A couple of Phoenicians living temporarily in Roma

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Fondo le Teglie

IMG_4248CORRECTION: My apologies to the Mr’s Pardi. Their correct names are Alberto and Albertino, not as originally published as Antonio and Antonino. The correction has been made in the original story below.

We were invited, along with our friend Teresa, to visit Susan in Umbria this past weekend at her home, Fondo le Teglie. It’s our third visit since we met Susan at an Internations wine tasting this past fall, during which we discovered we were neighbors here in Roma, and a fast friendship developed.

We drove up to Umbria on Saturday morning and wanted to take Teresa to Il Re Beve, a wonderful restaurant in Aquasparta, about 15 minutes from Fondo le Teglie for lunch. Michael and I had visited the restaurant last month when we were in Umbria over our anniversary.  We shared a wonderful house appetizer platter, fried artichoke, a delicious bottle of Montefalco Rosso wine and each had a pasta dish. YUM. The restaurant is located in a renovated castle, Castello di Casigliano, that sits high up on a hill overlooking the Umbrian countryside.

After lunch, we drove to Susan’s home. She and her friend Matt, who comes almost yearly to visit and help with the maintenance at Fondo le Teglie, where waiting for us. Susan with a bottle of chilled Prosecco and Matt with a scraper in hand as he was busy stripping the paint from the outside teak chairs.  After settling in, we left Matt to scrape and headed to Todi to wander and shop a bit.IMG_4249

Todi is an Umbrian hill town, perched on a tall, two crested hill, that overlooks the east bank of the Tiber River. It was likely founded in the 8th-7th century BC. All of it’s medieval monuments face the town square, which is often used as a movie set. In the 1990’s a professor from the University of Kentucky chose Todi as a model sustainable city and subsequently, the Italian press began to call it the “worlds’ most livable city”.

There’s a parking lot at the base of the town, with a small accensore or finicular that runs up the hill to the main part of the town. It’s a charming place, and it’s residents, and those of the surrounding towns, come from all over the world. Susan took us to an amazing art gallery, ab OVO Art & Design, where I entertained everyone trying on hats and beautiful scarves. We acted like “tourists” taking photos as we wandered around the city center, and watched an archery contest being held in the main piazza, its participants dressed in appropriately medieval outfits.

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We had dinner at home that night and Susan invited her local friend Claudio to join us. She roasted lamb in the outdoor brick fireplace, and we drank so much good local wine, that the evening ended in a dance party!

Sunday morning Michael and I opted out, but Teresa and Susan easily made the 5km walk in a nearby preserve. When they returned, we all set about helping to prepare lunch. Susan had invited friends, her English neighbor Bianca and the Pardi family, and we were in for a treat – a traditional Italian Sunday lunch! Teresa and I made great kitchen helpers, assisting Susan to prepare parts of  the courses, and making sure that not only was the dining table lovely, but the plates as well.

IMG_4268The Pardi family, Antonio, his wife Linda, one of their sons, Gianlucca and Alberto’s cousin, Augusta joined us for lunch. They live in Montefalco, a famous wine region about 45 minutes away. Gianlucca and his brother Albertino help to run the family winery Fratelli Pardi, where they produce delicious red and white wines. They are well known  for their Montefalco Rosso, which is a blend of Sagrantino, Sangiovese and Merlot grapes. Delicious! The family also owns Tessitura Pardi, located in nearby Bastardo, which is a textile factory that produces beautiful linen and cotton table and housewares. With some of us speaking English, some Italian and a few translating back and forth, we spent the most delightful afternoon that lasted almost until the sun set.

Susan has a website, which you can find at the right, Il Gusto del Paese, where she offers both her villa, Fondo le Teglie for rent, but also a variety of other  lodgings in the Umbrian region, which is a comfortable 1.5-2 hour drive from Roma. She has a wealth of knowledge about Umbria and all the delightful things to do when you visit there. She is a gracious hostess and we are lucky to have her as our friend! Grazie mille Susan, for another lovely weekend in Umbria. We can’t wait to visit again.

Alone in Assisi

IMG_4170It had been a very long time since I spent any time alone. Not just during the day alone, but really alone. Sleep alone. Get up when I wanted to, alone. Not make dinner for anyone, alone. Do something on a whim, alone. After so many months where my life has centered around caring for Michael, I needed a break. So I decided to take a weekend and plan a solo get away. Where could I travel to easily in Italia by train, be safe and get some quiet time? Florence is only 1.5 hrs by train from Roma, but it seemed too busy. Ah ha! Assisi has been on my list of places to visit, so it seemed like the perfect solo getaway.

Through I found a very inexpensive hotel (less than 100€ for 2 nights and it was clean and quaint), the Hotel Berti,  located just inside the ancient walls of the old city. I bought a train ticket online and early on a Friday morning off I went. The train ride from Rome took about 2 hrs, and with a first class ticket, I was comfortable enough. The walled city of Asisi sits up on a hill, terraced under Mt. Subasio. It was easy to find the city bus that goes from the train station up to the old city, and the hotel was just a 2 minute walk from the main bus stop.

Assisi, is best known as the birthplace of St. Francesco (known at Saint Francis of Assisi, but interestingly born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone and nicknamed “Francesco” by his father). He was born into a wealthy family in approximately 1181. As a young adult he experienced a vision that led him to renounce his wealth, begin to preach, and live a life of poverty. He founded three Catholic orders, and while never ordained as a priest, he was pronounced a saint in 1228 by Pope Gregory IX. Francesco lived his life in such a way as to imitate the life of Christ and carry out the work of Christ. He also experienced the stigmata, the wounds of Christ.

The Basilica of St. Francesco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an amazing church and an important site for Christian pilgrims. There are actually 2 churches, the Lower Church and the Upper Church and a crypt below which contains the tomb and remains of St. Francesco. There is also a Franciscan Friary that is incorporated as part of the Basilica complex. The Lower Church is amazing for it’s frescos, which highlight the development of medieval art during the period. There is also a very simple room that was originally used as a meeting room for the friars, which today holds artifacts from Francesco’s life. I took a lot of photos which you can see below.

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There are many churches in Assisi and I visited another important Basilica in the walled ancient city, the Basilica of Saint Clare, who was a follower of Francesco. Her tomb lies in the crypt below and was quite beautiful and moving. I also visited San Rufino Cathedral, built in 1140, which is famous for housing the christening font where St. Clare and St. Francesco were baptized. The Temple of Minerva, from the first century sits next to the Civic Tower in the Piazza del Comune, and was reconverted in the 16th century into what is today the St. Maria Sopraminerva Church.

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View from Perugia

I ended up on Saturday taking the train to Perugia, I guess, just because I could! I met a lovely American couple, Jason and Melissa, who were on a short day trip prior to her running in the Rome Marathon the next day. I enjoyed a pleasant, but cold day hanging out and lunching with them before saying goodbye.

Assisi has many more sights to see than I was able to do in a few short days. I ate well, particularly at Risorante La Pallota where I met the neighbors fluffy dog and had visions of my mama while eating a Umbrian/Tuscan chicken liver pate (it was as good as my mama’s chopped liver!). I spent a few evenings with Nila, the owner at Bibenda Wine Bar, which is rated as the number one restaurant in Assisi for a good reason (although interestingly, she serves mainly appetizers to go along with her extensive selection of delicious wines). I stumbled upon a modern art show and wandered the city’s streets.

Me and the dog!

Me and the dog!

Many people talk about the spiritual energy of Assisi and I was curious about how I would feel there. Assisi is famous for it’s religious institutions, which naturally attract people interested in living a more spiritual, than secular life. While you do see many tourists walking around, priests, nuns and friars are a very common part of the landscape of the city. When the day tripping tourists leave, there is a calm and quiet that settles over the city. Sitting in one of the Basilica or churches you do feel the energy of the millions of prayers having been spoken within.

While I enjoyed my time alone, and I enjoyed Assisi, at the core, I am a nature kind of gal. Sedona still holds my heart and my spirit soars when I am there. I’ll be back home there for a visit soon. Red rocks…here I come.

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Pompidou Centre

The Pompidou Centre

The Pompidou Centre

While in Paris, I decided to visit the Pompidou Centre and it’s collection of modern art.

The Centre was conceived during the 1960s and opened in 1977. It is the largest museum of modern art in Europe. The Centre also houses the Bibliotheque Publique d’Information, a vast public library and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research. After an international design competition, the first time in France that architects of other nationalities were able to participate, the team of Italians Renzo Piano and Gianfranco Franchini, and Richard Rogers, a Brit were chosen to design the unusual structure. Initially, all of the functional structural elements of the building were color coded and the design was heralded for revolutionizing public museums by it’s design.

During my visit, there was a special exhibit of Salvador Dali’s work, including paintings, sculpture and multi media works. The lines were quite long, but I braved them, sort of, to see the exhibit. Okay, actually, by the time I was at the actual exhibit line, it was the third line, I had patiently waited in for well over an hour. Generally, I’m not well known for my patience! While standing in the final line to the exhibit, I noticed that there was another special exhibit taking place of works by Eileen Gray and no one in that line. Sadly, I decided not to continue to wait, to forgo seeing the Dali exhibit, and I went to see the Gray exhibit instead. When I came out of the Gray exhibit, I had to use the bathroom. After I exited the bathroom, I saw that, lo and behold, the entrance to the Dali exhibit was right in front of me and the line was quite some distance away. And so I walked up to the ticket taker and presented my ticket for the exhibit. Tada! I was in.IMG_4084

It was forbidden to take photos of many of the pieces on display, but I tried to capture as many of the allowable ones as I could. (See, I don’t ALWAYS bend the rules!) The first few photos are of the outside of the Pompidou Centre and then the inside. Following are a few photos of the views of Paris from the top floor. Next comes the Dali exhibit. And at the end of the slide show are 10 additional photos of other art in the Centre. I hope you enjoy the slide show.

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I had never been to Paris, and frankly have heard some awful things about it, so it was never at the top of my bucket list of places to see. However, after a long weekend there, I have seen the light…the City of Lights! And now I’m a believer!

It’s BIG. Everything seemed so BIG, especially after living in Rome, which is relatively small. The boulevards, the palaces, the parks, the Metro which goes absolutely everywhere in the city. WOW!

We stayed at the Le Meridien, about a 15 minute walk from the Arc de Troimphe, in the northwest part of the city. The metro was just a block away. Paris is a wonderful city to walk around in and we did, for days, all over. Down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees to the Louvre. All around Montmontre and through Sacre Couer which sits high up on a hill overlooking the city. We visited the Nortre Dame Cathedral. We listened to great jazz at the club at our hotel. I saw the Sorbonne.

The food was oh, so French. Crusty, amazing bread. The best mussels I’ve every had. Sweet, rich french onion soup. Duck. Froie Gras. Perfectly crisp french fries. Pain au chocolat. And the people were lovely. Kind, helpful. No more rude than the Italians, or we Americans can be sometimes.

I also visited the Pompidou Centre, and saw an amazing exhibit of Salvador Dali’s work. I’ll post those photos separately. There’s so much to see and do in sweet “Pari”, I can’t wait until the next time.

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