Memories of our Umbria Palace

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This time last year, our family holiday to Europe was coming to an end.  One of the highlights was staying at what I called our Umbrian Palace, Laguscello. This beautiful farm house was tucked away from the traffic, offered endless views of rolling hills, modern, clean, pretty pool, and it was luxurious and spacious. It even had a couple of hammocks and a wood-fired oven.

Just a couple of minutes drive to Castel Giorgio for necessary supplies, and a short drive to pretty medieval Orvietto, it was perfectly located. I want to live there.

I’m dreaming of Umbria and Italy now.  Don’t you wish you were there too?

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UPDATE

The “Little House” that adjoins the main farm house has been renovated since our stay last July (2012) – it wasn’t open / available when we were there. Together, the main house and little house sleeps 14 people. It’s so gorgeous, don’t you think? I’d love to sit on the balcony every sunset with a nice glass of something and contemplate the world. Sigh.

Little House_nc July 2013_ main bedroom towards terrace_ low res Little House_nc July 2013_ first floor terrace   pool form above_ low res Little House_nc July 2013 16_ kitchen from stairs_ low res Little House_ nc July 2013-1_front of houseFACT FILE

Lagoscello is located in Umbria, just over the Lazio border (1.5 hours drive from Rome).  Rates vary depending on the season and number of guests.  Visit www.laguscello.co.uk for more.

 

Tiramisu for Susie’s Birthday

Sister Susie preferred to go out on Thursday night, the night before her actual birthday for a celebration dinner.

Zorba and I had tried to book into L’Arco Del Cappuccini – allegedly one of the best restaurants in Taormina – without success.  So we booked into the restaurant next door, Tiramisui, where we had enjoyed a beautiful meal a couple of days before.

The whole family came out to dinner – Master Sam 3, Miss Indi 5, Susie, my bro in law Ben, Mum Gina, Dad Walter, and husband Zorba.

A grumpy niece with her pasta and tomato sauce

Dad with his hot mussels

We did what we always do when having dinner with the kids in Italy, order for them first.  Sam wanted pizza and Indi wanted her standard, pasta with tomato sauce.  Both kids did well and had very simply yet tasty dinners.

To be fair, the kids were really good going out to dinner most of the time and they were good this night for the first 90 minutes.  Then they got bored and fidgety.  That’s when the kid-rescuer gets fired up, the portable DVD player featuring this week’s favourite animated feature, Robin Hood.  Man, those kids must have watched Robin Hood 17 times in two weeks!

Zorba and I had talked up our lovely dinner at Tiramisu somewhat, so everyone’s expectations were high.  Nonetheless, we all had lovely antipasti and mains.  I opted for marinated scampi followed by fresh pasta with porcini mushrooms.  Both were beautiful, but the scampi was particularly light, fresh and delicate.  I didn’t want to share it because it was so good…but I did!

Marinated scampi

Zorba loved his starter of octopus cooked in balsamic.  His main of linguine with sea urchin was not to my liking – sea urchin has a very fishy seaweedy almost flavour to me, but Zorba loved it.

Ben opted for the traditional Sicilian pasta dish of tagliatelle norma – with eggplant and breadcrumbs, followed by a mixed seafood grill.

Mum’s bruschetta with eggplant was really delicious. For mains, she just had a plate of grilled vegetables and shared Dad’s pizza of grilled vegetables and balsamic (no cheese!).  Dad has hot mussels to start and he loved those!

Bruschetta with melanzane – eggplant

We were all feeling pretty full, however, it was Susie’s birthday dinner so when she slipped away to the ladies room, I asked the waiter if he had a piece of cake that he could bring out for her and passed him a packed of birthday candles.  The waiter recommended some tiramisu – I concurred. That sounded good!

When Susie returned to the table and started talking about finding a gelato for dessert, along came her birthday cake tiramisu – and wow – it was HUGE!  It fed all eight of us!

Happy Birthday Susie!

The tiramisu was so gorgeously light and unbelievably tasty. The tiramisu I make is also delicious, but it is a lot heavier than this one.  I could have kept eating that until I burst. It was gorgeous!

Nephew Sam even liked it!  I spoon fed it to him while he was on automatic pilot watching Robin Hood on the portable DVD player.  Watching Sam go through a caffeine high on the way home from the restaurant was something else. It was the kid was charged with super duper everready batteries. He kept running and jumping and running and jumping. This did not calm down when we got home either.  Running in the villa, jumping on couches, up and down stairs!  Not surprising really.  It took him about an hour to wind down and get to sleep.

It was a lovely family dinner out.  Happy Birthday Susie!

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FACT FILE

Tiramisu Restaurant
Via Cappuccini 1, Taormina
Tel: +39 (0)942 24803

 

 

Castelmola – another hard hike

Castelmola is a hilltop town 5km from Taormina, uphill the whole way.   Some crazy person suggested that it might be a good idea to walk there and have a look at the town (hint – Walter).

The plan was for Mum, Dad, Zorba and I to meet at 8.30am, walk 10 minutes from our villa to the funicular, catch the cable car up the hill to Taormina, have a decent coffee, walk to the Greek amphitheatre to check it out and then walk up to Castelmola.

So we left at 9am…a little later than we would have liked, but that’s life when on holidays.

Taormina itself is ancient and dates back to 3 BC.  The Greek amphitheatre is said to have been complete in 2 AD.  It cost 8 euro each to enter and it was worth it, quite impressive. The awesome views from the amphitheatre are worthy of the entry fee on their own.

The Greek Amphitheatre, Taormina

There were heaps of roadies at the amphitheatre setting up staging and lights for a series of concerts that are going to be held over the next few days.

The Greek Amphitheatre, Taormina

It would be a gorgeous setting for a concert – we were hoping to be able to see something there whilst in Taormina.  As it turned out, the music concert on that night was sold out, and the only other show during our time there were two Italian comedians. My Italian language skills can impress some that don’t speak a word of another language, but they are no where near good enough to understand the jokes of a couple of fast slang talking comedians.  Che peccata! What a shame!

From the amphitheatre, we went to the tourist information point in Taormina to enquire about the walk to Castelmola.  Dad asked the questions and I entered the conversation as the lady behind the counter was giving her answer.  “Yes, it’s just a 20-minute walk, up many steps, but slowly slowly, you will get there – just 20 minutes.”

That sounded pretty good to me.  Although, I learned later that the 20-minute walk was to the old ruined castle on top of another nearby hill that Walter was keen to check out, not Castelmola. Sigh.

I think I can, I think I can…

It’s safe to say that the five kilometre uphill (more like up-mountain) walk to Castelmola was difficult.  A never-ending staircase took us about half way up, and the steep road interspersed with steps, took us up the other half.  It was a blistering hot day – must have been close to 40 degrees – and whenever we found a spot of shade, we stopped to catch our breath.  I was coping, but finding it difficult, Zorba was a Greek mountain goat (yet again – see Hiking in Cinque Terre) trotting up and then waiting for us to catch up and Mum and Dad were both feeling the heat.

After a solid hour of uphill climbing and profuse sweating, we reached Castelmola.

So happy to have reached the top!

Yippeee!  W all felt the great sense of achievement of conquering the mountain!  And what a quaint cute little hilltop town it is.  Simply gorgeous!  The views go forever and ever over hills, over other towns, Taormina, and of course the blue Mediterranean Sea.  Che bella!

Castelmola is a tourist friendly town with tourism officers at the entrance of the town waiting to greet visitors. Walter asked them about the bus that goes back down the hill to Taormina and he was told that it leaves 15 minutes past every hour.  Great!

We walked through the agreeable little town, had a taste of the speciality of the town, Vino alla Mandorla – an almond wine that I thought it was quite nice. It was like a marzipan liqueur. Walter didn’t like it, but Zorba and I did.  We made a mental note to buy a bottle on our way out (which we conveniently forgot to do).

Looking down on the world from way up here

Mum and I were looking at the few shops that were in the town when we lost Zorba and Dad.  Hmm, I bet they have gone up to the top of the castle I say.  The last thing we felt like was climbing more stairs, but Gina and I soldiered on.  Once at the top, the view was lovely, just as lovely as from the town just below. The ruined wall that was once a castle isn’t worth mentioning (and I was too knackered to appreciate it), and Walter and Zorba were nowhere to be seen. Thank God there were a few trees up there providing some shade. It was really baking hot.  Back down to town, and down the stairs we trudged, step after step.

Back into Castelmola, we found the boys sitting in a bar at an outside table under a tree enjoying a large ice cold beer. Aaah, two more thanks!  Beautiful cold beer, a well deserved too.

Tuna steak cooked in Sicilian sauce of tomatoes, capers, and olives. Delicious!

For lunch we chose a restaurant called La Taverna dell’Etna for no particular reason except it looked good, was covered and protected from the baking sun, and had a nice view.  It proved to be a good choice as lunch was scrumptious!

Mum and I both had tuna steak cooked Sicilian style in a sauce with red onion, cherry tomatoes, olives and capers; simple yet delicious. I could eat that every day and not get sick of it.

The boys had scallopine con funghi – veal with mushrooms.  It too was very tasty, but I think Mum and I chose dish of the day.  All side salads were fresh and crunchy.  Absolutely delightful.

Veal with mushroom sauce

We rushed to leave because we wanted to catch the 2.15pm bus back to Taormina. We all agreed that the walk up was sufficient torture for the day and we wouldn’t be walking down.  My knees were whimpering at the mere thought of the steep descent!

Dad quickly paid the bill (thanks Dad!) and off we scurried, out of town, down the hill, down the stairs into the blazing sun to the bus stop.  Uh-o.  Un problemo.  The bus timetable at the bus stop stated that there was a bus at 13.15 and the next one at 15.15.  Bugger!!!  Even the buses have siestas!  Poo poo poo!  Zorba and I contemplated walking back down for about 20 seconds.  In the end, the decision to walk back up the hill into town, find a place to have a beer and wait for the next bus at 15.15 was a far more appealing option.

When we reached the entrance to the town of Castelmola, there was a lovely shiny taxi just waiting there, seemingly for us.  For 15 euro, he drove us 20 minutes down the steep windy road back to Taormina, however dropping us off at the other end of town, the far end.  Sigh.  Have I mentioned the stinking hot blazing sun already?  I felt my skin frying as we walked through town – thank the Lord for air-conditioned gelaterias.   Everyone enjoyed a gelati, except me, I had a coffee granita instead. The icy cold coffee was the perfect pick me up.

Oh hurry up and get me home!  What a mission to get home: A walk through Taormina looking at closed shop after closed shop, a walk down the hill to the funicular, a wait at the funicular, and then the never ending walk back to Villa Il Suk, our home for the week.

I collapsed on the bed for about 10 minutes, tired, hot, and a bit cranky then mustered up the energy to get changed into swimmers and jump into the Hollywood pool.  Aaaah, that’s what I needed!!

The Hollywood pool

 

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FACT FILE

La Taverna dell’Etna
Via A, De Gasperi, 29, Castelmola (ME)
Tel: +39 (0)942 28868

Tiramisu Restaurant and Pizzeria, Taormina

Our Sicilian landlady Antonia and the trusty Lonely Planet, both recommended Tiramisu restaurant in Toarmina so Zorba and I were keen to check it out. 

We arrived about 8:45pm for dinner and the waiter looked doubtful when we said we didn’t have a reservation.  Nonetheless, we were seated at a table for two near the stairs.  The setting was lovely and I immediately noticed that there were stacks of Italians in there and not that many tourists.  The area had tree-size leafy plants in large pots scattered around the restaurant, a partially covered terrace, fine cloth napery, and lovely big wine glasses.  Oh a little bit of posh I do like!

As Zorba and I had grazed with the family earlier at another restaurant that they went to with the kids (Indi 5 and Sam 3 years old), we weren’t totally famished.  We decided just to dive straight into mains.  The linguine alla scoglio with scampi, prawns, mussels and calamari (for two) sounded beautiful.  And it tasted beautiful too.  I love the way Italians can cook pasta properly – al dente.  The sauce was seafood delicate and the sauce had a lovely depth of flavour to it.  It was just so tasty!  Really, really good.

Linguine alla scoglio – delicious seafood linguine

We didn’t follow normal dining protocol and washed it down with a bottle of red rather than the text book white that is said to go with seafood, a Sicilian Nero D’Avola, which was also very good.

Well, the second bottle was good. The first bottle I ordered came to the table and it wasn’t the one I ordered. A Nero D’Avola it was, but it was from a different winery. When I quizzed the waiter about it as he was opening the bottle, he said that it was the same grape variety and that the other one I had chosen was finished.  Hmmm, I didn’t like that. He should have alerted that to me first before just going ahead to open the bottle, don’t you think?  I enquired about the price and he assured me it was the same, 16 euro per bottle.  Va bene.

The nice Nero D’Avola

When I tasted the wine however, it wasn’t nice. It was sharp, acidic, and didn’t taste like it could open up and be a lovely smooth easy drinking vino after some time airing. In fact, there was nothing at all pleasant about it.  I passed my taste remains to Zorba who concurred. I told the waiter that it wasn’t good and invited him to pour himself a taste in a clean glass to see for himself. He did just that and took the glass as far up as his nose and put it down again without tasting the wine.  He promptly apologised and brought another bottle – a Sicilian Nero D’Avola from a different winery.  A lovely one.  Hurrah!

Despite the wine mishap, the service was professional and efficient, the prices were reasonable, the setting was lovely, and our meal was delicious!

FACT FILE

Tiramisu Restaurant
Via Cappuccini 1, Taormina
Tel: +39 (0)942 24803

Trattoria Don Ciccio, Taormina

This gorgeous little trattoria off a side street from the main pedestrianised drag of Taormina has cute little balconies that step down to follow the gradient the of the sloped street.

It was 11pm when we sat down for dinner.  Yes, 11pm.  But after the huge day of travelling, the transfer from Catania airport to Taormina, the check in process that seemed to take forever, then the walk to the funicular up to Taormina, and then the lap of the hill top town we did before finally choosing a restaurant.  No wonder we were knackered!

Trattoria Don Ciccio did not disappoint us for our first dinner in Sicilia.  My feet were aching and it was a relief just to sit down.

I was delighted to see caponata on the menu – I’ll have one of those thanks!  Caponata is cooked a little like a ratatouille but has eggplant, pinenuts, raisins, and a agrodolce sauce – sweet and sour.  Zorba and I shared it as a starter and the memories the taste brings back makes it one of my most favourite Sicilian dishes.

Zorba wanted pasta for dinner because his favourite pasta con sarde (pasta with sardines) was on the menu.

It was a hard choice for me, in the end I chose a fresh pasta dish typical to the area, pasta campanelle with mussels, zucchini, and mint.  It was a combination I’ve never tried before, and one I want to try again and again.  The mint was fresh and it goes so well with zucchini.  The fresh pasta was made and cooked perfectly, absolutely delicious.  Buonissimo!

This was washed down with a very quaffable carafe of house red wine.

For dessert, we decided to wander down the street and have a gelato – this was around 12.30am. Surprisingly, some of the shops were still open and if I wanted a new pair of shoes post midnight, this wish could be accommodated in Taormina.  We stumbled in the door totally full and spent around 1.15am.  ‘Twas a really wonderful first night out in Sicilia.

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Pharmacy convenience Italian style

This is the first time I have seen a pharmacy vending machine. Quite a good idea really and I imagine it would be very convenient, especially in small towns where there are limited shopping hours.

Pharmacy vending machine

In this vending machine there were antiseptic wipes, pain killers (such as panadol equivalent), a pregnancy test (in case of an emergency?), condoms, sunblock, nappies, and toothbrushes just to name a few items.

Pretty cool!

 

Spello, pretty little Spello, Umbria

To quote my favourite guidebook in the universe, Lonely Planet, “Just when you think Umbrian towns can’t get any prettier, along comes Spello“.  And they were right.

This gorgeous little hilltop medieval town has cute lane ways filled with potted flowers, cobbled streets, ancient brick and stone houses, archways and endless vistas of rolling hills.  

The most impressive church we saw was St Andrea, dating back to the 12th Century it is just gorgeous inside with frescoes, great artwork and ornate statues.

In Spello there were many artists showing off their works in small galleries through out the little town.  Also in abundance were shops selling colourful traditional Italian ceramics and much to my delight, delis.  Mmm, how I love a good deli.

Exciting too, we saw a saint’s relic!  Yep, those creepy Catholics strike again. On display in a little ornante glass case was a bone from San Felice.  Yes, a bone. I’m not sure what sort of bone, maybe an arm?  Either way, it was creepy!  Praying to a bone must give certain Catholics a sense that someone is there? Or that their prayers will be answered because the bone of San Felice is listening? I’m not exactly sure, even though I’m a Catholic myself.

Saint’s relic: The bone of San Felice on display

In Australia, we have never had saints relics in our modern churches and it’s something that I find hard to understand. Nonetheless, I get excited every time I come across a relic because it is just sooo creepy!

After a very pleasant albeit uphill walk through the town centre to other side and back again, we ordered a panini and sat in the main square for a quick lunch.

Mum and Dad in Spello

The 1.5 hour drive to Spello, following the GPS was mostly without incident if you don’t count Walter saying to Zorba the driver every 10 minutes, “It’s 90 here,”  or, “There’s a speed camera coming up, I saw a sign.”

We did actually get pulled over by the carabiniere – the Italian police.  They asked for Zorba’s licence and once sighted said thank you and Arrivederci and waved us on.  It was probably too much paperwork to book an international driver.  More to the point, there was nothing Zorba was doing wrong to get booked in the first place!

On the way back, we made it home in an hour.  Not once did we get lost. Not once did we forget where we parked our car. The only thing that did happen was that a huge truck nearly crashed into us when coming around a corner.  I crapped myself – as did Mum and Dad, but Zorba kept his cool and drove on.  He drove well and did a good job.  A good move my him too to take the current speed off the GPS and also remove the voice prompts that say, “You are over the speed limit” when going 1km over.

Spello is very cute and it is easy to whittle way a couple of hours there, more if you have time for a leisurely lunch in one of the many trattorias or entotecas.  Highly recommend.

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FACT FILE

Spello is close to Assisi and Perugia in Umbria.
It took us about 1.5 hours to drive from our Umbrian palace, Laguscello (near Castel Giorgio and Orvieto).
There was plenty of parking just outside the city walls the day we visited.

Numero Uno restaurant in Orvieto, Umbria

I think everyone should experiencing eating in Italy in their life, even if just once. The Italians understand pleasure and they understand food – and more over, there is awesome produce readily available in which to create delectable delights.

Me with my favourite aperitivo, spritz con aperol

Last night, Zorba and I took Mum and Dad out to dinner. Susie and Ben just arrived back from their little romantic mini-break to Roma for one night and it was time to get the parentals out of the Umbrian palace and out to enjoy some of Italy’s gastronomic delights. A passagiata though Orvieto for about an hour, followed by an apertivo of my favourite Spritz con Aperol, was a wonderful way to start the evening. Orvieto is such a pretty, pretty  town.

We chose to dine at the number one restaurant on Trip Advisor for the area, aptly named Numero Uno.

The indoor restaurant looks like it could be in a cavern and Mum poetically described it as reminding her of Cooper Peedy in outback Australia. “We are in the middle of Italy, in a town that boasts a history of thousands of years, and this reminds you of Cooper Peedy?” I  ask.  “It’s the domed roof – they use a massive truck with a roller with teeth to dig out dirt to build underground houses…blah blah blah,” Dad chimed. I kind of stopped listening…

Back to restaurant Numero Uno.  The inside was like a cavern and could have once been horse stables.  There was some antique looking items on display and a big blackboard listing the day’s menu.  Note the prices.

We chose to try something different, mille foglie di melanzane, or eggplant sliced thinly and baked with a gratin top. Since this is usually made with cheese, we ordered two, one with cheese and one without for cheese-hating Walter.  We also had five different crostini – like a bruschetta – topped with mash broad beans, tomato, tomato and basil, truffle, and a vedura and lard.  Yes, lard. The lard in Italy is the tasty smokey lard usually found edging proscuito, and whilst it was once cheap, it is somewhat of a delicacy.  Our starters were ok but we all agreed is was average fare, no more than a 6 out of 10.

For mains, Dad and I both had the pork with peaches.  It had a gorgeous sauce and was really delicious, thick and peachy sweet.  It was really, really good. Mum and Zorba both went for the fish, bacala with gratin.  It was a big chunk of cod, beautifully moist and flakey.  It was delicious.  Both main meals get a 8 out of 10.

Us!

Dessert was heavenly. I’m not exactly sure of the name of what I ordered – it was tiramisu like in the there was a layer of soaked sponge in a glass between beautifully creamy sweet ricotta and white chocolate cream, topped with roasted slivered almonds.  OMG. I was in dessert heaven.

Zorba ordered the tiramisu, something we never usually do because the tiramisu I make is so good that ordering it out more often than not leads to bitter disappointment. But not at Numero Uno. Their tiramisui was amazing. Truly delicious. Ten of ten for desserts!

Our gorgeous waitress Diana (great name!), served us efficiently and in a friendly welcoming manner.  Chef Angelo came out and chatted to us at the end of the night which was a lovely touch. Chefs don’t do that enough these days.

The house red at 12 Euro per bottle was from Umbria and perfectly quaffable with dinner. We went through 1.5 bottles and took the rest home with us.

It was a great night.  And we remembered where we parked in Orvieto this time and had no dramas getting home.  A big shout out to Zorba for doing all the driving x

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FACT FILE

Osteria Numero Uno
Via Ripa Corsica, 2/a, 05018 Orvieto, Italy
Tel: +39 0763 341845
Email:  info@osterianumerouno.eu
Closed on Monday

 

Italian supermarkets

Oh how I LOVE Italian supermarkets!  Most of them (not all mind you), have the most fantastic produce, delis, and butchers.

Fresh produce in the Umbrian supermarket

Supermarket shopping when I travel is something I love to do. It gives a real insight into the sorts of foods people eat, what is cheap, what is expensive, and what is readily available. For example, when we shopped for our stay at our Umbrian Palace, Laguscello (near Orvieto), two-minute noodles where nowhere to be found.  And I think this is a good thing.

The variety of tomatoes available in the supermarket is enough to make me want to live here, and the price of them is enough to get Walter excited about being here!  I’ve seen tomatoes from Euro 0.99 cents per kilo and the most expensive I’ve seen have been Euro 2.60 per kilo.

A 1.5 litre bottle of natural mineral water at Eurospar, one of the bigger supermarkets in the area costs Euro 0.15.  That’s about A$0.18!!  18 cents!  We pay ten times that in Australian supermarkets!  We are getting totally ripped off!

My contribution to dinner, Caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella bought from the supermarket – OMG yum!

Proscuito crudo (parma ham) cost Euro 7.00 per kilo.  In Australia, we pay a minimum of A$40.00 per kilo for the locally produced proscuito. Imported proscuito costs A$65 per kilo and more.  It’s hard to believe.  And people think Europe is expensive….

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Two cappuccini and a plain croissant cost Euro 2.60 or A$3.12.  And to think in Australia we pay more than that just for one cappuccino!

Eating out is also so much cheaper than Perth.  Last night for example, Zorba and I had an amazing three-course meal with house red wine for Euro 50, or A$60.  In Perth, it would have cost twice that without a doubt.

It may be expensive to travel to Italy, but once you are here, it’s cheap.

The only thing that isn’t cheap is firewood.  Two sacks of firewood cost Euro 25!  That is heaps!  Still, to be able to make our own pizza dough and cook them in our own wood-fired oven is going to be fantastic.  Can’t wait til we do that tomorrow night!

 

 

Assisi, Umbria

A reluctant brother-in-law Ben conceded to a majority ruling of visiting Assisi, the Umbrian town made famous by it’s patron saint, St Francis of Assisi.  Ben was reluctant because Assist is a 1.5 hour drive from our Umbrian palace Lagoscello and he is the father of our two youngest travellers Miss 5, Indi, and Master 3, Sam.

Nonetheless, we packed ourselves into our two C-class Mercedes, programmed the GPS, and set off for an exciting day out discovering a new city.

It was supposed to be a 1.5 hour drive and it probably was if you went directly there. However, as I have described in recent posts, we have inadvertently turned into the Griswalds and kept missing roads, having to do u-turns.  Sigh.

On our way though, we did zoom past the place that sells firewood, Baldini – a place we have been looking for since we arrived so we could use the old fashioned wood-fired pizza oven at our Umbrian palace.  But alas, traffic was heavy, Zorba was driving too fast and it was just impossible to stop. Everyone chimed let’s stop there on the way home. I was skeptical – we haven’t had the best track record of finding places (despite a GPS and directions)…

On we travel, onto Assisi.  It took us under two hours, not bad going for Bortoletto / Kings /  Griswalds really.  All six adults took photos and made mental notes of where we parked the car, not wanting to repeat the fiasco of Orvieto. Once again, today was shaping up to be another hot one and it was already starting to heat up even though we were in Assisi by 10.30am.

Assisi seemed lovely, albeit pretty busy. Tourists everywhere! Cars were edging their way up crowded streets, forcing us to duck into shop doors, between parked cars and the like.  It was distracting and I have to admit, especially with two young ones with us. I much preferred walking around Orvieto and Bolsena with their calm pedestrianised streets.

We decided to walk directly to the main attraction, the cathedral of St Francis of Assisi, a world heritage site, while the children were coping ok. We were nearly there when the kids were starting to fade.  A closed restaurant had its tables and chairs out the front and Ben opted to stay with the kids whilst they had a snack from their lunch box while the rest of us went into the Cathedral to check it out.

St Francis of Assisi was completed in 1253, and a really beautiful cathedral inside. From the outside it was a large impressive structure, but doesn’t have nearly as much of the ornate decorations that the Duomo in Orvieto has.  We went down stairs to see the tomb of St Francesco.  The whole cathedral was impressive and three levels. I don’t think I’ve ever been into a multi-level church before, besides crypts below the main church.

There were loads of monks and nuns in Assisi – no surprise really, after all, it attracts pilgrims from all over the world.

Conscious of Ben with the kids up the hill, we ventured back.  We decided to find a place to sit and have lunch.  Susie chose the first place we came across that had tables outside. An ordinary looking bar that had a gelati and very sad looking panini in the window.  No way was I going to eat any of those. Susie had one and said it was disgusting. I wasn’t surprised!

Gelati were bought for the kids, and that’s right about when Sam cracked it.  His major hissy fit over I don’t know what, made Susie invent a naughty corner in the cafe and Sam was sent promptly there.

Zorba was already checking out other places to buy some lunch, so I tip toed out of the Sam war zone to see what he had found.  Right across the road was an organic cafe that only sold gluten free piadini – a flat bread.  They looked nice enough and the man behind the counter was happy to deviate from his menu to make us our favourite combination; proscuito crudo, fresh mozzarella, and tomato.  They were delicious! Mum and Dad followed us in and had a different yet just as yummy combo.  Zorba said it was the best piadini he has ever had.

By that stage, Sam’s hissy fit has dropped a couple of notches and Susie and Ben decided to start the trek home and said their good-byes.  But, they didn’t go straight to the car. Instead, they stopped at a shoe shop. When I followed them in, Indi was already trying on a pretty pair of pink sandals.  In her own words,  “These sandals are excellent and very comfy!”  Susie bought Indi’s first pair of Birkenstocks.

After that, they went straight to the car.  Mum, Dad, Zorba and I wandered around a little more, had a gelato, and found the car on our second attempt (hurrah!) and went back to our villa.   Of course, we had to stop at the supermarket and butcher to buy some supplies for dinner.  It was 4.20pm and nothing was open.  I bet they opened at 5pm, so we didn’t have to try hard to convince Walter to have a beer and wait til they opened.

We had the afternoon to relax by the pool, cool off from the heat.  Our dinner of local delicious salami sausages – yes, they were a mix of salami and sausages and absolutely beautiful, especially cooked on the coal BBQ.  We again had veal scallopine steaks cooked some sage from the herb garden, some buffalo mozzarella with tomato and basil, a delicious garden salad and yummy crusty bread.  Man, it was a meal for champions!

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Another great day, thank you Umbria.