Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Spoleto: Roman Spoleteum & Ristorante Sabatini

A magnificent mix of remnants from its Roman and medieval pasts, Spoleto’s history actually goes back further to the Bronze Age with the Umbri, who built walls around their settlement in the 5th century BC. Today, it’s best known for its annual summer Festival dei Due Mondi - Festival of Two Worlds - honouring music, opera, theater and dance. Founded in 241 BC, the ancient hill town of Spoletium became an key Roman colony, due in part to its proximity to the Via Flamina, the ancient Roman road that led from Rome, over the Apennine Mountains to the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The Lombards made Spoleto the capital of their duchy in 570 AD, building it high and mighty, and leaving it with a parting gift of the beautiful Romanesque Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta. One of the most beautiful examples of Umbrian Romanesque architecture, the Duomo was built in three phases over the space of a couple hundred years. The interior however was rebuilt in in the 17th-century in the Baroque style and features many outstanding frescoes and extraordinary works of art. Strolling up from the Duomo through the Piazza, we wandered uphill to the oldest part of Spoleto, Piazza del Mercato, with its gorgeous 18th-century fountain pillaged from various architectural remains around Spoleto. 

With the clock face indicating it was almost 1 o'clock and time for lunch, we wandered down to Ristorante Sabatini on Corso Mazzini, where we had reservations for lunch in their lovely outdoor garden. Started in 1900 by the Sabatini family, the restaurant was taken over in 2010 by owners of the historic restaurant "Le Coastline", transforming the restaurant into one of the top dining destinations in Spoleto. With a refined selection of homemade pasta, cured meats, and special dishes and produce unique to the local area, we enjoyed a glorious lunch under a lovely cool umbrella, a welcome reprieve on a hot afternoon. Enjoying a local Grechetto white wine from nearby Montefalco, we started with a Caprese di Mozzarella Spoletina and Tortino di sedano nero di Trevi con cuore morbido di crescenza e tartufo made with black celery harvested from Trevi, available only a few weeks every year. Known for their truffle dishes, we followed with Risotto allo Zafferano di Cascia Tartufo and Strengozzi al Tartufo. In a gesture of hospitality, our server arrived with some Tiramisu and bottle of Grappa for my husband and I to enjoy before strolling uphill to Palazzo Leti, where we were staying in Spoleto that night. 

Gelsomino Giallo, known as yellow jasmine, being arranged around olive trees 
under the 17th-century open porch of the duomo

The Duomo's unique Romanesque façade features a golden mosaic dated 1207 
and depicts Christ between the Virgin Mary and St. John

The Romanesque interior was given a Baroque makeover in the 17th-century

12th-century apse with the beautiful 15th-century Life of the Virgin fresco cycle by Filippo Lippi

The Coronation of the Virgin at the top showing Mary being crowned by God, 
watched by saints, angels and Old Testament figures gathered around a rainbow

The elevated ornate organ in the duomo

Painting of Saint Mark with the lions 

Candles lit below the image of St Mark

The Marian Chapel 

Chapel of the Nativity

Enormous stands of fragrant yellow jasmine

The grand stairway leads from the Piazza del Duomo to the Piazza del Mercato

Lombard arches on Via Aurelio Saffi 

The 18th-century Fontana di Piazza del Mercato is one of the oldest parts of Spoleto, 
with the Piazza built on the site of the ancient Roman Forum

The beautiful clock face shows it's 12:45pm and reminds us that it's almost time for lunch

We wandered from Piazza del Mercato down to Corso Mazzini to our restaurant

The Roman Arch of Drusus from AD 23

Ristorante Sabatini 'il giardino del corso', in the historic centre of Spoleto

The menu features local produce and dishes of the Spoleto area

Umbria's famous Grechetto from Montefalco

Crisp and refreshing, we became great enthusiasts of Grechetto after our wine tasting at Arnaldo Caprai weeks earlier

Warm Rosemary Focaccia

Piatto di salumi del territorio

Tortino di sedano nero di Trevi con cuore morbido di crescenza e tartufo 

Caprese di Mozzarella Spoletina aromatizzata all’olio di basilico

Risotto allo Zafferano di Cascia Tartufo

Strengozzi tirati a mano al Tartufo

Our server brought us some homemade Tiramisu as a sweet final to our lunch

A bottle of Arnaldo Caprai Grappa Sagrantino di Montefalco was placed on our table to pour as we wished, a complimentary degustation

Quite smooth in flavour, Grappa is an Italian custom I still have yet to master

A jolt of caffein to provide the stamina for our walk back to Palazzo Leti 
through the winding streets of Spoleto

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