Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi. A church on top of church – equally grandiose and beautiful on both levels despite the ceiling paintings being partially destroyed by an earthquake. A pilgrimage of sorts for Roman Catholic patrons around the world including our English speaking friar who gave us a tour. He was from Texas.In the province of Perugia fifty percent of the menu items include mouth watering tartufo. In Assisi we started with La Lanterna – I sampled Michelle’s asparagus black and white truffle risotto and devored a 12″ wood fired oven fungi black truffle cheese pizza on my own. I salivate all over again just looking at these. On the third floor common terrace of Hotel Trattoria da Elide I watched the World Cup, drank Heineken’s and ate Paj crisps.
I adored this hotel for many reasons, this terrace being at the top of this list. I sat here for many hours and relaxed, watched a thunder storm roll through, drank copious bottles of wine with my group. It’s hard to believe I didn’t capture the exterior or the view from this terrace (I swear I had one of the view of the lombardy popular’s and terracotta tiled roof villa behind us, if I find it I will add it). If you go to Assisi, stay here. It is a five minute walk from the train station to Rome and bus stop to the main fortress. You can check it out on Google Street View here.The adjoining trattoria – delightful. They had this wild boar pappardelle pasta which I ate two helpings of in the 48 hours we were here and simple perfect Cacio e Pepe (which I missed when we went to Rome). They served Mokflor espresso, which is my local choice at Pavia in Herring Cove. I madly loved this place.Spello, from the train.Spello is famous for their local flower competition which happens every spring and winners are numbered for summer tourists to admire.Obsessed with these silvery leafed olive trees. Love love.Fortress of Assisi in the distance.
This begins our insane wine and olive oil tasting with lunch at Enoteca Properzio in Spello. This place brought new meaning to term “wine snob”. It was beyond anything I have experienced in a wine tasting before, and even though myself and few others felt out of place the wine was delicious and the food outstanding.Bruschetta and little pesto spreads – infused with truffle of course.A vegan soup, the broth made from vegetables condensed and steeped for 48 hours creating a rich and flavorful base.Flag salad: fresh buffalo mozzarella, aged tuna, capers and organic vegetables grown next door.It wouldn’t be complete with out the families own olive oil and 90.00 EUR bottle of balsamic. To die for.Organic honey and six varieties of cheese was desert along with sweet wine.The tasting lasted the entire afternoon and we definitely drank our share of wine.
We woke up in Gubbio and walked down the street for our standard morning caffè and chocolate filled croissants. Eaten while standing, cup and saucer resting on the bar top in the tiny nameless cafe and staring at a nine inch square TV from the 90’s showing (Italian) recaps of the World Cup. It was very early. We caught a bus that sped through the windy mountain roads of Umbria towards the town of Perugia, honking at vendors and cars that crossed the invisible yellow line on the path that I just can’t bring myself to call a ‘road’. Destination, Assisi.
Assisi is a sacred place for anyone of the Roman Catholic faith, thanks to St. Francis of Assisi — patron saint of Italy, founder of the Franciscan order, and worshiped by millions around the world. I kid you not, in Assisi population 3,000 this place welcomes 4-5 million visitors annually. For those of us who are non-denominational in our beliefs you feel a bit out of place but also quite in awe of the devotion. And the music. Those friars, they can sing and you feel like heaven can quite possibly exist on earth.
The second bus (less enthusiastically then the first) drove and dropped as off at the plaza in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (this is where Los Angeles gets it’s name – for the record). It was a five minute walk from our hotel and had many wonderful surprises, including the talented angelic voiced friars and a tiny church that the enormous basilica had been built around. I went back twice, just to hear the friars and have tried to YouTube one particular song on some insomniac nights but have never quite found the exact one. It was magic.
Spello was a ten minute train ride down the rail, an easy commute and so much less tourist traffic than Assisi. Massimo told us fascinating stories from World War II when Spello was under German occupation – some true hero’s in this place that is for sure. Be warned, this is another town built with mountain protection at it’s back and it is quite the hike to the top.
On said terrace of da Elide, I spent an entire evening nursing my many blisters (drinking wine post wine tasting) and treating this portion of my world-wind tour from north-east to south-west like a true vacation. It was wonderful.
There was a McDonald’s a stones throw away from the hotel and the smarties McFlurry tastes identical to the one on Mumford Road. In case you were curious, but we can keep that between you and me.