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!