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Spoleto’s Hidden Attractions

Date: September 16, 2013 - categories: , - Leave your thoughts

Meeting Don Matteo in Spoleto

“Don Matteo”,  the Italian TV show about an insightful priest who often aids the local carabinieri in crime-solving, has switched locations:   episodes are now being filmed in Spoleto, rather than in Gubbio (much to the chagrin of the Eugubini).  

Scaffolded for years during anti-seismic restoration following the 1997 earthquake,  Spoleto’s Roman (the 1st c. AD theater), medieval (the Duomo, the aqueduct, the Papal fortress) and Renaissance (Fra Lippo Lippi’s frescoes) glories once more attract the tourists and – now – film crews.  

Locals have audtioned for bit parts in “Don Matteo” episodes and Spoleto tourists keep eyes open for a siting of Terence Hill (Don Matteo). I ran into him (almost literally) by accident last spring. His father is Italian but his mother is German: she must have given him those translucent blue eyes. He married an American and was happy to chat with another one in English.

When I asked, “Why Spoleto now and not Gubbio?” , he replied with a wink, “I soldi parlano” (“money talks”).Spoleto is offering hotels and meals to 80 on the production.

View from our table

As he headed off for the set, friends and I headed to the Ristorante Locanda della Signoria, just off the piazza. Outdoor tables overlooking Spoleto rooftops and the mountains beyond offer diners breathtaking views as they enjoy enticing spoletino specialties and the personal creations of young chef Angelo.

And what a warm – and tasty – welcome! On a recent visit, waiter Alessandro greeted us with a complimentary plate of fresh fava beans and pecorino cheese, homemade pizzette, and local prosciutto, affettato a mano (hand-sliced).

The dishes vary depending on the season and what Angelo eyes at the morning vegetable market. Artichoke season now (well, the end of it) and although artichokes were on the menu, Angelo had passed them up at the morning market:  “non erano buoni.”

Alessando brings out the zucchini basil soup

He opted for the zucchini and his zuppa di zucchine al basilico (served over crusty crostini of freshly-baked bread) was heavenly.  As was the choice of a friend:   gnocchi ai quattro formaggi con pere (homemade gnocchi with a cream sauce of four cheeses – including gorgonzola – and fresh pear slivers).  I had had my fingers crossed for wild asparagus:  Angelo’s strangozzi (a thick Umbrian spaghetti) with a sauce of baby tomatoes, wild asparagus from the woods above Spoleto, and hot red pepper were buonissimi beyond expectations.

  I secondi? Appenine deer in a fresh tomato sauce and rabbit cacciatore alla spoletina  (with rosemary, sage, wine, garlic, wine vinegar, lemon and black olives) are winners if you have room.  If not, try the salad of radicchio, a variety of local lettuces, baby tomatoes, crunchy local pancetta, slivers of Parmesan, and pears…or the grilled vegetables drizzled with a superb balsamic. 

Alessandro brought out a Montefalco dessert wine with homemade tozzetti (“little chunks”: you might know them as “biscotti”) for dipping in this sweet red wine – just as we decided we couldn’t possibly eat another thing.

When you’re next in Spoleto, don’t miss the Locanda della Signoria. But get there before the “Don Matteo” film crew blocks access.

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