Umbrian Adventures

After an amazing 24 hours in Rome, we are making our way to Spoleto by train.

Spoleto is a simply gorgeous Umbrian town that merges new with old. The shopping in this town is simply fantastic! Designer gear, sumptuous shoes and luxurious leather are all available. There is a market on Fridays from 10am, and one on Saturdays where all the locals dress up and parade their immaculate style.

The one thing that strikes me, is that in any Italian city, town or village, most people are always well dressed. They love to peacock!

A day trip to Montefalco was first on our agenda. This is a stunning 12th century hillside town, with a starfish configuration. It can be entered by 5 different gates, and is truly a gem.

The region is known for it’s red wine and olive oil, both amazing. It is in the centre of the Sagrantino wine zone

We had an amazing lunch at “Spirit Divino. This is a gorgeous enoteca, ristorante and BnB.

A menu only in Italian, with the help of our fabulous hostess, we managed to order the most fabulous lunch with fantastic wine.

A salad to share featuring crumbed mozzarella was sublime.

Mains of beef fillet with roast potatoes and veal cheek with mash were perfectly cooked. Two different styles of red wine from the region were served, both magnificent. It was a wonderful way to start our Umbrian adventure.

Arriving at the Villa Campo Verde around 4pm, we were greeted by our hosts and other guests. A chef had been organised for all the dinners, so everyone could just relax and enjoy!

Faranesia is a wonderful Italian cook in the true sense. Always glamorous in the kitchen, hair perfect, she was immaculate.

Her style reflected her food, classic and classy.

For our first night she served caprese salad, followed by risotto made with gorgonzola and rucola.

Dessert was the silkiest panna cotta imaginable, accompanied by sweet tiny cherries.

We were in heaven!

The next evening we found out she had a sleepless night, worried that there was not enough food!

Such an Italian mama! We all reassured her that it was more than satisfying and every dish delicious. I must point out that dinners were for 18 to 25 people every night, no small feat!

Mouth watering food kept coming all week, be it the lasagne (that she bought to the villa in a tablecloth) with a white sauce, spaghetti with pomodoro, vongole, and roast pork with spinach.

And finally on our last night, a ravishing ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta, covered in a burnt butter sage sauce.

Followed by Beef Tagliata and Fresh Figs for dessert, too amazing for words.

We discovered that Faranesia was the muse for a Cookbook, written by New Zealand food writer Jo Segar.

Every year she brings cooking classes to the villa.

“Italia” is a beautiful tome, written from the heart. I am ordering one off as soon as I get home.

Luckily I got to sit in the kitchen and chat with her, such a divine lady, as too is her side kick Marina. Bellissima and Buonissima!!

There are many stunning hillside towns in this region of Italy. We visited Bevagna, Assisi, Trevi and Todi, the last of which was one of my favourites (along with Montefalco).

We had great gelato and granita after lunch from a gelateria called “Pianegiani”.

Family run and operating for 50 years, it didn’t disappoint, so refreshing on a hot day. Assisi also has a fabulous restaurant called “Mangiar Di Vino“.

Another fantastic day trip was to “The Mall“. Just outside of Florence (with a free shuttle bus from the city), this IS designer heaven on a budget!

Dior, Gucci, Valentino, Fendi and Ferragamo to name but a few. Since we visited 2 years ago, Prada has arrived, and it’s big!!

Spend a whole day here.

Whether you make any purchases (I certainly did, hello Emporio Armani leather!), or just window shop and people watch, it’s worth the trip.

Just being surrounded by exquisite fabrics and precision cuts brings a tear to my eye (truly, just ask my husband!).

I noticed there is a new centre, just before you get to “The Mall” called “Fashion Valley“, featuring the likes of Vivienne Westwood. Also a Dolce & Gabbana, and Trussardi outlets are close by. So if you’re in the mood and a serious shopper, I’d suggest maybe an over night stay at a BnB close by or start REALLY early!

Our fellow guests in the villa were from all corners of the globe. When we first arrived we only knew our hosts, but by the end of the week we had made firm friends. Sydney, Quebec, Montreal, Paris, London, Abu Dabi and The Hague were the role call of cities, truly international!

It was a wonderful week and a little sad to say our goodbyes. Contact details were exchanged, and it’s nice to think we now have friends in new places. But like all good things, they come to an end. There is a new adventure waiting, and for us that means Naples, Positano and Capri.

Stay tuned!!

Jo Bayley, Fashion Editor, The Culture Concept Circle 2012

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