Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sunday Lunch and Garden Visit in Umbria





It was a hot spring day in Umbria but in the shade of the stone walled porch of the villa at the house of our hostess Daniela it was very comfortable. James and I had a invitation, along with our friends Elida and Gunter, for Sunday lunch and a garden tour at
the home of Daniela Fe d'Ostiani, a renowned gardener and rosarian.


We were greeted by Daniela and followed her along a path to a garden in the shade of her villa and a few large trees where bottles of chilled process were uncorked. As we have discovered , and happily so, many Italian festas begin with glasses of prosecco and exchanges of "Salute"!
Sunday lunch is Italy is a big deal. Daniela had prepared a feast that began with a pasta course of asparagus lasagna followed by a roast pork with a side of incredibly good beans from her garden. The next course was  a salad of greens and vegetables from the garden. She had been up early harvesting in order to present such a delicious meal. Elida brought a creme caramel for dessert that was a sweet  treat and perfect ending to lunch...oh, and I cannot forget the cookies, an American favorite, chocolate chip cookies! And throughout the meal a local wine was served.

A couple of hours had passed with a great lunch and conversations in both English and Italian between the eleven of us at the table.

Time for the tour of the garden..........


Daniela is a powerhouse, full of wild energy! She is a rosarian and a plant collector and her garden is not like the typical Italian garden most of us imagine. her garden is like her personality, a little wild, energetic and lovely all wrapped into one. Pushing the garden envelope!




The garden is sited on a hillside in Casalini ( outside of Panicale) with views of Lake Trasimeno.
The views of the lake are revealed in a few of the gardens, other gardens are reached by paths in near jungle like setting with roses stretching and climbing into tree tops!


The textures are of great importance here and are stunning.




This apricot rose spiraled its way up through this tree, using the tree as a trellis showing off it's buds and flowers proudly. It is with great abandon that these roses grow, not at all formal in design.





The selection of foliage is remarkable with surprises around every corner. A gate leads into a garden of dahlias ( not in bloom) and another path takes us to a vegetable garden, where much of our lunch was grown.

There is one 'garden room' that is defined by a hedge, making it more formal in feel. The backdrop is a view of Lake Trasimeno and Isola Polvese.




The trees frame the view of Isola Polvese.






There is much to see here, but it is the roses that I was so interested in.  There are roses everywhere, never in a straight neat row, you must look for them and stay close to Daniela so she can point them out. She knows each and every rose in her garden.




This rose is a beauty.....well, I guess it is fair to say they all are.
A very good Sunday.
Grazie Mille Daniela!
( and Elida & Gunter for the introduction)





Wednesday, July 15, 2015

THE LINGERING PERFUME OF ROSES






I no longer have a rose garden. How romantic I thought, roses filling vases and scenting the air of the house all summer. A dream of having a garden filled with Gallica roses, English roses, Heirloom roses and rose that would climb to the top of the trellis with their blossoms cascading over, just waiting to be noticed.



It was pure joy for me, and an enormous amount of work, mostly for James, digging the garden beds out of the hard pack and clay in order to bring in real soil and compost all by hand, a shovel, a pick axe and wheelbarrow. It was nothing short of heroic, but by summer's end James had made a garden possible in an area that had once been a driveway.








 We researched and found specialty rose growers in New Hampshire and Maine where we traveled to purchase roses with names like, 'Great Maiden's Blush', 'Apothecary's Rose' and 'Rosa Mundi'.
Discovering the roses was an adventure that was an added pleasure to the creation of this circular formal garden. As it matured the fragrance and beauty especially in June was  all I ever imagined.




Roses were cut and filled vases, sometimes solo other times mixed with perennials from the border garden. James painted the roses. Rosa Mundi was a favorite of his, both because of it's striking color and the story behind the name having to do with King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry's mistress Fair Rosamund and her demise by Eleanor, poison it is thought.
Roses are the subjects of artists and poets with their  stories told of beauty and thorny darkness. Roses are a  sonnet written by the hand of Shakespeare.




In late May and through June the garden and house were full of roses. I dried the fragrant petals that lightly perfumed closets and drawers and filled small bowls on bedroom nightstands.
But, by the Fourth of July things began to change in the garden. Morning walks were no longer with a cup of coffee in hand, but with a can filled with soapy water.
The Japanese Beetles had arrived.




It took about a decade of the waging the battle of the beetle, but the beetle eventually won.
It was too heartbreaking to watch them chomp away at the lovely young beautiful buds. The clusters of nightmarish gluttons were impossible to keep up with and the only alternative was to use poisons to kill the nasty invaders....but it would also kill the bees.

It was time to bid farewell to the roses. It was a difficult goodbye for me.
That fall we spend removing roses. In the spring the soil was replenished and boxwood were planted at the edge of the beds along with herbs.
The new garden worked and since we love to cook the herbs made sacrificing roses a little easier.The lavender for fragrance and all the culinary herbs for the kitchen.
And, no Japanese Beetles!

We have since moved, yet.....

 I will always remember those early summer morning walks in the garden and the lingering perfume of the roses.







An Invitation to a garden in Umbria.....the gardener's passion....roses.
Our visit there coming up!









Monday, June 8, 2015

TODI TO DERUTA (Umbria)



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.



TODI

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 TO DERUTA



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.