Thursday 29 September 2016

Of tomorrow who can say?

"Chi voul esser lieto sai,
  di doman non v'รจ certezza"

"Who happy would be, let him be;
  Of tomorrow who can say?"

Lorenzo 'the Magnificent' de' Medici wrote these words in the 1400s. These words make me think. We often joke about travelling while we still can, and about spending the money now because you can't take it with you. Whilst we have been in Italy we have lost two good friends to cancer, one in New Zealand and one in the U.K, and both the same age as we are.

We feel privileged to have had so many opportunities to travel our wide and beautiful world, to have met wonderful people and eaten great food, to have experienced other ways of life to our own and seen so many spectacular sights. We are grateful for these opportunities and well aware that 'of tomorrow, who can say?'

Travel and more travel

Travel and more travel! We left Macchie at about 11 am on Monday, returned the hire car, travelled by train to Rome and stayed over night at our favourite family run hotel, our fourth stay this year.

On Tuesday morning I taste tested the last of the big five gelati shops in Rome then we took the Leonardo Express to Fiumicino Airport. Our flight to Dubai departed at 3.25 pm and took six hours.

We had a stop over of a little more than two hours then boarded our QANTAS flight to Melbourne. Thirteen hours & twenty minutes later we arrived in Melbourne - and it was 9 pm on Wednesday!

Another overnight stop in a hotel and another train trip and we arrived home in Benalla about 2.30 pm Thursday. 

So that is one reason why we stay away so long!

It seems as though it hasn't stopped raining since we left Benalla. 300 millimetres of rain has fallen in the almost 12 weeks we have been away. Webbed feet or gumboots are a necessity.

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Off we go to Rome

We have had an incredible time in Umbria, Panicale and especially in this lovey house in Macchie. We were blessed to be the recipients of such generosity. We extend a huge thank you to some very special people, Richard, Katia and Massimo.

Farewell garden, we've spent many, many hours in your company.

Safely returned the Lancia to Avis Chiusi then had a snack to the railway station.

I have already cast bad comment the way of the Victorian rail system, now here is further shame. This gorgeous pizza came from the cafeteria at the Chiusi station. Don't even think about railway food in Australia!

By 4.30 pm we were back on the streets of Rome. First stop was the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore where we lit candles for our recently deceased friend Angela.

Rome is still busy with coach tours and pilgrimage groups but if you know the right places you can avoid that traffic. We were heading to the Trevi Fountain and the contrast was amazing between our route and our destination.

This was about 6 pm!

Coin tossing ... this time mine did go in the water.

A window display.

A very typical Roman street, when you avoid the main routes.

We visited two more of the top five gelati shops in Rome, that will be the subject of a later post!

Piazza della Republica, the view from our evening meal spot and some internal decoration along the collonade.

A few hours in Rome softens the agony of departure.

Sunday 25 September 2016

The penultimate day

Our last day in Panicale & Macchie. I always dislike the last day because I am never excited to be leaving and it is always sad to be leaving.

I started with some quality peaceful time ...

... then we started packing. This can be hazardous when you have been away for an extended time. The airlines might allow you to take 30 kg but you have to be able to handle it,  getting on and off trains, up steps and across cobble stones. Luckily we have done very little shopping so we expect the cases to weigh what they did when we left home, that is, just under 20 kg. There are bathroom scales here and we know that they are meant only for weighing luggage!

We made the most of the sun at lunchtime and caught up with our journal writing. I'm afraid the blog takes priority these days but I still like to write a more detailed account.

After some housework and pot plant watering it was time to take the empty bottles to the recycling point. Kel loves this job; counting and reminiscing as he crashes each bottle into the big container.

Next task was to give the little Ypsilon a bit of a wash. We have travelled ???  kilometres and been very happy with the Lancia.

Time for a gelato so up we went to Panicale and visited Gelateria Vittoria, a new shop in the piazza this summer. The challenge total is still building.

We did a little drive around to have one last look at some of our favourite places, then it was back home to finish off the day's work.

Sunset was at 7.03 tonight, compared with 8.40 pm when we arrived. We just caught the end as we were heading for Bar Gallo.

Even though it seems past Aperol Spritz weather we still had one for old times sake, accompanied by some delicious nibblies. 

Some of Aldo's Gran Bruschette Miste was just what we needed as we sat there watching the crowd coming out from today's opera performance and mingling into the life in the piazza.

Just as we were thinking it was bed time we heard fireworks. We could claim it was a farewell but actually it was celebrating the Festival of the Madonna del Busso at Panicarola. 

Tomorrow we go to Rome, but not before breakfast in the piazza.

Lunch at Locanda Manfredi & the comic opera Il Signor Bruschino

Our last lunch outing was a return visit t o Locanda Manfredi in Paciano. The day was mild and sunny so the view from the terrace was perfect. Massimo and Luigi made us feel welcome and the food was as good as we remembered from our last visit. We chose things that we had not experienced before and it was a very good move. My Italian cooking at home will have changed quite a lot as a result of the wide variety of meals we have eaten in the past three months.

A prosecco was the perfect start to a final lunch in Umbria. 'Doing lunch' is not something we do at home so these occasions are special.

Kel started with grilled red radicchio with goat's cheese and pear.

I started with crostini Manfredi, a gooey delicious cheese topping with artichokes.

Kel's primo course was a semolina gnocchi gratin with artichokes.

My primo was tagliatelle pasta with wild fennel and anchovies.

Look right and you see olive trees and terra cotta roofs, look left and you see ancient rock walls. We are well satisfied!

The third of the operas in the Pan Opera Festival at Teatro Caporali in Panicale is this week-end. Il Signor Bruschino is a one act operatic comedic farce by Gioachino Rossini with libretto by Guiseppe Maria Foppa. This opera was first performed in 1813.

Tonight's performance began at 9 pm and was excellent entertainment. The cast was well rehearsed and very talented so the performance was a real joy. I love these old shows that have such comic humour. More and more we are finding that the gap in our language skills is quite small now and that gives us pleasure too.

I wasn't in a position to get any photos, and was hoping some-one would post on Facebook, but no luck so far.

Later addition: photos by Priscilla Worsley

Friday 23 September 2016

Fabro, Ficulle and funghi lasagne

Today was probably our last chance to go for a drive so we looked at the map and chose a direction we haven't been this year - we headed towards Orvieto, but on the small roads. First stop was Fabro which we pass on the train from Rome, a village that advertises its only points of interest as the fortress and the church. The fortress was in excellent order and afforded stunning views all around. Actually the main interest around Fabro is the woodlands where there are good walking opportunities and also truffles and wild mushrooms can be found.

From there we went to Ficulle which also had as its attractions a fortress tower and a church. The tower only opens on the weekends but the church was open and there was our man of the day, Padre Pio.

We were particularly amused here as the church is called the New Church of St. Mary. Yep, its new, it was built in 1606! The old church still stands but is outside the walls.

There is one thing to be said for these hilltop fortress towns, you get plenty of exercise walking up steps. It is always necessary to park outside the walls and walk in or up to the historic centre.

Our last stop was Monteleone d' Orvieto where we called in for a drink at a bar we had visited last year. The young man running it speaks good English and is enthusiastic about Australia. He told us he watches Border Patrol!

The average non-Italian thinks that lasagne is a hearty meat dish with a couple of layers of pasta. In Italy you soon discover that this is far from the real thing. Many layers of soft pasta and thin layers of sauce make up a genuine lasagne.
Two years ago in Genoa we discovered pesto lasagne and so began a love affair with that variety. Tonight we have tasted an even more stunning variety - bosciaola lasagne. With fresh funghi mushrooms and truffles, this was another taste sensation. Interestingly we bought this at the local supermarket deli, and they had other varieties such as asparagus.
We need to stay longer so we can try all the other varieties!