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Italian Adventure Part I: Cooking in Umbria

I’m having a hard time coming up with the words to describe this trip. It’s hard enough sorting through 1,700 photos to pick just a few that best represent such an amazing experience, but then it seems hard to find the words to do those pictures justice. But, I shall do my best. I’m going to divide our trip into 4 “mini-adventures” of sorts, beginning with the first: 7 days in the Umbrian countryside.

This first week was spent in what just might be the most picturesque farmhouse in Umbria. Nestled among vineyards and olive orchards, on a property dotted with fig trees, like something right out of “Under the Tuscan [Umbrian?] Sun.”

Yes, you have permission to be jealous now. Heck, I’m jealous of myself. I do have to say that this place was not our discovery – we owe that to my aunt & uncle who arranged it all: the fact that they just so happened to have one empty room is the reason we took this trip to begin with (incentive? I’d say so). I don’t think there are enough words to thank them.

Monteleone d'Orvieto, Italy

The farmhouse sat just below the picturesque hill town of Monteleone d’Orvieto. The wonderful thing about hill towns is that the views of, and the views from them are amazing. I don’t think I’ve seen views so beautiful in my life.

Would you believe that there are dozens of these towns dotting the hillsides, each one as charming as the next. You could spend weeks exploring them, from their amazing views and unique shops to their hidden alleyways and secret passages…

Literally, too, I guess.

Castiglione del Lago, Italy

Castiglione del Lago, Italy

We saw castles…

Duomo in Orvieto, Italy

And churches… (this one in Orvieto was particularly stunning)

Picturesque gelato shops… and well, picturesque everything, really!

If I had to choose one picture to sum up our entire trip, this would be it. Indeed.

These may just be the happiest cats in Italy (and believe me, we saw a lot of happy cats). Why? Because they get to live here…

A family farm near Pienza, who makes some of the most delicious pecorino cheese I’ve ever had. And the cats get their fare share of scraps. Cheese cats. Happy cheese cats.

We toured the farm, and while they weren’t making any cheese at the moment (the sheep were in the barn for the winter), we did get a nice tasting, sampling 4 different ages of pecorino, plus fresh ricotta, wine, and olive oil made from the farm’s own olives.

In addition to all the hill town hopping, sightseeing, and cheese tasting, we also spent a good deal of time in the kitchen, learning to cook authentic Italian meals. The lovely Nelly was there to show us and inspire us and make sure we were more than well fed. I swear, you’ve never seen so much food in your life… it was like Thanksgiving every day, with pasta!

She showed us techniques for making fresh pasta. We did tagliatelle, ravioli, and a flaky, fig-filled strudel using a sweet variation of the same dough.

Want it. Knead it. Love it.

We made so much food, luckily we had plenty of hands to pitch in.

One of the final dishes, fresh tagliatelle with locally grown porcini mushrooms. Yum. (My apologies for being a bad food blogger and not taking nearly enough pictures of food… except gelato of course. When such delicious dishes are presented to you, you relinquish your self control. I take no responsibility for whatever came over me in such situations).

….and that was just the first week. Next, it’s off to Bologna!

That's My Jam: Autumn edition Now Available!

27 CommentsLeave a Comment →

  1. 1
    Posted On October 24, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    what a beautiful pictures!

    have a nice time!


  2. 2
    Posted On October 24, 2010 at 12:30 pm


    I am dying of jealousy at the pictures of the cheese and the family farm, I have never wanted to get away so badly!

    Looks like you had an amazing time


  3. 3
    Posted On October 24, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Such amazing photos! Of course, we all wish WE were the ones taking them, but thank you for sharing them with us! The cats are sweet…and the cheese…I can almost taste it! Safe travels!


  4. 4
    Posted On October 24, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Beautiful pictures! Glad you had a great time!


  5. 5
    Posted On October 24, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Looks and sounds like you had an AMAZING time! We have only been to just one small town in Italy. It is on my bucket list to spend at least two weeks there. I look forward to parts – 2,3 &4 of your blog posts!


  6. 6
    Posted On October 24, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    I am very jealous. Italy is #1 on my list of places I want to go. I will live vicariously through your posts. Thanks for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!


  7. 7
    Posted On October 24, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    How inspiring! I am planning a trip to Italy in the Spring – I think you’ve just convinced me to add Umbria to the list of must see places. Your tagliatelle looks amazing!


  8. 8
    Posted On October 24, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Will have to settle for experiencing Italy vicariously through your entertaining blog and picturesque photos! Jealous? Yes. Happy for you and Taylor? Yes again!


  9. 9
    Posted On October 24, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    How exciting to be taken on a personal “tour” of your trip. I would want to bring all the cats home. Looking forward to chapter 2.
    :-) Mandy


  10. 10
    Posted On October 25, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Please excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the ground. Your pictures are stunning, and while I’m in awe of everything (in just your first post!), I’m also jealous beyond words. Can’t wait for the next post!


  11. 11
    Posted On October 25, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Wow, looks incredible! I too am very jealous, I’d love to be right along side you. But I’ll settle for just following you on your journey. Have a great time for all of us!


  12. 12
    Posted On October 25, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    I found your blog randomly through Tumblr, and holy mother of goodness I am so jealous! I’m currently studying abroad in Rome, and was wondering how you got to that little city up in the hills? Is there a train station nearby? It looks gorgeous!

    (Please feel free to email me if you know how to get there!)


  13. 13
    Posted On October 25, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    How wonderful! Ovietto is a beautiful city (with so many little treasures in it and around it! I am grad you got such great photos! (My shots didn’t quite capture the serenity like yours did!) Wonderful! – I miss it.

    Buon Viaggio!


  14. 14
    Posted On October 25, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    I have no words beyond awe! How awesome! Can’t wait to read and see more!


  15. 15
    Posted On October 25, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    I am Granny Smith Green here and am longing for a smell app for this blog,


  16. 16
    Posted On October 26, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Beautiful countryside and great food. That is my kind of vacation! Looking forward to the next installment.


  17. 17
    Posted On October 26, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Wow, you’re photos are nearly making me cry – so vibrant and full of the flavor of Italy. A year ago exactly I was making cheese in Sorrento and eating gelato in Rome — aching to experience all that and more soon. Thank you for sharing your time there — looking forward to reading more about it.


  18. 18
    Posted On October 27, 2010 at 12:57 am

    The picture of the castle, I did a double-take – it’s MAGICAL!!!! And fresh tagliatelle and porcini…envy I tell ya ENVY.

    IMHO, I think it’s ok that you didn’t take more pictures of food – can’t imagine the culture there is as accepting of the pre-meal photo. Heck, it’s already frowned upon by restaurants here! So it probably was best that you dove right in.

    Can’t wait to hear/read more about your trip! Thanks for sharing!


  19. 19
    Posted On October 27, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    oh so gorgeous. glad you are enjoying your travels!


  20. 20
    Posted On October 28, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Simply stunning! I’m extremely jealous!


  21. 21
    Posted On October 28, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Everything looks so delicious!
    Would you please share the name of that amazing B&B in Umbria? I’m thinking it would be an amazing stop on my honeymoon :)


  22. 22
    Posted On October 28, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    These are the types of vacations that are most memorable. The heck with the photos…you have it all in your heart forever.


  23. 23
    Posted On November 2, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    I just stumbled on your blog. Your adventure looks amazing. I have always wanted to do this!

    I think I am most jealous of the gelato! I would be doing the same thing!

    Love looking at your posts from your trip!


    The Fashionista Foodie


  24. 24
    Posted On November 16, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Wow! What a beautiful presentation. Sally told me about your blog and I am so happy you had such a terrific adventure in Italy but especially at my place, Podere Vigliano.I’m so glad I got to meet you there. I too am missing it and would love to see more pictures.

    Ciao Cara,
    Susan Crakow
    La Proprietaria Podere Vigliano


  25. 25
    Grant Sawyer
    Posted On January 13, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Yes!!! Mmmm… Blocks of cheese


    • Grant Sawyer
      Posted On January 13, 2014 at 3:20 pm


    • Grant Sawyer
      Posted On January 15, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm………………………… Chhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssssssssseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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