The Olives are In!

December 12, 2011

What's my favorite late fall day? The day or two when we pick our olives or the day the olio novello comes back from the mill? In every Umbrian farmhouse, stainless steel cannisters now hold every farm's cold-pressed, recently-milled olive oil. Lift the lid, put your nose in...and ah...the fruity pungent smell of the olio nuovo carries you away. It's hard to think of a dish here not enhanced by this italianissimo condiment. Our farm women neighbors even use it in the place of butter in tasty moist cakes. Olive oil stars as king of the Mediterranean diet, now UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Intangible. Over 50,000 acres of Umbrian farmland are given over to cultivation of our "liquid gold" but - mamma mia! - production is down this year. read more...

Umbrian Hilltown tours of “Auntie Annie”

December 10, 2011

Our final tour together, the Rural Life Revisited tour, might have been the highlight of the Italy stay of this San Diego family. Chiarina won over little Van when she made us bruschetta with the olio novello. Kathleen and Jon enjoyed tasting the family's wine. When farm friend Gentile asked Aeriel to stay and live with her, Aeriel asked her mother, Kathleen, if she could say "SI"... read more...

Gubbio’s Guinness Record Lights the Mountain

December 6, 2011

Who could ever imagine that a quiet medieval Umbrian hilltown- not even on the railroad line - would merit a place in the Guinness Book of World Records? Gubbio did it with Albero di Natale più grande del mondo. Between 7 and 8 pm on December 7th - vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception - thousands of excited Eugubini gather in Gubbio's piazzas, eyes on Mount Ingino backdropping the town, as the lights are lit on the World's Largest Christmas Tree (Guinness World Records, 1991). Read more...

Imola Draws Every Buona Forchetta

December 6, 2011

In Italy, la buona forchetta is not a favorite eating utensil, not a special serving fork: it's a person who knows and relishes good food. For any buona forchetta, the cooking of Emilia Romagna is the apex of culinary ecstasy. Bordering Umbria on the northeast, this region is known for its Parmigiano, balsamic vinegars, mortadella, salami, nourishing soups, lasagne, tagliatelle and endless variations of tortellini (not to mention cappelletti, tortelli, tortelloni, ravioli, and ravioloni). Hearty foods offset the bleak and foggy, bone-chilling winter weather typical of the region. Read more...

Spello Celebrates its Gold

December 6, 2011

Acclaimed "la citta' dell'olio", Spello celebrates its "liquid gold" with the Festa dell'olivo e Sagra della Bruschetta every year in early December. Its 50th anniversary edition transforms this medieval hilltown gem into a showplace of art and photography exhibits, open markets, traditional Umbrian song and dance performances, oilve-oil tasting events - and more! - the second weekend of December. The president of the local Pro Loco (small tourist board), Umberto Natale, says " This manifestazione is much-loved by our Spellani and is dedicated to the land, our traditions, and a cultivation which has been the livelihood for centuries for many our families. We have now become a reference point for the production of top extra-virgin olive oils. We owe this to the excellence of our producers." read more...

A Thanksgiving Turkey – and More

November 22, 2011

We'll celebrate our Thanksgiving on the Sunday AFTER Thanksgiving, as we always do. Giulia and Keegan and friends are celebrating in Perugia on THE day - and have pre-dinner games planned on the Thanksgiving theme. I love their invitation, featuring a most original turkey, ie, our former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi all set to be roasted, with the usual smirk on his face as he heads for the oven. read more...

In Città  di Castello, Magnificent Tubers Entice

November 11, 2011

In early November, white truffles star at the 32nd edition of la Mostra-Mercato del Tartufo Bianco in Citta' di Castello in the Upper Tiber Valley. But not only the prized white truffle, Tuber Magnatum Pico: all the many flavors of Umbrian fall goodness team with traditional culinary wisdom in this weekend dedicated to educating the taste buds and the mind through a kaleidoscope of conferences, cooking competitions, theatrical presentations and food tastings. read more...

November: Chestnuts, New Wine and Rural Lore

November 11, 2011

The Chapel dedicated to St. Martin and frescoed by Simone Martini in the 14th-century is certainly one of the masterpieces in our Basilica di San Francesco. St. Martin of Tours, 4th-century saint, is pictured as he gives his cloak to a freezing beggar outside the walls of Amien. According to legend, the beggar will reveal himself as Christ. The association is there: St. Martin, the bringer of warmth.... read more

Trevi Olive Oil Trail

November 9, 2011

There's only one way to greet guests at the 20th edition of medieval Trevi's la Festa dell'Olio Nuovo: with a slice of hot bruschetta drizzled with just-milled olive oil, l'olio nuovo. Wearing white gloves and royal blue jackets, students of the local catering/hoteliers high school, la scuola alberghiera, worked in teams yesterday just outside one of the Trevi-area olive oil mills: two toasted the crusty bread slices on a grill, one rubbed the slices with garlic and the other poured - not ungenerously! - the mill's oil on the slices. Musicians played nearby, welcoming visitors. read more...

Elegant Turin, Bracing Against the Floods

November 7, 2011

As the Genovesi and the people of the Cinque Terre mourn their dead and shovel out the mud, the Torinesi keep a watchful eye on the Po, il Grande fiume, up 4.5 meters yesterday and swelling 10 to 15 cm an hour. They know their river - and that ravaging weather can turn it into "un padre ubriacone e malignazzo" ("a big old drunk and malicious father"). The mayor of Turin has ordered all schools closed and advised the locals to stay indoors. read more...