Marketing, Italian Style

CITTA’ DELLA PIEVE, Umbria– Aren’t Saturdays grand? No work and all that. What a great concept. Wait just a minute we’re on vacation. Everyday is Saturday on vacation. Even better concept.

Lets make a list of what we want to do today: Get up late. Check. Go for leisurely coffee with friends in the piazza. Check. Decide on spur of the moment to go to Citta’ della Pieve for market day.
citta della pieve market

And, thats enough list making for one vacation, we’re in the car and headed down the hill. Its only what? maybe 20 minutes from our house in Panicale so we’ve been to Citta’ della Pieve, lower left of map, a few times and eaten at Piccolo Eatin’ (ok, purists may spell the restaurant: Piccolo Eden) and rented cars from Signore Giorgi at his gas station there. Things like that. But we’ve never just, you know, what IS the Italian word I’m looking for? Hung out. That’s it. We’ve never done that there. Shirt sleeve weather surprising everyone here in late fall, we’re able to stroll from shop to shop up to the city center where the market stalls are set up displaying hardware next to x-rated undie sets, costume jewelry next to collandars and everything in between. All the non necessities of life. Half an hour later we have bags and I can hardly think what is in them. Fuzzy, flowered purses and neon stripped socks figured in there somewhere.


Tried, at 11:30, to get a porchetta pannini. I know they probably are not like health food. But can you smell that? The stand is right there, the guy in the white paper hat and apron is there behind the glass counter, but the pig is gone. Oh poop. So, we trudged down the street, heads hung as low as sunflowers in a winter field. That rejection pushed us into a pasticcieria for a paninni and mineral water break. Ohhhh Shiny objects, sparkly candies, fruit tortes, Sacher (Looks like a big old loaf of dry Tuscan bread but inside it is a super moist and creamy, fruity kind of cake. When the guy behind the counter said it, it sounded like how we’d say “soccer”) More coffee and a plate of those cookies to go, my good man! We’ll be back to Stefania’s pasticceria. We were literally like kids in a candy shop here because well, it IS a candy shop as well as pastry and coffee shop.

citta della pieve carSTREET SEEN

The car shot? That is for Steve. No, not San Francisco Steve, not Palms Springs Steve, not cousin Steve from Maryland, not Aussie Steve. Yet another one. One from Yarmouth. Some days it seems like half the people we know are Steves. And you know, Stew, as a name, isn’t exactly a giant leap away from Steve, is it? Regardless, I just put the Shiny Black, Non-Candy Item in here so Yarmouth Steve would know it was actually all very civilized over here on that side of the pond.

Speaking of that side of the pond, our friend Kiki is there in Panicale right now, so if you see her and Todd, be sure and wave. They will be there through the holidays curled up by the woodstove doing wireless emails on the newly installed broadband. Talk about civilized.

OK, think Happy Holiday thoughts.

See you in Italy,



PANICALE, Umbria – A hour in the garden, a walk in the clouds. Work, work, work. Garden, garden, garden. A phone rings. Oh no, Paulette can’t come. While I am talking to her on the phone, I see Steve and family in person waving down at me from above the garden wall. Goodbye Paulette, hello Steve. As soon as we get inside Midge is coming in the other door. An hour later, with the door to Via del Filatoio open to let Steve and family out, Elida and Guenter are coming in. Too fun. Our first evening is shaping up nicely. And tomorrow? We have a plan. And that is where the raves began.
La Foce outside Monteciello in Tuscany


MONTECCHIELLO, Tuscany – Hard not to rave and rave about this lovely side trip we launched into our first full day on the ground. How have we missed this jewel? We’ve read all the books about it. Its right in our neighborhood. 20 minutes away? Past CianocianoTerme near Montepulciano.

We are just such Philistines that despite entreaties from left and right we had not ever been to La Foce. Have you been there? If you have you know the Iris Origo connection. And most importantly, have you stopped to eat on your way to La Foce at La Porta? Add in a summery summery end of autumn day and good friends and you have the ingredients for quite a day. We loved every sun-drenched minute.

We felt we knew the Villa La Foce a bit because it is annotated and documented in several books. One book related to it would spin us off into another and it’s a very rich and interested combination of stories. We’d read Iris Origo books including The Merchant of Prato, and War in the Val d’Orcia and we have the big coffee table photo books of it, so it is strange we hadn’t hopped over there. But it was high on this trip’s list and we made it happen Day One.
La Foce gardens
The story of how this massive, landscaped fantasyland villa and more than 10,000 acres of farm can to be is well told in all the books about Iris’s life. And what a life she had. She was half English, half American and pretty much all Rich. Her mother owned the most important Medici villa in Florence and Iris rebelled a bit against that and went Back to Nature in this farm life she chose for herself. Sort of. It was a farm but a fairly gilded farm. The gardens and grounds were spared no expense and are palatial at least. Every color plant and tree frames views that were embellished and enhanced and perfected over the years off into the distance as far as you can see. Which they could do because they owned from the villa to infinity. And beyond.

One of the lame reasons we hadn’t seen La Foce is that it is only open for two showings a week. 3 pm Wednesday, followed by 4 pm Wednesday. 10 euro ticket and worth 10 and the price of a plane ticket from wherever you may be.

But IF you need more motivation, treat yourself to lunch at La Porta before La Foce. No, really. Go ahead. You deserve it. Like the name implies it is right at the village gate. Montecchiello’s gate. We were outside bonding with the sweeping views of the Sienese crete from the terrace overlooking the valley. The stone terrace itself seems carved out of the old old city gate. Most excellent position and it was wonderful to have sunglasses and or floppy hats almost required by the brilliance of the sun. But the food outshone even this. Paulette had gone on and on about it to us our first night. So when Steve, reading from a scrap of paper, said “Aldo wrote this name here . . . some place named La Porta. . . ?” we said Heck yes, lets get there already. Complete out of body experience. The staff was so cool they let us sample around and really enjoy it all. We ordered all three of the antipasta specials they mentioned and they brought us each a small plate and we dived in. Really and truly have no idea what the names of all the cheeses were but lets just call them Most Excellent Cheeses. One was a super fresh new cheese, almost cottage cheese consistency (Steve later set me straight: burrata is its name and it is a “young” mozzarella). There was a big plate of that surrounded by diced red tomatos. Too good to be true. Another plate was all fresh greens and bits of a glorious something cheese and the last plate was warmed pecorino morbida and Cinta Sienese proscutto. The ham from that white belted black pig is legendary in this region and totally will put you off all others. They did the sheep cheese here like brie and spread it on bread and we fought ever so politely over the scraps and crumbs on every plate.
La Porta restaurant outside La Foce
And the staff here at La Porta didn’t bat an eye when we said we wanted pasta samplers as well as mix and match anti pastas. So all of us got plates that included pici and duck, pici and cinghiale (they were so embarrassed. This was to be on papparadelle) and ravioli stuffed with artichokes.


One of my favorite meals in decades of eating in Italy. The day and the company and the location had something to do with it but this was some fine recreational dining. The local white wine was off the chart as well. I saw Steve look up from some stellar food, wash it down with the wine and look back at their glass and not wanting to interrupt a conversation in full swing at the other end of the table just mouth What IS this? I’ll ask him later if he remembers finding out the name of that heaven in a glass HEY STEVE. Ok, he doesn’t remember either. But what I call it is Mightyfine. Just like the whole day. Worth the whole trip. And we are just getting warmed up what with this being merely the first FULL day.

Will you be in Umbria for the Holidays?

BOSTON / UMBRIA–Did you see the Boston Globe? Sunday’s paper. November 26th. In their “Destinations/Night life” section they had a big photo of trumpet legend Paolo Frescu. He’s being honored at Umbria Jazz Inverno in Orvieto, Italy. They had his photo and a nice mention of the festival. If you are going to be in the area Dec 28 – Jan 1, check it out. We’ve been. It is seriously awesome. 13th-century buildings filled with modern Italian Jazz! The music pouring out the windows and spilling over the happy shoppers in the streets. You bet those Umbrian hills are alive with the sound of music during the holidays. The Globe calls the whole event “a New Years Eve party disguised as a jazz festival”. Take it from me, or take it from the Globe, Umbria Jazz is a great way to end the year on a high note. Full details on the Umbria Jazz Web site.

See you in Italy,