Italian Sideways 2006 – Day 2
|Click to see the complete photogallery|
Engineer Daniele Malagoli, another very old friend of mine (we were both in short pants when we met) comes to pick us up at 8AM to go to Bagni di Orvieto, in the Umbria region.
After a typical Italian breakfast of fresh pastry and espresso coffee, we head to the Bologna train station to pick up Jonathan Dalrymple, president and CEO of Mediterranean Ventures, a Texas-based Italian wine importing company, who has arrived from Milan. After fighting the heavy morning traffic to get in and out of the city, we head to Florence and Orvieto on Highway 1, or, as they call it here, the sun highway.
The foggy morning has given way to a gorgeous sunny day. The landscape on the side of the highway gets more pleasant as we pass Florence and head into Umbria, with fewer villages, isolated country homes and villas farther apart from one another, and vineyards and cypresses on the Apennine range. We get off at Fabro and, driving along pleasant mountain back roads, we stop in the Medieval town of Ficulle to purchase some biscotti and homemade cookies at the local bakery, as well as to fuel up with another espresso coffee.
At Bagni we visit the village and brainstorm about the possible development of the property. The dug out, stone-carved underground cellars maintain a cool, natural cellar temperature and, in addition to being perfect for storing wine, could be the perfect spot for private, wine lovers' dinners.
The main villa is great, filled with frescoes and history as I remember it, and the views from its windows and park are breathtaking. The old olive mill is another of my favorite spots, where once the heavy stone wheels which were pulled round and round by a donkey, were used to press the olives.
We had planned to go to Umbertide in the afternoon to visit the Carlo Massimiliano Gritti winery and have a late lunch at the estate restaurant, however, as the OMC song goes, "time flies when you're having fun" and, at around 2PM we still haven't seen all the property.
We call Giuseppe Mangiarotti at the winery to excuse ourselves and make an appointment to meet at Vinitaly, then sit down at an improvised table, in one of the empty rooms on the ground floor of the main villa and enjoy a simple, delicious peasant meal produced by Memmo, the 80-year-old wild boar hunter caretaker. In addition to a bottle of red and one of white homemade, label-less delicious wines, there is a wild boar dry salami, sopressata (a kind of cured pork meat), pecorino cheese and apples, in addition to the freshly baked biscotti and cookies from Ficulle's bakery.
On our way back in late afternoon we drive up to the town of Orvieto for a brief visit to the incredible square and black and white striped cathedral, before heading to the Florence train station, where we drop off Jonathan, who catches a train back to Milan. We arrive back at Castelfranco Emilia at 10:40 at night and cozy up in our frescoed apartment. We need a good night's sleep before tomorrow's busy schedule.