We picked up our rental car and made our way out of Rome. We drove into the beautiful Umbria region and made our way to Orvieto. Prior to getting there we stopped in one of the fantastic auto-grills that can be found along the major highways. It was a quick place to grab some food and snacks. When we reached Orvieto the weather was dismal and we ended up exploring it mostly by car as most of the shops were closed. The town’s location is among the most dramatic in Europe, rising above the almost-vertical faces of cliffs that are completed by defensive walls built of the same stone. It is too bad we didn’t get to see it on a better day. We carried on to what turned out to be a perfect countryside stay at Villa di Monte Solare. The setting was beautiful and the rooms were comfortable. Here I indulged in a massage at its spa before enjoying dinner in its amazing restaurant. We had multiple courses of the amazing regional food and wine.
The next morning we left early to explore some of the hill towns in the region. We started in Todi and arrived early enough to miss the crowds. We parked below and took the funicular to the top and It felt like we had the whole town to ourselves. I really enjoyed it. From there we drove through the winding mountain roads to another valley to visit a town called Spoleto. The drive was fantastic, Spoleto less so. There was a running event taking place and many of the roads were blocked. We found parking and took numerous escalators and an elevator to the top of the hill where we visited the castle and took in the view. After Todi this felt like a bit of a let down. We carried on and went to a little town called Spello. Here we had the best lunch of our trip. We ate at La Cantina di Spello, a popular spot and one that doesn’t cater to tourists. From the Italian only menu all of our dishes were great, but Leanne’s was the stand-out. She had the “Sformatino di Patate e Porcini con Fonduta di Reggiano e Tartufo Nero” which google translate tells me was “Potatoes and Porcini flan with cheese fondue and black truffle.” Expectional.
Our last stop of the day was in Assisi. We hiked around the entire town which meant a lot of up and down. It was certainly worth the effort. After traversing one side to the other we climbed to the top of the Castle and its tower. Here I took a small passage way through a long wall to reach another lookout point. It was a long day and we saved the best for last. When we were finished we returned to our villa just outside of Perugia. We enjoyed our meal there so much the night before we did it again.
On our final day Leanne, Carol and Doug took a cooking class. I joined them for a delicious five course meal. The biscotti that was served at the end is the best I’ve ever had. I was instructed that it has to be dipped in the sweet wine to have it properly. When we were finished we took to the road and drove to Gubbio. Another medieval town built up a hill. We wandered through it and carried on towards the republic of San Marino.
It was quite the drive to San Marino, at times we had heavy rains and severe fog. Our GPS was giving us directions that took us off the main roads to go through some small mountain passes only to rejoin with the previous road we were on. It extended our time but made for a very scenic trip. It felt like we were on a never-ending uphill to reach San Marino. We were close to cloud level there and had a night view off one side of the mountain but not the other. We celebrated seeing a new country as we explored it in the dark and found an open restaurant for dinner and had local beer.
The next morning we were rewarded with the sky clearing up. Views to the valleys below, the hills in the distance on one side and the Adriatic sea off to the other. It exceeded my expectations. Its perch high on the point of a mountain makes it fairy-tale like. We climbed a couple of the towers and walked along the walls for the tremendous views. We had the place to ourselves and tourists were only arriving when we were ready to leave.
We detoured to visit the Coriano Ridge War Cemetery to pay tribute to the hundreds of Canadian troops that perished here in World War II. It was beautifully cared for, and was very touching.
We dropped the rental car off in Rimini after looking out at the Adriatic sea. Then we took the train to Bologna where we stopped for lunch. Leanne wisely had pasta with bolognese sauce in the city where it originated. We wandered a bit to see the city and took the train again onto Tuscany.