Orsini Castle in Vasanello (VT. Italy)

For about seven years we have been driving past the Orsini castle in Vasanello ( about 20 minutes from us in Soriano nel Cimino) wondering who owns it, what’s its particular claim to fame, how to arrange a visit etc. Finally the delightful local tour guide, Floriana Carnevale arranged a visit with the owner, the Countess who still lives in Rome! Fantastic.   Lucrezia Borgia lived here for a while. What a pottery collection: amazing. To top it off the Countess has sourced the world for medieval seeds and has recreated the medieval gardens, poisonous plants and all!.This is really a living castle with the old ceramics factory reactivated and a place for pottery classes has evolved. Definitely worth a visit. http://www.castellodivasanello.it

pottery of Vasanello castle

pottery of Vasanello castle

medieval garden Vasanello castle

medieval garden Vasanello castle

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Fiat 500’s in the Piazza

Can you believe it! So many Fiat 500’s in one piazza. Once a year they gather here, do a few loops of Soriano nel Cimino, from Piazza Vittore Emanuele up to the Fagetta (Beachwood forest) and off into the countryside of Tuscia! Such a wonderful cacophony of sound and they are  soooo loved. We had just finished our cafe in Bar Roma and emerged to a sea of colour and a swarm of fiats! Just fantastic!

fiat 500's in Piazza Vittore Emanuele Soriano nel Cimino

fiat 500’s in Piazza Vittore Emanuele Soriano nel Cimino

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Slow food is the future

Italians really get food; how to grow it, how to select the best, wonderful and traditional ways to cook all produce and they enjoy eating with their legs under a table, not on the run (Fast food) and mostly with lots of company. I love the history of the slow food movement which started in Italy in opposition to Fast Food in about 1986. The story goes that a journalist, Carlo Petrini (remains the President of Slow Food) was visiting Rome and was very distressed when  he saw that a MacDonalds had been built beside the Spanish steps.  He could envision the end of regional variations in food if such a universalising idea took off! Back to Bra he went and the rest is history: he and a band of focused Italophiles started Slow Food as a way to fight against Fast food… His fears were that Italian regional produce and traditional regional recipes would be lost and the very livelihood of Italian farmers would be at risk with the proliferation of fast food. Take a look at the amazing work of Slow Food…www.slowfood.com

I love the books published by Slow Food with places to eat that use local produce and make every effort to maintain traditional recipes in a place that has changed little over the years. The books are in Italian and in English and to my mind they are essential to  eating as you travel in and around the 22 regions of Italy.

They are: O’steria d’italia (Italian); Osterie & Locande D’Italia: A Guide to Traditional Places to Eat and Stay in Italy(English)

Mozarella: Just arrived from Naples

Mozarella: Just arrived from Naples
Fresh ricotta served with cherry wine sauce and fresh cherries

Fresh ricotta served with cherry wine sauce and fresh cherries

antipasto of local product , salami etcantipasto of local product , salami etc

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Lunch in the vineyard

It just doesn’t get much better really. Good food, good wine and good company. As we sat under the shade looking out over the hills of vines, we savoured the duck confit , perfectly cooked after being marinated and eaten with a delectable salad of greens, baby tomatoes, radish etc. yum. Of course we paired this with white and red wines from the Barossa, some actually produced by our hosts Brian and Annie, notably Lanz Thomson shiraz.

pretty food

pretty food

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Adelaide and the Barossa

What a delicious weekend! This was as close to the Italian Slow Food degustation meal experience as I have had in Aus! From Auge and the mulloway fish dish, swimming in clams and prawns to the Dom Bistro Kitchen chef’s  menu with delicate and simply delicious flavours from salmon to pork belly and carmel chocolate served with matching wines and onto Maximilians at Verdun. Combined with the undulating  hills covered in kilometres of drooping green grape vines laden with fruit of Shiraz, Grenache, Merlot and inviting cellar doors this is truly a wonderful holiday break.

Mulloway  fish on a bed of clams and prawns

Mulloway fish on a bed of clams and prawns

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Not Zorro but an add for Sandeman port

Sandeman Port Guide in hat and cloak


Not Zorro but an add for Sandeman port!
Sandeman Port House is an evocative experience that I can recommend when you visit Porto in Portugal. It offers an excellent guided tour with a guide dressed in the Sandeman brand image of a black Portuguese student cloak and Spanish black hat and she speaks English! George Sandeman, a Scotsman who created this port house was an amazing entrepreneur both in making and selling port and marketing port. In 1790 he founded the port house in Porto. In 1928 George Massiot Brown created a recognisable brand image that shows a cloaked figure, a Don or in my opinion a sort of Zorro like figure, very mysterious indeed. There is the musty smell of ancient port barrels sitting on wooden floors that have been in place since 1790 and remnants of the 16th monastery are visible in the building. Apparently, the Sandeman Port House revolutionised ways of marketing and probably scandalized the world of the 19th century with adds that were sensual and had sexy images.
The Zorro like figure continues to be used for marketing purposes even though the company is now owned by a Portuguese group.
At a cost of 4 Euros per person it is a terrific experience, and of course you get to taste some as well!

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Casa Tuscia Nepi

Casa Tuscia, Nepi. This is a real find. It prides itself on using local produce, used creatively…and it does offer a simply wonderful set of choices from traditional to fantasia.

The chef Maurizio Bianchini (www.oonly.com/download/nepi-jano–video-2.htmlCached) is originally from nearby Civitta Castellana and prides himself on offering locally grown and produced foods, oils and wines. The food is indeed delicious and offers a slow food like experience. To heighten the experience for us the chef arrived at the table after the meal to chat about his life and cooking experiences. He speaks English and Italian and as our group was a mix of Italians, Australians, Americans and Norwegians that worked very well indeed. The food was of course seasonal and most of us tried the tris of carciofi (artichokes cooked three different ways)

In addition this restaurant hosts many musical events throughout the year, especially jazz. Of Course we drank the local water that comes straight out of the ground at nepi and is a very lightly gassy water called, naturally, Acqua di Nepi (look for it in the green bottle). Nepi is famous for its delicious mineral water which is exported world wide. http://www.ristorantecasatuscia.it. We are clearly not the only ones who think this: * Michelin 2010 ….”una sorprendente cucina nazionale rivisitata con fantasia”
This restaurant is definitely worth a detour. Travelling from Rome north or from Viterbo to the south, it ia about a 40 minute drive. Take a walk around nepi while you are there.
Nepi is full of history. The year was 1499. Lucrezia Borgia, owner of the dukedom of Nepi, was given the keys to the village. Traditionally, this event represents the end of the Middle Ages and marks the passage to the Modern Ages. The Roman historian Livy called “Nepet” the key of Etruria in 386 BC, when it was surrendered to the Etruscans, and then reconquered by the Romans, making it a colony. Surrounded by thick city walls, the town is dominated by the Borgia Castle, a feudal manor. The The Cathedral of Assunta, built in the 12th Century over a pagan temple, and rebuilt in 1831 having been destroyed by fire during the Napoleonic wars, still houses an ancient crypt, which includes a primitive pagan altar, the sarcophagus of San Romanus by the Bernini School and a triptych with doors attributed to Paola Romano. The cemetery leads to the catacombs of Santa Savinilla, with almost a thousand tombs. Not to be missed: the church of San Tolomeo (started by Sangallo the Younger and left unfinished); and the Palazzo Comunale built in Vignolesco style, which now houses the Civic Museum with artifacts from the many necropolises near the city. * Guida ai Ristoranti de Il Sole 24 Ore …Casa Tuscia è ormai un punto di riferimento per tutti coloro che amano scoprire il valore dei prodotti del territorio, che qui vengono ampiamente impiegati ed esaltati da una cucina originale e molto attenta alla qualità.

* La Repubblica 2010… Nel viterbese, a mezz’ora di auto da Roma questo ristorante è una piacevolissima sorpresa all’entrata del paese conosciuto da molti per l’acqua di Nepi….

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