Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Panicale: Perugino, San Sebastiano & Lillo Tatini

One of the most beautiful towns in Italy, Panicale has been crowned 'I Borghi piu belli d'Italia', a selection of small villages throughout Italy that are considered to be the most beautiful. While Panicale has probably been inhabited since Etruscan times, it was a medieval castle built on the peak of the hill that formed the village we see today. One of the Italy's famous painters, Pietro Vannuci, known as Il Perugino, was born in Panicale and the local Church of San Sebastiano is home to one of his celebrated frescoes — The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. Chiesa di San Sebastiano was built between the 14th and 15th-centuries, and later remodelled in 1623. The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, a fresco painted by Perugino in 1505, is considered to be one of the artist's most important works in Umbria. Designed to decorate the back wall of the Oratory of San Sebastiano, the martyrdom was conceived as an abstract composition of geometrical figures. The central pyramid depicts four archers that seem to dance around the saint, who appear calm as he is pierced by the arrows. In the background is a bucolic landscape of gentle rolling hills, which was actually modelled on the view from outside the church looking towards Lago Trasimeno and the Valdichiana valley. 
In the same church there is also the breathtaking fresco depicting the 'Madonna in trono con Angeli musicanti', which has only recently been attributed to Raphael. It was taken from the St. Augustine Church in 1884, and is now being preserved in the Church of Saint Sebastian. Painted by students of Perugino, one of the startling revelations has been that four of the figures in the fresco, the Musical Angels, were all painted by Raphael, at age 12. It was an extraordinary experience to be able to get so close to these works of art, in private, and in total quiet. 

The main gate into Panicale

Ceramic map of the village under the arch of the main gate

The Fountain at Piazza Umberto built in travertine in 1473 was once the village well

One of the beautiful Medieval walkways in Panicale

Overlooking Lago Trasimeno from the top of the village

A Panicale pooch!

Bronze statue of the Archangel Michael outside the Collegiata di San Sebastiano in Piazza San Michele

Interior of the 11th-century Collegiata di San Sebastiano

Above the altar is the 15th-centry "Annunciation of the Virgin" by Masolino da Panicale

Although blessed with a humble exterior, Chiesa di San Sebastiano is home to The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, a gorgeous fresco painted by Perugino in 1505, and considered to be one of the artist's most important works in Umbria

The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian by Perugino 

Fresco detail of one of the archers preparing his bow

Another archer is poised to launch an arrow at St Sebastian

Unlike most depictions of The Martyrdom of St Sebastian, Perugino's fresco show the saint with just 2 arrows in his leg and well before being riddled with them

The detached fresco "Madonna in Trono", or Madonna and Musical Angels, by Raphael, 
who was originally a student of Perugino

One of the angels in the fresco playing a lute

Another angel looking heavenward playing a voila

Detail of one the double-wing cherubs

Fortified with the art of Perugino, it was time to fortify our bodies with the special Umbian cuisine of Lillo Tatini, our favourite restaurant in the main square of Panicale on Piazza Umberto I. A gracious host, Patrizia Spadoni always greets us with a warm smile and glass of prosecco as we return each year to enjoy a magical lunch. Named after Patrizia’s husband Vittorio's grandfather, a shopkeeper in Panicle who occupied the same space, Lillo Tatini is a culinary paradise. Opened in 1999, the dishes are based on traditional Umbrian cuisine using historic recipes and a network of treasured suppliers, the sophisticated menu features local charcuterie, fresh pasta, truffles, fish from Lago Trasimeno and game from the surrounding hills. The management of the kitchen, supervised and guided as always by Patrizia, is in the hands of chef Ardjent, and the cuisine is always exceptional. The afternoon we arrived for lunch, Patrizia was away with her grandchildren and we were graciously taken care of by Vittorio. Starting with a lovely glass of Prosecco, we looked over Lillo's menu swooning over many of the dishes we had enjoyed before. Dishes such as Carbonara del Perugino - Ravioli stuffed with quail eggs sautéed with bacon from Siena "Cinta" and special sheep milk ricotta from Norcia, Quel Ghiottone del Fattore - Handmade tagliatella dressed with Cintasenese pork and Chianina beef sauce, and Spuntino al Poggio - Deboned Rabbit with fagiolina del Trasimeno embrace the flavours and aromas of Panicale — our little corner of paradise.

Walking from the Chiesa di San Sebastiano back towards the main square of Panicale,
and lunch at Lillo Tatini

Lillo Tatini viewed from on Piazza Umberto I

Our favourite restaurant in Umbria, the weathered metal sign of Lillo Tatini 
is like a familiar greeting by an old friend

The charming and inviting interior of Lillo Tatini

Wrapped in suede, the menu features traditional Umbrian cuisine using historic recipes 

The attention to detail is found from the table settings and glassware to the unique ambiance, outstanding menu and gracious personalized service

Beautiful water glasses grace the table

Our host Vittorio pouring a lovely bottle of Prosecco

Hot fresh baked olive and cheese panini

Lillo Tatini's spectacular anchovy butter, which combined with the hot rolls is simply the best

Insalata Caprese with burata and pesto

Zuppa di Ceci e Costagna con pane tostata

Marinated Coregone lake fish with citrus pesto and rocket

Vittorio decanting our bottle of Sagrantino di Montepulciano

The Umbrian wine with soul

Il Preferito del Podesta: “Peposo” typical beef braised in Sangiovese wine and pepper in grains served with mashed potatoes

Carbonara del Perugino: Ravioli ripini con uovo quaglia saltati in padella con pancetta 
di Cinta Sense e ricotta stagionata di Norcia

Quel Ghiottone del Fattore: Handmade Tagliatelle with ragu of Cintasenese pork and Chianina beef, and absolutely delicious — the best pasta of our trip!

Tiny mason jar of freshly grated pecorino for my pasta

Vittoria Geletaria by Lillo Tatini, named after the granddaughter of Patrizia and Vittorio

The delectable selection of gelato was too tempting to pass by after our sensational lunch

Piccola ciotola di gelato di nocciole

Monday, September 18, 2017

Spello: Ancient Hispellum & Ristorante Porta Venere

Tucked away near the gentle slopes of Mount Subasio, this charming 12th century village has been nicknamed "The Jewel of Umbria" because of its rich history, uniquely preserved Roman and medieval architecture and its breathtaking views. Spello's narrow alleyways and winding cobblestone streets brim with colorful plants, lure visitors to explore its hidden courtyards, alleyways, stone architecture, and small shops that have been run by the same families for generations. Populated in ancient times by the Umbri, Spello became a Roman colony in the 1st century BC. 'Hispellum' was originally a Roman settlement, laying on the Via Flaminia close to the strategic junction for Perugia. The most impressive remnant of this stage of the town's history, apart from the walls themselves, is the Porta Venere, an Augustan-era gate flanked by two 12-sided towers standing in magnificent isolation on the west side of town. Most of the other sights are scattered along Via Cavour, beginning with Santa Maria Maggiore. This church has a finely sculpted medieval portal, but the real treat is inside: the Cappella Baglioni side-chapel is decorated by one of Pinturicchio's most joyous and colourful fresco cycles, painted in 1501 for the powerful Baglioni family and centred on the birth and childhood of Jesus. This native of Spello was nicknamed "the rich painter" because of the generous detail in his paintings. 

Located in a beautiful 16th-century building set on Roman ruins and named after one of Spello's famous Roman arches, La Porta Venere, guests dining in Ristorante Porta Venere are treated to delicious Umbrian cuisine with typical dishes and flavours of the region, such as highly prized Umbrian truffles, fresh asparagus, wild game, and locally grown vegetables with a fine wine list featuring great selection of regional wines. Known for its excellent regional Umbrian cuisine, the brick barrel vaulted interior with Roman-era walls create a warm and inviting atmosphere for dining in the cooler months, while the lovely outdoor terrace is a beautiful spot to enjoy a lovely lunch on a warm afternoon. The dishes are based on traditional Umbrian cuisine, including homemade pasta such as Strangozzi con Tartufo Nero Estivo, Tagliatelle con ragù di cinghiale and enviable selection of charcoal grilled meats and homemade desserts.

Narrow cobblestone street with Roman arch with 2 or 3 private residences, 
for Spello is a living village with lovely homes and little shops

This charming 12th century village has been nicknamed "The Jewel of Umbria" because of its rich history, uniquely preserved Roman and medieval architecture and its breathtaking views 

Narrow cobblestone walkways, pretty pink hued stone architecture, a gentle pace of life and few tourists have given Spello a favoured reputation

Flowering gardens are found throughout Spello, especially during the village's flower festival, or L'infiorata di Corpus Christi, which traces its origins to the 13th century

Owned by a lovely elderly couple, Baiocco is our favourite antique shop in Spello

Basking in the sun on a warm brick wall

The Roman-era Augustan Porta dell'Arce is at the highest crest of Spello

The impressive sculpted 12th-century Medieval portal of Santa Maria Maggiore

The adapted 17th-century interior by Belardino da Como

For two euros visitors can gain entry into the famous Cappella Baglioni
decorated with one of Pinturicchio's most joyous and colourful fresco cycles painted in 1501 

The Cappella Baglioni, with Pinturicchio’s beautiful frescoes of the life of Christ 

Glass covered 16th-century mosaic floor

Interior of Chiesa di San Lorenzo Martire

 Fresco attributed to the Umbrian painter Bartolomeo da Miranda

Panormaic views from Spello over the Umbrian Chiona Valley

The Roman brick arched entrance to Ristorante Porta Venere

The picturesque outdoor terrace of Ristorante Porta Venere in the heart of historic Spello

The menu features regional Umbrian cuisine with typical dishes and flavours of the region

Our server opening our bottle of 2016 Trebbiano

The Trebbiano Spoletino grape is a native of Umbria, but its name seems to derive from the town of Trevi, located in the neighborhood of Spoleto

Dry, crisp and refreshing, Trebbiano is a lovely light wine

Flan di Zucca Giallo e porro su crema di pecorino e prosciutto croccante

Strangozzi alla Spellana Piccante con Pomodorini Pachino e Pancetta

Strangozzi con Tartufo Nero Estivo

Tagliatelle con ragù di cinghiale