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!



Olives and Jazz  in Orvieto

Olives and Jazz in Orvieto

December 30, 2012
Orvieto, 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

There’s a little window overlooking rooftops and a stone arched lane from our top floor perch at Palazzo Piccolomini, and when we peek out the shutters in the morning we’re greeted with pale rose skies – another lovely day to explore Umbria!
And explore we do, winding through hills and valleys to the Bartolomei olive oil farm on the outskirts of the pretty village of Montecchio.

Carla welcomes us with a warm smile, and leads us to the family olive oil museum, with ancient tools used by Bartolomei generations past.

The harvest and pressing was completed earlier this month, and we’re treated to samples of the bounty, beginning with tiny olives marinated in olive oil and orange zest, then truffled mushroom paté and olive paste ( as Carla calls it – similar to tapenade).

The piéce de resistance? Thick slices of country bread,

toasted and drizzled simply with new olive oil – unbelievably delicious!


For generations these very trees have provided oil for the family, then the village, and now delighted customers around the world. We all leave with bags of treats that will prolong the pleasure back in our homes.

We’re back in Orvieto in time for a noon Umbria Jazz concert in one of our favorite venues, the Emilio Greco museum. The jazz trio performs in the midst of his works

– doesn’t that statue “listening” to the piano look like it was created just for these concerts?

The museum, a former papal palace, is just next door to the Duomo, whose magnificent doors, added generations later than the structure itself, were created by Greco.

After some time on our own in the afternoon, we’re getting ready for a concert at al San Francesco, and would you look at this? Not only sunrises, but sunsets adorn the patch of sky out our window!

The band’s playing as we’re escorted to our front row table, filling our plates with delicious offerings from the buffet table.

Gary Brown and Feelings, who play a mix of jazz, blues, and standards such as this old New Orleans tune, have become a favorite of ours (and not just us, they’re always a sell-out!)


Goodbye Amalfi, Hello Orvieto

Goodbye Amalfi, Hello Orvieto

Thursday, July 8, 2010
Orvieto, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!Italic
A few hours drive north, past Rome, and we scale the heights to arrive atop the cliff in the beautiful town of Orvieto.
er dropping our luggage at Hotel Palazzo Piccolomini, (our room is beside a lovely terrace this time – I think Jill had this room a few years ago!) we walk to Antico Bucchero for lunch.
It just LOOKS different here, no more
bright colored façades, but somber stone.
And tastes different too – no more seafood, but farro (
spelt) risotto with asparagus, drizzled with grassy and peppery olive oil from a nearby village. A world of difference from the Amalfi Coast.
Kirk orders a favorite Tuscan dessert to share: Biscotti Vin Santo, and we tell the story of requesting it for dessert far northwest of here, in San Remo just before the French border, and receiving a scoffing scold “This is not Tuscany!”
Dipping lessons follow
and we all taste the crisp biscotti

(these filled with toasted hazelnuts
rather than almonds – delicious!)

soaked in the sweet golden dessert wine.

As we tour the town, pointing out ancient palazzos, towers, and monuments, snatches of a Bach cello suite draw us around corner after corner

and we find Peter, a New York cellist who spends his summers in favorite spots in Europe, playing his way across the continent.

Orvieto’s stellar sight is the majestic Duomo
(cathedral), a triptych towering high in colorful mosaic, sparkling gold, and intricate carving.

We’re missing those ocean breezes – it’s hot up here on the tufa plateau!
A cafe across the piazza is the perfe
ct spot to cool off with an Aperol Spritz and listen to tales of the Duomo.
Then Kirk takes Steve and Martha inside to see the wonderful carvings and mosaics, and Jacqueline takes me to a jewelry store where she had spied a beautiful ring as we wal
ked by earlier. She had seen one years ago in Capri, the shimmering blue stone reminding her of the surrounding sea, and although it wasn’t available there this year, here is just the perfect ring, in her much-loved town of Orvieto!
It is just gorgeous, and will be such a wonderful reminder of beautiful Italy.

Dinner this evening is a
multi- course feast in
the garden of Sette Consoli.

One after the other, the dishes delight –
and dessert is absolutely plate- scrapingly delicious!