Thursday, April 18, 2019

MONTEFALCO ......Art and Lunch

It is easy to understand why Montefalco is referred to as 'Umbria's Balcony', a hill town
 that looks out over the flat plain below.
The five gates of the town each open to a street that takes you to the
centre of town, rather like the arms of a star,  to
the main piazza at the highest point of Montefalco.

We  had friends visiting and Montefalco was a perfect day trip. We
entered through the portal that opened on to the Corso Mameli where the
first stop was to shop for linens at Pardi. Linen and cotton textiles are famous
in this area of Umbria, and the Pardi family has it's looms here.
( I must say that there is a small shop in Panicale that  also carries Pardi

Walking up to town we make a few stops along the way after shopping
for a  textiles. James is here to buy a skin product called 'Oro di Spello'.
He finds the shop along this street. Outside people are going along with their daily routines.
We stop at a bar for coffee. We notice that we are the only 'English speakers', although we
always do our best to speak Italian. When tourists visit this area of Umbria
they go directly to Assisi and miss the smaller towns of Spello, Bevagna and

Montefalco is tranquil, but it has not always been this way. In 1249 the town
was sacked by Frederick II, and in 1527 sacked again by the troops
of Orazio Baglioni. It is said that those who survived Baglioni were later
 succumbed by the Plague .
Each time, the town was rebuilt, and today we see a thriving and lovely
hill town that is particular to Umbria.


In 1450 the Florentine artist, Benozzo Gozzoli was called to Montefalco
to paint what would be his first large scale independent commission at
the church of San Francesco.
Gozzoli had been a student and assistant of Fra Angelico and during that time
he worked beside Fra Angelico in painting the frescos in the cells at  monastery of San Marco
in Florence. Gozzoli credits his skill at fresco painting from the teaching of Frcreda Angelico.
While in Florence, Gozzoli also had the opportunity to work with
Lorenzo Ghiberti on the Gates Of Paradise on the door to the Baptistry. He
credits Ghiberti with passing on to him the art of the narrative.

So, here is Benozzo Gozzoli in Montefalco to tell the story of the life of St. Francis of Assisi.

Saint Francis was born into a wealthy family, he decides he must give that
up for a simple life property and devotion. Gozzoli tells us this story in beautifully depicted


At the back of the church is a fresco by Umbrian painter,
Pietro Perugino.
Perugino was born in Città della Pieve, although his parents were from Panicale.

Note the Umbrian landscape Perugino has painted behind the Nativity.
In the distance is Lake Trasimeno with the mountains at its shore.

Perugino's landscape inspired James to use a similar view of
Lake Trasimeno in his painting of tulips that he has just started.

A week or so later, more tulips with an Umbrian landscape washed in, soon to be

Still Life with Tulips, Lake Trasimeno ( in- progress)
James Aponovich
oil on canvas, 14" x 14"


Usually when we come to Montefalco we have lunch in the
piazza at L'Alchemista, but it was
Tuesday, so guess what...they are closed on Tuesdays.

So, James asked a couple of men walking by and they suggested Olevm.
This is a small, family run trattoria on the Corso Mameli.
I did not take any pictures of our lunch, but the food was superb and presented beautifully.
The pear and pecorino salad was outstanding with mandolin cut pears and rolled
into cornucopia shapes  stacked into a spiral with shaved pecorino. The pasta with carciofi was simple
yet exquisite.
We we brought a plate of toasted bread with the families own olive oil
which Daniela , one of the owners, served with great pride.

Although Montefalco is known for it's Sagrantino wine, at lunch we had
house white wine....vino della casa, bianco.
James purchased a Sagrantino Passito before we left town, a
'contemplative wine' meant for sipping after a meal.

Daniela's olive oil is exceptional.

A nice touch, Still Life with Fruit and Poppies!

A  decorative detail from the fresco by Pietro Perugino.

Montefalco is a town not to be missed!

For more on this visit to Montefalco go to a new blog post
by James at 

Thursday, November 1, 2018


Last weekend was the Pan Olio Festival, the Olive Oil festival, in Panicale. 
Saturday was beautiful which prompted James and I to go out for lunch.
We walked to the piazza and decided to eat at Osteria Il Gallo Nel Pozzo.
Which was once an apartment and the first place we stayed in Panicale.


They have a creative take on traditional Italian recipes, like this interesting twist on
Veal in Tuna Sauce.....or in this case thin slices of veal with a mousse of smoked fish  and capers
from Lake Trasimeno, finished with capers, caper leaves and apple.
As pleasing to the palette as it was to the eye!


James ordered 'Ravioli Carbonara',
a deconstructed version of the classic Roman dish Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Inside each ravioli was
a fully cooked egg yolk surrounded by a sauce made of Pecorino Cheese, then
sprinkled with crispy bits of guanciale.
 James said, "I could have had another plateful, but sometimes, less is really more."( or at least enough).

 Since I knew we were having a pasta at dinner, I ordered the Gnudi, a type
of dumpling made of
sheep ricotta  and spinach with tomato sauce and crispy onions on top.


Dessert is not to be overlooked here. I love semifreddo, so when I saw it on the menu
I had to have it! Chocolate chestnut , passionfruit, each drizzled with a salted caramel sauce.
It nearly brought me to tears.

The creme brûlée that James ordered came in a rich shortbread crust upon which the
ubiquitous Frutta di Bosco was spread in a thin layer under the silky smooth
creme brûlée  with it shatteringly crisp crust.
Can I have another one?

The owners, Simone and Lorena, who is also the chef,
along with Giada who is part of the crew.




As we ate our lunch we noticed cases of wine and olive oil
being wheeled into the piazza for the festival.
After lunch we walked over to a table where a man, who is an artist
and musician, had set up a table. He offered us a piece of 'fish', which turned
out to be  Sicilian marzipan, almond paste. Then he showed us his book on Lake Trasimeno.
We bought one. It is all in Italian, so it will take some time to read it, but, we will try.

Monday, October 29, 2018

PAN OLIO ( Panicale)


Festivals to celebrate The Harvest are, and always have been, common
in Italy. After all, a good harvest is never taken for granted.

After a couple of disappointing years, this year's harvest, raccolto, is a 
very good one. Smiles are as abundant as olives.


Olive oil producers, wine makers, and just about anybody who is local and 
makes something delicious converge on Panicale to offer samples (and hopefully sell) 
their wares.

 The new olive oil  drizzled on bread. for a taste.

Despite some challenging weather we set out to explore some of the Cantinas.....
Our friend, Laurie, encouraged us to stop at Cantina 6 and sample the Cherry Dessert Wine. It was
very good, along with the cherry biscotti and cherry grappa! Of course, we did not walk
away empty handed!

This woman is selling local saffron. Along with the small jars of saffron,
she also has products that she has made using saffron.

Saffron.....'zafferano '

Just about every nook in town is occupied. With our tickets 
came two pouches, each equipped with a wine glass
 for tastings, and a map, with so much wine to sample we will need
it to find our way back home !

In this Cantina there was cheese, capicola, salami's  and wine to sample.
James bought some capicola.

Local honey

More wine and oil...... This years olive oil is extraordinary in taste and color.

Here is a still life with our harvest from the vendors!

Buona  giornata!

Friday, October 26, 2018



We watch the lake in constant flux. We watch as billowing clouds fill the sky. We watch
storms and lightening over the lake. The water is sometimes green, other times blue
and sometimes the shadows  overhead clouds are cast upon its water in a myriad
of patterns.

Castiglione del Lago

The Heartfelts are here in Panicale and lent us their map of Lago Trasimeno.
They have been busy touring around the lake and boating out
to the islands to explore. Yello Hoodie Boy likes visiting the castle up in
Castiglione del Lago


La Campannina

After all that walking we began to think about lunch and instead
of going back home we decided to find someplace to eat by the lake.
We walked past a Gelateria, but we thought it better to have something other
than gelato for lunch, walked on and the next place was closed. Then
we found a place with cars parked it seemed open and it was....a  pizzeria .

People that were already seated were eating pizza!
We both ordered pizza. James asked for the red pizza with anchovies
capers  and bufalo mozzarella. I ordered a white pizza, quattro formaggio.
Most  true pizzerias, so we are told, only serve pizza in the evening when the
wood ovens are, we didn't  know what to expect , but , then again, we
just wanted a bite to by the lake.

We were surprised at how crispy and thin the crust was and
on the red pizza the tomato sauce was flavorful.

The white pizza also had the same thin crispy crust and just the
right amount of cheese topping.

We had a half litre of house wine and a bottle of water, and
a view of the lake.
All good if you are craving a lunchtime pizza!

' Abbiamo finito!'

James said, "Siamo finito" .......we are finished!
The waitress gave us an on the spot Italian lesson. She said.."you
are not dead! "
Then she told  us the more correct thing to say is, "Abbiamo Finito!"....we have finished!

Then, as we left, he said to the waitress...
"Abbiamo mangiato molto bene, grazie!"

We both enjoy these type of Italian lessons!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


The Olive harvest in underway in Umbria. The trees are full of olives
that soon will be the world's finest olive oil.

The olives are harvest by hand using a variety of  simple tools that gently rake the olives from the branches and into the large nets that cover the ground under the trees.


Intervallo per pranzo

Tools are put down and ladders descended. Everyone heads up to the lunch table.

James opens the wine. The food is brought out and introductions are made.
Elida and Gunter are fabulous hosts and you can be certain
of a great meal here, meeting up with old friends and always meeting interesting new people.

The food is arranged on a table in the shade of an olive tree.

From Elida's garden.

Elida makes what could be the best bread in all of Italy, and today we have
the chance to sample this season's olive oil drizzled......or soaked, whatever your pleasure,
on a slice of her bread. The olive oil we were pouring was 2 days old and beautiful in color.
Heavenly feast.

  A two hour lunch, among the olive trees, short by Italian standards, but, after all it
was a working lunch, we headed back to the car.
Along the way these cheerful Cosmos caught my eye as well as this
view of Panicale.


Can't forget to include a picture of Mokie. He  greeted us when we arrived,
and was part of the festivities.

Thanks Elida and Gunter!
The olive oil is superb and you two are delightful!