Monday, June 16, 2014

Spoleto and Agriturismo Santa Caterina

To start today's blog, I will begin with a video from the last city we visited, Spello.  The video lasts about four and a half minutes. If you have time, it is very evocative of an Italian summer.  It is called, "Spello, Balconi, (balconies)
Finestre (windows) e vicoli (alleys) fioriti (in bloom)."  I just found it and loved it.  They are having their flower festival this week end. I hope to go, and if I do so, I will have more stories about it later.

The Stoic One and I are continuing our search for the perfect agriturismo.  Before going to the first one on the list, we stopped in the city of Spoleto, thinking that once we arrived at the agriturismo, we would not want to drive back out. It was a wise decision.

We didn't have nearly enough time in Spoleto.  It is a fairly big city by Umbrian standards, about 40,000 people.  It is most known for its beautiful Duomo, The Cattedrale di Sant Maria Assunta. It is of Romanesque architecture, the most striking feature is the mosaic that you can see here in the front of the church. The mosaic is a portrayal of Christ giving the benediction.  The mosaic was signed by Solsternus in 1207.

This photo below is of the back of the Duomo from a hill behind the piazza.

Spoleto is a charming town with many inviting alleys to stroll through on a hot summer day.

The city is also famous for the festival of Two Worlds.  It is an aunnual summer music festival that was begun in 1958 by Gian Carlo Menotti. His intention was to have American and European culture face each other in this event. Its twin sister is Charleston, South Carolina, and that city holds a festival called Spoleto Festival USA.Information about Festival of 2 Worlds

The Stoic One and I had a refreshing lunch in Spoleto at the side walk retaurant pictured above.
I was very hot, so I had a very delicious Farro salad.  Farro is a type of grain that is very popular in Umbria.  It is like barley in appearance and in taste, in my opinion.  Quite delicious! This is farro, cherry tomatoes, arugula, black olives. We dressed it ourselves at the table. Simple and very good.

We bravely traveled on to find the Agriturismo Santa Caterina.  As you know, the mother of all fights start in the car when the GPS, map, directions and the navigator's sense of directions are all in conflict.  Sigh...We successfully got ourselves out of Spoleto and onto the correct road to the agriturismo.  I might add here that this was no small feat, and the navigator directed perfectly.

We then put in the GPS coordinates for the agriturismo, but they were clearly mistaken as they told us our destination was somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. We pressed on with a second set of directions that I had gotten from Google maps before we left Umbertide. We were doing fine until....(does this sound familiar to anyone who has driven in Italy?) any way we were doing fine until we made a wrong turn. Before I knew it we were on a "strada bianca" or gravel road going straight up a mountain. There were no buildings, people, cars, houses, etc anywhere in sight.  We did see one lone bicyclist, but he looked so stressed at biking up the moutain that I didn't have the heart to stop and ask him our whereabouts. At about the top of the hill, the Stoic One said, call the agriturismo and see if they can help give us better directions.  I did.  They said, where are you? I said, I don't know because we are lost. Sigh.  Then I told them I was on a gravel road, they said that was a mistake because they were located off a main road, not a gravel road.  They said that we definitely needed to turn around and back track, but oh by the way, aren't the woods and mountains lovely.  Do take a moment to look around.  Grrrrr.

The Stoic One is generally patient hence the nomenclature. However, even he has limits to his patience and he snapped at me! "You need to get better at doing directions," he proclaimed.  I looked at him as though he had lost his mind.  Did he forget we were in Italy? Did he forget my sense of direction is located in the same part of my brain as my understanding of geometry, hence non existent?  Being married for 27 years, I do have some moddicum of self survival, and I said nothing, at that point!

We came back down the mountain.  He chose the correct turn, and when I instructed him to take another wrong turn, he promptly ignored me, and we were happily back on track.

We arrived at the agriurismo and it was more than worth it. It was a special, mystical place.

When thinking about agriturismos, I think of 4 categories. 1) the accomdations the room comfortable, large enough.  Is the bathroom adequate size for Americans? 2) the owners take the time to talk about their farm, products, food? Are they responsive on email? 3) Products...does the agritursimo have, use and sell its own products that they grow and make on the farm? 4) Last but definitely not least, the food.  Is the food exceptional, not just good, like most food in Italy, but truly exceptional?

I can happily say that this agriturismo is 5 stars in all categories.  The rooms are spacious, the bathroom is fine, even for Americans. The service is absolutely fantastic.  Everyone on the farm shows passion for their work and they have a passion to explain the workings of the farm to you.  They do this in an inclusive way, without appearing arrogant or superior. This actually is not as easy as it sounds.

They are a hard working family that I admire.  Gaetano, the father, works in the fields and with the animals.  Maria, is a wonderful cook and Francesca, one of the daughters, is a back up for both parents.  She is happy, enthusiastic and speaks very good English! A true pleasure.

Here are some photos from the Stoic One.
This is a view looking out toward the garden.  There are purple artichokes in the foreground of the picture. Difficult to see because they are small.

In this picture the artichokes are easier to spot.

Here are some of the birds on the farm; turkeys, guinea hens, chickens. It is very clean and the animals are all well looked after.

The pool is sparkling clean and surrounded by red roses and the green hills.

Many families come to agriturismos because of the price and because the children can experience clean air away from the city and see where their food originates.  Santa Caterina encourages children to come and visit.

Now about the food. First let me show you the charming restaurant.

Now on to the food. Our first dish, after some wonderful bruschetta, was ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and borage, an herb that is quite common in central Italy. It has a purple star flower, and I have seen it everywhere in the woods, although this is the first time I have eaten it or seen it in a restaruant.  It is quite delicious, tastes like a very lightly flavored spinach. The ravioli were long rectangular in shape.  There is nothing that compares to just made pasta.  They dish was seasoned very simply with sage, olive oil and grated pecorino cheese.  Delicious.

Unfortunately, we gobbled up the rest of our food without taking any was roasted guinea hen.  Also very good.  We finished with a very light mousse type of dessert.  Excellent.

Gaetano, the owner, is as I said very hard working.

The remarkable thing about Gaetano is that he has the mind of a philospher and the soul of a mystic. He is introspective, thoughtful, and interested in other people as well as the world around them.

The agriturismo is about 15 kilometers from Spoleto.  I highly recommend it if you are out that way.
Information about Santa Caterina

One last thing....this agriturismo also has a store where you can buy their products. We bought 2 salami that are now hanging from the wall!

I didn't buy a prosciutto.  Had to leave something for next time.

information about Santa Caterina.
santa caterina


  1. I'm always excited to see one of your post. Especially one with such wonderful photos. The pictures and video from the post yesterday and then today the beautiful Italian agriturismo are all so lovely. I can understand your joy at living in such a wonderful country.
    As far as directions go on a trip in our family, at the very least, one wrong turn is expected. ;-)

    1. Hi Marcia. That is a good rule of thumb, especially in Italy where nothing ever seems to line up. Glad you are enjoying the photos and posts. Susan

  2. Susan, I feel your pain for those directions. Picture doing the same thing on a bus with 39 other people and a tour guide. Even she and the bus driver got lost. We ended up going halfway up a mountain only to turn around and come back down. (but it's true, the landscape is beautiful regardless). My mouth is watering over the food descriptions and I can't wait to make another trip back there. If you do get to the festival please try to locate and post pics of Steve McCurry's work. He is the photographer who works for National Geographic and one of his most famous shots is of the Afghan girl with the green eyes. I'm sure you are familiar. He will be exhibiting there at the festival this year. Have a wonderful time. If it is anything like last year's I'm sure you will.

    1. Oh my gosh Melanie. I can't even imagine being in a bus! That would be so much worse. The Steve McCurry exhibit is in Perugia now. Will try to get over there this week. I love that photo of the Afghan girl. It is posted all over town.

  3. Susan,
    FYI: I tried the link you provided about the agriturismo, but instead, it lead to info about the Spoleto Festival.

    1. Marybeth, thank you so much for the heads up. I changed it this evening. Hopefully I got it right this time.

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