Looking back on our two weeks in Umbria I am reminded of such fondness for the people, the food and the landscape. A memory I feel will last much longer than I expect. I half expect to reminisce about it for the rest of my life if I’m honest. As if all my dreams were lived (I know that sounds trite, believe me, but I really did dream of coming here, for far too long). I longed for the landscape without even realising.
You see, I grew up in country New South Wales, the endless plains were something I now realise I took for granted. The feeling of endless rolling hills, of warm breezes passing through the valley and of buzzards in the evening. The local supermarket, heaving on Saturday morning for the weekend long lunches to come, the endless sound of agriculture on the wind during working hours (let’s not forget the four hour respite – riposo– to relax after lunch.) compared to the silence of the night. It’s intoxicatingly refreshing.
We stayed in an agriturismo (a working farm house that hosts up to twelve) on a hill about 11km from Castiglione del Lago (CDL) (3km from Pozzuolo) which I renamed Girasole (the Italian word for sunflower) because our apartment was littered with pictures of the infectiously giddy flower, it was hard to take them off the mind.
Arriving by train, we opted to hire a scooter to get around (note: not a Vespa – we are still on a budget remember?) this meant we could only travel ‘long’ distances by taking necessary and frequent breaks to refuel both scooter and stomach (and de-bug) and could really see the countryside. Our plan worked.
Throughout our stay, we circled a thirty-minute scooter boundary around Girasole and pledged not to travel further than that – ensuring we wouldn’t get too tired and avoided us trying to fit too much in – any further, we’d have to take the train. An option we did twice to see the capital of Umbria (Perugia) and then the old town of Orvieto.
A note on scooting around Umbria: Scooting is definitely the vehicle for those who desire a slower pace of life. You are completely governed by the slowness of the motor. Without a motorcycle license you can only hire a motor capacity of 125CC, which invariably gives you a top speed of sixty kilometres an hour. But to be honest, we wouldn’t reach sixty often, only if we happened a straight section of road (not common in hilly Umbria), so really, it was perfect. Slow enough to smell the jasmine, and if you’re really slow, it’s enough the smell what Mumma’s cooking for lunch. The scenery is that from a film set, more than once I had to remind myself, I was in my own reality.
The only downside of course is arriving with a cemetery of bugs over your shirt, if you’re lucky they haven’t lodged themselves into your neck or chest but mostly they’re just resting on your sleeves or hiding out in your shirt pocket. The worst is when they fly into your freshly applied lip balm. Other than that, it’s a dream. You really breathe in the countryside (cowpats and all).
Below I’ve listed a bit a highlights reel from our two weeks, you know, if you’re ever in the area!
Oh the places we went
Castiglione del Lago, Tuoro sul Trasimeno, Camucia, Montepulciano (Tuscany), Pozzoulo, Perugia, Torrita di Siena (Tuscany), Orvieto.
Oh the things we did
A pasta festival in Camucia. Where we shared: Tagliatelle alla Lepre (rabbit) Pici all’Aglione (tomato) for primi and a mixed salad with Salsiccia Di Maiale (pork sausages) for secondi, we paired that with a bottle of vino rosso (red wine) all for 26€. Unreal.
We travelled to Tuoro sul Trasimeno to find a local fruit and vegetable market, each village has a different day they host a fresh produce market, usually near the piazza (there’s always a piazza, no matter how big the town (pi-ahtz-sa)). A quick cornetti (croissant) with a duppio espresso before heading back to Girasole with a full backpack and then some.
Pozzoulo, our local village. One restaurant, one supermarket, one bakery and three cafes. We couldn’t really ask for more, we visited this town most frequently being so close to home.
Perugia the capital of Umbria (the green heart of Italy), we both agreed it was one of our favourite cities (as apposed to the smaller villages that seemed to exist solely for tourism). Bursting with life (the local university helped with that) with locals and tourists combined. Beautiful buildings, great food and even better sweets. We of course visited the Perugina chocolate factory.
We ventured to Torrita di Siena for the Blues Festival. We saw The bus driver is drunk to open the evening and fill the piazza (there’s always a piazza) with soul. Like jazz musicians, I love watching these blues boys move and shrug and pull facial expressions completely out of their control, the music moves them in ways their ego won’t dare interrupt. In a trance, possessed almost. Next up it’s; the Pugno Blues Band. I enjoyed them most!! And then lastly, the international stars of the show: Sugar Ray Norcia and the Blue Tones feat. Little Charlie Baty and Duke Robillard. It is while watching them I am reminded that the double base continues to be one of my favourite instruments. They really bring the house down with classics, local songs and all-time favourites.
Oh the wineries we visited
A note on wine in Italy. DOC stands for: Denominazione Di Origine Controllata. It’s a similar status as what Champagne is to the region. Without the DOC, you can’t produce or declare that variety, meaning the wine tasting can truly be – once in a lifetime. The most popular (and famous) we saw during our two weeks was the Vino Nobile Montepulciano, but that’s not to say it was the pick of the pack. Of all the wineries visited, Madrevite was without a doubt my favourite, from Umbria no less.
Chiacchiera, paired with a Pecorino tasting.
Madrevite, served with a “light” lunch. There was nothing light about this lunch.
Oh the places we ate
La Cantina in CDL
La Dogana Enoteca in Valiano
Umbro & Lick in Perugia
Osteria Di Mugnanese in Mugnanese
Mesticanza Osteria Contempora in CDL
Madrevite winery in CDL
Oh the things we did while we weren’t doing anything
Cooking! A few dishes we made at Girasole: A traditional Tuscan fagioli all’uccelletto (beans and sausage) with a panzanella salad one day, seared fig and peach salad with tomato based pasta the next. Fennel, orange and mint pairs well with a steak from the local macelleria and a pesto pasta with a local rosé goes down a treat.
Other than that, we would take a dip in the pool, go for a run, do a light workout or simply read or I would write in the grounds.
If I could go back anywhere and spend copious amounts of time, it would be Umbria.
Until next week xo