Thursday, July 7, 2011


There is a large gap to fill between our day in Siena and the feast in Orvieto. I'll start at the end of the parade on Sunday and hit the highlights.

We hiked to the other side of town to see the view from the Orvieto wall, and walked to the bottom of a huge 200 foot deep well that the Pope had built in the 13 or 14th century to supply the city with water in the event of a seige. It was wide enough for donkeys to haul the water in and out, and was quite a hike out. Back to the top of the city, we went under the ground in caves dug to supply building material for the city. We walked through an old olive oil press underground, several pigeon rookeries, where they attracted pigeons to eat, and a Eutruscan well that was over 300 feet deep. The well was dug by stone tools or hand and slightly larger than a tiny ancient person. After emerging from the underground, we were very tired. We stopped for a drink to relax before dinner, and order two glasses of wine. With them came some bruchetta, a nice surprise. A few minutes later, they brought us some fried risotto balls. After that, more bruchetta. Who knows how much more free food we would have received, for we were soon full and so tired that we went immediately home to bed.

The next day, we went up to the Barberani winery for a tour. Note I spelled the name incorrectly on previous blogs. Niccolo took us on a tour. He is the head wine maker, while his brother handles the business side. I got the impression that his parents were semi-retired. He was very knowledgeable and humble in his craft. They pick all their grapes by hand and press them in a machine that uses compressed air to be more gentle than metal. The farm is organic, all of whihc combines to produce a wine that is traditional and clean of bad grapes and excess parts of the vine. His philosophy is to involve as many of his employees as possible in the process to get ideas on how to improve the wine and to give them ownership of the process. Very impressive.

We drove over to another small medieval town and had a glass of wine overlooking their ancient bridge stretching across a chasm to an old fort. From their, although the day was stretching into evening, we drove an hour through winding Umbrian mountain roads to reach Spoleto. Spoleto was having an arts festival called "Festival of the Two Worlds" which was previously associated with the festival in Charleston, SC. Unfortunately, we arrived too late for the free shows, and this was the only night for two weeks that there was no ticketed performance. We comforted ourselves with a nearly three hour meal in a restaurant overlooking the city. We were fortunate that a large group of British came in at the same time as us, and the chef offered to do a tasting menu for them, which we piggybacked on. Truffles were back on the menu. We started with antipasta, including 2-year-old aged ham and delicious cheese. The highlight was risotto with a creamy truffle sauce, our next course. The salad included more truffles. The main were a couple of lamb kabobs on top of a piece of grilled steak prepared with olive oil. We finished with an amazing almost flourless chocolate cake. With a longer-than-anticipated meal in our bellies, we began our trek home, well after dark. This was something, considering it doesn't get dark until 9:30. We decided to forego the twisty roads we used to come for the main highway, which was indirect, but easier at night. We arrived back at the farmhouse at 2am and promptly passed out.

I feel I must include some current events, I hope this doesn't confuse the timeline. We just arrived in Prague, and checked into our two story, hottub, king size bed, hotel room next to the castle for $100 a night. Gotta love eastern Europe. We are heading out now for some of their famous beer and less famous meat-filled dinners. We learned from our guide book that an insult to someone's cooking in Czech is to call it, "not fatty." Anna is scared.

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