Monday, September 25, 2017

Città della Pieve, Perugino & Ristorante da Laura

The quiet walled hilltown of Città della Pieve is famous primarily because it was the birthplace of the great Renaissance painter Pietro Vannuci, known as Perugino, who taught the very young Raphael, and also because it's the home of Colin Firth and his Italian wife Livia Giuggioli. Although we were able to get sightings of some beautiful Perugino's, Colin and Livia proved more elusive. Belonging to the city-state of Chiusi during the Etruscan and Roman periods, Città della Pieve frequently suffered from barbarian invasions. It finally developed as a fortified town around 1000 AD, centred around the Cathedral of Santi Gervasio e Protasio, which is home to two Perugino frescoes. Among the works of art preserved inside the church is the Baptism of Christ, a typical example of Perugino’s later style, with characters who appear quite contemplative with a sweet airy landscapes behind them fading into the horizon. His perspective is much freer than his first master, Piero della Francesca, who was very adept at manipulating the principals of perspective like in his fresco cycle, Legend of the True Cross in Arezzo. Also in the Cathedral is Perugino's 'Madonna in Glory among the Saints Gervasius, Protasius, Peter, and Paul', painted in 1514, which seems more icon-like than narrative. Designed using pure neoclassical symmetry, the pious duo stand between two red banners which depict the emblem of the town held by its two patron Saints. 

Cathedral of Santi Gervasio e Protasio in Città della Pieve, is dedicated to the patron saints of the city and is home to 2 Peruginos

The interior with 'Madonna in Glory among the Saints Gervasius, Protasius, Peter, and Paul', painted by Perugino in 1514

Closeup of the Perugino

'Baptism of Christ'  painted in 1510

Closeup of painting

An olive tree grows outside the church

Once surrounded by a deep moat and wooden fence, La Rocca was built in 1326 to protect the city from Perugia with who they had a troubled relationship for years

Beautiful garden and house adjacent to La Rocca

Quince trees now grow in the interior garden of La Rocca

Exterior of La Rocca with flags supporting the upcoming Palio dei Terzieri, an old festival with competitions among the archers of the different village districts with a parade, and the opening of fourteenth century stalls and taverns to taste delicious local cuisine

Green and blue flags on this charming Medieval street support another neighbourhood of the town

A small street with private homes and apartments

Exploring a different hill town every day, finding a lovely restaurant to enjoy a leisurely lunch is our next priority, so were very happy to discover Ristorante da Laura, a hidden gem on Via Pietro Vannucci in Città della Pieve run by Anita Doshkova, an absolutely charming Bulgarian Italian. Specializing in fish and seafood, homemade pasta and excellent local cuisine, Anita grows many of the herbs and vegetables in her own garden. Starting with a delicious Crostini Misto and outstanding Tartare di Pesce with raw shrimp and avocado, we were thoroughly impressed with this quiet unassuming restaurant and its sensational menu. As a secondi, we ordered the Braised Beef with spinach, and the Grigliata Mista con Gamberoni, Orata, Branzino, Seppie e Tonno, which was outstanding — perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious. With no room for dolce, we were however offered a glass of homemade Limoncello and Bananino from Puglia — not fond of Limoncello, the Crema di Bananino was very good. A very special restaurant in quiet Città della Pieve, Ristorante da Laura is worth making a culinary detour.

Ristorante da Laura in Citta della Pieve

The quiet and exquisitely charming interior of da Laura

The menu features predominantly fabulous fish and seafood

Fresh baked bread

Our table with a bottle of Aqua Frizzante and bread

Half a lite of Gargaenga Biano Fermo white wine

Crostini Misto da Laura

Tartare di Pesce con gamberi crudi e avocado — superb!

Manzo alla Brace con salsa

Grigliata Mista con Gamberoni, Orata, Branzino, Seppie e Tonno


Crema di Bananino from Puglia

Offered an aperitif after our lunch, I declined the Limoncello but was then offered Bananino,
a banana flavoured liquor and absolutely delicious

My husband did choose the homemade limoncello, which was left on the table to pour at will — very dangerous indeed!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Lake Bolsena: Bolsena, Marta & Trattoria della Jolanda

An unspoilt paradise, with fertile countryside, friendly people, ancient ruins and charming medieval towns, Bolsena is a 'miraculous' lake in the Tuscia area between Rome and Tuscany, dotted with enchanting towns that dominate the path of the Etruscans. Rarely overcrowded, and abundant with beautiful black volcanic sands, it is the largest and cleanest volcanic lake in Europe, with crystal clear waters that teem with fish and lap against fine sandy beaches. A jewel in the heart of Italy, only three villages occupy Lake Bolsena’s 30-mile shoreline, the largest and loveliest being Bolsena itself. Once the Etruscan settlement of Volsini and medieval town of miracles, today the lake and town are best known for a miracle that occurred in medieval times in 1263 — The Miracle of Bolsena. Lake Bolsena is mentioned by Pliny in his Naturalis Historia: the setting for the dramatic incident of Sainte Christine, who was martyred under the Emperor Diocletian at the beginning of the IV century. The saint then became known as Saint Christina of Bolsena and the lake’s patron saint. 

On the culinary side, the king of the table is naturally fresh water fish such as coregone, a lake whitefish, perch, pike, mullet, trout and eel. Coregone is perhaps the most loved by the locals, with the area’s two most famous recipes being either cooked meuniere style, that is dredged in flour and pan fried in butter, or alla bolsanese, that is baked in the oven with vinegar. After a morning exploring Bolsena, we drive to the Medeival fishing village of Marta for a lakeside lunch at Trattoria de la Jolanda. Started in 1950 by Mrs. Jolanda specializing in selling local products such as Cannaiola and Tozzetti, the restaurant became a trattoria in the 1960s, with the kitchen offering fresh caught fish and homemade pasta. 30 years later, Rocchi Veride took over the restaurant and named it "Trattoria della Jolanda", in honour of its founder. The rustic restaurant still maintains its special charm, which in the warm weather is absolutely lovely with an exterior loggia with beautiful lake views, and a menu that remains faithful to its tradition of homemade pasta and local fish from Lake Bolsena. A typical dish of local fishermen is Sbroscia, a fish stew with potatoes, onion, tomato and mint, served on stale bread to sop up the soupy juices, as well as grilled whitebait patties, which the fishermen eat first thing in the morning, grilled over coals along with stewed tench and tagliolini boiled in the fish broth — molto buono!

The main square of Piazza Matteotti in the pretty town of Bolsena

Local beans and grains from the fertile Bolsena region

Entrance to Basilica of Santa Cristina was consecrated by Pope Gregory VII in 1077, and is seen here with blue and white lunette above the portal by Florentine artists, in the style of Della Robbia

The Grotto of Santa Cristina of Bolsena with 4th-century sarcophagus which holds the relics of the saint, and the lake’s patron saint

Under the tomb is an extraordinary warren of paleochristian burial catacombs

The winding street of Corso Cavour in Medieval Bolsena

Stopping by a local shop for some prosciutto and anise taralli

La Perla fish shop with enviable selection of local freshwater varieties such as Coregone, 
plus octopus and sepia from the Med 

A tempting variety of fish nestled on a bed of crushed ice

Fontana di San Rocco in Piazza della Fontana, in memory of the saint that during his passage in the town he drank and washed in it and thus healed the plague in Bolsena

Porta Fiorentina perched at the end of Corsa Cavour

Rocca Monaldeschi della Cervara was built between the 12th and 14th centuries by the Monaldeschi, who were the de-facto rulers at the time of Orvieto and Bolsena

The Bolsena Marina and flowering waterfront promenade

The quaint waterside Trattoria de la Jolanda on Lake Bolsena

The quirky table setting of Jolanda with 1950's style juice glasses and paper napkins but fabulously located on the waters edge of crystal clear Lake Bolsena

Jolanda's seafood intensive menu features lots of Lake Bolsena lake fish

View from Jolanda to the fishing village of Marta

View from our table at Jolanda to Capodimonte, a charming medieval town Capodimonte on the shores of Lake Bolsena, and also an active fishing village

Our server opening our Aimè Pecorino

A delicious Aimè Pecorino from Abruzzo

A flotilla of ducks make the crystal clear water of Lago Bolsena home 

My beautiful little Italian feathered friend

Alici Marinate: Anchovies marinated in olive oil

Fiori di Zucca Fritti con mozzarella e acciughe: Fried Courgette Flowers with mozzarella and anchovies

Risotto alla Pescatora: Seafood Risotto

Grigliate Miste de Mare: Mixed Grilled Seafood

The Medieval fishing village of Marta on the south shore of Lago Bolsena