Sunday 31 August 2014

Montepulciano and the Bravio delle Botti Festa

Today was the last day of the Montepulciano Bravio delle Botti Festa with events running from 10 am until late. The eight contradas (areas of the town) contest a barrel rolling event, rolling an 80 kg wine barrel for 1800 metres uphill and around the town.

We arrived in time for the historic costume parade where each contrada is represented. The highlight is the flag throwers and drummers who create a spectacle with waving and tossing the flags in the air and catching them, accompanied by the beat of the drums.

We didn't stay for the barrel rolling as it was to be in the evening and we wanted to be home before dark. 

Saturday 30 August 2014

Food, glorious food

One of the joys of travelling is eating the food of the area you are visiting. In Italy this is especially rewarding because the principle has always been to cook with whatever is local and in season. For this reason tomatoes taste like tomatoes, and there is the added thrill as the various fruits and vegetables become available with the seasons.

Today I am posting photos of some of the foods we have been eating, from picnics to excellent restaurants. Enjoy! .....we did!

Lunches and picnics - local prosciutto and sausages, tomatoes, pecorino cheese, rockmelon, figs, apricots and a variety of pizza bread baked daily.

Il Gallo nel Pozzo is an excellent ristorante trattoria in Piazza Umberto. We had a divine meal on our first night here. A terrine of pheasant and mushrooms with Sicilian orange slices followed by a pasta Giglia alla Norcina with Panicale sausage, porcini mushrooms and black truffles. Kel's dish was a gnocchi. 

Another popular restaurant is Masolino, just off the piazza. This week we enjoyed another excellent meal. We started with a glass of Umbrian wine - sparkling, pink and dry.It is made from the sagrantino grape and was very good, better than Prosecco, according to Andrea! We both had a pappardelle pasta with wild boar and juniper berry ragù. My main course was the chef Bruna's award winning guinea fowl served on a toast. Kelly had tagliata (slices of beef) with rocket and shaved parmesan. We finished with one of my favourites, torta della Nonna and a semifreddo. A Nobile de Montepulciano Tuscan red accompanied the meal.

What do we eat at home? Pasta with a roast pork and tomato sauce, gnocchi with fresh pesto, lots of locally made prosciutto and fresh tomatoes, pizza from Il Caffe della Piazza.
Tonight we had lasagne, home delivered from Katie's kitchen to ours.

 Sometimes the daily gelati is enjoyed seated at Aldo's Bar in the Piazza. Fast licking is not needed then because we have little spoons!

Friday 29 August 2014

Umbria - the Green Heart of Italy

Umbria is the only land locked region of Italy and is known as the 'green heart'. Today we did a road trip in the Fiat, aiming to travel on the small roads of the area. The scenery was breathtaking, unfortunately the camera can't totally capture it.

The grapes are nearly ready for harvest.

The sunflowers are ready, their petals have gone and the heads are turned to the ground.

Grain crops have been harvested and the fields ploughed.

The forest area is extensive and creates a good breeding area for the famous wild boar.

The landscape is ever changing.

The Sanctuary of Mongiovino has been a place of pilgrimage since 1513.

This evening we had another entirely different but equally fascinating experience. The next of the Musical Insieme Panicale events, a quartet of violins, viola and violincello playing music by Klaus Huber (who was present) and Mozart, was transferred to Panicale's lovely little theatre.
The Teatro Cesare Caporali is a surprise when you enter, it is horseshoe shaped and has two tiers of box seating. All the glamour of a large theatre, this little beauty seats 154 people.

A plain exterior hides a treasure

 What fun to watch world class musicians in this 1858 classic theatre, especially as we were able to sit in one of the boxes. Before the performance began I was thinking of the Old Codgers in The Muppets but once it began I was enthralled.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Panicale: peace, surprises and joy

A fortified castle of mediaeval structure with several concentric walls is how the hilltop town of Panicale is described. The circles within circles are fascinating to wander through as you can see so many different building shapes and materials used over the years. It is so picturesque and peaceful.

A lovely surprise today when Katia arrived with a big bowl of beautiful figs, some tomatoes and some eggs. All are from Katia's vegetable garden. I love figs ... thank you Katia.

After the walk around the village and lunch in the garden Kelly decided it was time for some  of 'il dolce far niente' - the sweet doing nothing!

Late in the afternoon we visited two churches which have been turned into museums.The church of Saint Sebastian houses one of our favourite frescoes, both because of the subject and the artist. St. Sebastian is always portrayed with arrows in him even though they were not the cause of his death. The artist is Pietro Vannucci, known as Il Perugino, a local to this area. He is known as the leading Umbrian Renaissance painter and this frescoe was completed in1505.

There was also a fine collection of illuminated books.

The church of Saint Augustine is now the Tulle Museum. A local handicraft, embroidered tulle is something special to see. The design is stitched in to the tulle creating a lace effect. There are many beautiful pieces in the museum - a wedding veil, christening gowns, church vestments, table cloths and other items which would normally have lace included.

On the wall at the rear of the room you can see more remnants of frescoes dating from 1504.

It has indeed been a day of peace, surprises and joy!

La Pausa and the Piazza

The term 'nanna nap' has connotations of age for Australians, that's why 'la pausa' or 'a siesta' is such a great thing. In Italy most businesses, churches and tourist attractions close about 12.00 - 1.30 pm and don't open again until 3.30 - 5.00 pm. 
For those not used to this idea, it can be frustrating to arrive at a location and find it will be closed for another two hours.
For those who have always had this notion, it is a chance to eat a good midday meal, catch up on family matters and you can legitimately have a snooze.

One bonus for me in Panicale is that I can take photos in the usually very busy piazza without having people obstructing the view.

This is our entrance to the village, Porto Perugino. The arch on the far left is our gateway.

Inside the Porta is Piazza Umberto 1, the hub of the village. The piazza has a slope upwards from the gate. The fountain is in the centre.

This is the back view of the church San Michele Arcangelo, the front faces the next piazza of the same name as the church. There are seven churches but some have been changed into museums.

 The restaurants here are excellent, serving local produce cooked in local ways and with character.

Aldo's Bar is the hub of the hub - the place for a cappuccino and cornetto, for a glass of prosecco or for gelati.

Of course, it only looks like that in the early afternoon, all the rest of the time it looks more like this!

The fountain is also a popular gathering spot. Katia and I met at the fountain for a chat.