Anne's Blog

Outside Scheggino, Nera River Goodness

Date: September 13, 2014 - categories: , - Leave your thoughts

Stroll the path under towering poplars, beeches and firs along the Nera River just outside Scheggino perched on a limestone outcrop and you might think that you’re in a national park in North America. You certainly seem worlds away from the gentle landscapes of silvery olive groves and emerald green vineyards cloaking the Umbrian hillsides below medieval hilltowns. But they fan out in front of you as you head out of the long tunnel near Scheggino (nearly 5 km long) which now connects the rugged, majestic Val Nerina to the Valle Umbra Nord (surrounded by the medieval hilltop gems, Spoleto, Trevi, Spello, Assisi and Perugia).

Feeding the ducks on the Nera River

Feeding the ducks on the Nera River

A medieval alleyway of Scheggino

A medieval alleyway of Scheggino

As you walk along the winding Nera River, you’ll see children with parents feeding the ducks or fishing – or groups of kayakers paddling down the river. In the woods along the Nera – not far from the medieval arched entrance to this gem of a medieval hill town – look left and you might see diners sitting under the outdoor picnic tables. If they’re full, head inside to the simple little bungalow for a feast of Valnerina area goodness cooked by Signora Agnese at the Ristorante Giardino delle Naiadi. When son Alessio wanted to start his own restaurant, he enticed his mother (already cooking at a noted area restaurant) to reign at the burners. And she does.

Alessio serves outdoor customers

Alessio serves outdoor customers

Alessio slices up breads for customers

Alessio slices up breads for customers

Agnese reigns in this kitchen!

Agnese reigns in this kitchen!

Temptations are many

Temptations are many

Don’t miss the guazzetto, a fish chowder which – for me – rivals some of the best we’ve ever had in our many many trips to Sicily. But this one is a fresh-water chowder of the Nera River crawfish, pike and trout. And Signora Agnese’s homemade tagliatelle with Nera River crawfish won over Pino, appassioned of seafood (especially cooked nel modo siciliano!). if fish dishes do not entice, try the homemade gnocchi with meat sauce made with lamb, a black truffle dish or Agnese’s hearty legume/farro soup. Waiter Tonino is ready to offer advise on the daily specialties.

Enticing first courses

Enticing first courses

Tempting second courses

Tempting second courses

Agnese's guazzetto is ready!

Agnese’s guazzetto is ready!

Ah, what guazzetto

Ah, what guazzetto!

guazzetto

Agnese’s delicious guazzetto, a chowder made with fish from the Nera River

Try the black truffle bruschetta!

Try the black truffle bruschetta!

Smiling Tonino advises customers on the goodness

Smiling Tonino advises customers on the goodness

And for the desserts? All homemade: la rocciata (the Umbrian strudel), canestrelli (“little baskets”, small tarts filled with homemade jams or rich creams), ricotta cheesecake, jam tarts or a gelato, served with a smile by Elena and Anna, the teen-aged daughters of owner Alessio and his wife, Silvia. Silvia will be at the coffee bar, making your espresso at the end of you meal – or pouring you a shot of grappa. Un digestivo. You might want one after your feast!

Elena and Anna serve up the gelatin

Elena and Anna serve up the gelatin

Homemade rocciata

Homemade rocciata

Canestrelli made by Agnese

Canestrelli made by Agnese

Silvia makes the espresso

Silvia makes the espresso

Before we left, we said “Buona serata” to a group from Spoleto playing cards after their dinner: they often drive through the long tunnel to Scheggino, for not just the good food but the serenity, the sense of immersion in Nature’s majesty. Yes, Scheggino does seem worlds away.

A group from Spoleto plays cards here many an evening

A group from Spoleto plays cards here many an evening

Read about another favorite eating spot in Scheggino

Read more on Scheggino good eating

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Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)