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Jazzy Days in Orvieto

Jazzy Days in Orvieto

December 2017
Orvieto, Italy

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.

 Umbria Jazz Winter is now in its 25th year, filling the hilltop town of Orvieto with jazz all hours of the day and night. This marvelous town, halfway between Rome and Florence, is a joy any time of year, but especially delightful during this winter festival – jazz drifts through the doorways of bars and cafes, bundled up fans and families linger in the piazzas, sample a chewy nut from the chestnut vendor while sipping mulled wine, stroll the lanes during the evening passeggiata, pausing to greet friends, showing off holiday gifts of new cozy coats, follow the Tuscan troubadors Funk Off as they march through the streets twice a day – it’s all so much fun! It’s been 15 years since the first time we came, and my most vivid memory of that first year, 2002, is the New Orleans Jazz band strutting through the streets. The current marching jazzmen have been leading the parade for 14 years now – at noon and at 6.
The town goes to sleep for the winter, from what we’ve been told, after Umbria Jazz Winter, but it’s lively as ever right now – the florist under the arcades doing a brisk business, shop windows and entries showing off their best New Year’s Eve attire  the most beautiful boutique in town is esconced in a gorgeous old palazzo. Ready for a bite to eat, we grab a stump-table at Cantina Foresi, beside the majestic Duomo, and order the soup of the day and a platter of Umbrian tastes – superb as always! 
Hotel Palazzo Piccolomini is the perfect historic-center location to really feel a part of Umbria Jazz Winter  – each year some of the musicians stay there, making our breakfast and aperitif conversations quite memorable for both us and our tour guests. This year a legendary bass player, Henry Grimes from New York, and his wife, were a pleasure to talk to – and passed on a CD recorded with Henry’s trio in the renowned Village Vanguard where some tour clients took us last year!
On our way to check out the sunset from our hilltop perch, we pass through quiet lanes, and there it is – a beauty! The pink hue spreads from west to east, where the cliff edge reminds us how high we are.
Another strut through town with Funk Off, another delicious Umbrian meal, just one more stroll through beautiful Orvieto, and we say goodbye til next years’ Umbria Jazz Winter.

Orvieto – Charm on a Hilltop!

Orvieto – Charm on a Hilltop!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Orvieto, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
How about celebrating Mozart in the matchless city of Bath, England in November?

We’ve left the seaside behind, and after dropping off 2 of our guests at the Naples train station, we’re on our way to Tuscany, passing gently rolling fields on our way to the first stop, Orvieto.07211501 amalfi goodbye hello inlandNo, not quite in Tuscany, but in neighboring Umbria the “Green Heart of Italy”.  A minimum of four hours driving, which is what it takes from Maiori to here, is enough for one day – we’ll complete the journey to Tuscany tomorrow. And of course we’re ALWAYS happy to include hilltop Orvieto in a tour itinerary!  Dropping our bags and the car at the lovely Hotel Palazzo Piccolomini, we begin to show off this marvelous town. 07211501 hours of driving then a tour on footThe glorious Duomo was uncovered when we were here for our New Years Jazz in Italy Tour (which we’re offering again this year – come along!) but once again part of the triptych facade is under restoration – often necessary! We watch workers coming up and down in the bright yellow elevator, 07211501 orvieto duomo was uncovered at ny jazzthen walk over to the nearby cliffside for a breezy view off the side of the pinnacle that is Orvieto. 07211502 breeze and viewA few shops call our name as we walk back to the hotel…one, a high-end clothing boutique, is in a remarkable palazzo. The building’s more gorgeous than the clothes! 07211502 gorgeous palazzo now high end clothesOf course we have to stop at Bartolomei’s in-town shop – remember our trip to their farm in December? The link above tells about that day.07211502 winter to farm summer to shop A tasting, and a tin or two to take home…as usual, our souvenirs of this trip will be edible – we’re getting low on Bartolomei’s superb olive oil and it’s time to restock!
After a rest break in the hotel, it’s time for dinner, and a stroll through the quieting streets as the lowering sun tints the stones in Burnt Umber – so THAT”S where that crayola color came from! 07211503 evening walk to 7 consoliIt’s been a few years since we’ve been in Orvieto in the summer, and we’re eager to enjoy our dinner in the garden – when we’re here for New Year’s Jazz in Italy, it’s WAY too cold to be outside!07211503 garden gazebo dinnerThe multi-course feast at Sette Consoli is, as always, exceptional…07211503 multiple coursesespecially when relished in such a lovely location. 07211503 sunsettingGood night, Orvieto, what a pleasure to see you again!

 

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!

 

 

Music and Midnight in Orvieto – New Year's Eve

Music and Midnight in Orvieto – New Year's Eve

Tuesday, 31 December 2014
Orvieto, Italy

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.

Some of the most beautiful ceramics in Italy are made in Deruta, northeast of Orvieto, and although the artisans are on holiday until January 7, some of the showrooms are open. Silvia, third generation of the artisan Pimpinelli family, welcomed us warmly to the family’s workshop, filled with outstanding examples of Deruta craftsmanship. 12311401 deruta visitGP Ceramiche Artistiche is one of the most respected workshops in Italy, and features magnificent traditional pieces, as well as newer designs of their own.
Silvia’s tour left us marveling at the hours of delicate and inspired work involved in each piece. 12311401 fascinating interesting thoroughFrom the clay, arriving from Tuscany since Deruta has long since run out,12311401 tuscan clayto the shaping,12311401 wheelto the design and transfer and painting, we learn what is involved in a piece,  shivering with Silvia in the cold workrooms, fascinated even in the chill. 12311401 w paintingAfter firing, the colors become so much more deep and intense – that rich Deruta red!12311402 after bakingSilvia’s father has hunted for ancient pottery and fragments since he was a child, and a small collection of his finds share the history of Deruta ceramics, renowned since the early 15th century. This ancient plate features a scene from Signorelli’s frescoes in the chapel we viewed yesterday in Orvieto’s duomo. 12311402 historic pieces father foundWe’ve been glancing out the window as we shopped in the front boutique…an unexpected snowstorm has blown in! So our drive home, as we snake along the two lane road beside Lake Corbara, is quite an adventure as the snow thickens.12311402 surprise snow But by the time we get to Orvieto there’s not a flake!
We grab a delicious lunch at Montanucci, where as usual it’s a challenge to find a table – this place is ALWAYS packed,12311403 back to othen return to Palazzo Piccolomini to change for an early evening concert, and Lorri grabs a photo with Cecil McBee, that legendary acoustic bass player. 12311403 cecil and lorriTeatro Mancinelli is our destination once again, always a delight.12311403 mancinelliRuss and Lorri, savvy jazz afficionados, had let us know the artists that were familiar to them who would be performing at this year’s festival, and we were able to include all of them in our concert lineup. 12311403 concertAnat Cohen, a jazz clarinetist, was on their list. She has brought a combo of young artists with whom she plays Chorro, a Brazilian jazzy folk predecessor of the better known samba and bossanova. 12311403 quartet anat lorri heard

A terrific concert, and we’re all invited for a glass of Orvieto Classico with the artists afterwards. 12311404 apero with artistsA Capodanno (New Years Eve) feast awaits us at Zeppelin tonight – and our palates are delighted with one course after another…crispy polenta topped with salmon draped with a creamy goat cheese sauce, a truffled cauliflower soup sprinkled with a crunch of hazlenuts and a crisp of Cinta Sinese (a prized belted pig of Siena) bacon, 12311404 toast a great yearthen this tender manicotti in white ragu of duck, roofed with a saffron parmiggiano crisp.12311404 cappodano describe coursesI manage a few bites of the main course, a delicious stuffed lamb, and even though I don’t usually like chestnut, I can’t stop eating this fabulous Mont Blanc of cream, chestnut purée and grappa until my plate is clean! 12311404 chestnut usually not faveZeppelin has moved from it’s previous location to RIGHT next to Palazzo Piccolomini – making it all too easy to hang around til way past midnight, chatting with Chef Lorenzo and his crew, 12311404 zep chef lorenzowho have provided a fabulous end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 for all of us – grazie!

Olives and Jazz in Orvieto

Olives and Jazz in Orvieto

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.

The Bartolomei Olive Farm is about half an hour south of Orvieto, on the outskirts of the village of Montecchio, and is always a treat to visit.12301401 bartolomei montecchioFirst we walk through the museum, featuring photos and implements used by several generations of the family,12301401 bartolomei museumthen we enjoy a tasting of their new olive oil, pressed earlier in the month. 12301401 bartolomei tastingFor months, both at home in Virginia and here in Italy, we’ve been hearing about the disastrous outcome of this year’s harvest, and we learn from Cristina that, as throughout Italy and France, due to the wet and cooler-than-usual summer and the preceding warmer than normal winter, most of the olives were attacked by flies and turned out mushy and flavorless. Bartolomei has bottled about half what they usually do, and did not even bottle any of the DOP ( Protected Destination of Origin – a strict Italian standard for quality, excellence, and originality) oil this year because their best olives were not usable. So this year’s is ok, but not at all as flavorful as usual. Still worth bringing home a tin!
On the way back to Orvieto, we take a different route, stopping for a view of the clifftop beauty.12301401 orvietoRuss is coming down with a cold, so takes a break for the afternoon, hoping to join us for the evening concert.
It’s always an adventure walking down the narrow cobbled lane to and from Palazzo Piccolomini – you always have to be ready to step aside to leave room for a car on the one lane.12301401piccolomini laneCynthia Bland and the Road Home Band keep things hopping12301402 cynthia blandduring our lunch at Al San Francesco.12301402 cynthia blands band no russLorri and I join her for a photo after the concert,12301402 ladiesand then talk with  Lawrence, the pianist we heard yesterday with the Love Supreme commemorative concert – yes, his fingers are definitely longer than mine!12301402 yes longest fingersOne of the great things about Umbria Jazz Winter is the camaraderie with the musicians – we’re all together in this little clifftop town, several of them are staying at our hotel, we stop and talk with others after concerts or when passing on the street  – it adds so much to the fun of the festival.
We’re chatting with Todd Duke, the lead guitar of Cynthia’s band, after the concert, and although he’s thinking about a nap, having not slept much at all last night,  he decides to join us for the tour of the Duomo, Orvieto’s beautiful cathedral.12301403 cathedral tour with todd dukeSo Kirk’s appreciative audience has increased, and he enjoys showing off this towering beauty,12301403 no sleep but wanted to know russ coldand the powerful frescoes of Signorelli, which impressed and influenced Michelangelo centuries ago.12301403 chapel with powerful signorelliBy the way, Signorelli included a line item for a good supply of Orvieto Classico, the famed white wine of the area, in his contract!
For years we’ve gazed at the windows of Orogami, an only-in-Orvieto creative fine jeweler, and since we’re still looking for Christmas presents, we decide to look more closely at their wares. Their intricate designs are arranged by themes – seeds is the most recent, labyrinth, bubbles, and other creative ideas are from previous collections. 12301403 orogamiOh they are just gorgeous, but we’ll have to continue to enjoy just looking 😉
We walk back to the hotel, joining the evening passeggiata,12301403 passeggiatathen through Piazza Republicca, from where a Christmas market spreads through the lanes,12301403 christmas market spreads from pzza repwith a copper vat of steaming Vin Brulé under the tree.12301404 steaming vat of vin bruleRuss is ready to join us for the evening, and we stop at Bartolomei’s in-town location for a light supper, circled around an old olive pressing stone.12301405 bartolomei light supper on wheel russ a bit better It used to be just a shop, but they’ve now moved to a bigger place and serve some delicious local specialties as well, such as this warming soup, drizzled with as much Bartolomei olive oil as you’d like.12301405 bowl of soupAnyone who’s joined us on a Music and Markets Tour knows how we like our box seats! And the spacious gilt, cream and velvet boxes of Teatro Mancinelli are some of the best. Russ and Lorri have front row seats for a terrific evening of creative jazz – a duo of duets, 12301405 box first Omar Sosa on piano and Paolo Fresu on trumpet,12301405 duo of duetsthen Davell Crawford and Jon Batiste on two long grand pianos…the music goes on past midnight! That’s Umbria Jazz for you!12301405 pianists this eve was the faveOne concert after the other is remarkable throughout the week, but at the end of the festival, we all agree that this double concert was our favorite.

 

From Florence to Jazzy Orvieto

From Florence to Jazzy Orvieto

Monday, Dec. 29, 2014, Florence & Orvieto, Italy

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.

A visit to the Mercato Centrale starts this Music and Markets day – first the market, then the music!12291401 am marketA tasting of  balsamic vinegar is always a palate and eye-opener. Who knew vinegar could taste like this?! So dense, richly flavored and thick, the 15 year old elixir is delicious over ice cream or strawberries. 12291401 am tastingA taste of cheese at one booth, prosciutto at another, dried fruits of every imaginable variety here,12291401 fruitsbaskets overflowing with dried porchini there. 12291401 porcini

We’ll return at the end of the tour to stock up before flying home. For now, it’s goodbye Florence, and on to the jazz – with a stop at the Prada outlet on the way. And we get there with an hour or so to check in to the lovely Palazzo Piccolomini, then pick up our tickets and walk to a 4:00 concert, a “Love Supreme” Coltrane 50th Anniversary tribute with Joe Lovano and Chris Potter. 12291402 orvieto jazz first video tooTheir stellar band includes the legendary Cecil McBee on bass. The first of the impressive pianists we’ll hear, Lawrence Fields, has the longest fingers I’ve ever seen – and boy, can he make magic on the keys!12291402 pianist impressive long fingersThe Sala dei 400 in the Palazzo del Publico is packed, jazz filling the historic hall where the council of 400 met  in medieval times. Just a few traces of frescoes remain, high above, in this, the ancient People’s Palace. 12291403 frescoesScarved, hatted, and gloved, we brave the cold to join Funk Off as they strut the cobbled lanes at 6 pm. Their funky jazz can warm anybody up!12291403 funk offA delicious dinner at the recently renovated Sette Consoli completes our day – 12291403 sette consoli and good nightoh it’s great to be back in Orvieto!