I’m writing from Pergolaccio, a 300-year-old stone farmhouse near the Umbrian hill town of Todi. Here in the center of Italy, it’s unusually verdant after a cold, wet spring. Today, though, the sun is out: warming the breeze, drying the dew, backlighting the rose petals on the arbor, dissolving the blanket of mist that fills the valley below. To the south, ruined castles and occasional villas perch on ridges, beige limestone blocks with red tile roofs, simple windows cut deeply into thick plaster walls.
This place is my home for a week. We are renting it, with seven friends, for an immersion in Italian rural life — a quest for a ray of “Tuscan sun” (though we are in quieter Umbria next door) that’s so evocative for seekers of a slower-paced life lived closer to the land. Rather than spend a week dashing between major cities, for all their magnificent history and culture, we are going deep: choosing one locale and discovering it more intimately.
Today, I detoured through the rows of a vineyard on a walk down the dirt road from the villa. I was in search of the church whose bells were ringing on a far-off hilltop. On the way home, I clambered over the crumbling walls of an abandoned village. And later, I cooked. We are mostly making our own meals, augmenting them with $4 bottles of regional wines. We frequent local shops, getting acquainted with Umbrian fare: fresh-pressed olive oil, tangy pecorino cheese, tartufo (black truffle) sauce over strangozzi pasta, vine-ripe tomatoes and apricots, local honey, white wines from Orvieto… Eating this well, with what for Italians are simple basics, may be akin to what it’s like for a sightless person to suddenly see a rainbow, for a deaf person to hear Vivaldi.
I hope I’ve piqued your senses with this ‘virtual postcard’ – check back for my next post for more on slow food and slow travel – better for the human spirit and better for the Earth.
P.S. For a look at Pergolaccio, visit http://www.italy-villa-rental.info/3410.html