Thursday, October 5, 2017

Corciano & Ristorante Il Convento: Medieval Jewels

A small medieval hilltop town near Perugia, Corciano is a beautiful hamlet in the green heart of Umbria. Listed as 'uno dei borghi più belli d'Italia' — one of the most beautiful villages in Italy — Corciano is a perfectly preserved Medieval gem with Etruscan-Roman origins. Surrounded by thick stone walls and fortified towers dating from the 13-14th century, its strategic location and massive defensive walls made Corciano a sought after stronghold during the constant warfare of the Middle Ages. A typical Umbrian medieval castle, the traces of its history are still visible in its concentric maze of narrow streets, meandering alleys, stone stairs, piazzas, bell towers, churches and beautifully preserved old stone houses that rise up like a crown within the ancient walls. The historic centre with its main gate Porta Santa Maria, is defended by the iconic 15th century tower Torrione di Porta Santa Maria with a hanging gibbet cage, where felons were once suspended. This ancient town has many museums, the Pievania, Antiquarium and Museo della Casa Contadina, and inside the Porta Santa Maria is the town's church, Santa Maria Assent with an altarpiece by the great Umbrian artist Pietro Vannucci, known as il Perugino. Commissioned five hundred years ago for this spot, it shows the Assumption of the Virgin, to whom the church is dedicated. There are many ancient Umbrian villages with extraordinary historical value and infinite beauty, but Corciano is very special, surrounded by ancient olive groves, it has an undeniable charm and one of our favourite restaurants.

Located in a beautiful 13th century ex-convent next to the church of St. Francis of Assisi in Corciano, Il Convento is simply one of the best restaurants in Umbria. The story is that the monk visited the town in 1211 and stayed before reaching Isola Maggiore on Lago Trasimeno for solitude and meditation. In 1223, San Francesco returning from the island stopped in Corciano, and in memory of his visit the construction of the church and monastery of San Francesco was started. Over 600 years later in 1839, Bishop Carlo Files Cittadini changed the convent into a summer residence for the Diocese of Perugia Seminary. At the end of the 1950's, the property then passed to Luigi Battaglini, who with his wife Anna Bocci, transformed it into a restaurant. At 79, Anna continues to be the heart and soul of Il Convento, guardian of ancient recipes which with great passion she skilfully brings to life every day, with the help of her daughter Patricia and chef Gianluca. Serving simple but exceptional traditional Umbrian cuisine in the ancient barrel vaulted wine cellars of the old Franciscan monastery, we were welcomed by Patricia's absolutely delightful husband Cesare, who greets and graciously serves each guest of Il Convento. With an inspired menu, exceptional wine list, extraordinarily delicious dishes and warm Umbrian hospitality, dining at Il Convento is a gastronomic and soul satisfying delight. Pleasantly adrift in a reverie of culinary rapture, we promised Cesare we would be back the following week. With a knowing smile, he nodded, recognizing the look of the love-struck.

The massive Torrione di Porta Santa Maria was built in 1482 and was where 
the soldiers and gabellieri resided

The ancient entrance of Porta Santa Maria is the main gate leading into the historic centre of Corciano

The small community of Corciano is limited to just 100 people 

16th century well in Piazza Corigino

The old centre is remarkably unspoiled and incredibly well-maintained 

Bell tower of the 13th century Bell tower of the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta

The Assumption by Perugino from 1513 is above the main altar of Santa Maria Assunta

The church has also preserved the Pestrian Gonfalone (long flag) painted by Benedetto Bonfigli in 1472 for the church of Sant'Agostino, depicting the Virgin Mary standing on the castle of Corciano

One of Corciano's steep narrow stepped lanes

La Forneria di Simona e Donatella, a small but wonderful bakery on Piazza dei Caduti

They sell the most delicious Italian Jam and Shortbread Tart with Almonds, 
which we bought both times we visited Corciano

Via Tarragone leads to the 16th century Church of San Cristoforo built on Etruscan ruins, 
which now also houses the Museo della Pievania

Old sign outside the Museo 

The Museo della Pievania contains 17th-18th century paintings collection of sacred art 
and works by Corciano-born artist Giuseppe Laudati

Tempered glass street "window" shows ancient Roman remains of Corciano

Located in a beautiful 13th century ex-convent next to the church of St. Francis of Assisi in Corciano, Il Convento is quite simply one of the best restaurants we found in Umbria

The beautiful stone courtyard of Il Convento

In the warm summer months, the walled garden courtyard is set up for romantic outdoor dining, surrounded by oleanders and climbing roses

The courtyard entrance to Il Convento

The charming barrel vaulted brick interior of Il Convento, that was the wine cellar 
of the 13th century Monastery

The tables are dressed in fine white table linens set very simply with classic modern wine stems and elegant flatware

The outstanding menu of Il Convento with so many delicious dishes, one could come every day for a month and never have the same thing twice

Corciano is famous for its local bread and even holds an annual bread festival

2010 Arnaldo Caprai Collepiano Montefalco Sagrantino — an exceptional wine

Torta al Testo con Prosciutto - a traditional Umbrian street food

Stone walls and terracotta floors date from when the restaurant 
was the wine cellar of the old convent

Cesare shaving extra truffle on the Umbricelli con Tartufo Nero

Il Convento's outstandingly delicious Umbricelli al Tartufo Nero

Tagliatelle ai funghi porcini freschi

Filetto di manzo con i funghi porcini e di tartufo 

Coscio di Angello Arrosto


Patate Arrosti con rosmarino

Macchiato con latte caldo

Anna's homemade Biscotti

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