dinsdag 24 juni 2014

Carsulae - don't miss it!

The trip I made yesterday is one I really like to share with you and future visitors of Umbria. The reason why is that Carsulae, which this post is about, offers something nice for nearly everyone. Especially when you travel with children it's an adventure that they will absolutely like. They are allowed to climb the ruines, they can run in the fields and – when there are not too many other visitors – even yell for they'll disturb nobody.

There are, apart from one small risky spot, no signs about forbidden things.
Of course this does not mean that you won't have to watch over them – I would not recommend any child to fall from a 3 m. high wall, There are plenty of lower stones though.

During your visit, you will be accompanied by the delicate smell of the mentuccia that grows everywhere. In spring, you might even be lucky and see several sheep herds guided by their shepherd and his dog. If you want to relax during your visit, seats have been put up in the shade of the trees.

Carsulae is situated close to San Gemini. Take the exit on the E45 and follow San Gemini and then Cesi where the roadsigns will direct you to the parking lot. A short walk will bring you to the ticket office and documentation centre (and for those few kids that don't like climbing and being outside, there's a playroom).

Carsulae has been a Roman municipium, which means that the town's citizens had some of the civil rights that Rome's citizens had, but was allowed to have a merely indipendent governance, under the authority of the Emperor August. The town was situated alongside the Via Flaminia. Its remains divide the town in two.

The town was entered by the Arch of San Damiano. Originally there were three archs, the large one that's left now was meant for vehicles and it used to be flanked by two smaller archs for pedestrians.

I will not discuss every building, for you can find it in every tourist guide or better, go there and see them yourself, but worth mentioning is the church of Cosma and San Daniano. It dates from the 11th century and was built on the remains of a much older building (estimated 1st and 2nd century before Christ).

Another detail is one of the tombs that were found. The tombs are believed to have belonged to prominent citizens of Carsulae. One of them was found with a leaden coffin inside, containing the remains of a young girl, with her golden jewelry still well kept.

Other interesting buildings are the Forum, the Amfitheatre, the Cisterns that provided Carsulaes water, Thermal Baths and some buildings that are supposed to have been shops.

As I said, Carsulae provides an interesting site for almost everyone. Only when you are disabled or have other difficulties walking, the facilities are not good. Meanwhile, I have approached the commune of San Gemini and have asked them to see wether they could adjust that.  

zaterdag 21 juni 2014

La Festa della Lavanda - Castelnuovo d'Assisi

This weekend I did something that I actually had planned last year: I visited La Festa della Lavanda in Castenuovo d'Assisi. It is a fair organized by Il Lavandeto d'Assisi who grow various types of lavender.

But, besides the impressive lavender fields, there were a lot of other herbs and plants to be admired. Their santolina collection took my breath away and it was a pure pleasure to walk through the symmetric herbgarden.

There were the common kitchen herbs we all know, in very appelling combinations of colours and structures.

Apart from the common herbs, there were several types of basil of which the Basilico Greco drew my attention in particular because of its delicate leaves.

The few children I saw were happy too because there was a coop full of chickens with two very small and furry ones in it. They moved too fast to get a decent picture. There was een a small pond occupied by frogs, but of course, by the time I arrived they had all jumped in and were nowhere to be spotted. 

The children ran off to find their way in the lavender labyrinth.

By the time all the plants had been admired, there was still a small fair with several stands offering their own specialties. Lavender and herbplants, of course, but there were opportunities to follow workshops in order to learn how to make ointments or tisanes as well.

There was a stand with maiolica, all hand made in Deruta, artisan baskets, paintings or you could try home made lavender lemonade.

The best news? It's still there tomorrow, and the weekend of the 28/29th of June too.

maandag 19 mei 2014

Umbria - why I can´t stop writing about it.

This time, my blog is part of a blogtour I got involved in by my new virtual friend Jen. Her blog about the love for her Italian heritage and her passion for Italian wines started due to her Italian roots and was followed by a study in Italy, that woke her interest in Italian wines. The drive to truly learn the insides and outs of Italian wines led to the birth of Jen´s blog Vino Travels, where she shares experiences from her travels through the world of Italian wines and information from Italian wineries in particular. Jen will be a certified Italian Wine specialist later this year.

The purpose of the blogtour is to enlarge the network of bloggers by sharing other people´s blogs and show you wht their world, work, knowledge and interests are like, whilst on the other hand I will try to describe why I write what I write.

What am I working on?
My one and only real important goal in life is living it in Umbria, Italy. Through the years, I met a lot of nice people from Umbria. Some of them really care so much for this beautiful region that they promote it in the world and made me write a few guestposts for them. It feels like the ideal combination, sharing the lovely things of my life and being at the place I love at the same time. I haven´t completely reached the last, but, as said, I am working on it.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?
Actually, it doesn´t. My blogs about the Umbrian villages and spots give no details that can´t be found in a regular travelguide. The difference can only be felt in my passion for the whole spectrum, from Umbrian food to wide views, from wine tasting in a cantina to a medieval market in Bevagna. I love Umbria´s famous attractions like Assisi, but have a strong feeling for it´s amazing countrylife as well. I can write about the wild flowers at the Piano Grande one day, about picking olives the next day. About the amazing works in Perugia´s Galleria Nazionale on day three and on day four I may have met a hunter who explains the ins and outs of his life and gives me a recipe for hare nonna style. The thrill I get and share from all these small things is what gives my work a personal touch, rather than merely an Umbria promotion.

Why do I write what I do?
Of course, it would be nice if other people become interested in the many things Umbria has to offer. It would be great when people would start to appreciate Umbria´s value as highly as I do and give Umbria´s tourism a strong injection. Besides, by writing about Umbria and about my passion for it in particular I can make people understand – a little – why I am who I am.

How does your writing process work?
Until now I haven´t been aware that there was something as a writing process. By thinking about it now, I realize that I can´t NOT write about Umbria. The love for Umbria, the impressions and feelings keep flowing and turn into words that I simply have to let come out. My experiences from Umbria are little pearls in my life, that all together form a lovely necklace. To me, writing is completing this necklace and I hope to finish it with the most precious jewel, my own place in Umbria and never having to leave it anymore. 

Before clicking `send` I want to thank Jen for this opportunity, and pass it on to my friend Simone. She is a foodblogger, professional food photographer and a gifted cook as well. Her blog offers an abundance of recipes, travel stories and of course pictures. An especially nice detail are the stories about and the pictures of her gorgeous cats, but the core bussiness is food, with a capital F.

Someone else whose blog is worth viewing is the one written by my friend Alessandra. She and her brother Leonardo from Discovering Umbria organize wine and food tours in Umbria that will be an unforgettable experience of years of culture and traditions across the magical land of Umbria.

Good luck Simone and Alessandra, and many thanks to all of you who read my blog.

zaterdag 25 januari 2014

These are a few ofmy favourite things..in Umbria

When I was asked to write this guest post I was very enthousiastic at first and then realized it caused a major problem. How on earth is it possible to pick only ten of the best spots in Umbria? There are at least a thousand worth visiting..
But I gave it a try – and a little cheating now and then by clustering the ones that belong together doesn´t harm anyone. The order is more or less random.

10. Deruta and the Sanctuary of Madonna dei Bagni
Deruta is famous for its maioliche – ceramics. They can be admired (and bought) everywhere in the town. From huge ceramic dogs to the finest handpainted plates, you name it, they have it. For a tableware addict like me it´s a paradise.
A little further, in the hamlet of Casalina, is a lovely little sanctuary, the Madonna dei Bagni, which walls are completely covered with votive tiles. The earliest date from 400 years ago and not only show personal stories, but also the development of the maiolica arts.
(c) Pia van Nieuwenhoven
  1. Spello and its infiorata
Spello is situated in East Umbria and it seems glued against the slopes of the Monte Subasio. Its steep streets lead you to the centre where you can find (among other beautiful things) the Santa Maria Maggiore. Inside, go and see the Baglioni Chapel with its fresco´s from Pinturicchio.

This year in june I was so fortunate as to be able to visit Spello´s famous Infiorata. This annual event on the Sunday after Corpus Domini includes colourful tapestries of flower petals, that regrettably become damaged in the traditional procession. But the flower decorations in the town were equally beautiful.

  1. Umbrian food
    As a cook, I cannot mention ten Umbrian top attractions and leave the food out. Elsewhere you can find my lyrics about olives and oil, but I did not write about strangozzi before, a typical pasta from Umbria. Or about the truffles, that make a great combination with them. Porchetta you will certainly know.
Another typical Umbrian dish are lentils (lenticchie) and the best come from Castelluccio.

As this can take ages – I can go on about Umbrian food for the rest of my life – let´s just recommend the red potatoes from Colfiorito....

…. and last but not least, La torta al Testo. This year I learned how to prepare this flat bread, baked in a special pan, the testo.

7.Norcia, the Piano Grande and Castelluccio
Talking about food means I must talk about Norcia. Food is an important item in Norcia given all the shops selling delicatessen. You could try some of the famous wild boar sausages. Norcia´s Piazza San Benedetto, facing the church by the same name, is pleasant to have a coffee at.

Leaving Norcia you can drive on to the Piano Grande, a plateau that covers over 20 km2. It is most impressive in spring, but irresistable in summer when it is in full flower

It is an experience to watch the herds of sheep, guided by their dogs

And of course, stop at Castelluccio and buy your own lentils.

6. Orvieto and its Duomo
(c) initaly.com
When you visit Orvieto, in the south of Umbria, I am certain you will have a good time. Not only will the road to reach it, along the Corbara lake, provide amazing views but the town itself has real interesting attractions, like the Pozzo di San Patrizio, an underground tour, some well equipped museums and typical picturesque alleys. But of course, the thing not to miss is the Duomo. Its facade is a masterpiece at itself with its splendid colours and it sculpted bronze doors. You could sit at the oppopsite side of the square, watching this facade for hours.

(c) wikipedia.com
Yet, the interior is as impressive as the outside. I can strongly recommend visiting at least the Capella San Brizio and getting overwhelmed by Luca Signorelli´s fresco´s.

5. The Valnerina
Even though I have only seen a small part of the Valnerina, I have become an addict. The rough nature, the picturesque villages and hamlets and the breathtaking views guarantee an awesome passtime. I visited Scheggino, Vallo di Nera, Ferentillo and its Abbazzia and I can tell you this: I´ll be back!

4. Spoleto
I doubted to mention Spoleto for it is way too beautiful for just a few lines, but as I have spent this year´s summer there it seems not fair not to. 

The upper town is stuffed with beautiful buildings, like the Duomo and the Rocca Albornoz and I can assure you that nothing compares to a walk over the famous bridge, the Ponte delle Torri.

3. The Umbrian countryside
When you roam around the Umbrian countryside, it is like collecting little pearls that all together will form the most precious necklace ever. It can be a lovely corner in a small hamlet, a left alone chapel alongside the road, an amazing view from a hill. 

Meet a hunter that is willing to tell you his secrets and lets you pet his dog, the olive fields or those with sunflowers. I will never ever get enough of it.

2. Everything I couldn´t choose from
You may have noticed that I did not write about some famous cities in Umbria. It is not because I think they´re less worth it, but in the first place I could only name ten, in the second place, others have written about them, and in the third place there´s a chance I am allowed to write a sequel.
So maybe some day, I will tell you about Perugia, Assisi, Gubbio, Trevi, Foligno, Bevagna, Montefalco and so on.......

1. Todi

Though I knew Todi as a lovely medieval hill town, I discovered its real beauty only when I moved there four years ago. More or less accidentally, I rent a place nearby, became impressed by its surroundings and then fell in love desperately. I took a guided hiking tour that turned out to be one of the best ideas ever. 

Besides the wonderful Piazza del Popolo and the Santa Maria della Consolazione, I discovered an amount of valuable spots in town and entered buildings that I would never have found on my own. Of course you should see them yourself. I can tell you that wandering through the streets of Todi, watching its sturdy walls and gates, dreaming on the little piazza´s and admiring the views of the landscape will make you share my biggest desire. Stay forever.

Beautiful Bevagna

Thought every inch of Umbria is worth visiting, this blog is about one of my favorite villages. Bevagna.

It is, to Dutch standards, a small town in the valley of Umbria, in the province of Perugia. Its original name, Mevania, comes from the Roman period, out of which some remains in the higher part of the town testify. I mention the Teatro Romano, the Edificio delle Terme where you can see a beautiful mosaic from the second century, the Tempio, and, of course the city walls, that are built in the Middle Ages on the remains of the original Roman ones. The many entrance gates in the walls also contain the remains from both periods.

Close to the Porta Molini runs the river Clittuno. In the old times it was not only useful for transport but also made the mill work and allowed the public washhouse, a lovely, rustic spot that is still in use.

Many monuments, in fact, the whole town, testify of the Medieval period. The splendid square with its famous buildings, il Palazzo dei Consoli, la Chiesa di San Silvestro and the Chiesa di San Michele can keep you in silent admiration for a full afternoon. Don´t forget to visit the crypt in the San Silvestro.
All churches in Bevagna have something special, but personally I really like the San Francesco in the higher part of the town, mostly for the outside.

Other beautiful things
I can only consider to roam around the town and enjoy the atmosphere of its picturesque streets and alleys. The pinacoteca contains some interesting pieces of which I like the Madonna by Dono Doni the best.
Another very pleasant visit I made was la Casa Medievale. It is a reconstructed Medieval house that is said to have belonged to a rather wealthy merchant. It´s is a guided visit and I can assure you that after a few minutes, you wish you were born in those times.

Mercato delle Gaite
Speaking of the Middle Ages, I cannot leave this blog without mentioning the annual festival, Il Mercato delle Gaite. The whole town turns back to the period of 1250 – 1350 and it´s a spectacle you should not miss..For those who want to learn every detail:

My first time in Bevagna dates from 1992. It wasn´t crowded by tourists at that time and I hardly knew anything about it. Unfortunatly I arrived at lunchtime, with two small children (6 and 4) that were bored, complaining about the heat and yelling about mutant hero turtles in a silent, more or less deserted piazza. I could only think of shutting them up by stuffing them with pasta, so I asked the only other living person I saw about where to find a restaurant. This lady, looking like a battleship, looked at me disapprovingly and then said `Good afternoon` in Dutch....
She happened to live in Bevagna and told me all about the town. Since then, I return at least once a year.  

What´s another year

It´s my job to look back at things and see if there has been anything that could have made a difference. It´s also my job to look forward and calculate the risks in order to avoid them.
So it seems a good idea to practice in life.
(c) Monteolivo
2013 brought a lot of happiness. I am not going to write a top ten again because Pio and olives in Umbria will be nr. 1 and 2 again. A few of my favourite things will do.

(c) Monteolivo
My orto did its job and produced an abundancy of awesome fruit that I still have not used completely. I could even pick 17 kiwis and turned it into marmelade. 

(c) Monteolivo
The best thing is that I was given very nice recipes by people from all over the world so I could make some specialties, like fig-vinegar and pear chutney.

(c) Monteolivo
My own recipe brought me a tasty apple wine that turned out to be a little more effective than one would expect from the tast. I enjoyed it very much though.

(c) Monteolivo
Another groovy experiment was to prepare tea out of the herbs from my garden. It was fun to let the herbs dry, grind them, fill the Monteolivo teabags and end up with a box full of them, all provided with labels I designed myself. The tea tasted ever so nice, my precious roommate drank it all in two weeks. So next year, I will start earlier and produce more.

(c) Monteolivo
I can´t leave Umbria out of this blog because of everything I did, Umbria is still my best experience and my biggest desire. I spent a wonderful summer there, met new people, discovered new spots, visited old friends and places and was completely happy. I sat on the terrace every morning, watched the bird´s nest in my wall, enjoyed sunrise and cried out of fear of having to leave. And then something happened. But I´ll tell you about that later.

(c) Monteolivo
But it made my autumn an experience of pure joy and happiness in every single second of it. Picking olives is, as I said, always a pleasure and so is submerging in countrylife, but this time I was really part of it and it really was MY life. I lived it to the max.

(c) Monteolivo
2013 brought sad things too. I had to say goodbye to my dear doggy Uno and my beloved cat Vito. Rest in peace my best friends. It´s good to know you´re together and I am sure you are in a good and warm place.

So now it is time to say goodbye to 2013 and welcome 2014. You can´t tell future, but I can tell my plans. A bit of a risk for there are 17 days to go, but dreaming is allowed.

(c) Monteolivo
I am up to living in Viepri. Of course I can´t leave Holland yet, but the house is mine, I can make it my home. It felt like home, and now it IS: I can´t describe the feelings I have, but I can show you what it looks like.

(c) Monteolivo
If you want to spend your holiday there, I can tell you good news. You can. I am going to rent it out. Contact me when you´re interested, monteolivo@planet.nl