Sunday, June 24, 2012

Back to June 18, 2012

Updated on June 24, 2012

It's time to provide the update for Florine's birthday.  I thought it would be easier if I just copy the entry for the day and then expand on it and add photos.  So, here goes:

Florine's birthday celebration
June 18, 2012

Florine's birthday - we decided to celebrate with a drive to Montefalco, which is a lovely little town, and then to have lunch at Camiano Piccolo.

This was how the day started - we were set to leave when we encountered Carla (La Contessa - yes, she really is a countess - our host, Sperello is a count) who decided to show us the little duckling that she has adopted.  Apparently, every now and then, Carla decides to have a duck as a pet.  She picks one and raises it and I guess it bonds with humans and have no fear around them or the dogs. She said they had a pair last time but they bonded with each other instead of the humans so now they live in the duck pen.  She had a little bird cage for the duckling, to keep it safe until it was big enough to run around the place.

Irene's legs, Eco (the dog), Florine, the unnamed duckling and Carla in the courtyard of the villa

Eco trying to play with the duckling.  Apparently, this is not her first duckling and she does not try to kill or eat them.

Carla with her new pet duckling
We had a nice drive to Montefalco.  By the time we got there, it was already pretty hot.  Heat wave!  Summer apparently came early to Italy this year.  We walked around Montefalco, which is a pretty small walled town, with a church tower, a piazza and an ugly water tower (how they were able to get that erected is a mystery-you can see it for miles around, and totally out of character with the walled town).

Turned out it was market day in Montefalco.  We checked out the few vendors and bought lemons which we left in the car.  Petros bought an apple that he shared with us on the path up to the town from the parking lot.  The market was in the parking lot.  I have learned a very important word when you have a car that you need to leave so you can go sight seeing - parcheggio.


The wall, Montefalco

Porta in Montefalco

Narrow street, stone buildings - the usual walled city/town requirements

The piazza, another requirement

Florine and Petros, having cappuccino and juice at L'Alchimista bar

Buildings in Montefalco

Looking through archway at stores

That nasty water tower in Montefalco

From Montefalco, we went to have lunch at an agriturismo, Camiano Piccolo.  This was the place we had lunch at during our wine tour.  Lunch was wonderful, and it was great sitting out in the garden, enjoying our food and the view.

Florine and Irene at Camiano Piccolo.  Our lunch was served out in the garden.  There was a nice breeze, thankfully, as it was a scorcher of a day.

Florine and Petros - birthday girl, but also it was their 11th wedding anniversary.  All the more reason to wine and dine.

Our first little teaser appetizer - zucchini flower stuffed with ricotta cheese.  Quite yummy.

The area around Montefalco is known for its sagrantino wine.  This was a fine bottle of wine. 

Three different pastas for our primi-spaghetti with tomato sauce and lemon zest, tagliatelle with truffles and gnocchi with vegetables.  I was pretty full by the time I ate them.  The pastas were followed by grilled lamb and pork medallions.  Our chef, Guiseppe, teaches in Florence in the off season-he's pretty good.  His father, Pietro, a lovely older gentleman, was our waiter.  He told us he studied classical languages, but not Greek.

Somehow, we found room for dessert -  mixed fruit salad, cantucci and vin santo and the panna cotta you see below.

panna cotta with raspberry couli

After that very long, leisurely meal, we drove off down the country road, and a winery popped up in front of us (seriously, from out of nowhere).  What else could we do but go by for a little visit?  We  had fun tasting some wine and chatting with one of the owners of the winery, Lamberto.  

Colle Ciocco, the winery not far from Camiano Piccolo

View from the winery

The wines that we tasted.  They were Montefalco rosso, sagrantinos and a white wine.

The grappa that we tasted.  What do you expect - of course the photo would be crooked after all the wines we had tasted.  Actually, I was responsible and kept my sipping to a minimum despite encouragement to indulge from Lamberto as I had volunteered to be the designated driver for the afternoon.

On our drive home, Petros saw a medieval village as I went from one highway to the one for Perugia.  We decided to leave at the next exit and headed towards the village.  We drove to the village, decided it was too hot to stop (and it was one of those villages that looked better from afar) and went along some country roads with some pretty awesome views.

view of the countryside

Lots of rolling hills, manicured fields, farm houses and villas.  This was shot from the car window.

It is much prettier when you are there.  Pictures don't really do the view justice.

It was a hot hazy day and shooting through car windows doesn't really help.

This pheasant jumped out of the bushes beside the car as I was driving along the country road.  Irene, with her quick reaction, was able to shoot a couple of photos of it as it ran down the road.  I  stopped the car (it kind of took me by surprise) and Petros decided to chase it for a better photo.  It was rather funny watching Petros run after the bird.  It was very hot and I was kind and drove over to pick him up after the bird disappeared into the bushes.

Not sure what hilltop town this is - there are lots of little villages and towns around.  They don't sign them too well either, not on the roads or the maps.  The GPS doesn't really tell us anything either.  so, we saw lots of unknown places during our many drives.

We liked the colours of this bird.  Not sure what it is. 

Another of the great scenery that we passed.
The views were fabulous and we ended up on the road to Deruta (sorry I was confused in the original post and thought it was Assisi). We stopped for a short visit - we visited an old furnace - apparently it dated back to the Etruscan days and did a little shopping.  Deruta is the ceramic capital of Italy and there were enough plates, tables and all manner of things ceramic around to prove it.


Some pretty steep stairs in Deruta

Taking advantage of the cool air coming up from a cellar.  It was a really warm day.  I think the temperature was around 35C but it felt like 40C.  And this was in the early evening.

Decorations on a building

Inside the museum of the antica fornace (antique furnace that dated back to the Etruscan days).  There were some amazing and beautiful pieces, which the owner (4th generation) uses as prototypes.

Back out in a piazza, with old buildings around a fountain

Inside a modern day ceremic shop

Tower in Deruta

Ceramic store we went into before leaving town.  The owner was in there, painting a bowl with a very intricate pattern.  She's kind of an older lady, but she's got a really steady hand.  She showed us a couple of completed pieces that was yet to be fired, and it was beautiful.
From there, it was a short drive to the local supermarket for some supplies before we headed back to the villa.  A fantastic meal awaited us at the villa - ravioli with truffle sauce, a cold veal with tuna sauce platter, salad and a lovely apple-strudel like cake with a little candle stuck in the middle of it.  We had sparkling wine with our dinner and dessert wine with the cake.  It was all good.

Birthday cake.  Absolutely yummy.

The birthday/anniversary dinner.  The ravioli was so light and tasty.  The cold veal dish was just perfect after the heat of the day.  All that food for 4 people.  La Contessa must think that we can really eat.  It was still pretty warm in the evening though the temperature did drop to the low teens over night.
So, that was the end of another fun day.  

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