Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A taste of Umbria - Terni

Time to share with you a taste of Terni, Umbria. Food evokes so many memories. Memories from this mornings strong coffee and naughty pastry to memories of years gone by.  I remember hearing the stern voice of my mum Solidea shouting  'Dinners ready', bellowing up the stairs when my sister and I were children. You'd never see me run so fast, and believe me,  I am no runner!! Today nothings changed, I bellow gently to my children and they come running, especially if pasta is on the menu! Food is what brings friends and families together, whether it's for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

This is how I felt when I was on my recent trip to Umbria. As soon as the tour guide said lets make our way to lunch or let's head to the restaurant for dinner, I felt like saying I'll race ya!  So childish. Clearly I didn't as that would be incredibly unprofessional. I sat patiently and made sure I was the first one to sit down with my napkin on my knees and knife and fork in a soldier like stance. Pronto per mangiare.

Now tell me. Is there anything better than Italian food? ....I think not. My personal opinion only of course and I am totally bias as I am Italian. But look below, this is a taster of only a small amount of what I had the pleasure of devouring over my three day stay in Terni, Umbria.

Umbria is a mouthwatering region with the capital 'Perugia' situated more or less bang in the center of bella Italia. Umbria is blanketed with silvery olive trees over most of its landscape. Over every hilltop and as far as the eye can see. So you can only imagine the quality of the extra virgin olive oil. Lunch seemed to go on forever and dinner time turned into an evening banquet each night. I'm not complaining even though I think by the end of the three days my waist was screaming 'Get out of there now Carmela'!!

From beautiful deep fried vegetables such as peppers, courgettes and aubergines, to amazing pasta dishes, pork steaks, cured meats, game, risotto and amazing sweet treats. But the star of the region that seemed to appear in most dishes in one form or another was 'Truffles', Sometimes I find truffles to be a little over powering, but light thin strips through risotto or shards over my pasta were a simple welcome treat.

Regional dishes from Terni were simply mouthwatering, on this occasion I didn't get to sample the sausages and lentils but I made up for this with exquisite handmade fresh pasta instead.

I was invited along to 'Piermarini' for a talk about bumpy truffles from Primo (owner) and served a most scrumptious four course meal. Piermarini is nestled between the hills along the Nera valley not far from the famous Marmone falls. If you are in the Terni area of Umbria I would most definitely recommend a visit to 'Piermarini'. Primo is passionate, full of knowledge and lives by his work with his dedicated family by his side. On Primo's estate they also produce olive oil but due to the lack of a robust olive harvest last year they were unable to produce the quantity they were hoping for. This year should be much better.  So a cookery tutor, restaurateur, truffle hunter and olive oil producer, what's not to love. I enjoyed a delicious meal with the starter of the truffle egg taking center stage. I would most definitely recommend a visit and I am already hungry to return, however next time I will be in search of my sausages and lentils.....


Monday, 19 October 2015

Beautiful Umbria - Terni

I was recently invited along to take part in a three day food and culture tour in the beautiful region of Umbria. A region renowned for its sausages, lentils and truffles. Sounds delicious doesn't it! I flew from Stansted into 'Perugia' which is more or less bang in the center of beautiful Italia. As you can imagine there is only so much anyone can see in three days, but I did pretty well and got to see so much. As a region Umbria is incredibly beautiful, mountainous, full of character, historical and passionate about food and wine, rightly so.

When I think of Umbria I immediately have visions of a landscape covered like a blanket of silvery olive trees. Olive trees scattered over every hilltop, empty pieces of land, and road sides. Silvery green leaves almost everywhere. Most regions in Italy are renowned for their own extra virgin olive oil. Umbria has clearly set high standards for it's olive oil too.

I jumped on a train to Terni and checked into my central hotel 'Hotel Valentino', which was very beautiful along with the most delicious handmade cakes and pastries at breakfast time. Clearly this made a great start to a very long day. Once checked in I reapplied my lipstick, shock my hair, grabbed the Itinerary and jumped onto the coach. My guides were full of knowledge whilst showing a clear love of the region too. My base for the duration of my stay was Terni in Umbria and throughout my stay I traveled from Terni, to Arrone, Ferentillo, San Gemini, Narni and Amelia. All in three days.

The trip was a great chance for me as a food writer to immerse myself into the history and culture of the region which to be honest I normally wouldn't get a chance to do as my work is normally surrounded and focused on food and drink alone.  I visited beautiful churches in Arrone ' Church of Santa Maria Assunta, San Giovanni Battista and a visit to the Arrone castle. I do love walking into churches, I feel a sense of immediate forgiveness for eating that extra cake, a sense of cleansing. Next staright to a spectacular mummy museum (museo delle mummie) in the hamlet of Ferentillo which left me with a haunting feeling. So many mummies, from adults to children, babies and even a bride in her wedding dress. Still sends shivers down my spine, but left me thinking, 'Who were they?

Stunning Marmone falls. Marmone falls has now been made into a national park (15 years ago) with guided tours available upon request. In my opinion I think the guides really are worth booking as the they would be able to give you so much information and history on the falls, how they were formed, how they began etc. Marmone falls really are spectacular. The waterfall's waters would be opened on a morning from 11am. The roar of the water was truly something that needs witnessing. A siren sounds to inform the area that the waters would soon be opened. Years ago the siren would sound in order to warn the children who were bathing in the shallow ponds to evacuate promptly, or else!!

Amelia is a splendid town which is protected by a rock spur to the North and almost entirely enclosed by ancient polygonal walls.  A walled town, a protected town, It makes me feel romantic a slightly whimsical story, as if all visitors are protected when they walk through into Amelia. I visited the town and also the Museo Archeologico, Palazzo Petrgnani, Pallazzo Farrattini and the stunning theater situated in the center. Amelia is bursting with tight streets, beautiful shops, history and culture along with super fast tiny motor bikes on wheels. When you walk into Amelia is does feel like you are completely housed into a separate world. I really loved Amelia, this is most definitely a town I would love to come back to and explore much more. Next time it might be me in a motor car!!

I was invited to San Gemini for a dramatic celebration of flag throwing. Wow is all I can say. On the last Saturday of September to the second Sunday of October San Gemini, recalls the medieval life and atmosphere through historical reenactments whilst honoring the patron saint 'San Gemini'. I was extremely lucky to witness the skillful boys of San Gemini throwing flags in a fantastic celebration finally.

Narni is situated on a hill facing the stunning gorges of the river Nera. A visit to underground Narni was planned, visiting the former church of San Domenico. The underground tour includes a pronto romanesque church, the courtrooms where the inquisitions used to meet and the some what chilling cell where the convicted traced their engravings with both religions and non religious symbols. Narni is a stunning town, still undiscovered by tourists but not by it's inhabitants. Please read and find out more about 'Narni Sotterranea' as this was one of my favourite parts of the tour. The tour guide we had was actually one of the 'Boys' at the time who discovered the underground church in the 1970's. His passion , understanding and knowledge is simply jaw dropping. Image the scene; Four boys jump over a wall find a hole and explore, the rest they say is history. A truly magnificent find by a group of 13 year old boys. To this day they are still raising fund to explore further and maintain their fantastic findings. The stories he tells are beyond imaginable. A MUST see in my opinion.

So here is a little of what I was able to discover in Terni over a couple of days. A little history from me, The second blog post will be all about the food. Completely throwing myself head first into truffles and pasta.

Baci x