Friday, September 22, 2017

Lake Bolsena: Bolsena, Marta & Trattoria della Jolanda

An unspoilt paradise, with fertile countryside, friendly people, ancient ruins and charming medieval towns, Bolsena is a 'miraculous' lake in the Tuscia area between Rome and Tuscany, dotted with enchanting towns that dominate the path of the Etruscans. Rarely overcrowded, and abundant with beautiful black volcanic sands, it is the largest and cleanest volcanic lake in Europe, with crystal clear waters that teem with fish and lap against fine sandy beaches. A jewel in the heart of Italy, only three villages occupy Lake Bolsena’s 30-mile shoreline, the largest and loveliest being Bolsena itself. Once the Etruscan settlement of Volsini and medieval town of miracles, today the lake and town are best known for a miracle that occurred in medieval times in 1263 — The Miracle of Bolsena. Lake Bolsena is mentioned by Pliny in his Naturalis Historia: the setting for the dramatic incident of Sainte Christine, who was martyred under the Emperor Diocletian at the beginning of the IV century. The saint then became known as Saint Christina of Bolsena and the lake’s patron saint. 

On the culinary side, the king of the table is naturally fresh water fish such as coregone, a lake whitefish, perch, pike, mullet, trout and eel. Coregone is perhaps the most loved by the locals, with the area’s two most famous recipes being either cooked meuniere style, that is dredged in flour and pan fried in butter, or alla bolsanese, that is baked in the oven with vinegar. After a morning exploring Bolsena, we drive to the Medeival fishing village of Marta for a lakeside lunch at Trattoria de la Jolanda. Started in 1950 by Mrs. Jolanda specializing in selling local products such as Cannaiola and Tozzetti, the restaurant became a trattoria in the 1960s, with the kitchen offering fresh caught fish and homemade pasta. 30 years later, Rocchi Veride took over the restaurant and named it "Trattoria della Jolanda", in honour of its founder. The rustic restaurant still maintains its special charm, which in the warm weather is absolutely lovely with an exterior loggia with beautiful lake views, and a menu that remains faithful to its tradition of homemade pasta and local fish from Lake Bolsena. A typical dish of local fishermen is Sbroscia, a fish stew with potatoes, onion, tomato and mint, served on stale bread to sop up the soupy juices, as well as grilled whitebait patties, which the fishermen eat first thing in the morning, grilled over coals along with stewed tench and tagliolini boiled in the fish broth — molto buono!

The main square of Piazza Matteotti in the pretty town of Bolsena

Local beans and grains from the fertile Bolsena region

Entrance to Basilica of Santa Cristina was consecrated by Pope Gregory VII in 1077, and is seen here with blue and white lunette above the portal by Florentine artists, in the style of Della Robbia

The Grotto of Santa Cristina of Bolsena with 4th-century sarcophagus which holds the relics of the saint, and the lake’s patron saint

Under the tomb is an extraordinary warren of paleochristian burial catacombs

The winding street of Corso Cavour in Medieval Bolsena

Stopping by a local shop for some prosciutto and anise taralli

La Perla fish shop with enviable selection of local freshwater varieties such as Coregone, 
plus octopus and sepia from the Med 

A tempting variety of fish nestled on a bed of crushed ice

Fontana di San Rocco in Piazza della Fontana, in memory of the saint that during his passage in the town he drank and washed in it and thus healed the plague in Bolsena

Porta Fiorentina perched at the end of Corsa Cavour

Rocca Monaldeschi della Cervara was built between the 12th and 14th centuries by the Monaldeschi, who were the de-facto rulers at the time of Orvieto and Bolsena

The Bolsena Marina and flowering waterfront promenade

The quaint waterside Trattoria de la Jolanda on Lake Bolsena

The quirky table setting of Jolanda with 1950's style juice glasses and paper napkins but fabulously located on the waters edge of crystal clear Lake Bolsena

Jolanda's seafood intensive menu features lots of Lake Bolsena lake fish

View from Jolanda to the fishing village of Marta

View from our table at Jolanda to Capodimonte, a charming medieval town Capodimonte on the shores of Lake Bolsena, and also an active fishing village

Our server opening our Aimè Pecorino

A delicious Aimè Pecorino from Abruzzo

A flotilla of ducks make the crystal clear water of Lago Bolsena home 

My beautiful little Italian feathered friend

Alici Marinate: Anchovies marinated in olive oil

Fiori di Zucca Fritti con mozzarella e acciughe: Fried Courgette Flowers with mozzarella and anchovies

Risotto alla Pescatora: Seafood Risotto

Grigliate Miste de Mare: Mixed Grilled Seafood

The Medieval fishing village of Marta on the south shore of Lago Bolsena

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Perugia: Gallerie Nazionale & Al Mangiar Bene

The capital of Umbria, Perugia is a spectacular and enchanting hilltop town with a compact historic centre and rambling maze of charming medieval streets, exceptional museums and unique archeological treasures. Overlooking the verdant Tiber Valley, the city was originally founded by the Etruscans, but walking through the city one also feels the strong imprint of Roman, Medieval and Renaissance influences, testimony to the historical, artistic and cultural wealth of Perugia's unique rich and colourful past. At the centre of Perugia is Piazza IV Novembre, considered one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. Surrounded by the Palazzo dei Priori and the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the heart of Piazza IV Novembre is actually Fontana Maggiore, a beautiful medieval fountain that was built in the 12th century, which brought water to the town from Mount Pacciano through an extensive aqueduct, an astounding feat of its time. The fountain is composed of two marble polygonal basins, representing biblical, secular and mythological motifs, and one of the best examples of Gothic art found anywhere in Italy. On the other side of the square is the Palazzo dei Priori, which houses the National Gallery of Umbria, the most richest and most important art collections in Umbria, including masterpieces from the Middle Ages and Renaissance with works by Arnolfo di Cambio, Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, Duccio di Boninsegna, Gentile da Fabriano, Beato Angelico, and Piero della Francesca, with considerable amount of space dedicated to the Umbrian artists Benedetto Bonfigli, Bartolomeo Caporali, Fiorenzo di Lorenzo and especially renowned paintings by local favourite Perugino, who famously taught Raphael.

Statue Of Pope Julius III by Vincenzo Danti dating from 1555 outside Perugia's Duomo, 
the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo

Overlooking Piazza IV Novembre is Perugia's stark Medieval cathedral with handsome Baroque portal by Pietro Carattoli, although the main facade was never completed

The interior however is late Gothic and lavishly ornate, contrary to the humble exterior

The altarpiece by Signorelli 

The sacristy with a cycle of paintings of the Martirio di San Lorenzo by Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi (1573-76), an extraordinary example of illusionist baroque painting

Fontana Maggiore, the beautiful medieval fountain that was built in the 12th century, and brought water to the town from Mount Pacciano through an extensive aqueduct

Sandri Pasticceria on Corso Vannucci has been around since 1860

The servers still wear formal attire and make the best cappuccinos in Perugia

My cappuccino breakfast before heading into the Gallerie Nazionale

Entrance to the National Gallery of Umbria with the richest and most important 
art collections in Umbria, housed in the Palazzo dei Priori

Painted wood Medieval processional cross from 1272 by Maestro di San Francesco

Politico di Sant'Antonio from 1467 by Piero della Francesca

Pala di Santa Maria dei Servi by Perugino from 1473

Pala Opistografa di Monteripido by Perugino from 1502

Sant'Agata by Lello da Velletri from 1427

Scomparti di Trittico by Maestro di Paciano from 1330

Nativita della Vergine by Pietro Berrettini from 1643

Detail of Presentazione della Vergine al Tempio by Luigi Pellegrino Scaramuccia from 1680

Saint Gilles du Gard by Pierre Subleyras from 1700

Special exhibition of paintings at the exquisite Collegio del Cambio, next door to the National Gallery

The sumptuous interior of the Audience Hall of the Cambio College in Perugia was the main salon of the local exchange office with a cycle of frescoes painted by Pietro Perugino at the apex of his career

Perugino's gorgeous frescoes adorn the walls and the ceilings of the Cambio

Cafés and outdoor restaurants along Corso Vannucci

Emerging from a a full morning feasting on the artistic and cultural treasures of the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria and Collegio di Cambio, it was time to nurture our other senses and made our way to Al Mangiar Bene. Tucked down a narrow alley, this subterranean restaurant sources nearly all its ingredients locally from organic suppliers, from its pasta flour to the tender cuts of beef, thinly sliced and served with rocket or truffle. Pizza and calzone are baked in a hearth-like brick oven. Even the beer and wines are organic. Just a couple of minutes walk west of the main Corso, Al Mangiar Bene occupies part of an historic medieval building, with old stone walls and impressive brick vaulted ceiling. The décor is charming with simple wooden tables and chairs, but the food is carefully and skillfully prepared. They’re proud of their local wines and microbrewery beers and of their locally sourced ingredients, listed on the back of each menu. Dishes are mostly Umbrian, with the odd regional excursion such as their version of Rome’s cacio e pepe pasta, and in the evening one can order pizza from the wood-fired oven. 

Entrance to Ristorane al Mangiar Bene through the Medieval archway of Via della Luna

Tucked away down a steep walkway through old covered archways leads to Al Mangiar Bene

The Medieval-era entrance to the restaurant

With with old stone walls and impressive brick vaulted ceiling, the décor is charming with simple wooden tables and chairs, but the food is known for its traditional Umbrian cuisine

The menu features local charcuterie, handmade pasta and locally sourced produce,
with a list of suppliers highlighted on each page

Lovely squishy fresh baked bread

A carafe of Sagrantino di Montefalco

Insalate di Caprese

Insalata Mista

Umbricelli al Sugo di Cinghiale 

Rigatoni alla Norcina with homemade pasta, sausage, and salsa tartufata

Braciola di Maiale con patate fritte e chiccoria

Tagliata con Rosmarino e sale