I’ve mentioned in the past the great expatriate organization that we joined, Internations. A few months ago at a wine tasting, we started to chat with a fellow American, Susan, who’s originally from Georgia. She has lived abroad for the past 15+ years. It turned out that she has a flat in Rome around the corner from us. A few great dinners later, and we were invited to visit her at her home in Umbria.
Susan’s story and her place, Il Gusto del Paese is so interesting, I want to share a bit of it with you. She decided 8 years ago while living in Brussels, to buy property in Italy, renovate it and create a guest villa. You have to visit her website, Il Gusto del Paese, there’s a link on the right, because you can see photos there of where she started, and the results that she created. It’s amazing! She renovated a dilapidated 17th century farmhouse and stable. It’s located on 6 acres on a hilltop overlooking rolling green Umbrian hills. The main house is 3600 sq ft with 4 bedrooms/baths, a huge kitchen (great for cooking lessons, or everybody helping to make a meal), several cozy sitting areas, outdoor patios that overlook the countryside, an outdoor fireplace and pizza oven, swimming pool, vegetable garden, an annex that is also rentable as a one bedroom unit, and an exercise space. It’s all done in a rustic, yet modern Italian style with clean lines and lots of comfy places to lounge.
Susan vacation rents her property, Fondo le Teglie (on her website, click on “Properties”, then “Villas” and it’s the first listing) and also manages other properties in Umbria. She provides a number of other services to customize your vacation and is a gracious host and guide. I probably haven’t done her or her website justice here, but please take a moment to check it out and if you contact her, let her know you heard about Il Gusto from me!
So, we spent the past weekend as Susan’s guests in Umbria. It was so nice to be in a house again, cooking dinner, building big roaring fires, looking at the stars and remembering with reverence how quiet it can be when you are outside of the city.
Saturday, Susan and a friend, took us to visit Fillipo, who toured us through his family’s home. It was a 12th century monastery, complete with it’s own chapel and vineyards. His parents lived in the home, and are now doing some more renovations to it in order to vacation rent it. We then went nearby to enjoy a personal wine tasting at their winery’s cantina, Cantina Peppucci, where Fillipo explained each wine that we enjoyed and shared his experiences running a winery. We left with a case of great Umbrian wine to replenish our stores, and were on to our next adventure.
For lunch we visited the medieval town of Bevagna and Enoteca Onofri. The menu was typical of Umbrian cuisine, heavy on game meats. Michael enjoyed fresh pasta with cinghiale (wild boar) ragu and we all appreciated the local wine.
Our next adventure took us to a winery Susan wanted to check out for her guests. With her friend in the passenger seat navigating, we wound our way down a dirt road and strategically placed, large steel sculptures. At the end, we came upon Tenuta Castelbuono, probably THE most unique winery anywhere, “a journey into the world of art and wine”. The building is called The Carapace (turtle), designed by a renowned artist and sculptor, Arnaldo Pomodoro. The winery is owned by the Lunelli family, who for the past 3 generations has run the Ferrari winery in northern Italy, which is famous for making sparking wines. The sculpture took 7 years to build and is described as follows: “This unique work of art is a shrine to hold the precious great wines of Sagrantino and Rosso di Montefalco, the true souls of Umbria.” I was able to take some good photos, and the link to their website can be found at the right.
On Sunday we braved the cold and damp weather and took a 7 km walk in the hills around a hunting preserve near Susan’s home. In the afternoon we visited the hilltop town of Todi. Susan’s friend gave us a tour of her flat, which was part of a medieval palace, complete with frescos, brick floors and a peep hole in the stairway where you could see who was coming and pour hot oil on them if need be! We had great pizza for lunch at Cavour, a lovely ristorante-pizzaria in the town, complete with a roaring fire and the owners enjoying lunch with their family at the next table.
Seeing Umbria through the eyes of someone who lives there and loves the area, provided a new different perspective to us, one we hadn’t previously seen through our own eyes. Living abroad, we are so fortunate to meet so many interesting and amazing people, like our friend Susan. She truly gave us il gusto del paese, “a taste of the country”.