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.
A Castle with Character Near Rome
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.
Pisa’s Historic Ship Museum
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.