying to figure out where to park at the train station. One time we accidently ended up within the city walls and my husband was freaking out. I can laugh about it now but Foligno was definitely NOT a highlight of our trip!

I will hopefully get the next section done tomorrow. I've been busier today than I wanted to be!

Tracy
tcreath is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 01:46 PM
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Welcome home Tracy!! And great trip report so far... not remotely dull either so don't worry about that one bit! Cannot wait to hear more about the rest of your trip. This was a special airfare trip, right?
TexasAggie is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 04:36 PM
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Thanks TexasAggie! I remember how entertaining your 12 Days of Pizza report was (and by the way, I think I had pizza almost every day on our trip as well!), so that's nice of you to say!

Yes, we got a really good airfare! People in my office joke that I'm the queen of finding cheap airfare. I think it was around $400 or $500 per ticket from Chicago, although its been a little while now so that may not be exactly right. We originally had tickets booked to Ireland but changed them after a few weeks because we were both aching to go back to Italy! American was really nice about it and didn't charge us much of a penalty (maybe $35 per ticket) to change them.

Tracy

tcreath is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 04:38 PM
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Enjoying reading this and looking forward to more. Were you the poster weighing the pros and cons of a ground-level apartment in Rome?
Leely is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 05:14 PM
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tcreath,

I made a couple loops around the Foligno ring road too before finding the train station. Didn't take too long though. Glad to hear I'm not the only one!
Dayle is offline  
Apr 7th, 2006, 04:58 AM
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Leely, yep, that was me! We ended up going with a ground level apartment and it was fine. The "street" we were on was more like a small alley...can't couldn't even go through it. The only time it was a little noisy was late on a Saturday night. We had the window above the door cracked to let some air in, and I think there were some drunk guys on the street being really loud, but after a few minutes they were gone. Other than that, it was very quiet. I will describe the apartment in more detail in my trip report.

Dayle, looks like Foligno is difficult for many to navigate! We found the train station okay, although we kept on going and going, following the signs, before we finally found it. I think it was because from the direction we were coming we had to go almost completely around to the other side of town to find the station. Then my DH passed it the first time so we had to make the loop again. Its quite funny now that I think about it, but with all the traffic he got pretty annoyed!

I should be adding to my trip report in a little while. Thanks everyone for reading!

Tracy
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Apr 7th, 2006, 05:47 AM
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Tracy - I'm enjoying your report very much so far, even though we didn't do the part of Umbria you were in so far. I'm looking forward to the rest of your report - maybe it will remind me of our days in Umbria, Orvieto, Perugia, and Assisi.

KC
knoxvillecouple is offline  
Apr 7th, 2006, 06:08 AM
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Has anyone ever gotten their pictures back and honestly cant tell what some of them are? We got all the way to Europe and realized we left our memory stick at home in the computer so we had to go with disposables. Not only did many of the pictures not turn out (especially the ones inside), but there are no dates on the pictures as well. Luckily we also have video from the trip! Anyways, we saw so many hill towns on this trip and to be honest they all kind of look the same in the pictures. DH and I have been trying to figure out which town is which, and it makes for quite an entertaining conversation! Anyways, on to day 2

Day 2 Spello, Assisi and Todi
I should start off by stating that DH and I travel kind of fast. We like to linger, but we still tend to get through places faster than some.

After a great night sleep we woke up refreshed and ready to start our day. Unfortunately the weather on this trip was not the best. It didnt really rain but it was very hazy and had the look of rain most of the day. Not ones to be daunted by the weather, we had a small breakfast of not-so-tasty Umbrian bread, yogurts and some cheese and were on our way.

Our first stop was Spello, as it was on the way to Assisi. What a gorgeous town! I loved how rosy pink the town looked. DH made a rule right away that he would not drive in any of the walled part of the towns, so we parked at a parking lot below town and followed the signs to the centro. It was a good climb, but so much fun to work our way through the small roads and arches to town. As cat lovers, we had to stop and attempt to pet just about every cat we saw, which means it probably took us a good hour to finally get to the centro! We just loved Spello. It was the perfect introduction to our hill town journey, as its just what we had invisioned; small streets darting out everywhere, flowers in flower pots, little Italian women walking with their loaves of bread We also have a rule of ducking into most churches we find, as most are gorgeous, and Spellos didnt disappoint. Not being one to pass up on Italian pastries, we stopped at a patisserie near the Centro for cappuccino and chocolate cornettos (is that the right term? Cornetti? Hmmm). We hung around Spello for a few hours and then made our way to Assisi.

We drove to the top of Assisi and parked at a parking lot near the old ruined ampitheater and bus stop. We spent a majority of our day in Assisi and loved it. The town is definitely larger than it looked. We got kind of lost trying to find the information office and ran into a girl from Texas who was also looking for the same place. We walked and talked about our trip (she was visiting her sister who is living in Rome for the next 5 years.must be nice!) and had a really nice time with her. After finally finding the information office we parted ways and DH and I walked into Santa Maria Sopra Minerva and sat for awhile to take everything in. Of course one cant go to Assisi without visiting St. Francis Basilica, and all I can say is wow! What a beautiful place! We were lucky enough to visit when the organ was playing, so we just sat and listed, thrilled that we were back in Italy and in such a magical place.

After walking around the basilica for awhile, we decided we were starving and headed to the nearest place for pizza. Luckily we didnt have to go far; we stopped at Bar San Francesca, right across the street. Im sure it is touristy but the pizza margheritas were actually very good and hit the spot. Then of course I had to stop and look at some pottery (Im sure the women on the board will understand this need), and I ended up buying a gorgeous plate/bowl to hang on my wall at home. It was a very small shop, and the owner was very nice without pressuring too much. She explained to me, in her broken English, why the difference in prices and gave me some background on some of the artists. We had a lovely conversation, and my plate brings back a flood of warm memories every time I look at it.

After a few more hours of aimlessly wandering, we drove to Todi. Now that was a climb! We parked at the bottom of town and walked, walked, and walked some more to the top. The road was very narrow and cars were driving up constantly, and every time one came we had to stop and duck into a doorway as to not get hit. Got to love the Italian drivers! Todi was a great little town and offered some splendid views. Its also a very picturesque town to take pictures of, and I highly recommend a visit.

We drove back to our apartment, arriving around 6:00, and took a short nap before dinner. Actually this was a pattern that stayed with us every day and worked out pretty good.

Dinner that night was at the Hotel Ristorante Righera Umbra in Montefalco, and our meal was just delicious. We parked at the parking lot just outside of the gates, and the restaurant isnt too far of a walk from the inside of the gate. We ate in what looked like an old vaulted wine cellar. I knew the meal was going to be great when it started out with a free glass of prosecco! My husband had the menu touristo which included a pasta (ravioli pomodoro), a secondi (veal with a lemon sauce), a salad and an espresso at the end. I had a tortellini limone that was to die for. The tortellini isnt like anything I get at home; they were very large, about the size of wontons, and filled with a sweet creamy cheese. But the best part was the lemon sauce. Very light and not too sweet or lemony. Incredible! Then it was on to my beef stracato, a tender, thin piece of beef in a wonderful pepper/olive oil sauce that was so flavorful. We shared a bottle of Montefalco Sagrantino that was very good, and the meal ended for me with a cappuccino and then free shots of lemoncello. Everything was just delicious.
tcreath is offline  
Apr 7th, 2006, 06:45 AM
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tcreath-
I'm looking forward to reading more! We are spending 5 nights in Montefalco mid June and Iim hoping to get lots of ideas from you. Thank you for taking the time to write a report.
Ralstonlan is offline  
Apr 7th, 2006, 06:46 AM
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Sorry, I'm
Ralstonlan is offline  
Apr 7th, 2006, 07:34 AM
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Hi again Tracy
Your meal at Hotel Ristorante Righera Umbra sounds fabulous and in a very special setting! On the chance that DH and I don't have pizza for dinner every day on our next trip (gasp, I know!! ;-)) do you recall the approximate price?
TexasAggie is offline  
Apr 7th, 2006, 08:09 AM
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LOL TexasAggie! In your (and our!) defense the pizza in Italy is fabulous and I would have had it for breakfast if I could have! Just thinking about a pizza margherita makes me ravenous!

And oh my gosh I totally forgot to mention the price of our meal! We got all of that food and wine for a little of 34 euros! I couldn't believe it. Such a great deal for such a great meal. Most of our meals in the smaller Umbrian towns were very well priced for the quality of food.

Tracy
tcreath is offline  
Apr 7th, 2006, 08:34 AM
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Day 3 to come.
After another great night of sleep at Case Gialle we awake with plans of visiting Orvieto, Pitigliano and Civita. Unfortunately Pitigliano didnt pan out because we just simply ran out of time, but I have wanted to visit since I read about it in MaiTaiToms trip report so Ill have to save it for another trip.

We drove along SR 448 to Orvieto and the scenery was just spectacular. We drove for awhile along a river that eventually turned into a lake. I believe it is Lago di Carbara. As we drove along we starting getting higher and eventually were pretty high above the lake. I wish there was a pull-over location because it would have made for a beautiful picture. Unfortunately I have been known to get car sick from time to time and unfortunately this day was no exception. The roads are so twisty and turny, and up and downit started to get to me so I had to lay my seat down and take a small nap until we got to Orvieto. After my husband managed to get lost as we navigated our way through the maze that is at the bottom of Orvieto, we finally found the large parking lot near the funicular. We purchased our tickets and up we went. The day was a little rainy and dreary out but as we walked along the sun started coming through and it turned into a pretty nice day. Our first stop was the Piazza del Republica, where we stopped in the church and again heard pipe organs playing. Just lovely! We wandered around town and headed for the Duomo. What an extraordinary sight! We came from a small side street and the Duomo, with its colorful façade, was just breathtaking. We stood outside videotaping and taking pictures for a few minutes and then decided to eat at the pizzeria (Pizzaria Hescanas) across from the Duomo before we went in. Again we each had a pizza margharita and some water, and then I discovered my first taste of Italian hot chocolate. Oh my.I dont know if Ive tasted anything so delicious in my life! It was like drinking thick milk chocolate pudding. And I thought the hot chocolate in Paris was good! Okay, so it was, but I like it a little bit more in Italy, where its a little sweeter. Ill never look at Swiss Miss the same again 
We walked around the duomo for a while and then down past the duomo for some pretty incredible views of Umbria. The countryside truly is beautiful, and that was one of the better views we had on the trip. We then headed out of town, stopping in the fortress area along the way.

Our next stop was Civita. It took longer to get there than we had anticipated, but it was definitely worth the effort. We parked at the parking lot right inside of Bagnoregio because again DH didnt want to drive through town, and walked about 20 minutes until we got to the footbridge for Civita, following the signs through town. Wow! What a cool town. The pictures we got of it were incredible, mostly because the town is just so photogenic. We walked across the footbridge, which gets pretty steep towards the end, and walked about Civita for about an hour. There really isnt much to see here; the town is definitely its own attraction, but I found it fascinating and DH and I liked seeing the Etruscan columns in front of the church.

I started to get sick again and managed to sleep in the car until we got back to the apartment. Hubby took a nap while I read a book and then we headed back over to Assisi for dinner. A friend of mine recommended a restaurant to us but it was closed (unfortunately I cant remember the name right now) so we ended up eating at a restaurant near the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. We both had gnocci; mine with a four cheese sauce and his with pesto, and we shared some bruschetta and wine. The food was just okay; nothing I would really recommend. After wandering around Assisi for a little while we headed back to Case Gialle for the night.

Next up: Trevi, Deruta and the ruined Roman town of Carsulae...
tcreath is offline  
Apr 7th, 2006, 09:20 AM
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Trac;y - I'm still loving your trip report. Did you go inside the Duomo in Orvieto and visit the Cappella Nuova - the one with frescos by Signorelli that purportedly inspired Michaelangelo and his Sistine Chapel? It was incredible. Also, as much as I loved the views of the Umbrian landscape from Orvieto, I think the views from off the Piazza Italia in Perugia were even more magnificent - I lost count of the number of hilltowns I could see from there, but I could see Assisi off in the distance.

Umbria is just a great place!

KC
knoxvillecouple is offline  
Apr 8th, 2006, 04:59 PM
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Great trip and can't wait to read more. I alternate between wanting really full days and then very kicked-back days, so I can relate to your itinerary.

Glad to hear you found so many good places to eat nearby. Because there were 5 of us in 2 apts (not including the couple who adopted us at mealtime, which was fine with us) we cooked several times at Le Case Gialle, which was a nice break because some of us were on a long trip and wanted the chance to shop and cook Italian style!

Ahh, yes, Foligno. We called it the twilight zone. Still don't know how we could screw it up each time we had to drive into it for train tickets etc.
annabelle2 is offline  
Apr 8th, 2006, 05:12 PM
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You guys who think Foligno is tough to drive in and around, don't even think of experiencing Perugia! My description of the map of Perugia...take a bowl of well-done, soggy spaghetti and drop in on the floor...there you have the street map of Perugia! But, ain't it fun?? Really fun!
Stu T.
tower is offline  
Apr 8th, 2006, 05:22 PM
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have to laugh at that, Tower. I've been to Perugia twice, once overnight, once for the day, and when we sanely parked "below" and either took the escalators or the bus to the upper old town, had no problems.

Driving through the city, though...I am recalling two cars, two cell phones, and a pretty funny conversation as one car completely missed an important turn and had quite the detour. Fortunately, most of my Italian driving adventures have been pretty uneventful.
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