Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Todi & Ristorante Umbria: A Journey Through Time




One of Umbria's most beautiful hill towns, Todi, is perched high up in the mountains with spectacular views in every direction. Reached by an exciting drive through winding roads and hairpin turns, this ancient city is an unexpected delight. Described as one of the 'most liveable towns in the world', Todi has retained much of the original features and charming character of the town's diverse historical periods in the face of passing time. Like rings around a tree, Todi's history can be read in layers. With a rich history dating back to around 1300 BC, Todi was settled by the Umbri, an ancient pre-Etruscan people who gave it the name Tudere. According to legend, one night the new conquerors were eating their meal which was placed on a red cloth, when suddenly an eagle descended upon them, seized the cloth with its talons and flew away, dropping it high up in the hills. This was interpreted as a divine sign, and the new town was built exactly where the eagle had shown. Tudere later became absorbed by the Romans in the 1st century BC, expelling the Etruscans from their new land, and the town became known as Todi. 

Roman rule is still evident in many of Todi's architectural features, as are many of the town's Mediaeval buildings that were developed during the 13th century, such as The Piazza del Popolo, one of Italy 's most beautiful medieval squares, as well as the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo. Todi's Duomo, the 12th century Cathedral of Santa Annunziata, which sits at one end of the square, was built on the ruins an ancient pagan temple, but was never been finished although additions were made over the centuries. The simple facade is approached by a broad sweep of stairs that lead up to magnificent wood carved doors. Looking back, the Duomo commands an impressive view over the sunny Piazza, which is where we enjoyed an early morning cappuccino and pastry at a lovely Gran Caffé Serrani — sweet compensation for making such an early start from Villa Boronia.




Breakfast at the Gran Caffé Serrani on Todi's Piazza del Popolo

Brioche alla Crema

Cappuccino

The statuesque sculpture of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the famous general, politician and nationalist who played a very large role in the unification of Italy

A Roman arch from Todi's illustrious past

Stone plaque to Vittorio Emanuele II on the Palazzo dei Priori on the south side of the Piazza del Popolo

Above the plaque is the big bronze eagle by Giovanni di Gilliaccio from 1347

The 11th-century Gothic Duomo

The Papal seal of Pius III who was head of the church when Todi was annexed into the Papal States in 1367

The spectacular double door entry of 1521 by Antonio Benicivenni from Mercatello

Detail of one of the panels of the door

Fresco of The Last Judgement (1594-99) by Ferrau Fenzoni with great rose window above added in 1513

The central aisle with high altar and apse with a crucifix painted on panel dating from the 13th-century

Chandelier with double headed eagle above the apse



Todi has no less than five patron saints, but her most famous spiritual resident wasn't a saint at all, he was a writer — Jacopo de' Benedetti, universally known as Jacopone da Todi. A prosperous merchant, Jacopone turned to God after the death of his devout wife, dedicated his life to a higher calling by serving others in the Franciscan Order of Spirituals. When he died in the 16th century, Bishop Angelo Cesi had Jacopone's relics preserved in the church of San Fortunato, high on the hilltop of Todi.



The Franciscan Church of San Fortunato which holds the remains of Jacapone da Todi

The Gothic central portal of the church with richly decorated spiralling pilasters with leaf and animal details plus depictions of saints and apostles

The interior with tall Gothic-style lancet windows and carved choir stalls from 1590 with intaglio by Antinio Maffei

The crypt of the tomb of the locally revered 13th-century poet and mystic Jacapone di Todi

The ornate Chapel of the Assumption by Andreas Polinari (1586-1648)

The bright interior of the Church was made even more inviting with choir music playing in the background through discrete speakers positioned on some of the columns

View over the valley as we came out of San Fortunato

Glorious view through one of Todi's hilltop walkways as wandered to Ristorante Umbria for lunch



A symbol of culinary excellence and custodian of the traditions of the real tuderte cuisine, Michelin-starred Ristorante Umbria is simply the finest restaurant in Todi, and the oldest. After visiting the Duomo and San Fortunate, we wandered through the steeply winding streets that lead to small hidden entrance of Ristorante Umbria. With reservations made months earlier, we had a beautiful table waiting on the gorgeous outdoor terrace with spectacular views over the Tiber valley. Started by Sabatino Todini and his wife Ida over 60 years ago on a small farm located on the site of the restaurant where they used to sell wine in bulk, the property was slowly transformed into the beautiful gastronomic paradise we enjoy today. With a menu highlighting regional recipes and traditional Tuderte cuisine, we enjoyed a glorious lunch of local delicacies with a bottle of dark and delicious Sagrantino di Montefalco by Lungarotti, Umbria's best known winery. Keeping with the moment, we finished with Ciambelline and Vin Santo, a sweet amber dessert wine known as the "wine of hospitality". Fortified with a sumptuous lunch and hot frothy macchiato, we wend our way back on the hairpin turns of SS448 through Parco Fluviale del Tevere towards Orvieto and then home to our villa for a nap before dinner — "la vita è bella".



Ristorante Umbria on Via San Bonaventura

The magnificent outdoor terrace of Ristorante Umbria

Breathtaking views over the surrounding Tiber Valley

The menu features traditional Tuderte cuisine

A glass of local Prosecco was a sparkling way to begin our lunch

Salame d'Oca Cotte con crema di Ceci e Crostini al Lardo di Colonnata

Bresaola con Insalata di Rucola e grana

Zuppa di Lenticchie di Castelluccio di Norcia

Our server uncorking a bottle of splendid 2009 Lungarotti Sagrantino di Montefalco

Lungarotti's rich red wine with tobacco and mineral notes with lovely dusty tannins

Pappardelle al Ragu di Cinghiale

Costolette di Agnello aromatizzato al rosmarino

Bracioline di Maialino ai ferri

Patate saltate in padella con rosmarino e aglio

Spinaci all'agro

The dessert menu

Ciambelline con Vin Santo

Macchiato