Thursday, October 18, 2012

Under the Umbrian Moon

Our first glimpse of Orvieto amongst the Le Velette vines
Town of Orvieto


Harvest Time



Le Velette 

One of the movies we watched before coming to Italy was Under the Tuscan Sun.  It gave us a preview of what life in the Italian countryside might be like.  But honestly, how do you imagine a week in a Umbrian country house on the grounds of a centuries old Italian vineyard?  Add fourteen American women, the guest of honor celebrating her half century mark and throw in a farm yard cat and you've got a recipe for a very unforgettable experience.





Birthday girl!
The star of this Umbrian story is Ms Betsy Bruce who hatched the idea of inviting her friends to share in celebrating her half century mark.  She contacted her former tour guide of Rome, Cecilia, whose family has owned Le Velette Estate for several hundreds of years and arranged to rent one of the homes on the property and host her friends for an Italian birthday celebration.  Because she is fiddy! 

It was fun to see each of the guests arrive.  Ironically, we initially had a food shortage on our hands and it became quite a 5 - 6 hour ordeal.  We couldn't find a grocery store, market or really any place to buy food.  We started a collective pool of snack food sourced from our suitcases.  It was a hodgepodge of chips, trail mix, nutella and candy.  Luckily, we were staying on a vineyard so there would be no shortage of the vino all week (final bottle count matched Betsy's age).


Funicular tracks up to the top of the hill 

Ro and Gabi ready to ride the funicular

Orvieto Duomo











As a collective group we ventured into the nearest hill town of Orvieto to check out our surroundings, find a restaurant to eat at and get some basics for breakfast the next morning.  We took the funicular up to the town located at the top of a hill.  The cathedral (duomo) was magnificent!

Harvesting the grapes
Wine cave tour


Cecilia- isn't she cute!
The wine tasting experience
Cecilia welcomed us to her vineyard by not only allowing us to wine taste, but to have a wine experience.   What is a wine experience you ask?  Cecilia incorporated a tour of the grounds supplementing it with the history of her family's estate and how wine was such an integral part of the Italian life.  Did you know that wine was consumed in order to increase a person's caloric intake due to the lack of modern conveniences we have today (i.e. no automobiles only foot mobiles)?  She guided us under the surface as we toured the caves below the property grounds that acted as a natural refrigeration system.  Conveniently, the entrance to the underground caves was located in the kitchen.  In recent years the caves have been used to store wine in a stable temperature.  They have bottles close to a century old (she will not guarantee the condition of the wine inside those older bottles, but the family still drinks them on special occasions).   She taught us about the three T's: temperature, temperament (mood) and taste (color & body should match the food).  The wine experience was capped off with an introduction of Le Velette wines and the possible food pairings they thought went best with the wine.  It was an amazing spread of food.  What an experience indeed!



Olive oil press
Ro checking out the walls of a cave


Pigeon breeding holes
Another adventure that was educational was visiting the Orvieto caves & underground tour.  These caves have been carved out by the inhabitants of the area for the past 2,500 years mainly the Etruscans.  The underground tour was somewhat similar to the Seattle Underground (a deserted city under the current city).  Below the current city there is evidence of early Italian life such as an olive oil press (remains of an old factory) and holes carved into the side of the caves where pigeons were bred and sold for food.  


The Umbrian Villa




Umbria was an enchanting area with so much history, character, ambiance and magic.  Our nights were lit by a huge full moon.  The last night of our stay there was a beautiful harvest moon shining red and low almost on the horizon and through a few clouds.  Pictures could not do this moon justice it was truly spectacular and a wonderful way to wrap our week in this enchanting place.  This will be a birthday experience to be remembered long after we all return home.  Hopefully in another fifty years (when we all have gray hair and less teeth we'll all reminesce about our week under the beautiful Umbrian moon.

Live life with flavor and fun!