Friday, August 30, 2019

The Città della Pieve Palio & Ristorante da Laura

The quiet walled hilltown of Città della Pieve is famous primarily because it was the birthplace of the great Renaissance painter Pietro Vannuci, also known as Perugino who taught the very young Raphael, and also because it's the home of Colin Firth and his Italian wife Livia Giuggioli. Although we were able to get sightings of some beautiful Perugino's, Colin and Livia proved more elusive. Belonging to the city-state of Chiusi during the Etruscan and Roman periods, Città della Pieve frequently suffered from barbarian invasions but finally developed as a fortified town around 1000 AD, centred around the Cathedral of Santi Gervasio e Protasio, which is home to two Perugino frescoes. The afternoon we arrived for lunch, il Palio dei Terzieri di Città della Pieve was underway, which takes place late August to the first week of September every year, during which young Pievese compete in archery, drumming, flag waving, costumed battles and historic parades. Celebrating the first day of the event, we arrived in Città della Pieve and watched the drummers make their way through the town, after which they wined and dined in the outdoor  terrace of Ristorante da Laura, my favourite restaurant in this normally quiet and tranquil Umbrian hill town.

A hidden gem on Via Pietro Vannucci with a sensational menu, Ristorante da Laura is run by Anita Doshkova, an absolutely charming Bulgarian Italian. Specializing in fish and seafood, homemade pasta and excellent local cuisine, Anita grows many of the herbs and vegetables in her own garden. Starting with a delicious Mussel Soup and outstanding Carpaccio di Ricciola with raw Armberjack on wild Umbrian arugula. As a secondi, we ordered the Risotto con gamberi e zafferano Pievese and the Grilled Langoustines which were absolutely outstanding — perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious. With no room for dolce, we were however offered homemade Limoncello, which is brought to the table for guests to help themselves to the intoxicating liquor, it's very dangerous indeed. A very special restaurant in charming Città della Pieve, Ristorante da Laura is definitely worth making a culinary detour if you happen to be in the area.

Il Palio dei Terzieri di Città della Pieve

The young drummers ended up dining in the outdoor terrazza of Ristorante da Laura,
singing and laughing throughout the afternoon

Ristorante da Laura in Città della Pieve

The wonderful menu of Da Laura is heavily influenced with dished focussed on sensational seafood

Typical Umbrian bread is made with no salt

2017 Poggio Belvedere Grechetto by Arnaldo Caprai, 
one of Umbia's most celebrated vintners

Light, crisp and full flavoured

Carpaccio di Ricciola: Thick slices of fresh raw Armberjack on wild arugula

Pepata di Cozze: Peppery Mussel Soup

Risotto con gamberi e zafferano Pievese: Risotto with prawns and saffron from Città della Pieve

Gamberoni alla griglia: Grilled Langoustines


A bootle homemade Limoncello is brought  to the table after the meal 
for guests to help themselves to the tart Italian liquor

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Chiusi Archaeology Museum & La Solita Zuppa

With one of the finest collections of Etruscan artifacts outside of Rome, the sensational Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Chiusi is a treasure of enormous significance for the town and surrounding area once known as Etruria. Many Etruscan tombs and settlements have been discovered over the years, which contain well-preserved items now displayed in the museo. Established in 1871, the museum moved to its current Neoclassical building in 1901, where many rare and precious finds are displayed, crossing the entire development of the Etruscan civilization from the Bronze Age to the Villanonova culture, Lombard and Roman eras. Great attention has been given to the preservation and conservation of the displayed materials, most of which came from private collections during the 19th and 20th centuries and from archaeological excavations. One of the most important museums in its field, the National Archaeological Museum of Chiusi is considered a singular point of reference for archaeologists, historians and lovers of antiquities alike, and is an absolutely amazing place to visit.

Just down the street from the Museum is Osteria La Solita Zuppa, a charming restaurant owned by Andrea and Lorella serving traditional Tuscan cuisine based on local organic ingredients. Originally opened before WWII as a marketplace tavern, Osteria La Solita Zuppa was a meeting point for the farmers who came into the city from the country to sell their produce. In 1984 Roberto and Luana began the process of restoring the Osteria to its gastronomic roots, serving dishes that show off the products of local farms, respecting the seasonality of local products. Since 2012 Andrea and Lorella now welcome guests with traditional Umbrian courtesy and hospitality, offering a cuisine based on slow cooking in a wood-burning oven, and a special menu of revived medieval recipes, local lamb, rabbit and other meats, sensational cheeses plus of course, an inspired menu of homemade soups after which the restaurant is named. Next door, La Solito Zuppa Bottega offers a taste of Tuscany, with local artisan produce, olive oils, fine wine and homemade pasta.

Open-Air Atrium entrance of Chiusi Museum with Roman and Etruscan artifacts

Canopic urn from Dolciano, with bronze sheet ossuary with earthenware head on a bronze throne with relief decoration from the 7th-century BC

Head of a canopic urn with gold earrings from Dolciano, from the 7th-century BC

Interior of Chiusi Archaeology Museum

"Pietra Fetida" funerary sphinx from the 6th-century BC

Small earrings, pendants and armlets from the 5th and 6th-entury BC

Ivory Pyxis with carved friezes of Ulysses and Scylla, wild beasts, horsemen and sphinxes, from The Tomb of the Pania, from 620-580 BC

Illustrations of the painted walled interior of The Tomb of the Hill, an Etruscan Tomb in Chiusi that was used as a funeral chamber and dates to the 5th-century BC, but was only discovered in 1833

Fabulous Mosaic panel with the Calydonian boar-hunt from a Roman Villa on Montevenere, 
from the 1st-century BC

Detail of the 'chinghiale'

Chiusi Cathedral

The Chiusi Cathedral Museum was established in 1932 to house the spectacular 15th-century Benedictine illuminated manuscripts from the Monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore

Detail of one of the 15th-century Benedictine choir books

Drop initial detail

All the illuminated manuscripts are hand painted on parchment paper

Under Chiusi Cathedral is the Labrinth of Porsenna, a series of tunnels created by the Etruscans in the 5th-century BC which served as a drainage system and water supply

Carved out of sandstone, the monumental cistern was discovered over 20 years ago, with some of the tunnels freely accessible to visitors

Above the soaring central pillar and double barrel vault which was adapted by the Romans, was a defensive Tower which was later converted into the Bell Tower of the Cathedral

The Bell Tower of the cathedral which sits above the barrel-vaulted cistern

Carved sign marking the exit from the underground labyrinth

The stone exit from the labyrinth

Osteria La Solita Zuppa in Chiusi

Our table at Chiusi's charming Osteria La Soilta Zuppa

The menu which features traditional and Medieval Umbrian dishes

Rolling handmade Pici, a traditional Umbrian pasta

Andrea and Lorella, owners of La Solita Zuppa

Our server pouring a complimentary glass of wine to match each of our appetizers

Glass of Vin Santo paired with the Crostini

Crostini di Fegatini Toscana

Glass of chilled local Rosé

Carpaccio di Manzo con parmigiano e scorza di limone

Local chardonnay

Insalata di tonno e cannellini

Tagliatelle al ragù d’anatra

Gnudi di spinaci e ricotta con salsa al burro e salvia

Spezzatino di cinghiale

Patate arrosto

Bietole saltate in padella

Sformato di carote

Macchiato served in a small lidded cup with a crocheted doily 

Perfectly hot and steamy

Tray with cream and sugars

Piccoli dolci