There are so many things to love about staying in the Italian countryside for weeks on end. Renting a house to accommodate the size of the group we are with is obviously the first thing to do when planning our tours at Italian Excursion (www.italianexcursion.com). Then we start planning the day trips we will want to offer. Near Orvieto, our favorite area in which to stay, three of the best known regions come together to form a most interesting mix of culture. Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio, each famous for different things including foods, wine varietals, the arts and history, though their regional histories are very similar in some ways.
This area of central Italy is so rich with sights of interest that we could spend at least a month going no farther than a half hour to an hour and a half away, each day, and still have more to choose from. From Viterbo, south, to Deruta, north-east, the number of exciting places to visit and explore is endless. Each spot has something special to offer. Viterbo has a rich history connected to the Etruscans and the Roman Papacy and is located in the Lazio region, while Deruta , in Umbria, has a very obscure, undocumented history other than being very connected to Peruggia. It is so well known for it’s lovely hand-painted pottery that no one seems to notice anything else about it. Nearly every shop in the town of Deruta is a family run ceramics store. Then there is Acquapendente, dating back to the ninth century, and on the way north through Tuscany towards Siena. One experience after another, each town telling its own story of Etruscan, Faliscan, Roman or other cultural history. Cultures leaving their mark for us to find and appreciate; wonder and imagine about.
Another fulfilling aspect of having the luxury of “living” in the countryside for a period of time is that of coming home after a day trip, relaxing on the veranda with a glass of wine, then gathering those in the group who enjoy cooking, to prepare the evening meal. Usually this takes place on days when the group has visited an outdoor farmers market in the course of their wandering. Using the freshest seasonal produce the cooks spend an hour or so preparing food the way the locals do.
Pasta can be cooked in so many ways. We like to to find a local pasta shop and see what the specials for the day are, then plan the meal around that. Of course, some days we prefer a meat, fowl or fish dish so we find either the local butcher or fish shop. Springtime is great for a pasta and asparagus recipe:
Choose a pasta like fettuccine or tagliatelle; use only the top third of the asparagus stalk and par boil it for 1-2 minutes, depending on size; toss pasta, asparagus and grated romano or peccorino (or both, if you like) cheese together, then generously drizzle fresh, local olive oil and season to taste. Top with fresh anchovies, lightly marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and you have a complete, authentic Italian meal from this region.
Another favorite of ours for an appetizer is also just a dish for spring. Zucchini flowers, stuffed with an anchovy and a bit of local peccorino cheese, lightly battered in beer and flour, then quickly set in a pan of hot of safflower oil for half a minute. With a glass of white wine and a sunset you will think you are in heaven!
So, just a few musings about things we like to do, see and eat when we visit Italy.
[boilerplate plate = “excursion”]