A DAY IN SPOLETO
Last week we met Valerie and Bryan, fellow American expats who are living in Le Marche. We decided that Spoleto was just about in the middle of San Venanzo and their home in Ascoli Piceno. Our friend Wendy had recommended a restaurant, and we decided to meet at 11:00 so that we could have a wander around the city before lunch.
We'd first "met" Valerie and Bryan through the Slow Travel message board, when we read of their plans to live in Italy for a year or two. We keep up with them through their blogs, and when Valerie offered to share their DVD's of "24" we accepted with glee! Now that we've watched the first five seasons compliments of Valerie and Bryan's kindness, we were even more anxious to meet them (and thank them) in person.
We decided to take the E45 south to Aquasparta then drive over the mountain to Spoleto. We'd never gone this way before, and although the road was in farily good shape, the drive itself wasn't very scenic. We decided that we'd drive home north through Bastardo as we'd done before.
The day started out rainy, windy and colder than it had been for days. Luckily as the day went on the weather got better, and we had a nice drive as well as clear skies for our walk around Spoleto.
We'd agreed to meet in front of the TI (Tourist Information office), and parked just outside the centro in a modern underground lot for just 50¢ and hour. We all met up at the appointed hour and decided to just wander rather than try to take a walking tour or have a specific agenda. This gave us time to talk and get better acquianted while still enjoying the charms of Spoleto.
Spoleto has a Roman history and many reminders of ancient Rome, including a beautiful ampitheater that's used every summer . Spoleto is famous for it's "Festival of Two Worlds" music festival every year, and I can only imagine how different the city must feel when it's packed with tourists.
Things were quiet the day we were there, and we enjoyed looking at the beautiful displays in all the windows. Food, of course, is always at the top of my list, and something as simple as a window display of sausages demands my attention.
As we wandered through town I took lots of pictures and I've posted them on my Flickr Site if you want to see them all. Spoleto looked like a really interesting place to live, but knowing how the town swells with tourists, it's not a place I'd seriously consider.
We stopped in to see Spoleto's beautiful Duomo, and for Art and me it was a surprise all over again...we hadn't been there for several years and had forgotten how beautiful it is.
We stopped in a bookstore and Valerie found a guide book or map, I can't remember which, that she'd been unable to find in Ascoli. I made the daring decision to buy a music CD for the grandgirls...in Italian of course. My son has been quite adamant about sticking with Spanish initially, but since the girls are now 5 1/2 and nearly 3, I'm hoping that some simple children's songs in Italian will be acceptable. The 5 1/2 year old does know some Italian...she and I compare notes on what words are the same and what words are different in Spanish and Italian. I think they'll pick up the Italian words on the CD faster than any of us expect!
For lunch we went to "Il Pentagramma", located just around the corner from the TI. I could tell as soon as we walked in that it wasn't going to be the budget place I'd hoped for, but it looked cute and every once in a while even I say "what the hell!" and splurge!
Music was the theme of this restaurant, from the decor to the names of dishes on the menu, right up to the garnish on the caffe.
The service was excellent, and our waiter brought us each a small boiled potato drizzed with olive oil as a pre-appetizer. The restaurant at the Villa Valentini in San Venanzo always brings a glass of proseco to start the meal, and since proseco is made to be drunk beofre a meal, this always seemed like such a nice touch. Although the potato might not have the same air of elegance as a glass of proseco, I have to say that I enjoyed it much more! The heat of the potato released the scent of the oil and of course it was like a fine perfume to all of us!
Our waiter suggested an antipasto plate that could be split four ways, and we eagerly agreed. I'm not even sure if this was on the menu, but it was a good choice, and even though I'm not sure what everything was, it was all tasty.
We all ordered pasta dishes, and mine was strongozzi, thick spghetti with a spicy tomato sauce. Brian and Valerie noted that they've been disappointed with the spicy dishes they've been served in Italy. Coming from New Mexico where they know the meaing of theo words spicy and hot!, they said that most dishes labeled as spicy by the Italians generally fall short of their expectations.
There was absolutely no room for dessert, but of course coffee drinkers always want their after dinner caffe. Seeing how beautifully presented it was, I'm glad Art and Valerie ordered some.
It was sprinkling as we left the restaurant and headed towards our cars. We were glad we finally go to meet Valerie and Bryan in person, and I'm sure this own't be the last time we see them. We also realized how much Spoleto has to offer, and plan to return another day to explore the sites in depth.