All good things must come to an end, and so our time in Orvieto is coming to a close. Here’s a bunch of pictures and a few random thoughts on life in Italy.

But first – can we talk about…the heat?? Yikes, it’s been well into the 90’s every single day for weeks now. Thank goodness our apartment’s air conditioning works well, and at night it actually cools off enough to open windows. Lessons learned? Do what the locals do: walk, socialize, and run your errands in the morning or evening, stay inside during the worst heat of the day, eat lighter meals. When we do go out, we have perfected the simple beauty of finding some shade, sitting quietly, and learning to love icy cold white wine. We adapt.

Random Cultural Observation #1: Italians are very family oriented, meaning you rarely see parents out without their children. Walk the streets of Orvieto at 10 or 11 on a Saturday evening and there will be kids everywhere, in strollers, on Dad’s shoulders, or just running around having a good time. Have dinner in a fancy restaurant and invariably there will be strollers parked between the tables. If parents want to go out on Saturday night, it’s just assumed they will bring the kids. Funnily enough, this is not a problem; eating out is expected to be a family affair, and we get used to seeing little faces everywhere. On the plus side, these kids learn decent table manners at a young age, and seem to develop adventurous palates. And as a side note: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “kids’ menu” in Italy. Kids eat whatever their parents are eating.

Day Tripping

Orvieto is perfectly situated for day trips into nearby towns, and we have our favorites. This year, with the crazy price of gas, and the equally crazy heat, we limited our travels to just a few: Bolsena, of course, where my Dad grew up, Montalcino (home of the incomparable Brunello wine), tiny Ficulle, and breathtaking Pienza.

Beautiful Bolsena
At the marina in Bolsena
Our favorite lunch spot in Bolsena
Our view at lunch in Pienza
Along the walls of Pienza
“Downtown” Montalcino
From atop the tower in Ficulle
Walk through that arch into medieval Bolsena…
Having pizza one evening, overlooking Orvieto.

Random Cultural Observation #2: Many Italians, of all ages, still smoke – a lot. While it’s not allowed indoors in restaurants, shops, etc., outdoors is another story. If, like us, you prefer to eat your lunch or have an aperitivo under a sidewalk umbrella watching the world go by, you can expect that any number of folks similarly enjoying the views will be smoking.

Market Day:

As you will have guessed, these little hilltop towns lack anything in the way of big stores. There’s a small grocery market, any number of fruit/vegetable shops, of course wine stores – but nothing like our department or big box stores. So once or twice a week, depending on the size of your town, the market comes to you. Need a new shower curtain? Sheets? New shoes for the kids? A spatula? You can find virtually anything at the market.

Music, Music, Music:

We’ve been treated to a world of music this month – and all for free! On our walks around town, we notice posters up, note the date & time, and show up for a wide variety of music. Our favorites are those held in the Duomo – the acoustics in there are just incredible. So far this month we’ve heard the Houston Baptist Choir, a British medieval acoustic choir, 3 different vocal choirs from nearby towns, an outstanding youth symphony from Connecticut, and the highlight: the Banda Musicale del Corpo della Gendarmeria Vaticana from Rome – basically the Pope’s own brass band – very cool!

Food, glorious food:

And we never tire of the food here in Umbria – the best! Following are some photos of truly memorable, or different dishes we’ve enjoyed just recently:

Smoked scamorza cheese, with truffles.
A fancy antipasto of stuffed zucchini flowers, shaved zucchini in pesto, and a pecorino soufflé.
Tuscany’s famed Chianina beef, with fresh tomatoes, arugula, and shaved pecorino cheese.
A dish unlike anything we’ve ever had: pasta made with cocoa. Not sweet at all, but it has a very deep, rich flavor, dressed in a pecorino sauce with one perfect slice of aged prosciutto. Wow!
Best ever cinghiale (wild boar)
Squid ink infused pasta, with cuttlefish, roe, & nuts. (Dear husband ate this – not me!)
Oh-so-tender chicken in a light orange sauce, with arugula & balsamic vinegar.
A minty panna cotta, on a chocolate cookie crust.

And so. Despite the heat (and the mosquitoes that have arrived with the heat), there’s not a day goes by that we haven’t said, “Look where we are!! How lucky are we?!”

Breakfast in Piazza del Popolo
Overlooking Bolsena lake
My corner of Heaven
We are never happier than here…
After all the good food (& wine), Alex enjoying a pisolino on our terrace.

Orvieto 1944 – the Open City

And one more bit of history about Orvieto, which admittedly we didn’t know before this year:

It’s June 14, 1944, and the Germans occupy Orvieto. The Allies have just bombed their way through nearby Viterbo, and are about to do the same to Orvieto. But the ranking German officer, Obersleutnant Alfred Lersen, cannot bring himself to allow this beautiful town, and in particular the priceless Duomo, to be leveled. So he pulls out all his troops and sends a white flag to the approaching British tanks, with a message declaring Orvieto an “open city”. Thus the Allies were able to secure Orvieto with no shots fired, and this town, and its magnificent Duomo, were saved. The British officer, Major Richard Heseltine, who accepted the “open city” for the Allies, subsequently wrote about how he was likewise stunned by the beauty of Orvieto, and so grateful that he did not have to destroy it.

Major Heseltine subsequently wrote a book about his WWII experiences in Italy, which I will order as soon as we get back home.

In 2019 Orvieto celebrated the 75th anniversary of the events which saved it from ruin. Amazingly enough, descendants of both Major Heseltine and Obersleutenant Lersen made the trip to Orvieto. Lersen’s children gifted the city with a plaque, attesting to the German/British agreement to spare Orvieto from destruction.

My rough translation: “June 14, 1944. Commander of the city, Alfred Lersen and bishop Francesco Pieri proposed to British Major Richard Heseltine a pact, declaring Orvieto an Open City. This was accepted by General Harold Alexander, chief of the Allied Forces. And thus was Orvieto saved from destruction.”

What an incredible story. And now when I pass our magnificent Duomo, I say a silent prayer of gratitude for a German officer named Alfred Lersen.

Every year in Orvieto we see beautiful pictures of the annual celebrations for the feast of Corpus Domini, and every year we promise ourselves that one day we’ll be here for it. Well, that day has finally arrived, and it was every thing we had dreamed!

Catholic churches all over the world celebrate Corpus Domini (or Corpus Christi as it’s known in the States), but it’s something quite special here, because it all began here – actually in nearby Bolsena. A moment of background:

It’s the year 1263. A priest from Prague was having a crisis of faith, doubting his own beliefs. He sets out on a pilgrimage, arrives at Santa Cristina church in tiny Bolsena. While saying Mass one day, at the moment of Consecration, the Host he’s holding starts to drip real blood, some of it landing on the altar cloth, and some on the stone floor he stands on. It’s a miracle! The Pope at the time (Urban IV) happened to be living in nearby Orvieto, heard about the miracle, had it verified … and he wanted it! So he had the priests and dignitaries of Bolsena carry the altar cloth (Santo Corporale), on foot, to Orvieto, while he and his retinue left from Orvieto, and they met half way. At that point it became one huge procession which wound its way through the streets of Orvieto.

(As an aside, the portion of the stone floor with the miraculous blood stains remains on display in Bolsena – guess it was too heavy to carry.)

Pope Urban then established the feast of Corpus Domini, and had none other than Thomas Aquinas (who happened to be teaching in Orvieto) write the liturgical services for the day. But His Holiness decided this still wasn’t nearly good enough – he also commissioned the building of Orvieto’s majestic Duomo, specifically to house the holy relic. The Duomo took 300 years to complete, and its gold facade is considered one of the most magnificent in all of Italy.

So it’s now 2022, and the good people of Orvieto recreate this event, the Corteo Storico, every year. Hundreds, maybe a thousand, of locals don elaborate medieval dress, and walk through the streets accompanied by bands, flag throwers, banners, knights, swordsmen, archers, representatives of all the craft guilds, etc. The procession winds its way to the Duomo, where it’s met by the Bolsenese constituents and all the religious figures carrying the Santo Corporale” – and they go around again.

We took hundreds of pictures, here are just a few:

Please keep in mind that the procession took nearly 3 hours, on a day that hit 95 degrees!

Notice that all of the Orvietani and Bolsenese in the procession are men? Because when this began, the procession consisted of local royalty, important land owners, high ranking civic and church officials – and in the 13th century none of these could be women. As an aside, back in the 1980’s Orvieto instituted a Corteo delle Dame (ladies procession) which takes place 2 days earlier.

And then the religious part of the procession begins:

Once again, no separation of Church and State in Italy.
Under this canopy, in the square monstrance, is the actual altar cloth of the Miracle at Bolsena.
This tapestry depicts the Pope displaying the blood stained altar cloth to the citizens of Orvieto.

If you noticed, none of the Orvietani “royalty” would deign to look at the lower classes lining the streets – which would be us. But then the “peasants” tag behind, and they look like a lot more fun!

I am so very glad that we got to witness this incredible event. I guess what I’m most struck by is the immense sense of belonging of the folks here. They take great pride in re-enacting their history, they are willing to wear heavy velvet costumes, and armor, and carry heavy swords and banners – for hours – in brutal heat, to recreate a religious event that happened 800 years ago. Words fail me, it’s just remarkable.

Fermati or a respirar la storia, di quel che vedrai serba memoria”*

So for all the years we’ve been coming to Orvieto, we had never learned until now about Il Labirinto. How is this possible?

First off, Il Labirinto is a terrific restaurant, but off the beaten path, about a 15 minute walk from our apartment. We had lunch there the other day and were not disappointed:

Grilled mortadella with focaccia
Assorted antipasti
Fettuccine with asparagus, sausage, tomatoes
Light as a feather gnocchi with roasted eggplant, tomatoes, ricotta salata

A wonderful meal, but what really got our attention was what was waiting for us below ground…

Back in the 1980’s a bakery owner was looking to renovate his basement, and discovered a huge underground area, with multiple levels, corridors and rooms, dating back to Etruscan times, some 2500-3000 years ago. Excavation took 20 years, and archaeologists found areas for grain storage and an intricate system of water collection and wells. It was also used as refuge during periodic conflicts with those pesky Romans. There are some areas and carvings that seem to have been added/modified in medieval and Renaissance times, indicating that this “labyrinth” was likely in continuous use for thousands of years.

So of course we took the opportunity to go exploring through time. We descended down, down, down to approximately 65’ below street level. We were the only folks down there, and I confess it was more than a little bone-chilling. Except for the modern lighting, and occasional signage, you could easily imagine you’ve been transported back 2500 years.

But what really struck me were the intricate 3-dimensional carvings and statuary everywhere. Many of them were grotesque faces, monsters, fairytale ogres – life size! Makes you wonder a little about these ancient artists – what must their cultures have been like? All I know is that I’m glad we saw all of this after our delicious lunch!

This appears to be a woman with a tail instead of legs – which becomes a snake.

*”Stop now and breathe the history, what you see becomes the memory.” – from a plaque inside Il Labirinto.

Orvieto continues to amaze us!

Folks often ask why we continue to visit the same spots in Italy every year. It’s true, we’ve been coming to Orvieto for 17 years now, and it’s astonishing to me how we continue to discover new things to see and do here. For example:

Like most Italian towns, Orvieto has many very old churches, seemingly on every corner. The church of Sant’ Andrea is very prominent in the central Piazza Repubblica, and its wide stone steps make for a popular gathering place for a quick rest. This particular church is easy to identify as it has a rare and very distinctive twelve sided bell tower attached.

Sant’ Andrea was built back in the 12th century, making it quite old, even by Italian standards; in fact, it’s one of the oldest and most historic buildings in town. It was from these very steps that Pope Innocent III proclaimed the Fourth Crusade in 1201.

These columns supporting the church date back to Roman times, and so were already 1000 years old when the church was built.
Original frescoes, remarkably bright and well-preserved.
The tall window behind the altar is actually made of stone, sliced so thin it allows in light.

But guess what? Believe it or not, this nearly 1000 year old edifice is considered the “new church”, as underneath it are truly remarkable remains of much earlier structures. We recently took a tour that transported us centuries back in time…

Long before the Roman era, this entire area was inhabited by the Etruscans, and much of what you see in the following pictures dates back some 2500 – 3000 years ago. Excavations under the church, which are still ongoing, have uncovered streets, wells, intricate mosaic floors, pillars, altars, and rain spouts – absolutely incredible.

(The green spot is from our tour guide’s flashlight)

Cool, huh? I just love this stuff!

Undoubtedly the most famous attraction in Orvieto is the Duomo, drawing pilgrims, art lovers and tourists from around the world. It was commissioned in 1290 by Pope Nicholas IV, specifically to honor the miracle of Bolsena, aka Corpus Domini. (For more detail about that see my earlier blog post “A Tale of Two Miracles” from May 2019). It took over 300 years to complete, and has the most beautiful facade of any church I’ve ever seen.

Of particular note is the Chapel of San Brizio with the stunning frescoes by Luca Signorelli. These were studied at length by Michelangelo before his work on the Sistine Chapel.

So our days in Orvieto are winding down, time to start thinking about heading back. I must say this year we’ve had probably the best weather ever. Even when the days were quite hot, it cooled off enough in the evenings to negate the need for a/c. We had exactly 2 days of rain. We’ve been able pretty much every single day to eat our meals outside. But now the days are definitely cooler, and shorter – time to say arrivederci.

Of course, one last look at the incredible food of Umbria, these just in the last few days:

Chicken liver pate’ mixed with Vin Santo (dessert wine) on bruschetta – yum!
Zuppa di farro with shaved truffle
A beautiful salumi platter
Bruschetta with freshly shaved truffle
Torta of minced eggplant, tomatoes, & cheese
Warm scamorza cheese with fresh truffles
Eggplant, tomatoes, and olives with burrata
Mezza lune stuffed with ricotta & spinach
My new favorite pasta, with lemon & ginger
Tagliolini with guanciale & pistachio
Cheese-stuffed tortelli with fresh truffle
Ravioli cacio e pepe with baffo – all my major food groups!
The world’s best carbonara, at Mezza Luna
Slow-cooked duck with pickled red onion – one of the best dishes EVER
Chickory, wild fennel, olives and pignoli
Porchetta
Boneless rabbit, stuffed with potatoes & olives
Chicken breast on a bed of farro & radicchio, with almonds & balsamic glaze
Baccala with ceci beans & squid ink
Beef filet with shaved truffle
Yet another perfect sausage pizza

Enjoy these last random shots of our life in Umbria:

One of our favorites, Il Cocco
Day trip to Passignano sul Trasimeno
Aperitivi – and jazz serenade – at our favorite Blue Bar
Laundry day, Italian style
Nighttime stroll around medieval Orvieto

And yes, we’ve already made our plans for next year! Life is good.

From Orvieto we are an easy 1 hour train ride to Rome, and the magnificent Galleria Borghese. We had been there before, a few years ago, but the memories stuck with us and we decided to return yesterday – and why not?

The first selfie?

The Borghese is located in a huge park just outside Rome’s walls. The building itself is fabulously decorated, with carvings, gilt, and frescoes that rival anything we’ve ever seen – anywhere. Even without the world famous art collection, the Borghese is well worth visiting.

Canova’s “Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix”
2000 years old, still knows how to party!

The Borghese is home to some of the greatest sculptures ever, by the great Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The truly amazing aspect of Bernini, to me, is that he accomplished these exquisite works of art, like the one below, at just 24 years old. Can you imagine?

“Pluto abducting Proserpina”
It’s so lifelike you can see the indentations of his fingers in her skin…
Bernini’s “Truth Unveiled by Time”
Bernini’s “David”

The sculpture below, another of Bernini‘s, has an interesting backstory from Greek mythology. In a nutshell, Apollo sees the famously beautiful Daphne, and struck by Cupid’s arrow, must have her. But Daphne has been struck by a repelling arrow, and she wants no part of Apollo. While he pursues her, Daphne prays to the gods to take away her beauty, and make her inaccessible to Apollo. Hmm… so they turn her into a tree. In Bernini’s vision, you can see Daphne’s arms and legs and hair becoming branches and leaves. Just remarkable.

“Apollo and Daphne”
Hard to believe these delicate leaves are carved from marble

So after getting our fill of art, we walked AND WALKED through the park, right to the Spanish Steps:

After a quick gelato we made our way back to the train station, and to our temporary home in beautiful Orvieto. A great day all around.

The other day we took another day trip, this time to tiny Sovana, in southern Tuscany. About an hour’s drive from Orvieto, Sovana is literally a one-street village, very peaceful and quiet.

A spritz before lunch

The area around Sovana is chock full of archaeological sites, primarily from the Etruscan era, which pre-dated the Romans – so here we’re looking at tombs from 3000 years ago.

In addition to the tombs, there is a very impressive road network which the Etruscans carved out of the rock, which linked Sovana to other villages in this Maremma area of Tuscany. These Vie Cave later became part of the Roman road system. During the Middle Ages sacred images were carved along the way to ward off evil spirits.

As you walk along these ancient roads you can see the individual tool marks that created these openings, and we imagine Roman troops passing through this very place. And then there’s a bit of a surreal moment when we come across the carving below, supposedly made by soldiers during WWII, also passing through.

While in Sovana we always eat in the same tiny restaurant, which consistently has terrific food:

A rustic ribollita
Cinghiale cacciatore
They call these heavenly morsels tortelli – just a mixture of ricotta cheese, herbs, chicken stock & flour, gently boiled and served in a butter & sage sauce – light as a feather, incredibly flavorful.

So while we’re at lunch we suddenly hear the unmistakable sound of … a bagpipe! Sure enough, down the street comes one guy playing a sort of pipe (Zampogna) typically made from a goat skin – see video below. These Zampognari are very much a part of the Christmas tradition in Italy, but not typically seen otherwise. So do the locals scoff at the absurdity of this? Not at all, in fact they figure maybe he knows something we don’t, and immediately everyone starts cheering Buon Natale! Buon Natale!! I just love the Italian spirit.

The rest of the year, when we’re sitting at home pining for Italy, I think of Orvieto as this dark, quiet medieval refuge. Ha! When we’re here, the days are bright and sunny, and there is always something going on.

So last weekend we awoke to the unmistakable rat-a-tat of drums on the street. Sure enough the piazza nearest us has been taken over by drums, horns… and flag throwers! Apparently it was a fundraiser for Orvieto’s flag club, and they were there all weekend doing demonstrations, allowing anyone to try their hand at this ancient sport – which attracts boys and girls of all ages – very egalitarian.

Now in the States, when the local high school football team is doing a fundraiser, it’s usually one day washing cars or selling raffle tickets, and we can choose to participate or not. Boy, not here. Except for brief breaks, that band played pretty much non-stop ALL DAY Saturday & Sunday and the sound for blocks around was deafening. Again, in the States, local shop keepers & cafe owners would be on them in a flash, complaining about the noise; not here. Everyone just shrugs their shoulders, and yells louder to take your order. Live and let live, Italian style.

Yesterday we took a day trip to my Dad’s hometown, the charming village of Bolsena. Just half an hour by car, but another 1000’ up in elevation. More on Bolsena later.

While in Bolsena we always have lunch at this little restaurant where we can sit outside under the grapevines. There we eat a local specialty, fresh from the lake…

Like French fries from the sea: latterini, gutted, lightly fried, with salt and fresh lemon – yum!

Another of our favorite things to do while in this area is to take advantage of the many natural hot springs nearby. Wow – Therme Oasi is outstanding, the best yet. Depending on where you position yourself, the water temperature ranges from lukewarm to quite hot, with periodic sprays of cooler water mixed in. It is SO soothing, and a real blessing on aging achy joints. Quiet, not crowded at all, even a small eatery for panini and a glass of wine. Very civilized.

And not to disappoint my fellow foodies, here are some more of the dishes we’ve had over the last few days:

Sliced beef steak with shaved truffle
A mixed grill of beef, pork, wild boar… and I’m not sure what else, but it was all good!
Pan-fried Faraona (guinea hen) with herbs
Perfectly grilled veggies
Risotto with zucchini flowers & Gorgonzola cheese
Possibly the world’s best carbonara
A very rustic farro soup, with shaved truffle
Tagliolini with lemon and ginger – outstanding!
Warmed scamorza cheese with truffle
Filet of pork, in prune sauce
Really refreshing salad of arugula, melon, tomatoes, pine nuts, and feta cheese, in a dressing of olive oil, fresh lemon, and honey – wow!

We received a special treat this year – we were offered a different apartment, in the same building, which had been completely rehabbed. Wow, beautiful modern kitchen and bath, great windows, and air conditioning – yes! Just one downside: it’s another floor up. This means a total of 48, yes I said FORTY-EIGHT steps up, and of course another 48 steps down. Considering that we make this round trip at least 3 times a day, we’ll be coming home with legs of steel, baby!

Our terrace

So we made it, finally, to Orvieto – quite possibly my favorite spot on earth. You know it’s bad when 3 times in the last week I was caught accidentally referring to Orvieto as “home”.

For those of you who have read my blog posts from years back, you know that Orvieto is a very special place for both of us. If, and it’s a very big IF, we were ever to actually move to Italy it would be to my beloved Orvieto.

Orvieto is in the region of Umbria, aka the “green heart of Italy”, as it’s the only land-locked region, very lush. It sits about 1000’ up, on a hilltop, and the views from up top are just gorgeous:

As I expect I’ve mentioned before, Orvieto is OLD, with much more of a medieval feel than Renaissance towns like Lucca. The “streets” are narrower, making driving quite an adventure:

We try never to drive on this street again!
The scene of the crime, a couple years ago. We got our car stuck here! Shout out to Jimmy Koller, without whom we’d still be stuck.

So, here we are, in the same apartment we always rent, just living the good life and counting our blessings.

Our first few days we take it easy, see what’s new or changed, and stop in to see some friends we’ve made here over the years. It’s so very nice to be remembered and welcomed back. And walking the ancient cobblestone streets of Orvieto really does feel like going back in time – very relaxing for me.

Thursdays and Saturdays are market days in Orvieto, and it’s always a treat. Vendors travel from town to town on a set schedule, with these magic vans that transform into stores – very cool. Keep in mind that you’d be hard-pressed to find anything like a Target or Home Depot nearby, and these traveling markets are a godsend to locals. You can find a crazy variety of goods here, including meats & cheeses, fresh fish, household linens, clothing, fresh fruit & vegetables, kitchen implements – and vacuum cleaners! Everyone comes to market day, as it’s also a social event, with kids racing around, dogs barking, and old folks kibitzing by the fountain. I love to wander through, or just sit in a caffe’ and watch all the small town interactions.

Food, glorious food! I’ll go right out on the limb here and say that in my humble opinion, Umbria has the best food anywhere – there I said it. Here’s just a sampling of what we’ve had in the first few days:

Baffo fried crisp with sage and a splash of vinegar
Cinghiale (wild boar)
Umbrichelli with sausage, mushrooms, and shaved truffle
Coniglio (boneless rabbit) stuffed with potatoes, fennel, and olives, then wrapped in bacon
Salad of radicchio, pears, nuts, and provolone cheese
More baffo – I can’t get enough of it!
Possibly my favorite pasta dish, ridiculously rich, I’ve never seen it anywhere but in Orvieto: Nidi (nests) – wide strips of pasta, rolled up with ricotta cheese & honey
Alex’ favorite pizza, sottobosco – sausage, mushrooms & cheese
One of my favorites: sausage

Yesterday we took the first of our day trips, from Orvieto to Arezzo, in Tuscany. Wow, what a beautiful city! Huge cafe’ lined piazzas, grand porticoes, great food. And for movie fans, you may recognize Arezzo as where much of Roberto Benigni’s “Life is Beautiful” was filmed. We will definitely return to Arezzo:

The Piazza Grande – too big to fit in one photo
The remnants of Arezzo’s Roman coliseum
Our lunch spot, Il Saraceno
…where they serve a local specialty, Ribollita, a wonderfully thick bread & vegetable soup

And in the continuing “only in Italy” category – the pictures don’t accurately portray just how hilly Arezzo is – REALLY steep. To keep the tables & chairs at our restaurant from falling down the street, they were all secured like this:

We almost didn’t make a side trip to Verona this year, but we’re now very glad we did – it’s as beautiful and charming and romantic as ever. For me, it has the feel of Rome, but much smaller, easier to walk around in, and definitely much calmer. And I really enjoy the way you walk through time here – from the ancient Roman coliseum and arches, past a medieval castle and churches, into stunning Renaissance architecture. Just breathtakingly beautiful. And unlike most of the smaller towns we visit, Verona has a very busy nightlife, with sidewalk cafes bustling into the wee hours pretty much every night.

Of course many people associate Verona with love, thanks to William Shakespeare’s tale of Romeo and Juliet…which we know was entirely fictional, right? All the hoopla apparently started back in the 1930’s, when Hollywood was scouting locations for their first R&J movie, and local authorities soon realized they were sitting on a golden egg. A suitably old house was purchased and given a Medieval makeover – which included attaching a sawn off Roman sarcophagus as a balcony – and bingo! we have Juliet’s house. Other properties became the alleged Romeo’s house, and Juliet’s tomb, and millions visit every year – often blissfully unaware that Shakespeare’s story ends quite unhappily with a pile of corpses. Anyway, try telling that to the tourists who flock to the sights. Check out the line to get into “Casa di Giulietta”:

Verona is a truly beautiful town, by day and by night, and we never tire of just walking around, getting lost…then getting into an argument about who got us lost…then deciding it’s always a good time to sit for a minute…and we may as well have an aperitivo. Works every time!

Just one of the ancient Roman arches

You may see from the pictures that we had our first day of rain since we arrived over 2 weeks ago – and it lasted all of about 30 minutes. Just another excuse to duck under a portico or tent, find a table, and have a caffe’ or a drink!

Piazza Bra

One curious observation about Verona: I have never seen so many high-end lingerie shops, for both men AND women, concentrated in one area. Seriously, within a five minute walk there are at least ten of them. Draw your own conclusions:

One fun event that happened to coincide with our time here was a 2 day, city wide show of old-fashioned outdoor games, for kids and adults. This took place in the main piazzas but also on seemingly every corner. Very cool, and very nice to see entire families playing – and no cell phones allowed (except for photos).

Petanca – similar to bocce, played under an ancient Roman arch
The ancient game of Morra – similar to our “rock, paper, scissors”
Popinjay – attempting to hit a target with a bow and rubber-tipped arrow
Don’t know what this was called, similar to bowling, but you throw a wooden object, shaped like a loaf of bread. Looks surprisingly difficult. Anyone know this game?

And the food of Verona does not disappoint! As usual, we ate mostly in rustic, inexpensive neighborhood places and the food was always outstanding. AND we discovered a taste for the local Valpolicella wine, a win-win situation all around! Check out just some of the dishes we had:

A hand-picked assortment of cheeses, with honey & jam
Veal slices with tuna sauce & capers
Perfectly flavored salami, with cured onions
Lighter than air tortellini stuffed with minced faraona (guinea hen) – one of the best dishes yet!
Pastissada di cavallo
An assortment of four small chocolate creations – all decadent!
My daily gelato, in the shape of a flower

While in Verona we took a side trip to stunning Lazise, on Lake Garda, just 30 minutes away by car. It has it all, both quaint walled village and spectacular lake views:

So, our time in “fair Verona” is ending – at least for this year. Enjoy some random pictures of this beautiful town:

San Giovanni in Foro
A delivery truck!
Santa Felicita, a restaurant in a deconsecrated church
Alex and Dante
Verona’s Roman arena. Once the domain of gladiators, it now hosts everything from rock concerts to grand opera
Piazza Erbe

Lucca’s duomo, San Martino, houses an ancient, bigger than life-sized, crucifix known as the Volto Santo, or the Holy Face of Christ. Sculpted entirely of wood, its age and origin have sometimes been disputed. It’s been said to have been sculpted by Nicodemus shortly after the Crucifixion, and allegedly depicts the true image of the face of Christ. We know it made its way to Lucca in about the 8th Century, first to the church of San Frediano, and then when the Duomo was completed later, the Cross was transported amid much fanfare to its final resting place in the Duomo. Apparently recent carbon dating pinpoints it at least 1500 years old, making it the oldest wooden sculpture in the Western Hemisphere. Regardless of the exact age, pilgrims have flocked to Lucca for centuries to pay homage to this relic.

The Volto Santo, in its own marble temple, inside the Duomo of San Martino

So. Every September 13, much of Lucca is turned over to a huge religious procession, commemorating the transfer of the Cross from San Frediano to San Martino. All the buildings along the way are transformed with thousands of votive lights. Loudspeakers are positioned throughout the town, broadcasting prayers and hymns by the faithful. At the same time, hundreds of church bells are ringing, in different tones and rhythms. It’s wild! All manner of religious dignitaries, politicos, representatives from all different associations, school children, etc, from northern Tuscany march in the procession, along with numerous bands, folks in medieval costumes, and best of all: flag throwers – so cool! Unfortunately, since this takes place at night, the pictures aren’t great:

Our time here is coming to an end, onward to Verona. Enjoy some last shots of our very happy stay in Lucca:

Our Lady of the Baseball Bat.
My new favorite aperitivo: the Hugo spritz
The door handle to a pharmacy
We are never happier than when we’re in Italy
The “Madonna on the Stick”, our neighborhood landmark, across the street from our apartment

One of the first reasons we started coming to Lucca is because it’s the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini, the great opera composer, and Alex wanted to pay tribute to his idol. There’s always live music somewhere, whether it’s the nightly Puccini concerts or street performers singing jazz, and we take advantage whenever we can.

Alex and Giacomo 🎶

Lucca’s other famous musical son is Luigi Boccherini. If you remember the beautiful music from Master and Commander, that’s Boccherini. There’s a music school here named after him, with benches outside, and we enjoy just sitting there and listening. We were very lucky this year to get tickets to a Boccherini tribute concert – a great way to spend a summer evening.

But the real musical highlight so far this year was a concert production of Puccini‘s “La Fanciulla del West“ – certainly the only American cowboy opera I’m aware of. We treated ourselves to box seats in Lucca’s famous opera house – outstanding!

We have always adhered to an unwritten rule while in Italy: if we’re walking past a church, and the doors are open, we enter. First off, quite frankly, it gives us a cool, quiet spot to rest for a few minutes. And secondly, every church in Italy is an art museum, full of treasures.

When it comes to art, the Lucchese like to mix the new with the old. While we’re here there’s been an outdoor gallery of contemporary art from International artists sprinkled throughout the town – and all made out of paper!

Here’s an interesting observation about churches in Italy: Notice that none of the pews have padded kneelers – and some have no kneelers at all! Italian Catholics are tough.

And no, I haven’t forgotten the foodies out there – here’s an assortment of memorable dishes we’ve had in just the first week:

And a real showstopper – hot spaghettone & guanciale tossed inside an entire wheel of Parmiggiano cheese:

One week in, and we’re spoiled already.

We find ourselves acclimating very quickly to life in Lucca. We rent the same apartment every year, and know pretty much every street & alley. We have our favorite spot for breakfast, where we sit and plan our day. Driving inside the walls of Lucca is mostly restricted to residents only, so we walk everywhere, averaging easily 5 miles a day. On most days we eat our main meal at lunch, about 1:00, then walk some more, until it’s time to wend our way home for a nap.

Routines and rituals like this are very comforting, especially when we’re in a foreign country, in the middle of a global pandemic, and we’re trying desperately to stay safe while still enjoying every moment in Italy. Knowing our way around, and seeing familiar faces, gives us a welcome sense of security.

So, whenever we come to Lucca, we look forward to spending one beautiful day at the Gabbiano vineyards, in the heart of Chianti. It’s an easy one hour drive from Lucca, through postcard perfect Tuscany. Their restaurant, Il Cavaliere, never fails to impress us.

For those who still think Italian food is just red and white checked tablecloths with spaghetti and meatballs, take a peek at today’s perfect lunch;

And here are some of the beautiful sights of Gabbiano:

And we very much hope to continue this routine next year!

Driving to Orvieto from Lucca takes about 3 hours, but you go back in time about 300 years!

While Lucca has a very Renaissance feel to it, Orvieto is distinctly Medieval. The streets, or alleys really, are narrow and dark, and very few of them are straight. You can tell they came later, and were cobbled together around existing buildings. Most of the stone used in building Lucca is that beautiful golden color, while Orvieto’s is dark, brooding. Especially at night, it’s very quiet and just feels…ancient. I love it here. Maybe it’s because my Dad came from right around here, maybe I just have an “old” soul, but Orvieto has always felt like a second home to me.

Orvieto sits way up on a flat rock, at about 1000′ elevation, and from a distance it reminds me of a ship on the sea. Ringed by natural rock cliffs and walls, it was a very defensible fortress, and used as such by the many Popes who ran here whenever Rome was being sacked…again.

The spectacular Duomo of Orvieto is so massive, in such a small town, it’s hard to find room to back up enough to get it all in one photograph.

Random Cultural Observation: In many Italian small towns, like Orvieto, people know each other, and you still see these billboard posters everywhere. They mark the passing of a loved one, and provide the details of any services, etc. , sort of like e-obituaries today.

Maybe more than anything else, they signify to me the passing of the old culture, as I suspect in another 10 years or so you won’t find these anywhere.

One of the perks of staying in Orvieto is how close we are to all kinds of fun day trips. Depending on weather, every two or three days we’ll grab the GPS, find the car, and head out exploring. Here are just a couple of our recent jaunts:

Montepulciano is an easy hour drive from Orvieto, north into the Chianti region of Tuscany.

Another day we headed west to the really tiny village of Sovana, at the southern edge of Tuscany. It’s like a little Epcot replica of an Italian village, just one street, a couple blocks long, and home to the best cinghiale cacciatore anywhere. We drive here just for lunch.

One of our favorite excursions is to the Terme dei Papi in Viterbo. These hot water natural springs have been around since ancient times, and feed into a huge pool. The sensation of bobbing around in this hot water is SO relaxing! It’s a very civilized spot, with changing rooms, showers, chaises, and of course, yummy food and wine. If this were closer we’d be there every day.

One beautiful day we stopped in Monteriggioni, a very small town not far from Siena. It has exactly one piazza, a couple restaurants, and a great medieval museum. And of course someone had to try on all the armor…

Just one of the things I’ll miss from Orvieto are the bells. Check out the video below, and see the mechanical guy (his name is Maurizio) hitting the bell – apparently this is the oldest still working automaton in existence, dating back over 700 years. Two different bells chime the hour and the quarter hour, so we always know what time it is. Curiously enough, the main purpose of the clock tower was to regulate the shifts of the workers building the Duomo just across the piazza.

And there you have it, another wonderful adventure coming to a close. Life is good, and we are very lucky, indeed.

Our story begins in the little Italian village of Bolsena, on the lake of the same name, in the region of Lazio. Bolsena, my father’s hometown, is a tiny medieval village, not on many tourist itineraries. Folks who have followed my previous blog posts know this is a very special spot for me, as I was never able to visit here until many years after my Dad had passed away. It was, and continues to be, a truly remarkable experience for me to marry up my memories of my Dad’s stories of his boyhood, with what I see here now; connecting the dots has been very rewarding, if bittersweet.

But right now I want to focus on the cathedral of Santa Cristina, little Bolsena’s principal church and site of its real claim to fame.

This church, where my Dad was baptized and served as an altar boy, has a layered history, and is unusual in that it’s the site of not one, but two recognized miracles:

Way, way back in the 3rd century, 11 year old Cristina felt a calling and converted to Christianity, still a rarity in those days, and a dangerous one, at that. Her own father, a wealthy businessman, wanted her to become a pagan priestess, but like many willful children she rebuked him and his pagan faith. Her father then had her tortured repeatedly, all sorts of vile punishments such as burning, iron hooks, arrows, snake pits, etc., but Cristina remained unscathed, and could not be killed. In one instance, Cristina was tied to a millstone and tossed into Lake Bolsena; according to legend, she emerged unharmed from the depths of the lake, standing on the stone, which to this day has the imprints of her feet (Miracle #1). Ultimately Cristina was beheaded, died, and canonized as a martyr to her faith.

In the oldest part of the church, there are catacombs and relics of her early followers. The millstone with her footprints was incorporated into a small altar, which still stands.

See the footprints…?

Okay, fast forward about 1000 years, to 1263. A German priest was experiencing a crisis of his faith, not sure what he believed, especially as it related to transubstantiation. Being devoted to St. Cristina, he makes a pilgrimage to Bolsena. While saying Mass at the altar pictured above, at the moment of consecration, the Host begins to drip blood, staining the altar cloths and the stone floor. Miracle #2, the Miracle at Bolsena, becomes the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi (now Corpus Domini), still celebrated today.

Now we can imagine the hoopla at the time over the priest’s tale of the bleeding host. Various Church experts were sent to little Bolsena, the events were verified, and it was determined that the relics would be split between Bolsena and nearby Orvieto, a much more sizable and important town which happened to be the Pope’s refuge whenever Rome was in danger of being sacked, which was quite often.

Apparently not satisfied that Orvieto had a sufficiently grand edifice to hold the relics, in 1290 Pope Nicholas IV authorized the building of Orvieto’s magnificent Duomo, specifically to house these relics. Construction took some 300 years, and the Duomo stands today as one of the most magnificent in Italy. Luca Signorelli’s frescoes are incredible, rivaling the Sistine Chapel.

The blood stained altar cloths from the Miracle of Bolsena are housed in their own beautiful chapel:

Meanwhile, the marble floor pieces, with the blood stains still visible, are venerated in Bolsena, in a magnificent gold reliquary:

Curiously enough, there is a small plaque on the back of the reliquary, showing the names of Domenico and Salvatore Battaglini.

And I know that my great-grandfather’s name was Salvatore Battaglini, of Bolsena. Hmm…

Random Cultural Observation: see photo below. One striking difference between American and Italian churches will be painfully obvious to the faithful – see the kneelers? Yeah, no cushions here, you kneel on the hard wood. And the seat backs are generally straight – no danger of falling asleep here!

We’ve just left Lucca, and we’re already talking about next year.  I’m often asked why we come back to Lucca every year, so here we go, in no particular order:

1. It’s flat. I mean, f…l…a…t… Yes, we all enjoy visiting those oh-so-adorable hill towns, but trust me, the constant up and down, up and down, on cobblestones no less, does take a toll on aging hips and knees. Lucca is blissfully flat!

2. The walls. Lucca is unusual in that it still has the original Renaissance walls completely encircling the town, and there are numerous sloped walkways to get up on the walls. Check out the pictures below – these walls are 80 feet wide! – with trees, benches, etc., and are perfect for a picnic, biking, or just strolling. The entire circuit around is about 2.5 miles.

3. Location – Lucca is perfectly situated. One hour by train to Florence, half an hour by car to the Pisa airport, just minutes to a major highway, Lucca is very convenient for day trips to Siena, Volterra, San Gimignano, the Chianti region, the Garfagnana region, etc.

4. “Our” apartment. We’ve been renting the same apartment for a number of years now, and it suits us perfectly. On the ground floor (no steps!), with two bathrooms, and a washer AND a real dryer – very convenient! Our little neighborhood has restaurants, cafes, and shops galore, and our own water fountain. And, of course we have an immediately recognizable landmark right outside our door, which we lovingly refer to as the “Madonna on the stick”.

 

Random cultural observation: electricity in Italy is very expensive, and many Italians today still don’t own a clothes dryer. Even if they do, it’s used only when the weather is bad. Otherwise, clothes are still hung out on lines, sometimes across the streets.

5. “The Twins”. Italian breakfast is simple, typically just a rich cappuccino and a cornetto, or small pastry. The first thing we do each day is decide which of the many coffee shops we’ll head to for breakfast.

So when we first started visiting Lucca, we happened on a spot run by a classically beautiful young Italian woman: lush dark hair, black eyes, and if I may be frank, a figure to match. Dear husband was immediately smitten. (Like many men of a certain age, he has a vivid, if harmless, imagination…, sort of like mine while reading Outlander…).

I’ll let Al take over here with his own narrative:

It was a cold day, but warm and steamy inside. The lovely barrista was working hard, you could tell by the sheen of perspiration on her face. As I watched, a drop of sweat was balanced precariously on her nose. Now I couldn’t help but notice that the first two buttons of her blouse had come undone, and the third was about to give up the struggle. Then I watched, as if in slow motion, that glistening drop fall from her nose into the dark crevice of her cleavage, never to be seen again…

Oh, for pity’s sake Al, what are you, twelve?

Anyway, everyday she’s there, working long hours, always alluringly beautiful. So imagine our surprise when we walk in one day to find…oh my God, there are two of them! Identical! Well now Al is stuttering, hyperventilating, his imagination gone wild in steroid overload…

So. Even though it’s a bit of a walk, at least a couple times each visit, we go to have breakfast with the twins.

And I have the best wife in the world. Alex

6. The food, oh boy, the food! All of Tuscany has a well deserved reputation for good food, and Lucca is no exception. But there are three local specialties that deserve mention:

Brigidini – Brigidini look like unsalted potato chips, but are actually a slightly sweet wafer, flavored with anise. I’ve never seen them anywhere else. In Lucca there are several outdoor stands where they make them on the spot, and they’re wonderful.

Bucellato – another treat specifically Lucchese, Bucellato is a sweet bread filled with raisins and aniseed. Absolutely delicious especially when toasted with butter, it’s sold everywhere in Lucca.

Zuppa di Farro – oh yum. We look forward to this flavorful soup all year, it’s made of beans and the ancient grain, farro, drizzled with olive oil. Yes, I’ve tried making it at home, and it’s good, but not nearly as good as here. It’s on the menu at practically every restaurant in Lucca, and hard to find anywhere else. It’s a stick-to-your-ribs delight.

7. The language – just like in the US, different regions of Italy speak with different accents or different dialects – you can imagine the frustration of a European studying English in school, only to be dropped into Maine or Louisiana! I have found that the Italian spoken in Lucca is closest to the “true” Italian taught in America, which makes it easier for us to understand. Being far from fluent in Italian myself, I stand the best chance of understanding a conversation in Lucca than anywhere else in Italy.

8. Anfiteatro – an architectural treat, Lucca has perfectly retained its Roman arena, or amphitheater, right in town. But instead of bleachers to watch whatever violent spectacle was on the marquee that day, the ancient exterior walls now house apartments, shops, and restaurants. It still has the original oval shape, complete with the ancient four archways through which the spectators and gladiators would have entered. The interior of the arena has been left open in a beautiful piazza, perfect for meeting up with friends, having an aperitivo before dinner, people watching, or …wondering just what we would have been watching 2000 years ago…

9. Music – everywhere. Lucca is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini, our favorite opera composer, who gave the world such classics as La Boheme, Madame Butterfly, Tosca, Turandot, and many others. There is a Puccini concert every night of the year, in a church where the acoustics are phenomenal. One of our favorite spots to sit is outside the Boccherini music school, where they’ve conveniently placed benches (which are usually full) for your listening pleasure. And walking down any avenue you’ll likely hear someone practicing, or just playing classical music. Lovely, really.

10. Our Lady of the Baseball Bat. This image, of the Madonna wielding a club while standing with a child and Satan, would have scared the crap out of me as a kid. Was she about to wail on the devil, for tempting the child into sin, or the kid for having already gotten into mischief? The Madonna del Soccorso (“rescue”) is portrayed frequently around Lucca, and we’ve never seen it anywhere else, in Italy or elsewhere. Apparently she is a favorite with parents, who seek her intervention in protecting their children from bad influences.

And finally, some random shots of beautiful Lucca –

These are the interior, Roman walls:

A flower market set up inside the arena piazza, for the feast day of St. Zita:

The gardens of Palazzo Pfanner:

Below is Lucca’s cathedral, San Martino. See the statue of St. Martin on the horse, with the sword? Seemed to me he was about to lop that other guy’s head off, right? Well, according to my dear husband, who is a veritable font of all knowledge on the Saints, no, St. Martin encountered this cold beggar, and used the sword to cut his own cloak in half. Oh.

San Michele in Foro – this spectacular church was built on the site of the ancient Roman forum of Luca (now Lucca). For history buffs, this is where Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus met in 56BC to establish the first triumvirate for the rule of the Roman Empire, and their sandaled feet walked right across this piazza. Cool, huh?

And on to Orvieto!

Lucky us, we are still in Lucca, located between Florence and Pisa, in Tuscany. One of the many reasons we return here every year is that it’s perfectly situated for day trips into the countryside.

We rent a car when we arrive, and dear husband always prefers a small car, better for negotiating narrow country lanes, village cobblestones, and tiny Italian parking spaces with a minimum of shrieking. I think this year’s car is the smallest yet: a Fiat Cinquecento, rag top, brand new. Really, it looks like a little clown car:

Now most of Lucca is pedestrian only, cars restricted to residents, but we’re lucky in that there’s a very decent underground parking lot which we can legally use, just a couple blocks from the apartment we rent every year. Rather than pay 14 euros a day for parking there, we buy a 30 day pass for 50 euros total. Makes sense, right? Well, except there’s a catch: you have to move your car out of the garage every 48 hours.

Now why would you have to do that, you ask? Well, this is Italy. The first time I did ask that question, I was sternly reminded that we have to do this because…it… is…the…RULE! So, hey, not a problem. Every other day we walk to the garage, drive the car out the exit gate and right back in the entrance gate.

Today we decided to return to one of our very favorite spots in Tuscany, the Gabbiano vineyards in San Casciano, right in the heart of wine country. The drive along the Via Francigena is exactly what you see on all the postcards and calendar photos of Tuscany: rolling hills, with grapes and olive groves as far as the eye can see, dotted with cypress trees, umbrella pines, and lush flowers. God’s country, for sure.

The beauty of visiting Gabbiano vineyard is that you can just stroll the property and take pictures, or find a bench to sit awhile.

They also have a terrific restaurant, Il Cavaliere, where we treat ourselves to an outstanding lunch.

Warm chickpea crepes with local prosciutto and fresh ricotta:

I forget what this soup was called, but it had beans, pasta, and bacon, incredibly flavorful:

Roasted rabbit with onions, almonds, and pancetta:

Grilled rack of lamb with roasted peppers and black olives:

Salad of grilled artichoke and fresh mozzarella:

All washed down with a bottle of their single grape Colorino wine, only available onsite:

And dessert, of course! A warm cherry and almond tart, with a grape must sauce, and a taste of Gabbiano’s own Vin Santo:

Leaving San Casciano we pass a very special place we stumbled upon a couple years ago, and it’s amazing how many Americans, and Italians, don’t know it’s there: the American Cemetery and Memorial of Florence.

The cemetery holds the remains of just 4500 of the American soldiers who sacrificed all in the liberation of Italy during WWII. It’s a beautiful spot, very tranquil, lovingly maintained.

And since Italy just celebrated their Liberation Day this week, it was very nice to return to this lovely spot and pay our respects to our own countrymen who helped make this happen.

I visualize Orvieto as a ship that’s been perched on top of a mountain. It’s long and narrow, and sits about 1200’ above the flat valley below. It’s mostly pedestrian only, with cars restricted to residents. So we walk – everywhere. When we want to take a day trip, it’s a full mile walk, each way, to where we can legally park the car. All this walking is necessary to burn off at least a little of the fabulous gelato we eat every day.

Folks who have followed my previous posts know that the “feel” of Orvieto is distinctly medieval. The streets are narrow, of dark stone, there are few cars buzzing around, and it’s generally very quiet at night. I love these streets.

Our street, half a block from the Duomo.
One road goes up, the other goes down; choose wisely.

Notice the different colored flags: like many small Italian towns, Orvieto is divided into quartieri or neighborhoods, as indicated by their flags. Throughout the year these neighborhoods compete in a variety of activities, like archery, foot races, flag throwing, flower displays, etc. Civic pride and loyalty are very evident here.

And something new: notice the colorful pennants suspended in the streets. Orvieto is gearing up for the spectacle of spectacles, all the pomp and medieval pageantry associated with the feast of Corpus Domini which will take place in just a couple days – and we’ll be here for it!

Walk in any direction, and you will find yourself along the walls of Orvieto, where it’s usually quiet and peaceful, with incredible views of the beautiful countryside below.

I wish I could better describe the surprise that awaited us yesterday on the street right outside our apartment. We had heard a cacophony of church bells, and faintly heard a band, so of course we hightailed it down to check it out. Well we were not disappointed! Turns out it was the beginning of the deeply religious event of the Exposition of the Eucharist. If I remember my Catholic upbringing correctly, this was a period of about 3 days, in which the Host was on continuous display, for adoration by the faithful. But as we have learned, in Italy this is SO MUCH MORE than that.

The video below only partially captures the procession of numerous priests, nuns, children, the faithful, and of course, a band – all escorting the Eucharist, carried by a bishop, through the streets of Orvieto and into the Duomo.

What this picture didn’t capture is the line of Polizia and Carabinieri at attention and saluting as the Eucharistic Host passed before them; no separation of Church and State here…
And the procession ends with the Host safely returned to the altar of Orvieto’s magnificent Duomo.

Stay tuned for events over the next few days, leading up to the long-awaited feast of Corpus Domini.

Ah, the tastes of Orvieto. Dear husband and I have been fortunate enough to have sampled outstanding food in many different regions of Italy. But for me, Umbria has the best. Below is just a sampling of what we’ve enjoyed for the last two weeks:

“Our” table, at Cocco
Antipasto platter
Prosciutto & melon – so refreshing on a hot day
Wonderful rustic soup of chickpeas, crusty bread, and crisp pancetta – outstanding!
My favorite pizza: anchovies, capers, & olives
The best cheese platter, all from local goats
Grilled pork & potatoes
I’d never seen this appetizer before: a potato tortina topped with Parmigiana sauce & shaved truffle. Yummy, but very rich.
My favorite boneless rabbit, stuffed with potatoes & olives, wrapped in pancetta, and grilled.
Another dish I’ve never seen anywhere but Orvieto: nidi (nests). Long pasta noodles brushed with honey & ricotta cheese, rolled up, brushed with more honey & grated cheese, then broiled. Heaven on a plate.
Bresaola (dried beef) with arugula and shaved pecorino, dressed simply with olive oil & fresh lemon.

Stay tuned…