Wine Lovers town

Montefalco is a cozy culinary town that is dedicated to good restaurants and quality wines just like most of Umbria’s little towns. I have visited Montefalco 3 years in a row and from that I have drawn a mouth-watering guide to our favourite restaurants.

First of all, Montefalco is a great base for a few nights. It’s easy in terms of parking if you are traveling with car and it makes a great base for exploring its neighbouring photogenic towns. Secondly, the town is tiny but it has a wonderful safe feeling to it and the cobbled streets fill with wine/olive oil/pate shops while the remaining spaces fill with restaurants. Umbria is known for its meat culture, cold cuts, intense olive oil and full-bodied sagrantino wines that leave an elegant finish to the palette. Like tannins? Good, the wine is for you! Our favourite rosso riserva from the region is Pipparello, that is a full-bodied delight with a zing of bitter in the end. This wine works perfectly with mushrooms, truffles and meat. It resembles a bit of a barolo wine, which is why we love it so much. The drive across acres of olive groves and vineyards to Montelfaco is beautiful as it exists on hillside in the centre of Perugia.  Often refered as to the “balcony of Umbria” because of its perched position of lush countryside, Montefalco is still authentic in style, where life is slow, elegant, based around its culinary delights. Below I’ve highlighted our favourite three restaurants that all serve outstanding food. Before dinner, be sure to sit in a corner wine bar on the piazza and listen to music, sample on cold cuts, olive oil bruschetta and have a glass of wine and enjoy the beauty of refined Montefalco.

Before dinner or lunch, have a scenic stroll around the medieval old town and fall in love with the area just like we did. It’s ultra photogenic and romantic, the church bells sing every hour and the narrow pebble streets line the lavender and hydrangea pots. Walk around the town and smell the most divine aromas from kitchens and make sure to capture sunset over the rolling Umbrian hills from the road right next to ristorante Teatro.

‘Top 3 restaurants’

1. Ristorante Locanda del Teatro (19, Piazza del Comune,)

Located in the hotel on the main square, cozy up in the courtyard terrace with the views of the sun setting. This is a top choice for us and I basically always order the same thing on the menu. I start with the chicken pistachio pate, then for a stuffed ricotta zucchini flower and for main, their speciality the meat loaf made from numerous meats. Also try the homemade stringozzi, topped with freshly shaved truffles! it’s a family run business and the father and sons remember us every time we revisit.

2. Ristorante Coccorone ( Via Tempestivi, 11)

A meat lovers restaurant. My husband always talks about the open flamed char grill and the + 1kg florentine steak they serve. The simple ingredients speak for themselves. I love the beef carpaccio or tartar and steak (t bone) served with porcini on top.

3. L’ Alchimista (Piazza del Comune 14)

This cozy restaurant also focuses on seasonal food and I remember in September, I sampled a variety of onions that come from the region. This restaurant also is a wine bar so you can get dishes from antipasti to full meals. Their tartar is also splendid and the take on onion soup was amazing.

Pre dinner prosecco and cold cuts on the corner of the square. Read more about antipasti in Montefalco here.

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chicken liver pistachio pate in Teatro and below, snail skewers in Coccorone

 

Then wild looking meat loaf, but I promise you.. it’s the best I’ve had! Below, is a welcome burrata ball from the kitchen.

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Below, the tartar from Coccorone

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‘Al fresco Umbria’

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Umbria, Italy

After lounging by the pool the last few hours, I’ve just jumped out of the shower and now sipping on a glass of cold white wine that my hubby brought me to the bathroom.  I’m wrapped in a soft blue towel and admiring the view from our window as the bees hover over the lavender and olive trees cast shadows on the stairs. My feet are pressed against the stone tiles that are lovely and cooling for my feet. Occasionally this cat comes and says hi behind the window but I never seem to see it when we are in the backyard. It’s time to slip on a lavender blue dress and start preparations for dinner, al fresco of course. This is what Umbrian dreams are made out of…

The sun slowly begins to set and our char grill is warming up and the table is set with olive branches, a white cloth, candles and we opened a bottle of barolo wine to let it breathe. On the menu we have some T-bone steaks, garlic tomatoes and a refreshing spinach salad with an acidic vinaigrette. Our men are in charge of the steaks and us ladies prepare the side dishes. For dessert we have a cheese platter with caramelized peaches that is my ultimate weakness! The views from under the pergola of the green hills are a calming backdrop for dinner and a magical evening awaits as we begin to sear the steaks…

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Grilled T-bone steak

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 twigs of rosemary
  • ground black pepper/ Maldon salt
  • 4 T-bone steaks

Cooking the perfect T-bone

First and foremost, make sure your steaks are thick in cut as on the grill you want to create that dark, crusty sear while keeping the inside a nice rare to medium-rare. Begin by marinading the steaks in ground black pepper, rosemary and olive oil in room temperature for about an hour of so. Once your grill is set up ready to go with lots of red coal on the base, place your steak to sear over high, direct heat to get that lovely crust. Then move it to indirect heat to finishing the cooking.

The T-bone is to sear over direct heat for about 5 minutes on each side then move it to indirect heat to finish cooking. Add salt and ground black pepper on both sides. The tenderloin part of the steak faces the cooler side of the grill and the bone towards the warmer side so the cooking is proportional. Cover and cook for another 6 minutes and turn over midway through the cooking. Remove the steaks from the grill, cover with foil and allow to rest for a good additional 10 minutes. The desired temperature for the steak to our liking is about 52 °C for a lovely pinkish medium-rare steak. Add more black pepper and salt and a few twigs of fresh rosemary and enjoy with a full-bodied red, after all we are in Italy.

I even through stepped into a pair of heels for this picture, in all honesty.. I was comfortably barefoot throughout the entire evening! I wrapped a woolen knit around me as the evening went on and darkness came upon us. We sat eating our cheese platter in pure candle light and talked the night away as the crickets sang in the background.

 

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Spinach salad

  • 2-3 large handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
  • salt/ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon strong french mustard

For a lovely acid summer salad, make the dressing by mixing together the olive oil, mustard and lemon juice. Coat the spinach leaves with the dressing and add some ground black pepper and salt on top.

Roasted tomatoes

  • 4 steak tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 garlic chopped
  • Ground pepper/ pinch of salt

Make a dressing by mixing the olive oil and garlic and black pepper. Slice the tomatoes in half and coat them with the oil. Place the tomatoes on the grill and let it cook throughout. Add a pinch a salt and drizzle the remaining of the oil on top.

and of course a rustic cheese platter for dessert.. the crown jewel of any dinner party!

Caramelize some peaches in the remaining heat of the grill by coating them in sugar and butter and let them become tender and soft over the warm heat. Serve with figs and hard cheeses and a few sprinkles of herbs.

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Gubbio, A Medieval Jewel in Umbria

 

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Gubbio, Umbria

Last summer, my hubby and I scrapped the surface of Gubbio as we spent the evening in the old town for a stroll and dinner. I love the medieval architecture and flock of stores and restaurants that make up the centre. With numerous “hole-in-the-wall enoteca’s“, wine and food is the heart of this town that is known for its abundance of truffles.

With centuries of history behind every corner, every cobblestone evocative street leads you to another gothic palace or church that mesmerised with its stunning preservation. Dating back to the pre-Roman times ,Gubbio is the oldest town in Umbria that is small and angular perched up on the steep slopes of Monte Ingino.

Gubbio is a real culinary treat that has great views over the Umbrian countryside and the architecture spreads of gray limestone that brings you back in time. The cuisine not only includes the intense taste of white truffle but also dishes based around pasta, meat, cheese and vegetable. We walked around the old town and saw stores for pottery, leather, iron, gold and a little bit of embroidery and is evident that the town is rich in historical and artistic heritage. The main attractions include the magnificent Palazzo dei Consoli (Consular Palace) with the most magnificent sunset,  the renaissance The Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace) and the cathedral.

Restaurant tip: Officina dei Sapori (Via dei Consoli, 13, 06024 Gubbio PG, Italy)

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Sleepy Bevagna.

Bevagna, the sleepy Roman-medieval village is situated next to the Teverone river that lies on flat ground, unlike most Umbrian towns that require quiet the hike to reach the centre! As we drove here from our villa through the scenic route we entered through the southern city gate passing the cute bridge that crosses over the Clitunno river.  It was as if stepping back in time into the middle ages when entering the old town. Bevagna thrives on its medieval past and we happened to stumble in on the day the town was celebrating an annual medieval-style feast called the Gaite Market. The point of it all is to display the techniques and tools used in history to show how people lived back then. You get to taste traditional food, attend craft workshops thus locals we building booths, setting tables and walking around in Robyn Hood-like costumes to showcase for a journey into the past.

As it was early morning, we stopped for a cappuccino in Piazza Silvestri that seemed to be Bevagna’s pride and joy. Ps. Bevagna takes its siesta very seriously so everything closes super early so keep that in mind if you are planning a visit. It was still quiet in the streets and stores were slowly beginning to open and the hassle was focused on the corner cafes. The espresso machine was buzzing away and locals seemed to be in a festive state of mind and you could feel the sense of the community here. I could imagine this event brings the entire town together as it seemed as if everybody was joining in. We ordered cappuccino and sat down to watch the locals traverse the square to get from one place to another. The piazza is the standing point to two dominating Romanesque churches built in the 12th century, San Silvestro made from stone and the larger  San Michele Archangelo. In the middle, there is a fountain and a civic building that seemed to gather people along with pigeons as the day prolonged.

After our delightful coffees, we took a turn to the backstreets passing the curving Vicolo del Amphiteatro and wandering through streets that had sidewalk restaurants, historic workshops, antique shops, numerous butchers, bakeries and candlestick making-shops. We noticed people lining up to a bakery and next we found ourselves in the same que. It smelled of freshly made loaf and there was a pastries display with treats like, biscotti and Sfogliatella lined up for customers to see. We noticed many locals taking these puff pastry cream horns that were coated with delicate sugar, so we decided to try one as well. They were just made, still warm with the vanilla oozing out. Before tasting it, we walked to the side street and from the corner of my eye I spotted a blush coloured wall. God bless my husband as he instantly knew what I was after. It was time for picture of the pastry with a cute blush backdrop! After a few pics, that first bite was so light and gorgeously flakey while the condensed vanilla cream hit you moments after. It was heavenly and we did not care that we had sugar all over our faces (see below) and we gobbled it up fairly quickly! It was sweet but light and no wonder everybody was lining up to buy them!

We walked around some more to get over that initial sugar rush, passing colourful cotton drapes that were hung between narrow streets. The tones matched seamlessly with my oversized positano-style shirt and white dress. The picture-esq street took us back to the piazza we came from and I was left with a charming feel of the town. There is a somewhat old-fashioned spirit here that actually, makes it rather enchanting.

 

 

Seafood Under the Pergola

Is there anything better than dining under the Umbrian sun?

The thick pergola umbrella casts a calm Italian ambiance perfect for those slow dinners with the family that last for hours. We dressed the table with a white table-cloth, placed candles, olive branches and lavender here and there creating that relaxing rustic chic look. We sipped on wine and grilled some simple seafood on an old-fashioned char grill that was built into the stone wall. We made a pot of classic french mussels set in the middle of the table where we all scooped some for ourselves. Looking back at these pictures, I still can taste the rustic bread that I scooped into the white wine sauce with a hint of fresh herbs in the background. The view over the hills was purely breathtaking, just green after green as far as the eye can see. We got dressed nicely, my sister-in-law dabbed on some red lipstick as she put baby B to sleep. We all cooked together and the men naturally took charge of the grill. We listened to music, danced and enjoyed the evening that prolonged until late after midnight and still cooked some steak later on. I still remember when my brother asked his wife P to dance and they were spinning in the backyard, it was one of the best nights of summer!

Seafood is such a great social food as everything is placed in the middle, easy to cook and always looks and tastes great! The key is to make a great marinade for the seafood, grill it to get that lovely char flavour and dress it with lemon and simple flavours, that’s really all you need! Scroll down for the recipes and inspiration for dining al fresco, country-style!

How to make the Seafood Marinade

Make the marinade in a bowl; add some olive oil, chopped parsley, chili and garlic. Use this marinade for the  different shrimps and octopus ( in separate bowls) and let them marinate for a few hours. Grill the seafood and add ground black pepper and salt if needed and brush the remaining marinade on top. Serve with lemon wedges.

Classic Moules Mariniére

2 kg Mussels (cleaned & beards removed) Wash mussels in cold running water. Press the shells of any open mussels together; if they don’t close, discard them. With a sharp knife pull out the beards and drain well.
1 onion finely chopped, 4 cloves garlic, handful of thyme, 2 bay leaves Over a medium heat in a large pot, sauté the onion, garlic and herbs in the butter for a few minutes.
150 ml dry white wine Add the mussels and white wine into the pot and cover with a lid. Cook for 5 minutes, until the mussels open.
Handful of chopped parsley Ready to serve: add in some chopped parsley (can add a splash of cream if you wish) and serve with rustic loaf to scoop the juices with.

 

 

 

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Spinach Pea side dish

Add a dollop of olive oil on a pan along with the grated garlic, a few leaves of chopped sage and the chopped shallot. Stir for a few minutes before adding the peas (we used frozen ones). Add ground black pepper, a pinch of salt. Then stir in a few large handfuls of fresh spinach and about a handful of grated parmesan cheese. Cook for a few minutes until the spinach wilt.

 

 

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Spell-binding Assisi

Another postcard-perfect town, Assisi is the most religious one out of all its neighbouring siblings that is a well-preserved medieval UNESCO heritage site. Assisi is a spell-binding jewel, that offers beauty around every corner from the typical hanging laundry from the old-fashioned windows to the cast iron balconies that overflow with flowers.

Last time we visited a few years ago and coming back here is a reminder that Assisi is an experience for the eye and the soul. We arrived in the morning to hear the buzz of piazza del comune, listened the church bells over espresso and watched the birds bathe in the fountains. Mothers watch their children chase the pigeons and pensioners sit on the stone benches observing the tourists pass by. The town is famous for being the birthplace of Saint Francis whom was one of the most beloved spiritual figures in the world. Therefore, Assisi is a pilgrimage stop for many around the world and there is common respect in the town that stems from the deep culture and religion.

Filled with high quality restaurants, Umbria is famous for its meat dishes,  particularly the roast suckling pig that is sold as street food here. Churches brim with art and piazzas fill with street musicians, after nibbling on some porchetta we cooled down from the heat with some popsicle (I had the pistachio white chocolate). The day passed quickly when admiring all the dreamy streets taking in the sacred land that Umbria offers.

On the left you can see the front facade of the Basilica of St. Francis that inside opens up to 13th-century frescoes

 

 

 

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A fairytale bridge?

‘The prettiest bridge from a fairytale’

This hilltop town makes up from a collage of soft-stone houses that looks like it belongs in a harry potter scene. There is a fairytale-like vibe here, where the steep climb through the wiggly roads brings you through to the medieval culture-filled backstreets. Todi’s history shows on the interior walls to have Etruscan and Umbrian influence, while the middle walls are a great example of the Roman era. The town overlooks the beautiful Tevere valley that blossom with wildflowers and is located close to Orvieto, which is also a town worth visiting.

We climbed up the main road and entered through the large gate and stopped for some cappuccino in the small piazza. Ps. If you have a baby pram, you get a free workout pushing it up the hill as my brother and sister-in-law did! The town was extremely peaceful, with an occasional elderly sitting on some steps and watching the people stroll by. Why is it that coffee tastes so much better under an Italian white umbrella? As we climbed higher, I found the prettiest little bridge that had the most magnificent views. Not only was it the perfect photo spot, but I met a lovely friendly granny that lived right above the bridge. Look how she poses to the camera? The view was narrow with a deep drop as my eye moved from side to side picking up all the interesting little details of the street. Dressed in a blue and white striped dress, we explored the little roads and walked up to the main church. We also did a bit of shopping in a small farmers market that was set out on the outskirts of the town. We bought some zucchini flowers, anchovy filets and some vegetables to be used later for lunch back at the villa.

Todi, you were worth the visit! 

 

 

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The land of Narni

Narni, Umbria

The tiny town of Narni surrounds with piazzas, fortresses and churches that attracts locals for its medieval appearance. Author CS Lewis was inspired by the name of the town using it in his novel as the fictional magical kingdom of Narnia. Some people say that he was inspired by the towns magical presence but others say the name was chosen by random and never set foot in the place. Nevertheless, it certainly sparked interest for Narni and today it is often refered as the heart of Italy as it is geographically the closest town to the center of Italy.

Like most of the charming little towns in Umbria, Narni has striking stone buildings that and narrow cobblestone streets that make up the old town. We came into town for lunch and some gelato and walked around the lovely cooling streets on a seriously hot day! The town is famous for its large Roman bridges but what I found most beautiful was the arched allies, old fiats in the corner of the streets, the colourful flowers and old fountains. To be honest, it is not my favourite town out of Umbria but this could be as I have only scratched the surface of it, but I would say its worth the visit if you are close by. I have to say my favourite towns in Umbria are Spello, Montefalco, Asissi and Gubbio.

 

 

 

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Monokinis & Mornings in Umbria

Looking back at these pictures bring back June memories of our holiday, when the season of cherries was upon us. I still feel the moment of this morning, it was early and calm and I was enjoying the soft awakening of the nature in the countryside. My nephew was being fed in the kitchen and I was picking fresh herbs, grating lemon zest onto our morning bowls. I can almost feel the smell of the lemon and taste the sweetness of the cherries as I’m writing this post. The dark purple juicy pebbles make an easy breakfast when you combine them with pomegranate seeds/juice, yogurt and lemon zest and of course a few necessary herbs.

As you could sence the day was going to be a hot one, it was easiest to slip into a dark green monokini and feel the luxurious softness of the suede robe against my bare skin. I’m still so obsessed with this robe and looking back at these pictures, I love all the subtle green shades, from the olive branches to my outfit to the bowls and backdrop. When the early morning tiptoed upon us, the slowness of the countryside took over and allowed us to embrace silence so easily. You cannot get this feeling in the city and that is why I hold these country escapes even more dear to my heart.

Overlooking the mountains and eating breakfast on my favourite spot on the stone stairs was a real treat. I started this day barefoot to pick some fresh olive tree branches to decorate our table and was in awe of all the beauty around me. * Taking in a deep breath* I watched the sun cast shadows through the trees as it rose higher into the blue sky and I took another bite of my yogurt and let the day take over. 

 

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Sunsets in Spello

A magical little town that comes lit in the evenings as the sun drapes its rays across the stone pathways. From the occasional white blankets that hang on the wire lines and the colourful flower pots that crowd the streets, makes picture-esq Spello worth a visit when traveling around Umbria. I love the pale shades of the lined up buildings and how the curvy streets have dramatic lighting, beautiful archways that you can walk under. There is attention to detail in this town, which makes the evening strolls more pleasant. We sat down for antipasti before dinner to enjoy some bruschetta and truffle cheeses and worked our apatite by exploring the maze-like streets.

We ended the evening in a super cozy restaurant called La Cantina, which I highly recommend, but make sure to make reservations in advance as the restaurant was completely packed. Have a look here to see what the restaurant looks like, it suits the feeling of Spello to-the-tee. I ate some rustic paté on toast and for the main course had a traditional wild boar stew. With my oversized chanel hanging from my hand and an off-the- shoulder shirt with ruffles on the sleeves, my camera had work as we crossed a new corner as I needed to capture the beauty, for a minute longer. 

Read more about spello from my old post here.

 

 

 

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