Buono in Italy, Vitorchiano and beyond

Bone-tired yet bubbling with excitement for our travelers, not tourists Etruscans-Umbria adventure, our puddle-jump overnight train from Milan arrived in Orte, Italy at the good Friday 6am crack of dawn. Brief train stops included Florence, and Pisa.We left Paris with a sweet sage chicken salad picnic and too much baggage on a fast comfortable TGV for a seven-hour ride to Milan where we tranferred to a local train for Orte, sitting up all night for seven hours in a packed car, a compartment designed for six, stuffed with eight passengers. Many Italian travelers, heading home  to Naples for Easter, dozed on corridor floors, or even sitting on toilets. Chablis, overwhemed and exhausted, slept all the way, cozied between Jim and me. Our friendly Italian compartment mates offered us strawberries and a chorus of Oh Solo Mio.  Mercifully our hotel was a brief walk from Gare Orte.  Jim, Chablis and I rang the bell on the ornate iron fence and soon a young Italian woman stood there. Gesturing with her fingers she told us Hotel Letiza, a restored Italian villa,  did not open until 9 am. Pleading fatigue and a desperate toilet need, she opened the gate for us, smiled, threw up her hands, and told us the hotel had suffered a lighting strike overnight and had no power. A ready room was found for us and charming Gabriella led us with a battery-powered lantern to our second floor chamber where we all fell into a comfy queen-size bed. Gabriella called us at 9 am to tell us colazione, breakfast-included in our room rate- was ready. On the window-side dining room table we found the typical Italian morning repast, strong, buono-so good!, Italian coffee with hot milk, delicious red orange juice squeezed from Sicilian blood oranges, and cornettos, Italian croissants filled with strawberry and lemon creme.

Back to our room for a welcome shower, we took another train-lag nap, and at 1pm  Gabriel called us to pranzo-lunch. We wandered down near 2 for antipasto mista- marinated vegetables, salami and incredible Bruschetta, then pasta with tomato sauce, THEN manzo, beef scallopini- simply sauteed meat- and green salad. Mangia, Mangia, too much eat, eat! Bread, pane, is different in Italy, unsalted. In the early middle-ages the rulers of Pisa cut off salt supplies lines from the coast in retaliation of a fall out with their rival in Florence. In 1540 Pope Paul III imposed an indrect tax on salt, which immediately changed the culinary habits. Some Italians still swear that “filone” tasts better that way. Not Jim, he poured olive salt onto a plate, sprinkled salt then dipped the bread. As Europeans do, we also mop up sauce and gravies with bread.Mangia,mangia!

The hotel’s Aphrodite cultural center featured the oil paintings of Naples artist Ennio Colavero. I knew my Paris art teacher Renée Mauri-Amoros would be proud that I didn’t miss the show. During an afternoon camminare-walk, we stopped for tea at a local bar-cafe. The only English speaking patrons, adults and children greeted us with stares, smiles and a friendly Buona sera, good afternoon. No dinner that night, books, early to bed, up early for another colazione the next morning. Sergio was coming to fetch us for Vitorchiano!



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