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Country Roads: Assisi
Country Roads:
Linnertime in Spello

Story and photos by Tom Weber

extra virgin olive oil from the Ragani Olive Mill

ith the crumbs from the crunchy bruschetta, a simple centuries-old antipasto in this part of La Penisula, still dotting coats and jackets, our just-concluded visit to an Umbrian olive mill turned out to be literally and figuratively the appetizer for what's to come: a long, lazy afternoon-into-evening lunch seated at la tavola with knife and fork in hand.

antipasto being served at the Ristorante Zeppelin

It's Sunday around the Bel Paese, and our group of international media, guests of Insight Vacations' (Insight) Country Roads journey around Umbria and Tuscany, are going to do what most fun-loving Italians do on this day: eat, drink and be merry for as long as it takes.

Insights Vacations bus

A bit late for lunch, a tad early for dinner, we're calling it "linnertime" as our motorcoach pulls into Spello, a picturesque little town in the Umbria.

The hilly streets are too narrow for our chariot to negotiate, so we stop just outside the walls of the centro storico (historic center) and we'll hoof it the rest of the way. We don't mind at all. Linner awaits!

a medieval structure in Spello's historic center

Lead by Marco, Insight's Umbria expert, we begin to make our way into ancient Hispellum, where Umbri tribesmen, the original Italics – the people, not the font – built this town around 9 B.C. only to see sandal-clad Romans colonize it around 1 B.C. until it finally settled in as a classic medieval community where about 8,500 residents now hang their hats.

scenes at Spello's historic center including the Venus Gate, tight cobblestone streets and an open courtyard that doubles as a parking lot

hanging flower pots along a street in Spello

one of the more than two dozen churches in Spello's historic center

Walking alongside blocks of stone mortared together long ago, we duck inside a narrow opening and climb up and through the Porta Venere (Venus Gate), an ancient Roman arch, into the heart of the town. Squeezing through tight cobblestone streets, we cross open courtyards that double as parking lots for cars of the smallest dimensions as we gain altitude. A cascade of hanging flower pots brighten the way as our forced march to linner takes us past some of the more than two dozen churches that seem to sanctify every street corner.

entrance to the Ristorante Il Molino, Spello

We make the final push, climbing ever upward on the cobble and reach our destination: Ristorante Il Molino (The Mill).

the wine cellar feel of Ristorante Il Molino's interior

Standing like a nondescript row house along Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, Il Molino is quite a different sight inside: bright white stucco walls accent the barreled, vaulted brick ceilings above, giving the elegant dining room an airy, wine cellar feel.

a glass and bottle of chilled vino bianco/white wine

Francesca Buono, the owner-chef, has planned out our five-course linner to perfection with her creative take on the traditional Umbrian kitchen. A quick glance at the menu has us salivating. Glasses filled with chilled vino bianco, the appetizer arrives and our long, lazy afternoon-into-evening feast gets underway.

Three-plus hours later, our group of merry media bids an arrivederci to super chef Francesca and waddles out of Il Molino into the twilight, down the winding cobble to the awaiting motorcoach.

Tucked into our business class legroom seats, fully reclined for extra comfort, Belinda announces tomorrow's plan: We'll be under the Tuscan sun in Cortona. Have your luggage packed for pick up outside your doors at 7:00 a.m. How does that sound? Anybody listening? Hello?

Bellies quite heavy, there's nary a peep from the peanut gallery. Heavy eyes struggle to stay open; we surrender and fall fast asleep unaware of the nighttime drive back to Perugia and the Hotel Sangallo Palace.

To learn more about traveling in style on one of Insight Vacations' 12 Italian premium and luxury-escorted itineraries – where you'll enjoy fine dining along the way – or one of its 100 other journeys around Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

Buonanotte e sogni d'oro.

Related Articles:
Take Me Home Country Roads; The Olive Groves of Ragani; Saintly Assisi; Orvieto's Historic Center; Orvieto and the Etruscan Chef; Underground in Perugia; Sipping Vino and Savoring Vistas in Tuscany

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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