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The newsletter will be full of interesting articles on Italian attractions, cities and culture from Martha’s Italy, Wandering Italy, and occasionally one of our other “Wandering” sites like Wandering Sardinia
As fall descends upon the boot I think of eating, especially when the rains come and there isn’t a whole lot to do at night.
Fall’s last stand isn’t a bleak time for me. I live for the time the kitchen fills with the perfume of long-roasted meats and vegetables al forno on those days.
Two standout autumn meals recently happen to fall on the opposite ends of the luxury scale. First, Martha and I joined our neighbor for a simple pasta e fagioli meal made entirely from scratch using beans from across the street with homemade whole wheat pasta that didn’t see a machine, just Alcide’s formidable matterello, a long Italian rolling pin for those giant sheets of pasta Italians make out of a pile of dough in just a few minutes. Cook that pasta, add the beans and some good, local olive oil and you have a feast we documented because we didn’t think anyone would believe such a simple dish could taste so good (or that people would put that much work into it): Pasta Fagioli with Alcide.
Then a PR person invited us to hunt and eat some truffles in Umbria. We’d be fools to pass that up, right? Hold on, I’ve been on four of these before and this is the only one I’d recommend. What we found was more than we’d bargained for. No fake truffle hunt for us, this was a real insight into the life of the truffle hunters and a shepherd of a mostly self-sufficient community whose property owners had to be descendants of the original owners in the 1400s, a real “work like a dog, live like a king” community. You can read Martha’s version of our stay, or my version of it by clicking the links below:
Fantastic in Florence: A Last Supper Painted By a Woman
Painting a “last supper” is pretty much something a painter might (be allowed to) do at the pinnacle of his career. No, the use of the word “his” isn’t a lapse into gender bias; women of the time weren’t allowed to formally study anatomy or painting back then. But formal study does not (always) make the artist.
Plautilla Nelli’s 21-foot canvas depicts 13 life-size male figures, the only known Last Supper by a female painter anywhere. It’s been restored and hung where it belongs in the basilica of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. If you care about art and history, you must see it.
You’ve seen castle interiors, right? Generally you’d have to imagine what might have been inside, because it’s long gone. Bracciano Castle is different—and the compelling village overlooking the lake was easy to get to from Rome’s Trastevere Station.
If you’ve just hurried to the leaning tower from the train station and back again, you’ve missed more of a great city than you think. The newly opened museum is a stunner, and you’ll learn quite a bit about Pisa and the merchant boats that plied the Mediterranean from the ancient port.
It’s been a busy few weeks here in Italy. We’ve just spent a week in Rome and just before that I spent 4 very busy days in Sardinia. My favorite Italian big city and island together.
My Sardinia excursion explored the area around Alghero. Stay in this compelling city (where strolling we found some very interesting music) and you’ll have lots of options when you want to get away and see wonders scattered about the countryside. For example, the mysterious ziggurat north of Alghero near Porto Torres that was built 6000 years ago. And while we’re at it, what about that carved and cracked egg,eh? Neolithic omelet anyone?
Click the graphic below to find out more about Monte d’Accoddi.
And when you’re done visiting this ancient bit of architecture, you can go have a spectacular Sardinian lunch at nearby Tenuto Li Lioni. Don’t miss the video on the page in the link, which shows the Sardinian “ravioli” called culurgiones being fashioned by an expert in a mere 21 seconds.
And I’m happy to report that the New Testaccio Market has finally hit its stride, and you’ll find lots of good eats inside the sprawling market, making food shopping easy if you stay in this part of Rome.
Milano and Around
Milan is slowly working its way in travel planners’ minds. But what if you used the city as your base to explore the wonders in the vicinity? Martha has some tips for you in her latest article:
Finally, A Little Story About Maintaining an Italian Home
After learning of an expat moving to Italy and having problems with her pellet stove, I had to dredge up the story of ours, and how the guy who installed ours cheated us out of fame and fortune by going the extra mile and asking little. Ready for a little stereotype bashing?
Fall is amazing in Italy. Wine harvests have begun, the rain brings porcini mushrooms, and by the time it gets nippy, truffle hunters and their highly trained dogs seek white winter truffles from secret places. Then you can head to Piemonte to have a breakfast of champions as I like to call it.
Read more about the Delights of fall travel in Italy from Martha:
Fall is a great time to walk and get to know a place. We’ve recently teamed up with Walks of Italy to showcase some of their well-researched walking tours. Here are the top four tours in order of popularity.
Populonia is a medieval hill town in the part of southern Tuscany called Maremma and it’s also the site of one of Italy’s top ancient Etruscan cities, the only one by the sea, on the Gulf of Baratti. You can take scenic walks to see reminders of Etruscan iron working from the 6th to the third century BC as well as exploring different styles of Etruscan tombs in different locations.
That’s all for now. Tomorrow we board a plane to Nice and then on to Italy in our lease car. We’ll spend a week in Rome at the end of the month, staying in an apartment in the southern bit of Trastevere across from Testaccio, where one can feast on traditional Roman food. I hope we’re near some quiet places in Rome, and are always on the lookout for more.
Here’s what’s new and noteworthy on our sites and in Italy.
Piemonte: Fine Wine and Truffles
As we head into fall Martha and I turn our thoughts to the wine harvest and the winter truffle season. As the weather cools I can’t help thinking of that wonderful little corner of Piemonte called Langhe. Alba, the truffle town and the castle at Grinzane Cavour are just two of the attractions in this wine region, and we do have a favorite B&B Martha shares with you for those November truffle trips.
If you’re looking for a hidden gem in the Le Marche region, we point you toward little Fabriano, known for its interesting paper and watermark museum, fine wine, baroque theater, historic pharmacy, and many ancient churches.
Speaking of hidden gems, we found one in “Sardinia”: almost 40 years ago, a fantastic restaurant until the owner, the magnificent Armando died and it turned into a rather blah eatery. But then the prodigal son returned and the Ristorante da Armando rose from the ashes…
The Italians call them Palazzi, those grand buildings we might call palaces. But a palazzo isn’t always a magnificent structure; it could be a big apartment building, a palazzo condominio. A Palazzo Reale is a royal palace, but the word Reggia can also mean a royal palace, as in Reggia di Caserta, the largest royal palace in the world. It’s found outside Naples in the Campania region and was modeled after the Palace of Versailles.
A Palazzo can hide ancient buildings below, as in Rome’s Palazzo Valentini, where you can see Roman houses, baths, and even a Roman Road. But that’s not all. At the end of your tour you’ll see a fully self-contained, air-raid shelter that was built under the courtyard when WWII broke out, with an exit tunnel heading onto the Trajan׳s Forum.
Palazzi can form into clusters, like the famous Rolli Palaces you will see in Genoa on Via Garibaldi (formerly called Strada Nuova), where lavish Renaissance and Baroque mansions were built between the 16th and 18th centuries to host visiting dignitaries. During Rolli Days around the end of May they’re open and free to visit.
Even tiny Fivizzano in the rural Lunigiana has a famous palace. It’s the Palazzo Fantoni which documents an interesting time in the village; Jacopo da Fivizzano started printing books here between 1470 and 1474. Not only that, but fellow citizen Agostino Fantoni created the first type-writing machine and began to study carbon paper here. Today the palazzo houses the museum of printing, Il Museo della Stampa. On the tour you’ll get to see not only the exhibits, not only the whole Palazzo, but also Mussolini’s typewriter. I imagine it was the mouthpiece of Fascism in its day.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to make a reservation to see all this unless it’s a festival day and happens to be open, but here is some contact info I found on the web:
Tel. 0585/942152 (Francesco Leonardi)
Martha is a true garden lover, a fact which has induced us to hit the road in search of well-arranged and sweet-smelling places in Italy. She has a list of her favorite gardens and parks in Italy, as well as 5 gardens in Tuscany not to miss.
Fast Cars and Walter
When we visited Sardinia with our Friends Walter and Sharon Sanders it was Walter who drove us all around Sardinia. Then, when we had parted company, he went out and traded his buy-back lease car for a Ferrari for a short time. Did he enjoy his fling? See Driving a Ferrari Spider to find out.
Thanks for reading. Be sure to pass this on to anyone you think would be interested. And—happy travels!