April 2004 Newsletter
Just returned from the northern Lazio countryside, which borders the regions of Tuscany and Umbria. It is a lush green agricultural area that soothes the soul, being so richly colored. Everywhere one turns there are rolling green hills, deep brown earth, or dirt hillsides dotted with caves, sheep, wild boar, and sometimes small herds of cattle. There are silver-tipped olive trees in every direction, some planted randomly, others in the neat tidy rows of orchards.
The land is farmed in a variety of ways, but farmed it is. Plots of land in every size, from multiple hectares to tiny micro vegetable gardens. Of course grapes are grown in abundance in this area, as they are all over Italy. And the region recently took up kiwi growing, as a small experiment, since this fruit grows similarly to the vine of the grape. Lemon trees are planted portably, so that they may be brought inside during the winter frosts. They are less in evidence than places further south, as they require a bit too much care for the cooler climate.
Caves are much in abundance in here, too, because of the Etruscan influence. Many are natural to the landscape, which has a very porous element. Some are manmade by the Etruscan people who once populated the area, over 3000 years ago. Farmers are still finding artifacts on their properties, left from this fascinating group of people. There are several very good museums in the area, one in Orvieto, another in Tarquinia, that tell the Etruscan story quite well. Our tours always hit at least one per trip, and sometimes more, if the group is interested.
The Lazio countryside is also riddled with charming little villages, some nestled in valleys, others elevated on hilltops. And in these villages are some of the most amazing, family owned trattorias, pizzerias, ristorantes you will ever encounter. If you are a traveler who enjoys Italy’s love affair with food, you will delight in discovering some of these little gems.
One such place is located in Celleno, which is midway between Bagnoregio and Viterbo, called Mediterranea. Pizza is their specialty, but do try their seafood antipasti ……… mmmmm! Mussels or large shrimp piled high. Great prices, too. The ambience is created by the locals who dine there, and we noticed we were the only tourists, every time we ate there. (Yes, we went back several times!)
Il Poderetto is outside Castel Giorgio, on a small country road. If they forget to put out the sign and you haven’t been there before, it is easily missed. If you don’t mind walking through their backyard and in the kitchen door to get to the dining room, you will be very pleased by the offering of domestic and wild meats, roasted to perfection. Mama cooks and papa tends the fire and waits tables when he’s not on duty as a carabiniere.
These are some of the wonders of northern Lazio. Just wanted to whet your appetite.
Tanti Saluti, Cheryl
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