The Knights of Malta in Italy

The Knights of Malta in Italy

Thursday, February 2, 2012
Umbria, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Next on the itinerary: Our spring tours in Barcelona, Venice or Prague

A morning and afternoon of meetings with very interesting wine-related travel providers, such as South Africa’s Franschoek Wine Valley , Iberian Wine Tours, and Italy’s Le Donne del Vino (Women of Wine) was punctuated with another Umbrian feast for lunch.
Within this palazzo is Umbria’s National Gallery of Art, and we had a quick viewing of the highlights before our post-tours began.
Piero della Francesca is one of Umbria’s star players, and we learn that he was a geometrist and technical scientist as well as an artist. He published a paper on technical perspective and this beautiful Annun- ciation clearly shows his mastery of the challenging artistic skill .
The majority of works in the gallery are religious, including many Annunciations

– you can certainly see the difference in this pre-perspective, pre- Renaissance work, with the preferred gilding of earlier centuries and the stiff subjects.

What a magnificent ceiling!
And then we’re out the door, back to Hotel Gio to pick up our suitcases, then on the bus, where we meet the other 16 members of our tour, a congenial group coming from around the world – Brazil, Holland, US, Italy and Singapore.

In less than an hour we arrive at the first stop of our Umbria tour, the Cavalieri di Malta Castle in Magione – it’s freezing out here, please let us in!

This majestic ancient stronghold, erected in the 1100’s as a resting place for pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem, is the summer residence of the Grand Master of
the Knights of Malta (Matthew Festing is the 79th Grand Master in the Order’s history) – he is in his palazzo in Rome the rest of the year.

The Grand Master takes his seat in the chapel for private services when he’s in town.

This faded Nativity fresco was discovered when cracks developed in the plaster covering it – what a hidden treasure!

We’re honored to be shown the private chambers of the Grand Master, not normally included in the tour of the castle. You may be wondering, as I was as I walked through the palazzo, about the Knights of Malta – especially, what they do now that they’re not supporting pilgrims and crusaders. The Sovereign Order still has properties around the world (we’ve seen several in Provence, Italy, and Prague), has a permanent seat as an observer in the United Nations, and still today “defends the faith”, and provides assistance to the poor, elderly, and refugees, as well as emergency medical services around the world.

The property grows and ages its own wine,

and we are offered tastings of several vintages before dinner.

That plate of bruschetta, slathered with olive oil also produced on the property, disappears fast!

Dinner is ready – we’re invited to the table,

where the wine keeps coming!
What a whirlwind these 36 hours have been – whisked from the Rome airport to Perugia, wined and dined before meetings with dozens of fascinating wine-lovers from around the world, and now dinner in a castle – and the fun has just begun!

Wines of the World in Perugia

Wines of the World in Perugia

February 1-2, 2012
Perugia, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Next on the itinerary: Our spring tours in Barcelona, Venice or Prague

Have you heard that it’s cooooold in Italy? From Washington Dulles to Rome we flew on the last night of January, leaving the mild winter of Virginia for chilly Europe. A busload of travelers from around the world were then transported to Perugia for the 4th annual International Wine Tourism Workshop. Wine’s not in our tour company name, but it’s always a valued part of each trip, as we introduce our guests to the delicious vintages of Italy and France, often close to where they’re produced.
We’re in Hotel Gio, which is a wine, jazz, and chocolate themed hotel. Our room’s in the jazz side, contemporary, with a CD player loaded with some great jazz right on the wall as you enter. We have a scant 30 minutes to check in, splash some water on our faces to help wake us up, grab some business cards and head to the conference room, where the sessions are on Italian Wine Tourism, then Croatia as a grape escape destination… and the announcement of Croatia as next year’s venue for the conference.

And then the sipping begins… with a tasting of wines from Georgia, accompanied by traditional nibbles such as walnut stuffed sweets.

Moving on – to wines and savories from Umbria, the Italian region of which Perugia is the capital. Platters of grilled bread drizzled with just-pressed green olive oil are a favorite of all.

Dinner has been prepared by Croatian chefs…. note the plethora of glasses awaiting Croatian wines! Lots of wines to try today, but the Italians remain our favorites!

The jazz hotel uses LP records as placemats in their New Orleans restaurant – cute!

Thursday is filled with meetings at the historic Palazzo Priori, in the center of Perugia.
The bus can’t enter the center, so we walk through the snow to the vaulted hall,

where the symbols of medieval Perugia, griffons from the 1200’s that were on the Cathedral, are kept safe from the elements.

Anthony Swift, the founder of the International Wine Tourism Conference, fills us in on the activities and history of the group.

Does Perugia by any chance bring CHOC- OLATE to mind? The whole world knows of their signature candy, Baci. A slab of chocolate (chunk off your own piece) is part of the morning refreshment break.

We nibble our treats and enjoy the view down on Perugia’s much-loved Fontana Maggiore, designed and sculpted by the Pisani family in the late 1200’s in honor of the arrival of water via acqueduct for the city.