When push came to shove . . . .
we came to Torgiano

TORGIANO, Umbria–I think the fact that we came here to Torgiano to celebrate our anniversary was very telling. A year ago it was Torgiwhat? We’d certainly never been in the village. (It is a bit left of Perugia and above Deruta) Oh, we’d heard “i voci” whispering about the wine museum, but I’m such a barbarian, I just couldn’t imagine such a thing. Turns out, I’ve only got two speeds on my wine analysis dial 1) hey, not bad. keep pouring and 2) Gack. no, no, choke, i’m fine, thanks.

But our co-anniversary celebrants kept after us. And we thought, you know, they are such inveterate, non-stop, explorers – lets get over ourselves and go see the darn Wine Museum with them. Well. We spent over an hour at MUVIT last year one rainy spring day and hardly made a dent in the place. Loved every minute of it. They have every thing from the ancient, ancient, bet-you’ve-never-seen-one-of-these to knock-your-socks-off modern art.
olive oil museum, torgiano italy, umbria, wine museum. Siro's restaurant
Thanks to their sugardaddy and founder Lungarotti Vineyards, everything is top drawer, world-class. Exceptionally well done and high art standard across the board.

This year, on a rainy spring day we went to its companion museum MOO. Yes, as fluent as the site and guides are in English, they all seem oblivious to the fact that we think “MOO” is cow noise, but they think it is Museo Olio Olive . It was smaller than the wine museum but no less interesting. Both are worth the trip and both can be seen on the same ticket for the price of seeing either one. On the day we were there they were throwing in tickets to the wine tasting at the winery as well. Win-win.

The previous year, post tour, we asked a guide where to eat. Specifically where CLOSE as it was raining buckets and some other museum-goers had “accidentally” walked off with my wife’s black and white polka dotted umbrella. The guide half leaned out the door and pointed to the corner of the street. And said “Giri, a destra all’angola, immediamente a sinistra, c’e Ristorante Siro.” This is where I would usually put a link to a deserving hotel/restaurant’s site. They evidently don’t have one. You can Google them, people like them and review them, but I couldn’t find a site per se. Regardless, we went and we were glad we did. And not just because we had shelter from the storm although that was in its favor. I would rank the food as wonderful, good vistas and personable staff who were the only people we ever heard speaking English. So there.

Exactly how much did it ring our bell? When we had to cut our trip back from three weeks to one, we could see it would cost us jaunts to the dream duo Trieste and Lake Como. We thought what can we do to make this right? To come up with a worthy last-minute fill in that wouldn’t chew up all our precious time by riding about in a rental car? We voted and revisiting Torgiano/Siros won. We felt like we did too. It was an unforgettable string of laughing in the rain, Dear Diary moments.

Thanks Torgiano,

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

Can I get a witness?

anniversary in Italy, umbriaPANICALE, Umbria–This time our excuse was . . . our anniversary trip. We think it was well deserved. 40 years for us and 40 for our best man, Harry and his wife, Alison. I was his best man and he was mine. I think Sandro said the simple way to relay that complicated relationship status was “eravamo testimone reciprocamente”. Tricky business, since Best Man implies a certain maleness I’d much prefer testimone ended in a clear-cut masculine “o” but no. Its that neutral “e” thing. Which is fine because technically it just means Witness.

We all enjoy Italy and so here we were, celebrating up a storm at GMB pastries outside of Castiglione del Lago. Here’s to many more! Salute! You can tell by the scarves and coats it was shoulder season.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

Money can’t buy happiness? How about chocolate? How about zucchini pasta? Picking olives with friends? Can they buy happiness?

friends bringing us chocolate from Aldo, other friends torturing us by sending us fun photos of olive harvest, Perugia written up in Traveler magazine

Even faux euros can bring a taste of happiness if they should happen to be wrapped around a piece of real Italian chocolate, hand carried from Bar Gallo.

chocolate from Perugia, Umbria, Italy
PANICALE, Umbria – WILDS OF MAINE–Our friends Bud and Susan just got back to Maine from their adventures in Italy. Their son got married at Spannocchia outside Siena and then they stayed in Panicale for a few days. We weren’t too jealous when they confirmed what all our Italian friends have been emailing to say/rub in – that the weather this October has quit being autumnal and returned to the balmy days of summertime. Nothing but soft breezes and blue skies for days on end. La dolce vita in fatti. So. That didn’t make us jealous. And Bud, a bit skeptically I’m sure, took our advice, got his hair cut at Biano’s and it changed his life, as I knew it would. And they ate wonderfully with all the Belficos at Masolino’s next door to our house and no, no, REALLY, not at ALL jealous. But! Everything was all better when they brought back a stack of our Italian maps, tour books, etc. On top of the stack was the 500 euro chocolate from Aldo and family. With a note on the back of a Bar Gallo card.

All is right with the world. What did we do to deserve friends with candy? We felt missed, we felt the love and we felt the green eyed monster slinking away.

We get a raft of magazines at our office. I really have no idea why we have National Geographic TRAVELER magazine, I didn’t order it, but it seems to be coming and I picked this one (Nov/Dec 2008) up to bring home and read because right on its cover it had this well-I’ve-got-to-check-this-out story hook: “World’s Sexiest Small City (HINT: IT’S IN ITALY) Page 98”. Hmmm. What that is all about? Midge got to it first and looked at me over the top of it and wagged her eyebrows a couple times “Want to guess where it is?” she said. “You’ll love it” Quit teasing me, let me see that! What a treat. 12 full color pages on one of our favorite neighbors, ever-chic, ever-Etruscan Perugia.

I’d love to give you a link to the article but that isn’t how TRAVELER is set up, so you may have to take my word that it is a great and engaging article or find a copy in your local magazine shop. Their web site does let you see some great Perugia photos. And like the chocolate bar from Aldo took me to Panicale, this took me back to my days at the Universita’ per Stranieri in Perugia. In a heartbeat, the soles of my shoes were polishing the stones of Corso Vannucci scuffing my way up that promenade to meet friends for a midnight gelato. Con Frutti di Boschi.
olive harvest in Panicale in Umbria in Italy
Right while I am writing this, our dear friend Elida dropped us an email about the olive harvest. Earlier in the week she’d sent us a couple pictures warning that our wisteria was trying to digest our house. So I wrote Dily at Linda’s store and she told her dad Bruno and he’ll teach that wisteria to mess with Casa Margherita! But back to the olive harvest. When it is nice weather, there is no finer way to spend the day than helping friends pick. And then helping yourself to groaning tables of food for hungry farm workers. She mentioned apple tart and zucchini pasta were on the menu today. I remember picking and eating and eating and picking, walking home and falling straight over into bed and sleeping like the proverbial pascha. At seven pm. Like we did the last time we were picking olives at Elida and Guenters. Oxygen and fresh sunshine overload will get you every time.

Ah, I wish we were there. And in my mind, we are.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland


YARMOUTH, MAINE, LONDON, FLORENCE— October is here, October is here! We can count the days till we leave for Italy. 18. Ah, that is a fine looking number. Finally. Whew. But HOW do we get there? Let me count the ways. We’ve flown into Antwerp, London, Frankfurt, Paris and probably other places I’ve forgotten about.

One thing these originating flights all have in common is that they seem to want to herd you up the gangplank late, late afternoon or early evening so that you arrive in one of those capitals completely confused and sleep deprived at five in the morning and then they expect you to scamper off and find that connecting flight you’ve been fretting about. And by the time we’ve hopefully made that connection and found a rentacar or the train, we’re just bushed and useless for the first couple days in the promised land.

Here’s what we’re doing this time. There are a very few U.S. to England day flights and we are taking one. Leave Boston in the morning and arrive in London early evening. Their time. But it is only early afternoon by our bodyclock time and so we can even keep up with the Wiley Traveler who will be there to meet us. Even if she has us out till midnight it is still only 7 pm to us. Bring it on! She’s going to grad school there in London now and so, of course, that was our original excuse/reason to fly into London on the way to Italy. But think about it. OK, that’s long enough. Really folks. How bad can it be? Couple days in London on the way to Italy and you get there fresh as a daisy? Va le la pena in my book. London is almost on the same time zone as Italy and the flight from London to Italy is short and sweet. When you haven’t been up all night. Can’t wait.


Speaking of flying, Katia (shown here at left with Midge outside the real estate office in Italy) whispered this news to us: Ryanair is going to start flying into Perugia! Three times a week. Ryanair Stanstead (London) to Perugia. Starting in December. Wiley said they rumored that last year and nothing came of it. But they appear to be booking flights there now. It must be true, it is up on their web site. And we believe everything we read on the web, right? Well, good. Was counting on that.

Their two newest landing sites are Perugia (in our very own backyard) and exotic Malta. The price of the Pisa/Malta flight I typed in as a test at the end of January was 10 British pounds. Yike. You can’t stay home for that price. And that includes the taxes and airport charges it says. Oh, we’ll be trying that one. I’ve flown into Perugia before but not since they extended their runway. We’ll see how they are at handling 150 Ryanair passengers at a time. I liked the airport. Small but likeable. So, I’m cautiously optimistic. And I’ll be watching for good low specials London/Perugia for our next trip. If we can pair that with a special from Boston or New York to London we’ll really be getting away with something.

Stay tuned to this spot on your dial and see how this Ryanair connection pans out. In the meantime, we’ve done those day flights to London, they work like a charm and we are Ready To Go!

See you in Italy,


Umbrian Pears in The Big Apple

These people research Renaissance paintings of fruit –“Natura Morta” – (interestingly, we talk about “Still Life paintings”, Italians say “Dead Nature” paintings. Ugh.) and they try to find trees that still bear that fruit today. Sometimes, there will be one tree in all of Italy left. Or worse, just someone’s memory of one.

Have you seen The New Yorker? Big, engaging article in Sept 5th Food Issue about our corner of Umbria. Very interesting story focused on the people who have a Folk Traditions Center just outside nearby Citta’ di Castello. Article is called “Renaissance Pears. Saving the fruits of the Medici”. They research Renaissance paintings of fruit –“Natura Morta” – (interestingly, we talk about “Still Life paintings”, Italians say “Dead Nature” paintings. Ugh. Who was the copywriter on that one?) and they try to find trees that still bear that fruit today. Sometimes, there will be one tree in all of Italy left. Or worse, just someone’s memory of one. Before the war there was tons of diversity, now there is much less. Everyone moved off the farm and into the city after the war.

The founder, Livio Dalla Ragione, was a decorated partisan hero during the war and a well known Roman artist after the war. Today, his daughter from Perugia runs the center and works the orchard of hundreds of trees herself. They also rescue ancient tools and other vestiges of rural farm life. But it sounds like their real passion is rescuing the fruit that is quickly going extinct in Umbria in the last 40 years. They say they want to save not only the tangible symbols of those days gone by, — but the actual smells and tastes as well. Today everyone eats the same boring two kinds of apples and three pears etc that they find at the supermarket.

I was very taken with the article and the concept and I’m definitely planning on going in October to see Livio and his daughter’s collections. Yes, i know this is a photo of my entire pomegranate harvest last September. It is holding a place for a photo from the Dalla Ragione’s orchard when I go there in October.

Ok, that’s the cultural and agricultural news for now. Tune in tomorrow for a complete list of Fall Activity in Umbria!