A couple of Phoenicians living temporarily in Roma

Archive for the tag “Il Gusto del Paese”

Fondo le Teglie…One more time!


Enoteca Properzio

Our friend Susan, invited us up to her Villa in Umbria, Fondo le Teglie, this past weekend. We were the only house guests, but like all the times we’ve spent there, we are wonderfully rarely alone. Friday night Susan and I worked in the kitchen to prepare dinner, while Michael relaxed drinking wine and keeping an eye on us! Later, Susan’s friend Stefano joined us for grilling burgers and dining outside by the fire.

On Saturday it was raining, so we postponed our morning walk in the hunting preserve, opting for the treadmill instead. Late morning Stefano returned to pick us up. We then met up with 5 other friends of Susan’s and all drove to Enoteca Properzio in Spello. The medival village of Spello sits on the southern slope of Mt. Subasio, neighboring Assisi and is about 45 minutes from Sismano, the “town” nearest to the villa. We wanted to buy some wine to have shipped back to the US and Susan recommended that we partake in a wine tasting and lunch at the Enoteca.

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Enoteca Properzio is an amazing wine shop and restaurant set in a 15th century building in picturesque Spello. It’s collection of wines includes over 2500 labels. We were wonderfully served and entertained by Roberto Angelini and his son Luca, who is the eighth generation of the Agnelini family to run the Enoteca. The food was simple but wonderful and served to complement the wine tasting.  We tasted not only great wines, but also freshly pressed olive oil that Roberto drowned our bread in! Roberto caught me for a quick spin around the floor before taking all of us to their new, contemporary restaurant and wine bar for a grappa and a gaze at the outrageous gold bathroom fixtures! We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Spello and taking in the amazing views.

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We were tired when we got home, afternoon wine tastings will do that to you, so it was a movie and popcorn on the couch for us! Luckily it wasn’t raining the next day, and Susan and I enjoyed our morning walk in the hunting preserve, being careful not to get shot. We lunched together at Ristorante Il Re Beve a restaurant we like that is set in a lovely castle in nearby Aquasparta, before Michael and I headed back to Rome.

It was another lovely weekend in the country. It’s become our home away from home while living here in Roma. Michael and I often joke when we are in driving in Umbria, “Oh look, there’s a dilapidated house we could buy and renovate.” Maybe Susan will let us invest in Fondo. Maybe we need to, after all the time we’ve spent there! Hmmm…A villa in Umbria…

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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.

Another taste of Umbria

Inside the Carapace

Tenuta Castelbuono

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.

Enoteca Onofri in Bevagna

Enoteca Onofri in Bevagna

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.

Tasting area at Tenuta Castelbuono

Tasting area at Tenuta Castelbuono

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”.

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