Saturday, August 29, 2009

Festival of the priest stranglers, Citta' di Castello and Cortona

29 Agosto
I have now seen almost all the most picturesque towns according to the Umbrian guidebooks. Citta' di Castello was most interesting for a merchant who sold all sorts of liqueurs and truffle products, but in his spare time makes castles from used corks. I now have a new hobby for wintertime... maybe. Anyway, for those who put their trust in my taste, and why should you?, you can skip this town otherwise. Cortona is just inside the border of Tuscany and is full of english speaking tourists as befits a Tuscan town. It is a nice place to visit, a bit far from the major roads. You could easily spend half a day here and another half day at Arezzo eg.
Back at home, our little burg is having their big blast to end the summer with a sagra or festival for strozzapretti and castrato. The former is pasta which is called priest strangler, thick and tubular, but not hollow and castrato is young lamb, which they stew to perfection. Each night they also provide music which one might say only appeals to italians, but all fun if you are in the spirit.
Here we have gone 29 days without rain and while it is in the forecast frequently, it is visiting the valley and not us. The olives and vines could use a bit of watering.
On a sadder note, it seems we will lose all the olives from our "tenere" trees (just 2) as the olive fly has infested them. We treated and treated with the legal and biological products, but to no avail. The other 100 trees of the more resistant varieties are seemingly ok still.
We have been packed for 2 months, but all ends abruptly tomorrow when we empty out. Fittingly, tonight is the End of Summer Festival at Castel di Lama, not far from us.
NOW IS THE TIME TO VISIT US! We are starting an offer which will last the rest of the year where you buy 4 nights and get 1 free. There is a debate as to whether we will make it 4 for the price of 3. Stay tuned
Yesterday, I picked at least 5 kg of figs and made fig cookies and refrigerated the rest ( the rest being 4.9 kg)
The pictures are of the mobile billboard for the sagra and the event, itself, sleeping tourists in Cortona on a hot day and a couple of shots of the store with the cork castles.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bacco back in the gola d'infernaccio, old friends and celtic music at Cupra Marittima

21 Agosto
I have been less busy in the vineyard and use the time to explore the local scene a bit. Bacco and I hiked into a jam packed Gola d'infernaccio. This is not the time of year to take a popular hike in the local Sibillini mountains. The cars were parked as far as a mile away from the entrance to the trailhead. It was a blast for Bacco, though, as he spent a lot of time in the cold stream, cooling off from the summer heat. The photos show how high the cliffs are as you walk through the canyon and the pretty stream with Bacco occasionally bathing there.
Michele, Teresa and Matilde came to visit and we had a great time hosting them and showing them a few of the sights from Offida to the sea. Thanks for coming down and for the great food products!
Finally, last night I headed down to Cupra Marittima to see a Celtic music concert with a group of musicians from Ascoli Piceno called Old Ways. The singer, harpist, flautist had the voice of an angel and seemed to lock eyes and smile at everyone in the audience individually. It was magical. She sang in Latin, Italian, Gallic and English (none of which should be capitalized, but i am too lazy to change them now). I bought the cd, put the top down and listened to the whole concert again as I drove back home. The group was filled out with a guitarist, electric violinist and percussionist.
A nice way to spend an evening for someone who is always complaining about the lack of live music around here. In summer, all is different and the musicians have places to play. I would like to invite Mystic Dream to play here at Nascondiglio di Bacco in the Fall.
Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Templaria at Castignano

19 Agosto
Here is the link for the youtube slideshow of the medieval festival at Castignano containing performers of all types from combatants to dancers, jugglers and artisans making dolls, handmade paper or grinding grain for flour by hand.
Bacco got up close and personal with a sheep as well.
It was worth a visit and I may go again tonight without the dog, so I can get better pix.
If you wondered what Sean Penn is doing in between films, check out the jester above.
Copy and paste all the address below.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sunflowers and figs

18 Agosto
Happy wedding to my niece Lauren who tied the know with Joe yesterday!
I love sunflowers because they are so photogenic, whether young or old. Here are some of ours with yellow spiders camouflaged inside a couple of them.
Our figs (those pictured are not yet mature) are ripening creating the challenge of what to do with those not eaten for breakfast by our guests. Yesterday, I made 2 honey and fig cakes. If I can find some oats, I will use the brown sugar Charlotte brought me and make fig cookies.
We remain full here at Nascondiglio di Bacco, now with 100% Italians, who are better equipped to handle the heat wave we have here right now.
Today, I went to the immigration office to get my fingerprints rechecked in case I changed them since last year and in a month, my new permit of stay will be ready.
Tonight, I am off to nearby Castignano for the medieval festival called the templaria. Pictures hopefully to follow. This month and July are full of various festivals for food, history, crafts, markets, etc.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Birthday surprise and Osteria La Rosa dei Venti, 1st photo of Bacco's love child

16 Agosto
Raffaele surprised me on my birthday with a dinner catered by La Mattra and a cake with a picture of a peasant farmer which was really a hunter-i pretended. He also did all the work on the 14th, so I had a vacation day, which was extremely nice!
I finally snuck a photo of Bacco's son, a spittin image but with a white apron. I hope the owners treat him better than they do the mamma who is tied to a chain all day.
I tried out one of the best osterias in Ascoli Piceno the other night and was treated very well by the owners of La Rosa dei Venti in Ortezzana, about 35 minutes north of us. With a bit of a drive one can dine at a different level with creative presentations and dishes mixing traditional ingredients with modern techniques.
We are completely full for the vacation season and as the vineyard is now on autopilot, we can concentrate on the B and B..
I will add a bit more later.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Le Sagre or festivals of Ascoli Piceno

10 August
It is the time of year when the wealth of choices for activities here is a bit overwhelming. Last night for example, you could have attended a food festival for mixed fried foods, stuffed olives, pig calves, gnocchi, polenta, and more, each in a different little town near us. That is not to mention all the concerts of the past week. Tonight is the "white night" at Ascoli when all the stores stay open until who knows when and there are concerts and activities in every plaza. The night of San Lorenzo is famously known also as the 1st night of the shooting stars from the Perseid meteor shower. Peak activity is usually on the 12th for those interested.
I attended 2 festivals last week, in Offida-Stinco di maiale and La Pasatella in Ripatransone. Each had a concert associated with the food and wine festivals with "Rosso Piceno" playing in Offida and a couple of english performers in Ripa. The Pasatella festival, for example, costs 10 euros and one is given a wine glass and a punch card which allows wine tastings from 10 wineries, who have set up a little tasting table with snacks in 10 different buildings throughout the city. I tried a sip from them all and my favorites were from our friends at Le Caniette, San Savino and Cocci Grifoni. The latter also uses our winemaker. I was a bit disappointed in the quality of wine from many of the wineries. Hopefully, we can make a wine in the top tier with luck and lots of help.
We have been full the last several weeks with just a few days now and then with a room or 2 open. Ferragosto is the 15th and almost everyone in Italy will be on vacation. We have had people recently from Holland, France, Italy and Belgium.
I sprayed the vineyard again yesterday to keep the mold under control as rain has been forecast off and on for the next week or so. Hopefully, that part of my work will be about finished for the year as the vines will eventually become dormant and it will be time to go through and cut each one down to one trunk in preparation for the training of the vine horizontally.
We are looking forward to seeing our friends Michele and Teresa and our "niece" Matilde, who are coming to visit on Wednesday for a long weekend.
The pictures are of Raffaele's cousin, Michele with a stinco, a couple of musical groups and young friends dancing the night away.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Sagrantino wine excursions, Amor di gelato

2 August
I just hosted a lovely couple from Spello, Graziano Santucci and his american wife, Brenda, who provide tours of the Sagrantino wine region in Umbria. They live in one of my favorite towns-Spello, and will take you to the best little wineries of the zone. They have great taste in wine (it coincides with mine, which is perfect, right?)
Look them up at or email
Tours are available in perfect San Francisco english or italian!
I plan to visit them when things slow down around here, but right now I under water with a full B&B and a vineyard which is like a needy bambino.
We are full through the 17th of August and then we wind down considerably.
Finally, one more plug. our gelateria in Offida is the best I have tried in Le Marche and one of the best in Italy. Amor di Gelato is adjacent to the Piazza del Popolo and they serve really interesting flavors and can hold their own with anybody in our region. Put them on the list of my favorites along with Fatta di Morgana in Rome and the Grom chain. The owner is pictured above along with a pic I have archived and think is Spello.
Buon weekend and check me out on facebook for more frequent updates under my name.
A dopo