Back to Umbria

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One of our first trips to Italy was an extended family trip to Umbria, back when the boys were small and my parents were still traveling. I rented a gorgeous house on a hillside outside Todi, and we spent our days throwing the kids into the car, exploring hill towns, eating delicious lunches, afternoons in the pool, evenings on the porch with wine and the view of Todi. Besides a fast trip from Le Marche another year, for some reason we’d not been back.

I had made the arrangements for our Spello rental last year, before my knee problems became acute. I probably should have more carefully reevaluated considering all the hills I’d be descending with an unstable knee, ah well, I’ll be a slow walker and use the cane.

Fairly easy flights, although since we were using miles a more time consuming routing than preferable. But I’m not going to quibble about free airfare. We arrived in Rome fairly jet lagged, but got the suitcase and rental car within fairly good time (for Italy, anyway). Only snafu was discovering for some reason that our Italian SIM cards, which we’d topped up with the help of an Italian friend, were somehow not working. We stopped at the Autogrill for bad paninis and wifi, and managed to call Nadia our key holder through WhatsApp.

I had read in Elizabeth Minchellis blog about “truck stop mozzarella “, a shop at the Orte exit where the owner brings bufala from Campaignia up daily. Caseficio Lufa is a very nice shop selling products from the south, including beautiful pastries and other goodies. Two balls of bufala went with us, and I saw people walking out with huge bags for the weekend.

Up to Spello, and we took the winding road almost to the top. And almost, because the Piazza is being replaced, and the road temporarily ends. Luckily we got a space along the road near the little elevator, and walked up to find wifi so we could contact Nadia again. Huh, Spello wifi doesn’t work, thanks Italy. A nice shop owner let Larry use his phone, and so we met up with Nadia, who walked us down the steep little street to Casa Spello.

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We are in the Augustus apartment, a beautifully remodeled one bedroom apartment in an old stone house on the outer wall of the village. Very pretty, comfortable, and a good value for Umbria. Only drawbacks are the extremely steep street which I take at the pace of a 90 year old, and the noise from the highway. We’ll deal. The wonderfully helpful Nadia showed Larry where to park up via Giulia, which is an easy and almost flat 10 minute walk. She even helped drag our bags to the apartment.

Larry went out to forage at the local shops, and then we threw together a simple dinner of salami, cheese and tomatoes. Met the people in the other apartments, a bunch of pleasant Canadians. We went for a walk around town, poking into a few of the photography exhibits open this month. Some cool old buildings were being used, we’ll have to explore more of them. Then got gelato from Bar Bonci, which seems to be a village hangout. We made ourselves stay up to 9, then slept like the dead.

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Sunday morning in the rain, we first retrieved the car then went down the hill to the SuperConti. A pretty big store for a small town, with a popular prepared food counter where people were picking up goodies for Sunday dinners. I was particularly charmed by the little bottles of premixed Aperol spritzes. That’s a kind of convenience food I could support. Larry dragged our shopping cart back to the house, with me clutching his arm on the wet stones.

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We tried to get into La Cantine for Sunday lunch, but they were full. We grabbed a table at Il Pinturrichio around the corner from the house, because each time we’ve walked by good smells waft down the street. A good choice we shared an antipasto of eggplant, topped with fresh tomato sauce and crusty Parmesan. Then Larry had pasta with Cingiale (wild boar) sauce, and I had a special of red gnocchi, sauced with cheese and shaved truffles. All very good, although the truffles not as fragrant as I’ve sometimes had. Around us were groups of Italians having multiple courses, punctuated by going outside for smoke breaks in between. Sad to see so many young people smoking.

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Walked further down the hill, and went to see the marvelous 1501 Pinturicchio frescoes in the Baglioni Chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore. Three scenes, with such superb details you see something new each time you look. On the floor are intricate 16thcentury tiles. I sneaked a few photos very quickly (along with about 10 italian speaking visitors in a tour group) before a guard asked us not to. One woman argued with him and continued to snap away, until he simply turned the lights off! We’ll stop by again to see the Perugino frescoes when there isn’t a tour group hogging the view.

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The other churches were closed, So we then wandered through town, peering down and around the stone streets. On the way we ran into Nadia. She introduced us to an American couple who own a house in town. They’re here for four months, lucky people.

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Such a lovely place. Back home I put together Gina’s recipe for lentil sausage soup and we watched the terrible hurricane news from Florida. Sanibel was evacuated yesterday, and we’re already mourning what will happen to the fragile island, and our timeshare apartment there. We have family and friends in Florida, hoping everyone is OK.

The sun came out, and we sat on our little porch watching the light change and people wander down our street to the Properzio towers. We have a little visitor who made herself quite at home until Larry chased her back outside.

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