Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Orvieto Duomo, La Giocca & Trattoria del Moro Aronne

Famous for its colourful ceramics and gleaming cathedral, Orvieto, one of Umbria's grandest hill towns, sits majestically high above the valley floor, perched on a plateau of tufa rock with the outline of its world famous Duomo visible for miles around. The Gothic façade of the Orvieto Cathedral is one of the great masterpieces of the Late Middle Ages, dramatically striped in white travertine and greenish black basalt, similar in many ways to the cathedral of Siena and other central Italian cathedrals of that era. Construction started in 1290 but it took almost four centuries to finish. Several important architects and artists worked on the duomo over the centuries, resulting in the highly styled building filled with beautiful mosaic floors, elaborate altars and colorful frescos that remain today. The cathedral's highlight is the Chapel of San Brizio, featuring Luca Signorelli's brilliantly lit frescoes of the Day of Judgment and Life after Death. Although the frescoes refer to themes of resurrection and salvation, they also reflect the turbulent political and religious atmosphere of Italy in the late 1400s. Signorelli's ability to tell stories through human actions and gestures, rather than symbols, inspired his younger contemporary, Michelangelo, who meticulously studied Signorelli's work. 

In addition to the famous Duomo, Orvieto has been acclaimed for its gorgeous ceramics for hundreds of years, along with other Umbrian ceramic centres such as Deruta and Gubbio. One of the first stops on any of our trips to Italy, we always buy a few pieces to enjoy while staying at our villa, and to bring back as gifts for Christmas. We began our day winding up the verdant hills behind Orvieto to the small rural hamlet of Borgo di Casolari, in search of Fattoria La Giocco, a family run cheese maker of which we had heard. After been given a tour of the cheese cellar, we bought a wheel of Riccardo's cow's milk cheese as well as some fresh warm ricotta made earlier that morning. We then arrived in Orvieto, explored the Duomo then felt our tummies rumbling, not having had breakfast. Orvieto has a number of great restaurants, so as the 13th century Torre del Moro clock tower struck 2pm, we wound our way through Orvieto's tiny cobblestone side streets to Trattoria del Moro Aronne, one of Orvieto's more esteemed restaurants for a leisurely weekday lunch. A tiny restaurant run by Cristian Manca, the ambiance is absolutely charming albeit a little quirky, the produce locally sourced and the food delicious.

We began the morning with a winding drive up to Fattoria La Goccia in Borgo di Casolari in the hills above Orvieto, to buy some farm fresh cheese

A cypress lined gravel road led to the La Goccia's stone farmhouse 

With a small restaurant, The La Goccia family farm raises cows and calves, bees and poultry, and sells meat, oil, honey and various types of cheese including warm fresh made ricotta

Walking through the cheese cellar at La Goccia, we bought a wheel of caciotta di mucca, a cow's milk cheese as well as some warm freshly made ricotta which has now spoiled me for anything else

The striking Gothic façade of the Orvieto Cathedral, one of the great masterpieces 
of the Late Middle Ages - a blend of Byzantine and northern elements softened into the so-called Italian Gothic style, of which the cathedral of Orvieto is a prime example

Colourful inlaid mosaics on exterior pillars of the Duomo

Bas-relief sculpture panel on the exterior of the Duomo, from the Bible by Maitani, circa1310

14th-century fresco cycle in the Chapel of the Madonna di San Brizio, is considered the most complex and impressive work by Luca Signorell

The frescoes depict the Last Judgment and are an outstanding example of Italian Renaissance painting

Rich ceiling detail

Angelo custode e San Michele Archangelo by Agostino Cornacchini in 1729,
in the Capella del Corporale

Church of Sant'Andrea was founded in the 6th century over the ruins of an Etruscan temple
and sits besides a massive 12-sided crenellated Bell Tower

Trattoria del Moro Aronne on Via San Leonardo

Trattoria del Moro Aronne's menu features traditional Umbrian dishes

A lovely bottle of 2014 La Braccesca Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Tortino di Zucca Giallo

Zuppe di Funghi

Salsiccia alla Griglia

Tagliata di Manzo al rogo

Patate Arrosti con rosmarino


Having a late lunch, we were on of the last to leave the restaurant around 3pm

Aunt Mei's Birds Nests with Pecorino and Warm Honey
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Trattoria del Moro Aronne

Fresh sfolglia pasta - lasagna 
10 slices of fresh pecorino, about 1/8-inch thick
1/4 cup honey
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for garnish

Béchamel Sauce:
1 1/2 oz butter
1 1/2 oz flour
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup whipping cream
Salt, to taste

In a little pot, let the butter melt over medium heat, then add the flour mixing with a wooden spoon. Pour the cold milk all at once keeping stirring making sure it does not start boiling. Add some salt and reduce to simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, mixing every once a while. Remove the pot from the stove, check the salt and the besciamella density. If it is too dense, add milk. If too liquid and some butter dipped in flour.

Roll a layer of lasagna 16"x 16" earlier dipped into salty water for 1 minute. Put the layer on a clean and dry surface. Spoon on a layer besciamella and sliced pecorino. Roll on one side and cut into sections. Place the nests on a tray so to fill the whole tray. Pour on top very little liquid cream, so that the pasta is not too dry. Put in a preheated 475°F oven for about 20 minutes. When the nests get a colour, take them out, add a little honey and then place them back into the oven for another minute. To serve, place the nests onto plates, adding some grated Parmigiano Reggiano and serve hot.

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