Assisi’s Stormy Farewell

EUROPE04 015The Feast of St. Francis was just ending the day I arrive in Assisi. Candlelight processions and merrymaking brought many pilgrims from far and near to take part in the celebration of their most beloved saint. Francis’ basilica flowed with heavenly music as choirs and orchestras let lose their poetic melodies. Souvenir booths lined the streets selling mementos while costumed revelers stroll the piazza in medieval attire. The Feast of St. Francis commemorated the saint’s transition from this life to the afterlife. It is Assisi’s biggest day of the year. Read more

Monteleone d’Orvietto~ Italy’s Little Village Has a Lot of Pride

IMG_1229One of the attributes of the many medieval hamlets of Umbria and Tuscany that I especially love are the old traditions that have been passionately maintained over the centuries. On a visit to Monteleone d’Orvieto, nestled on a hilltop in the heartland of the Umbrian countryside, I was extremely impressed by historically clad villagers who welcomed us at the main gate. They embody a fierce pride in their heritage, one that you cannot help but deeply respect. Read more

Autumn Twilight in the Umbrian Hills

Splashes of red and gold streak across the evening sky like a watercolor painting. The sun has made its last debut and slides behind a wooded hilltop. Sleepy hamlets surrounded by fields of olive trees and flocks of sheep become silhouettes against the fading light. An Umbrian evening is quickly approaching.

Dinner is ready. I walk around the old restored farmhouse of the agriturismo, Nido del Falcone, to meet my friends. Inside the ancient stone dining room, a rustic table is laden with fresh local delicacies on creamy white plates. Wicker baskets with fragrant apples, brown-skinned onions and peppers sit on a low brick shelf. A single lamp reflects light off the walls. Shadows line the stairwell leading down to an old Etruscan tomb now a storage cellar. I find myself surrounded by a wholesome fall ambiance that is magical.

The aroma of simmering boar sauce with basil fills the room. Inviting, warm, friendly, enchanting, nurturing, romantic….all of these words come to mind.

Unforgettable…a special moment in time.

Going to Italy? Consider a Visit to a Working Farm

Baby goats rest in the shade of the Orsini farm-house pergola after a bouncy scamper around the yard.

Are you planning a trip to Italy but want to spend some time away from the maddening crowds? Did you know that many working farms, or agriturismos, that welcome visitors can be found in the country just beyond the bustling cities and towns? Here you will find peace, rest and serenity. After a day or two you will be ready to return to the many exciting sites and activities that Italy has to offer.

Recently, I spent some time at the Orsini farm, Azienda Agraria Orsini, in Umbria, near Lake Trasimeno. After an invigorating hike, we arrived and received warm welcomes from Flavio Orsini and his family. The farm, complete with a rustic stone villa, was alive with animal life. Puppies scampered about the doorway, geese honked in the background, and baby goats cavorted across the large front yard.

Lunch was served under a large pergola that offered lovely views of Lake Trasimeno. We enjoyed delicious varieties of crostini, pasta, wine and fresh bread with local olive oil. Afterward, we toured the farm and watched as the harvest of fagiolina beans were shelled by a free-standing machine.

Although I did not spend the night, it was the perfect outing to slow down and rejuvenate my spirit. Margot DeKruif offers many wonderful ideas for farm stays on her website My Italy Selection. If this sounds like something you would like to do, I encourage you to take a look at her list of informative selections. I found it a great resource to help one enjoy the varied culture of Italy.

A Particular Day in the Green Heart of Italy

Umbria Action L. Trasimeno
Federico, Fabrizio, Helena and myself get ready to start the hike to the Orsini Farm. Lake Trasimeno in the background.

When was the last time you were greeted on a hike by a noisy band of geese? Like a royal round of trumpets, a herd of white geese announced our arrival at the Orsini Farm in Umbria. Piercing blue eyes sized us up and down as they waddled by. These guardians of the gate made sure the Orsini family and those in the vicinity were keenly aware of our presence.

Earlier that morning, my blog tour group, This Is Your Time, met our guide Fabrizio at a trailhead near Lake Trasimeno in Umbria. He works with Umbria Action, an outdoor adventure team designed to introduce the best back roads experiences of the region. Programs range from hiking, rafting, free flying, canyoning and biking just to name a few. Wine, food and cultural tours are designed for the individual or a group by guides who thoroughly know the land and are enthusiastic about sharing it.

Fabrizio with Linnea Malmberg, one of our blog tour organizers

We met our tour guide Fabrizio, soft-spoken and very knowledgable about the area. He took us on a trek through open fields and groves of tall green trees with lovely views of Lake Trasimeno. Along the way, he pointed out the various types of plants native to the area. Prickly pear cactus grew in mounds with bright red buds. Fabrizio proved to be an excellent guide who answered our questions with a lot of patience.

We follow Fabrizio up the trail above Lake Trasimeno
Prickly Pear Cactus along the path almost ready to bloom

We passed charming old villas lined with Cypress trees. The air was fresh and clean with only a hint of a breeze. I felt like I had just stepped into one of my favorite Italy scenes. All was peaceful and quiet except for the crunch of our shoes on gravel and quips of conversations shared between us.
We arrived at the Azienda Agraria Orsini farm, our destination for lunch and a farm tour. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of our welcoming team of noisy white geese with piercing blue eyes, but trust me, they were there!

The family garden and Lake Trasimeno in the background

As we approached the house, two baby goats skipped playfully out from under the shaded patio followed by a couple of quacking ducks. Perky and nimble, we laughed as the baby goats pirouetted around our group. Soon puppies began to wiggle from underneath the old rock and mortar farm-house. We were highly entertained by these little members of the Orsini family.
The Orsini Agriturismo is a small-scale, family run operation, all sowing and harvesting is done by hand including fagiolina beans, grapes for wine, and olives for olive oil. The fagiolina beans are native to the area and had nearly died out of existence. Thanks to Flavio Orsini, the family has worked hard to cultivate them and once again bring them back to the meal table near and abroad.

A visit to the Orsini Farm means “spending a few hours immersed in a simple atmosphere of nature and colors that represent the great beauty of the hills of Lake Trasimeno.” We were introduced to the traditional local cuisine as well as the old authentic  techniques of production.

Krista and Helena, two blog tour members, adore one of the puppies

Flavio Orsini is the family patriarch and president of Umbria’s Slow Food Movement. The Slow Food Movement is basically everything fast food is not. For example, Slow Food is all about preserving indigenous varieties of plant and animal food sources. It is also the promotion of local culinary traditions and local foods as well as preserving the local food products along with the lore and preparation. Organizing small-scale processing is very important in bringing about a complete cultural experience.

Flavio took us on a farm tour and gave us a demonstration of how he shells the fagiolina beans that he harvests on his property. Afterwards, the bean shells were carried to the goat pen and dropped over the fence. Nothing goes to waste. This is one of the major themes of the Slow Food idea.

Flavio Orsini brings a bottle out to feed one of the sheep

Lunch was a long wooden table with plates of various traditional crostini. Carafes of full-bodied red wine provided a wonderful tasting experience. Fabrizio and Paola, both from Umbria Action, joined us at the table. Our view was the beautiful and serene Lake Trasimeno.

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Fabrizio and Paola from Umbria Action sit at the head of our lunch table
Orsini Farm L. Tarisemo
Delicious crostini on our plates and the beautiful view of Lake Trasimeno

Paola could no longer resist and picked up one of the scampering puppies. They enjoyed a nose to nose moment of puppy love.

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Paola from Umbria Action plays with a pup
Our baby goats soon tire and find a warm spot to rest

After lunch and the farm tour, we said good-bye to Flavio and his family. We had places to go and things to see before nightfall. But we found ourselves lingering too long. The Orsini Farm was a beautiful oasis in a world spinning out of control. Nature worked side by side with man in perfect rhythm. It was all good and right. And very hard to leave behind.