Upon arriving in Perugia, I picked up the rental car (26 euros/day) and headed for the nearby town of Assisi. The hilltop city, complete with gothic steeples, looked beautiful, and I’m sorry to leave before fully exploring it. Fortunately, I’ll be returning after tomorrow’s Cantine Aperte, Italy’s epic wine-tasting event.
I’m writing to you now from a wooden tent in the Pian di Boccio Campground, located in Bevagna, a town right next to the famous Montefalco wine region. This is the perfect place to begin tomorrow’s wine tasting. This wooden tent, at 24 euros a night (8 euros for sheets and towels if you need them), comes with two beds and electricity, making me almost happy that I didn’t bringing a tent on this trip. I’ve never wanted to travel with a tent because it adds too much bulk to my already bulky luggage, and camping in Italy is actually rather expensive: campsites generally charge per person, per tent, and per car. If you want to rent a car and get into the countryside, campgrounds like Pian di Boccio offer a solution: inexpensive wooden tents and bungalows.
Earlier, I visited the hilltop town of Assisi, the chosen home of Italy’s patron saint, St. Francis. The son of a wealthy clothing maker, St. Francis rejected the path of commerce, symbolically (and literally) shedding his clothes and walking into the woods. He believed in living a humble life, and became a beggar before founding the Order of the Friars. That’s right, St. Francis was the original founder of the Franciscan monks.
Assisi is breathtaking. Its many churches fill the skyline with spires. It is the quintessential Italian hilltop town. Kristin and I packed a picnic of Umbria’s traditional foods: Mortadella di Campotosto, caciotta di Norcia, and a bottle of Fongoli winery’s 2008 “Grechetto dei Colli Martani.”
When I visit a region, I love to compose a meal entirely of that region’s specialties. After all, each region in Italy is a culinary microcosm: its components are traditionally designed to be eaten together. The Mortadella di Campotosto, which is made in nearby Norcia, was nothing like the commonly found mortadella. It was an aged salami with a smooth texture and a wonderful pepperiness. Strangely, it had a large piece of lard in the center. I’ll have to ask a specialist to explain that later; I’ll get back to you. The caciotta cheese, also made in Norcia, was barely aged, making it fresh and creamy. This was my first time trying the Grechetto grape, and it was superb. A perfect summer wine, it had a nose of citrus and vibrant flavors. It was a classic wine, one that immediately made me think of Italy, but it was also toasty, reminding me of California and sweet home San Francisco. I look forward to tasting more of these tomorrow.
After lunch, I toured Assisi. Beautiful views of the Tiber Valley framed by alleyways and walnut trees were everywhere. Expansive, perfectly planned countryside spread out in all directions. The churches I visited were also impressive, but very busy with visitors. Assisi is definitely on the map when it comes to tourism.
Well, the sun has set, the night is warm. Our wooden tent came with patio furniture, so we’re going to play a game of scopa (a traditional Neapolitan card game) then head over to the campground’s restaurant. Tomorrow is a big day.
Written by and photos by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com