Monday, June 8, 2015


Last year we went to Deruta to buy plates, something we have wanted to do for a long time since James and I are both smitten with hand painted Italian ceramics. The town of Deruta is not terribly distant from Panicale and a drive through the landscape of Umbria is reason enough to make the journey.

We often visit Orvieto a remarkable town built high on tufa. Orvieto boasts of one of Italy's finest cathedrals with a chapel painted by Luca Signorelli that is spectacular and daunting in it's apoctolyptic imagery.


Our plan on this day was to bypass Orvieto and head to Todi, a city that sits above the Tiber in an area of Umbria we had yet to visit.

The Piazza del Popolo, we are told, has been the setting for several movies. I cannot verify that bit of trivia, but the piazza  is uniquely  beautiful, and yes, the sky truly was that blue.

 Sempre salire, in Italy there are  always steps to climb, here they lead up to the Duomo. The Duomo is simple in comparison to many churches we have seen, but the beauty lies in the geometry of the architecture and details like those of the columns. As is often the case, this gothic church is built over the remains of an ancient Roman temple.

First, the Etruscans built a wall around the place we know as Todi, then came the Romans who with their masonry skills also built a wall and if that was not enough protection from invaders there is the most recent Medieval wall.
It was a rather hot day, so after walking around and up and down we needed something to eat, and besides we were hoping to get in to the 7th Century Church of San Fortunato. There is a fresco by Panicale home boy, Masolino di Panicale that we wanted to see.

We did find an enoteca right beside the church, alongside the steps, where we could have some lunch as we waited for the church doors to open. The lovely, shady spot is called Vineria San Fortunato.  A board of local cheese and salumi was perfect served with a local  chilled white wine. James saw something on the menu he could not resist trying, fried rabbit.
When it was brought to our table James said to the server,"Come (like) Kentucky Fried Chicken!"
She replied, "K.F.C., si!"

Well, the church never did open, there is always next time.


On our last visit to Deruta we purchased four dinner plates and four pasta bowls, but that is a problem when there are six people for dinner so to remedy that we bought two more of each.
So now.....what if there are eight for dinner? We will consider that another time.

There are several ceramic / maiolica makers in Deruta with our first stop at Sberna where we purchased our dinner ware.
I coveted this soup tureen, and if I bought it I would be making soup all of the time just to have it out on the table, but I left it there on the shop shelf for now.

Across the street there was another shop that we wanted to visit.....

Ubaldo Grazia Maioliche

After looking through the shop and resisting a serving bowl and platter, we began talking to one of the woman that works here. During our conversation we mentioned that we were artists as we commented on the quality of the painting on the majoliche.....we were led upstairs to the workshop.

This is work for someone with a good brush held by a very steady hand.

All of the pieces are first glazed white with the design the 'pounced' on with tiny dots.

James was interested in the application of the color and as he found out the colors change during the firing so the artist must understand the color being painted on is not necessarily the color when it come s from the kiln. We were delighted to be invited into the workshop to see this traditional art of hand painted ceramics being continued.

This shop also produces a line of contemporary designs. I believe that James could create a unique pattern using the fruits and flowers of his still life paintings.

The antique pieces at this shop are exceptionally interesting and they have a good collection with some of the shapes and designs still made in this workshop. This  family workshop has been producing majoliche  in Deruta since 1500. The terra-cotta clay that is used used is from Umbria and the formulas for the glazes have been passed down through generations of potters and painters.

Clouds are rolling in over Umbria for a late afternoon rain, maybe a few thunder storms at the end of a clear, hot and perfectly ideal day here in Italy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

ANDIAMO IN GIRO A PANICALE.............A Morning Walk

Morning walks usually entail going around the outside of the walls of Panicale.

The medieval town of Panicale is built high on a hill overlooking the Umbrian plain and Lago Trasimeno. So, as you can see, this walk is very scenic. 

The hill on this side of town is steep making for a strategic site in earlier days, Now , it is just  vantage point to view in the distance, Cortona to the north and Montepulciano to the west.

The land here is fertile due to the lake and crops of cereal ( wheat), fave, grapes etc. create a visual display of an array of greens, all looking soft. The distant lake is covered in mist while in the middle ground a farmer is burning, they are always burning.....something, most likely remains from pruning grapes or olives.

A look to the right and there is the balcony of Masolino's restaurant. Panicale is especially lovely this spring all dressed up in pots flowers....geraniums, petunias and begonias.

This is Piazza Marguerita just outside one of the two portals through the walls into town. I have read that there was once a drawbridge here that spanned a moat on this side of town. A moat! I am always amazed at these palm trees  growing in from of the Lace Museum.

Olive trees grow neatly all over the hill sides here in Umbria, they are part of the unique landscape that is so important to the economy and beauty of this place.

Along the road from Panicle to Missiano these roses are a good foreground for Panicle, whit's tall campanile not far in the distance. There are roses everywhere this time of year.....I am not kidding, this place is full of rose right now!

A lone rose but perfect!

The morning light is warm and brilliant on this day, as it often is. Can you imagine the sunsets from the town? Believe me, they are breathtaking, especially with a glass of Prosecco as the sun dips down behind the hills.

This is up by the church of Saint Sebastian where there is a fresco by Perugino.
A must visit every time we are here.
But now, I have met James, he has been out on his walk which is longer than mine . We always meet up somewhere along the route around the outside of the walls. 

But now, all we really want is to have cappuccino at Bar Gallo,  just inside the walls of Panicale.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

AND NOW LUNCH................{Tuscany}

Following our  morning
cooking class at Il Falconiere (last post), James and I were treated to lunch on the terrace.
It began, as many Italian meals do with a sparkling wine. Our glasses were filled with a light and bubbly sparkling  Brut Rose from the Baracchi family vineyard.

The meal were to have for Pranzo ( lunch) was the food we prepared earlier during our class, all plated and pretty. Stuffed Zucchini flowers in a green sauce was antipasti.
Again, an estate wine was served to accompany this dish

The first course or Primi featured the pic pasta we have worked so hard to get right. We plan to continue to practice this when we get home. The sauce is of fresh cherry tomatoes with herbs and garlic and fave beans , since they were in season.
This course was served with, as I recall,  Baracchi Smeriglio Sangiovese.

Tell me this does not look completely elegant!

With  fanfare the covers were lifted to reveal our Secondi ( main course )!
Pork  with an black olive filling all wrapped lardo, with a lovely sauce.
We had a great experience in the kitchen with Chef Richard Titi, but I must say this lunch event would be hard to match!
This wine that was poured with this meat course  was another fine , rich Tuscan red from the family's vineyard.

Alas.....the final course......dolci, served with Vin Santo, one of finest we have tasted.

Such a lunch like this only happens in Italy. We have learned not to rush, but to sit and savor each bite of food along with the flavors of the wines. Here the setting in the Tuscany countryside is breathtaking....why hurry, let time pass, for what could be better than this?

This path through the grounds at Il Falconiere, where cypress, rosemary, lavender and roses grow with grace and harmony.

James during lunch as we are visited by owner Chef Silvia Baracchi.

 And before I forget...The falcon.......thus the name....Il Falconiere.

After all the food and wine it is time for a nap and dream, as if this whole thing isn't dream enough.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


A cooking lesson in Tuscany, maybe not an original idea, but, certainly something I thought James would love, an ideal Birthday gift for him. But where?  I did some research and came up with
Il Falconiere in Cortona. On a clear day we can see Cortona (Tuscany)  from here in Panicale, built on the mountainside beyond Lago Trasimeno.
Il Falconiere is a one star michelin restaurant along with being a lovely wine estate and hotel, so as part of his gift a night over seemed ideal. I knew that wine would be involved in our lunch and who wants to or should drive after that.
I also took the class, since with 2 we could have a 'private master class' good is that!

Our teacher was one of the two head chefs at Il Falconiere, Chef Richard Titi.
After some chatting and showing us around the kitchen we got right to work.
No, first, wash hands, then we are presented with our aprons.
Let's get started.

We were to make four courses in three hours.
First in the order was biscotti, get that made and put in the oven for first baking.
Next up, pasta. We were both hoping we would have a chance to make pasta in Italy and now here it was. The pasta we made is called pici, a typical fresh pasta of Tuscany. The only ingredients are flour  ( single zero flour), water and salt.

Pici is like a thick hand rolled spaghetti. Chef Richard was  very patient and worked with us until we were able to roll it out the pasta strands just thin enough.

The pici waiting to be cooked .

A sauce of fresh cherry tomatoes and herbs, from just outside the kitchen door was made for the pici. In the meantime....the biscotti came out of the oven to cool. 

James readies for a taste of the pici in the tomato sauce. It always stuns me how a few fresh ingredients can taste so heavenly.

Ingredients for stuffed zucchini flowers are assembled on the work table.
Again, everything is fresh and local.

More conversation about food and the recipes we were making.....all in Italian, as we requested.

Then, we were each poured a glass of wine, Baracchi wine from the Il Falconiere estate.
A taste, then it was back to the zucchini flowers. The ricotta on the table is farm fresh made from sheep's milk, very typical here in Tuscany and Umbria, and the basis for the filling along with herbs and other ingredients......I can't give away all the secrets!.

You are going a good job there , James!
The word to 'stir' or mix in Italian is 'mescolare".
This class is a real hands on experience....and hard work!

We filled the flowers and prepared them for baking, a drizzle of real good olive oil before they go into the oven.

A sauce, or pesto is made from herbs, a few other ingredients and of course, the Baracchi estate olive oil.

A pesto type green sauce is made to accompany the zucchini flowers, made from herbs, etc. and of course, the olive oil.

A drum roll, please.......the plated stuffed zucchini flowers....which we also sampled.
 Simply divine!

In the meantime.... the biscotti were sliced and returned to the oven for a second baking.
Now, the main course , or secondi  as it is referred to in Italy.  The meat ( pork) is stuffed and wrapped and held together with a spring of bay, then sautĂ©ed.......the other secrets i will not tell, you have to go take the cooking class for yourselves!

The meat is all prepared and while it is cooking the zucchini flowers are baked.

 The kitchen at the end of the class.

James and Chef Titi when all the work is complete. Thanks Chef for not only your cooking skills but your teaching skills as well.

It was hard work, as I said, but fun and we learned new things. What could be better. And see, I am here in the kitchen too, stirring, making pasta and stuffing zucchini flowers between photo taking.

Pranzo.  There is lunch to follow? How about all the sampling we did during the lesson?
Aprons off, we go back to our room and freshen up. A table on the restaurant terrace will be waiting for us at 1:30..................lunch, Il Falconiere style.

See you at lunch................................!