Hilltoppers from Umbria to Tuscany

Hilltoppers from Umbria to Tuscany

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

Wednesday, 1 January 2015
Orvieto, Italy to Tuscany

A lazy start to 2015 after our late night…we wander down to breakfast, through Palazzo Piccolomini’s simply elegant sitting room,01011501 am lazyand join a few late-rising musicians for coffee in the vaulted basement. Look through those alcoves in the wall to earlier centuries, remnants of Etruscan civilization over which the papal palace (Piccolomini was Pius II) was built.01011501 breakfastWe’ll squeeze in one more concert, Davell Crawford, whom we heard a couple of nights ago in duet with Jon Batiste. Today it’s just him on the billing, but he calls up several friends throughout the hour – one guy on a harmonica, a seasoned gospel sister on vocals – as he keeps our toes tapping with classic jazz, rhythm and blues, pop and funk. In exuberant style, he mixes the music with heartfelt tales – of last night’s New Year’s phone call from godmother Roberta Flack, before sharing his memorable take on “The First Time”. What a superb way to kick off the New Year!01011501 concert Davell and friends and Flack godmother talked last nightBefore packing up and getting on the road we stop for a quick lunch at Cantina Foresi, beside the Duomo. Alessandro carries on the fine family tradition (the cantina was started by his grandfather in the ’50s) with a warm welcome and platters of delicious Umbrian salumi to go with steaming bowls of minestrone.01011501 light lunch at cantina foresi by duomoAs we walk back to the hotel, jazz drifts through the doors of one café after another,01011501 music spills outand we stop at Bartolomei’s shop for our olive oil – yes, we can fit a bit more in our suitcases!01011501 oo from bartWe arrive at our next hilltown, Monte San Savino, with time to check in to lovely little Logge dei Mercanti, settle into our rooms, and take in the sunset from our windows.01011502 next hilltownDinner takes us through the impressive portal of another tiny hill town, Lucignano. 01011503 lucignano another hill townWe explore a bit, wandering the steep streets of this snail-shaped charmer,01011504 explore a bitand then continue our Italian feasting at Il Goccino. A WOW of a meal, from the smoked goose breast and foie gras,01011504 fab dinner foie gras smoked goose breast appleto a “Chocolate Pearl” that melts when our waiter pours on the hot raspberry soup. 01011504 raspberry soup on chocolate pearlOh we eat SO well out in the Tuscan and Umbrian countryside!
Back to “our” hilltown – 01011505 goodnight to our hilltownBuona Notte Monte San Savino, it’s nice to be back!



Welcoming the New Year in Italy

Welcoming the New Year in Italy

New Year’s Day, 2013
Orvieto, Monte San Savino and Lucignano, 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

Photographer Bruce has been up before the sun morning after morning, and this first sunrise of 2013 is a magnificent reward for his early risings.

Thank you, Bruce Margolis, for sharing this beauty with us!

The rest of us sleep late after our New Year’s Eve revels, greeting the day more leisurely. We make sure to get up and about in time for one of our favorite Umbria Jazz traditions – the Funk Off gang marching through the streets.
Like the pied piper, the white tuba leads the throngs through Orvieto’s cobbled lanes,

pausing at a little piazza for a lively mini concert.

Palazzo Piccolomini, as usual  has been home for quite a few musicians once again this year, such as the band leader, a cool sax player who joined us in the ancient vaulted cellar of the hotel for our late breakfast this morning.


We complete our Umbria Jazz concerts with another special treat, the Giovanni Tommaso reunion quintet. Giovanni, the bassist, and the other four played together for the very first time on this stage in the Palazzo Popolo twenty years ago, for the first Umbria Jazz Winter. They seem to enjoy their reunion as much, if not more, as we in the audience do.

When the sax player, so very cool in his red glasses, says that it feels like they’ve been playing together forever, we all clap in agreement – a terrific ensemble!

Kirk, in his Umbria Jazz Winter shirt, leads us in our own little parade, Funk Off amplified from his iPhone as we strut to lunch.

Cantina Foresi is a tiny fun place beside the cathedral, with a few tables made of stumps,

We grab the last two, and they’re quickly loaded with warming Umbrian delights,

so many that we have to use our laps and legs in addition to the tree stumps.

Then we load up the van, and head north to Monte San Savino, where we’re greeted with a glorious sunset out of our window at the Logge dei Mercanti hotel. What beauty we’ve enjoyed from start to finish of the day!
But there’s more to enjoy, as we wind down from one hilltop town and head for the one next door, Lucignano, still surrounded by a massive stone wall.
Inside the streets spiral upward, connected with lamplit stone arches, to a sweet little church, but what we’re here for is yet one more great dinner, at il Goccino,

and we’re welcomed into a private room, where we begin to peruse the menu.

From one treat to another the meal unfolds – an unusual risotto with foie gras and artichokes is a fabulous combination of tastes and textures,
and even though we’re all already full, we can’t resist the desserts, such as this molten chocolate cake.
Oh my, it’s a good thing we’ll be doing a lot of walking tomorrow!