Anne's Blog

Monteleone di Spoleto: Chariots, Chickpeas and…. Farro

Date: November 16, 2010 - categories: , , , , , - 1 Comment

Monteleone. The picturesque hilltown’s name, “Mount of the Lion”, denotes force, domination and greatness.


Monteleone di Spoleto

The name might seem pretentious for this tiny mountaintop village in the Val Nerina area of Umbria, not far from Spoleto, nearly abandoned, with two cafés and one restaurant But the sixth-century B.C.gilded bronze biga (chariot) – unearthed here in 1902 – and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – “was certainly owned by someone powerful,” local “chariot expert”, Roberto told us proudly. The chariot – of possible Etruscan workmanship – embodies a glorious past.

Roberto works in one of the two cafés in town and closed it to take Pino and me to see Monteleone’s reproduction of the chariot, masterpiece of the contemporary Italian sculptor Giacomo Manzu and commissioned by the town in the 1980’s. Because I’d read about the chariot of Monteleone di Spoleto now at the Met – and Monteleone’s desperate attempts to bring the chariot home – I had made a special trip to the Met in March, 2009 between my New York cooking classes.The spacious room, superb lighting, articulate and exhaustive explanations, and precious artifacts of the same period in adjacent cases all served to highlight the astounding beauty of the bronze chariot enshrined at the Met.

With Roberto, Pino and I saw Monteleone’s bronze copy of that chariot – in a tiny room with a 14th -century stone vaulted ceiling, perhaps once a wine cellar – or a guardroom – adjacent to Monteleone’s medieval fortified monastery. On that early November day in Monteleone di Spoleto, as we viewed in silence this exquisite chariot copy in a simple unadorned setting, the elation I’d felt that March day at the Metropolitan Museum in New York was matched. Roberto’s passione for Monteleone’s lost treasure was evident as he brought alive the Ulysses tales figured on this faithful copy of the gilded bronze chariot. Ironically, the original is now in the country where poor farmers and shepherds from remote Monteleone emigrated in the early 1900’s, at about the time of the chariot discovery by a farmer – and its sale, for the price of scrap metal.

In awe at the Met

In awe at the Met


Roberto tells Pino about the chariot copy

The fight is still on with the Met: Monteleone wants the chariot back. Hopes are slim.

After Roberto returned to his post at the café, we walked through the Torre del Orologio (Clock Tower) medieval gate to wander the winding alleyways of this former fortress perched on a rocky outcrop. Carved stone doorways were time markers for us, dating from the 13th-century to the present. Vaulted medieval porticoes and streets caught the appreciative eye of husband Pino, restorer of medieval architecture. At three o’clock on a November afternoon, silence reigned.

Medieval splendor of Monteleone:








As we walked back to the motorcycle for our ride home to Assisi, we passed the Ristorante (no name needed: only one in town!) where we had lunched on arrival that day. Monteleone, we learned, is not only famous for the Met biga, but also for a D.O.P farro. Denominazione di Origine Protetta guarantees that the farro of Monteleone can only be cultivated in that area.

Renata’s farro risotto with porcini mushrooms and black truffle

Renata, owner/chef of the Ristorante, brought the farro to its culinary apex in a dish Pino relished: risotto di farro con funghi porcini e tartufo. I had truffles, too – on pasta.


Pasta with truffles for me

The Val Nerina area is also famous for legumes: the tiny DOP lentils of Castelluccio and the ceci (chickpeas) of the Monteleone area. We had to try another of Renata’s specialties: purèe of local chickpeas (ceci) seasoned with rosemary, garlic and Umbria’s exquisite extra-virgin olive oil. Who needed dessert?


Renata’s chickpea purèe

We headed home to Assisi around dusk, the motorcycle serpentining down mountain roads in the midst of forests of burnished colors. Pino had to watch the road, I could just marvel in the majesty around us. As we rode, I reflected on the many pleasures of yet another good day: over thirty-five years in Umbria and we can still head off to discover the endless wonders, without going more than about an hour from home. Art, history, magnificent panoramas, culinary pleasures, encounters with “the locals.”

Anything missing?.

*(To read more on the Monteleone chariot:

Culinary footnote
We eat alot of farro, enjoying it in legume soups and in summer salads.

Here is an easy, tasty farro salad recipe:
Ingredients (for 6 persons – or more, perhaps):
2 c. farro
2 or 3 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 fresh mozzarella, diced
3 – 5 basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil (q. b…..and remember that quanto basta (or “as much as you need”) is the most common annotation in Italian cookbooks!)

Cook farro as you do rice, ie, put in pan with double the amount of water as farro; in this case, cover the farro with 4 c. water.
Salt the water, q. b.
Bring to a boil, then simmer til farro is cooked al dente
Let cool. Mix with extra virgin olive oil (q. b), diced tomatoes, diced fresh mozzarella and finely-chopped basil leaves. Add salt, pepper q. b. Serve at room temperature (if left over, refrigerate and enjoy the next day, straight from the fridge).







Doorways of Monteleone are time-markers (click to enlarge photos)

1 Comment

  • My husband and i have been very lucky Jordan could round up his reports because of the precious recommendations he discovered in your web page. It is now and again perplexing just to find yourself giving freely tactics the others have been selling. And now we discover we need you to give thanks to for this. These explanations you’ve made, the straightforward blog navigation, the friendships you will give support to foster – it’s got mostly impressive, and it’s really helping our son in addition to our family imagine that this matter is amusing, which is certainly exceedingly important. Thanks for the whole thing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Privacy Policy

Privacy Italian Legislative Decree n° 196/2003 Under Article 13 of the Italian Legislative Decree no. 196/2003, regulations with regard to the Protection of Personal Data, this is an informative report to all interested parties on the modality of the treatment of personal data, arising from interaction with our website
THE PRINCIPAL FOR DATA TREATMENT During site consultation, personal data referring to identified or identifiable persons can be processed. The principal for data treatment is Anne Robichaud Pian della Pieve Assisi 06081 (PG) Italy. The data will be mainly processed at the mentioned head office by the people responsible for the website or by other people appointed for occasional maintenance operations, provided that their actions conform to of the guarantees enshrined in the Legislative Decree 196/2003.
Web navigation The information systems and software procedures required for the functioning of this website, acquire some personal data during their normal service, the transmission of which is implicit in the use of web communication protocols. This information is not collected with the purpose of identifying interested parties, but due to its very nature, the information could lead to user identification through processes and relations with data held by third parties. In this data category there are IP addresses or domain names belonging to computers used by users who connect to the site, addresses with URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) notification of the requested resources, time of the request, used method in submitting the request to the server, dimension of the file obtained in replying, the numeric code mentioning the reply status given by the server (successful reply, error, etc?) and other parameters referred to the operation system and to the user’s information environment. This data is used with the sole purpose of obtaining anonymous statistical information on the use of the site and to check the correct functioning; immediately after processing, the data is erased.
Data voluntarily supplied by the user The voluntary optional and explicit e-mail transmission to the addresses mentioned in this site implies the subsequent acquisition of the sender’s address, necessary to reply to the queries, as well as the other eventual personal data registered in the message.
OPTIONAL PERSONAL DATA SUPPLY Except for the above mentioned navigation data, the user may be asked to supply his own personal data through queries or messages to the email addresses shown in the contact pages. Failure to provide such data may be the cause of the inability to obtain the requested information from the company.
TREATMENT MODALITY The personal data is treated in compliance with the Legislative Decree no. 196/2003 and held only for the time necessary to achieve the aim for which it has been collected. Specific safety measures are taken to prevent any data loss, illicit or incorrect use and unauthorized access.
RIGHTS OF THIRD PARTIES The data subjects are at any time entitled to obtain confirmation as to whether or not data relating to him are held, to know the contents and the origin, to check the correctness, to ask for integration, updating or change (art. 7 Decree Law 196:June 2003). In accordance with the same article, they are entitled to obtain the erasure, conversion into anonymous form or freezing of all data used in breach of the law, to object, on legitimate grounds, to the processing of data relating to him. All requests have to be transmitted to the e-mail address

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