Most of you know my keen interest (= problem) in seeking tasty bakeshops/gelateria/bread on our travels. I was soundly thwarted in this mission during our drive through Campania. (you may have read about the obscene traffic we experienced on the day after our Capri adventure… suffice to say that the gourmet extravaganza tour that I was planning for weeks– and drooling over my Tastes of Campania guide with color DPS of Neopolitian Pastry– didn’t pan out–ignore the pun here) Armed with fresh optimism I set out to eat my way through Umbria with vigor.
You can all gaze at our Umbria villa. We got this place in Spoleto online and met the wonderful owner (Maddalegna) when she picked us up at the train station! took us to the car rental shop (getting them to stay open for us during siesta!!) and got me into the best pasta shop in town!!! (also during the siesta so we were invited into the back of the shop to see the 50# semolina pasta flour bags stacked to the rafters and 5 different cool pasta machines with the wowie extruders for making rotini, tortellini, ravioli, orchetti, and many many more).
The house is just outside of town, surrounded by olive groves, rolling hills of wheat and a charming rose garden. ahh Umbria! The kids loved the wild wide open of Spoleto. I was so grateful for the peace.
When we got to Umbria, I felt a great burden rising up and away like the purple mountains that surrounded the hilltowns. I had no idea that for the past week, I had been walking around with a load of Urban Anxiety. I was constantly vigilant for Danger. All sorts of real/imagined Danger: pickpockets, potential hazards for the children, getting lost, getting separated from the kids, getting ripped off, getting stranded. Of course none of these happened but I still felt real fear in Naples. This evaporated in the country!
We loved cooking and eating our own food after exclusively restaurant food for a week. The kids were complaining of too much pizza and pasta– can you imagine?!
One of our favorites was Caprese Salad (with Buffala Mozzerella– yes folks that’s made with milk from an Italian Waterbuffalo!) These little toms are supersweet! The other kind of Caprese we enjoyed was made with big slices of green toms (sour and firmer) the overall combo with the salty/chewy cheese was delicious! E observed that this yummy combo looks like the Italian flag.
This was one of our fav gelaterias of the trip. You can tell if its a “good” gelato shop by looking at the Banana. If it’s grey — then its made from scratch without additives. I tried many other techniques to discern the “good” gelato shop– the ones with nun’s happily buying scoops (not good), the ones in smoky bars (not good), the ones with acrobatic cone displays (inconsistently good), the ones with grey Banana (always good!)
I am esp. in love with gelaterias with style. this one had it–
these are the gelato cups. We always got cones however…
This is a Birthday photo for Jane on May 4 2007. Love la licorice!
Despite my keen interest in pastry we didn’t find many treasures of baking here. Much of the bread is made with semolina flour. This yields a wonderful lemon yellow color, but a surprisingly fine texture to the bread. The crumb is more like a cake and totally lacks salt! What’s up with that??
I miss my tangy sour holey CA breads!
This is the best shop we found (Assisi). I especially loved an almond brittle with dark caramel. See the stacks of licorice on the counter Jane?
Speaking of salt… One of our adventures was to get me a new salt pot. The last one I had from our trip to Siena was broken accidentally by the kids when they were baking last year. We traveled to Deruta the motherland of Italian kitchen pottery. I don’t have room here to show you all the photos we took. It was a total color frenzy. We found a lovely new salt pot!
The reason whole reason visiting Umbria: The Amazing Hill Towns!
This one, Civita di Bagnoregio, is particularly outstanding. It is a tiny town perched on one hill– separated from all other hills except for this footbridge (oh and the donkey trail winding up the back side of the hill) This place has all the essential elements: , piazza, clocktower, church, and cafe/bar/gelateria.
In addition this town-isimo had a FABOULOUS tratoria. We had some cheese & charcuterie and on the plate were several unreal marmalades. The waiter told me they were housemade. There was a limon-mint, a carrot-lemon, local honey, and balsamic apple. Each taste complimented the nutty, pungent, salty, earthy tastes of the local cheeses and meats set before us. We also ordered the mixed grill plate– a chop of pork and ground meat served on a plate with sea salt and fennel seed . To finish we ordered the housemade creme orange. It was an unforgettable gelato with candied orange zest. The ultimate creamsicle. Each bite was savored. The whole meal was perfect. Oh and did I mention that we had the place to ourselves? The town was practically deserted– there are only 12 full time residents to the town and NO CARS allowed.
On Monday, J traveled to the North and we stayed behind for an adventure of our own. We traveled out to a Terme (hot springs) because we needed a day off from tramping around hill towns and M is ever obessed with all things volcanic! and when in Italy– do what the Italians do– soak!
I am so glad we had this chance to relax at the hot springs. It felt like we were really part of the timeless cultural pastime of bathing. We were in a modern facility in a small city (Viberto) but steping into the milky sulfury water was like stepping back in time to Pompeii or Ercolano. There were the mosaics! And the lounging Italian men! And the lovers smooching on the decks, and the arguing old ladies. Everyone just sat and sunned and soaked. Then got out lazily and sipped water or lemon drinks and soaked some more. We were part of the scene. We really an authentic Italian afternoon at the Terme.
So this trip has been extordinary! I know that we’ve been gone a long while and I am looking forward to the trip home tomorrow. I can’t wait to show you more of our adventures. Lots of love!