TIm and Julie have been here three full days and we’ve spent each day with different Italian friends. Seeing Italy with Italians is a completely different experience than seeing it with a guidebook. Don’t get me wrong, seeing it with a guidebook is wonderful. But there’s something very special about being with Italians and hearing their stories and going to places they know.
Thursday we drove to Lake Trasimeno to have lunch with three very special people – Barbara, Ilaria, and Ludo. They took us to a place that only the locals would know about – Faliero on the lake. They specialize in torta, which is a kind of flat bread unique to Umbria. There’s also a flat bread unique to Tuscany called ciancia which is mysteriously similar to torta. Regardless, both are wonderful stuffed with Italian delights – meats, cheeses, veggies. Mine was stuffed with sausage. The process for getting your food was a little chaotic. It’s kind of the equivalent of a deli. You take a number and place your order. Although for the uninitiated Americans, it was a little difficult to decide what to order. Fortunately, we had our Italian friends to guide us through. We had a great lunch and afterwards went to Barbara’s house.
Barbara and her husband Giacomo bought an old farmhouse several years ago and have been slowly renovating it to turn it into a bed and breakfast. The last time we saw it was four years
ago and they’ve done a lot since then. It’s set up on a hill with incredible views of olive groves, vineyards, and just generally beautiful scenery. The road getting up there is tricky – a white road (dirt road) that snakes up the hillside with ruts and bumps and tight turns. But what a payoff when you reach the house. They own 12 hectares and have 1,100 olive trees. Because they have so much land, they allow cinghiale (wild boar) hunters to hunt there. In return, they are given a portion of what is killed. The hunt was in full force when we were there and you could hear the barking dogs, the calls of the hunters and the shots being fired.
After our “light” lunch (half a loaf of bread and four sausages is light, right?), we walked down to Gran Duca for dinner. Julie was waffling on whether or not to go (she hasn’t been sleeping well and is just getting over bronchitis). She rallied like I knew she would and came along. She was really, really glad she did.
Friday was Panzano day. Giovanni took us all over to Chianti country for a day in Panzano. Panzano is where Giovanni’s cousin, Alfonso lives (well, there and Florence). Alfonso’s son, Lorenzo, runs the Sassolini winery. They live in the villa at the center of town that
belonged to Giovanni’s great-grandfather. We got a brief tour of the villa before Alfonso took off for the hospital. Lorenzo’s wife had just given birth to their first daughter, Francesca. We walked around town, visited the castle at the top of town, saw the wine-making facility, and had a fantastic lunch. Panzano has some of the best views I’ve ever seen and the day was crystal clear and sunny. Perfect. The landscape looked like a painting it was so perfect. It just doesn’t seem real – that much beauty is hard for us to take in. It almost takes your breath away. There’s no way a photo can do it justice. But we tried and tried anyway.
Lunch was in a little restaurant that occupies part of the villa. We ate outside in the courtyard where Giovanni used to play when he was a child.
Another wonderful day that we could never have experienced without our Italian friends. We have more plans for the weekend – more food, more visiting, more scenery. More Italy by Italians.