Saturday 28 December 2019

Palazzo Catalani, Soriano nel Cimino, Lazio

Today we move on from our rustic forge beside a torrent in Tuscany to a palazzo in a town in Lazio (not the whole palazzo we do admit).

Leaving at the prescribed check-out time and expecting to be unwelcome before the prescribed check-in time we had six hours in hand.  We had intended stopping and seeing a few notable touristic towns along the way, such as Montepulciano.  Cheryl did have her reservations about the plan as today was the weekend and Google maps did show the town as having seven (7!) car parks but we gave it a go.

It was a nightmare!  All the car parks were chockers (if you could call them car parks) and as you proceeded from P1 to P2 to P3 etc. the road became progressively narrower and more twisty.  What with Italians’ creative parking, getting stuck up dead ends and having to do 15 point manoeuvres to turn around we both agreed “Let’s get outta here pronto!”.  We succeeded with the car paint job intact and both bumpers still attached, but decided to waive any further touristic Tuscan tippy top hill-top towns for the time being.  What it must be like in summer is unimaginable.

The rest of the journey proceeded uneventfully except for our exit from the autostrada.  Italians seem to like variety and this extends to the toll machines on the motorways.  Just when you think you have them figured out you are confronted with a different type of machine.  The ticket went in no problem but then an announcement, in Italian, said “insert money or your card” – see, we even understood the announcement.  Cheryl, who was driving at the time said “Where?” and Clive, who was navigating at the time said, ”There, where the bloody big flashing green arrow is”.

Alas, the card went into the money slot; the slot for cards being obscured from Clive’s vision by Cheryl – and stuck – and wouldn’t come out.  Clive was out of the car by this time and around at the machine poking buttons and gesticulating (Italian fashion) to the occupants of the two cars waiting patiently in line behind.  They could see we had an “odd” number plate so were probably having a good laugh at our expense.

After a while and a few prods of the “help” button the machine burped up the card and we were able to reinsert it into the right slot.  Pressed the button that said “Receipt” but nothing came out, only the machine carolling “arrivederci” – so we went.  Won’t be caught by that one again (but probably by a different one).

The next toll booth had a machine that we had encountered on a previous occasion so we escaped unscathed this time.

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Despite our travails we arrived at Soriano during the lunch break so it was relatively un-traumatic to find the palazzo, offload the bags and park the car.  Our room (sorry, our una parte di palazzo) was even ready so we were able to wander off for a late lunch.

Our studio at the Palazzo Catalini is very nice and we have magnificent views of the Castello Orsini from the sitting area and the bathroom.  We have a large studio with a corner kitchen, small dining table and 2 comfy lounge chairs.

We ventured into the old town and chose a place that said “pizza” but it wasn’t serving any just now as Italians only like to fire up their pizza ovens in the evening.  Before sitting down we had to choose what we wanted at the counter/kitchen.  We shared a tagliatelle with salsiccia and a beef and roasted potato dish, which together with a wine and a large water came to Euro 15.  It was served on disposable plastic plates but it was very tasty and the people were friendly.

Palazzo Catalini (pink building)

After lunch we continued up into the old town, stopping at the Chiesa di Sant’Eutizio along the way to see the Presepe (nativity scene).  You’ll be pleased to know that baby Jesus has been safely returned to his crib.

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After the church it was further up the hill to the Castello Orsini.  The castle was a little grim (first started in 1278 and added to over 3 centuries) and not all in good repair having been used as a gaol from 1871 to 1989.  The view from the top of the castle walls was good but freezing cold.  In one part of the castle there was a dusty display of rural implements and we were resigned to a not-very-interesting experience until we entered the other display which was of old music machines, gramophones, juke boxes etc.  Ordinarily, this would probably not have been interesting either but the curator was on hand to give us demonstrations and to take us through the evolution of “music machines” spanning a period of a 100 odd years.  He said he couldn’t speak Inglese but he had enough and we had a bit of Italian, so we managed.  He knew every date and every detail and was so obviously “passionate” about his interest.  To see what a long road it has been for technology to progress in just this one small field of endeavour to the current state was fascinating.  Regrettably, we had to leave before he could demonstrate the juke box as our time was up on our car in the parking area.  Just as well we did because the Polizia Municipale were on the prowl in the car park when we arrived back.

We dined at the restaurant in the palazzo.  It was very nice but you are probably tired of hearing about what we ate so we will spare you the details this time.

Sunday 29 December 2019

Soriano nel Cimino

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It’s Sunday so we didn’t want to risk another crowded tourist excursion so we had another wander around Soriano, bought some supplies for lunch and dinner and did a big load of washing.  Peeked into the main cathedral but Mass was still going so we didn’t linger.

It is a pleasant experience doing your shopping in Italy.  Still little old shops, like they used to be, and you still have to ask for things and actually have some human interaction.  Once again complimented on our Italiano in the “Fruitta e Verdura” which also provided our “vino rosso”, introduced to a new and untried pasta shape “Mezzelune al brasato” (half-moon pasta filled with braised beef) in the pasta fresca shop and at the Pasticceria purchased 2 small apple tarts for our dessert and 2 baba al rum for afternoon tea that blew our socks off – you would only be able to sell them in a place with a liquor licence in Australia and then they would come with a sign giving you the number of standard drinks in each.

Monday 30 December 2019

Soriano nel Cimino

Today’s outing was to Civita di Bagnoregio which was recommended to us by a fellow Italian diner on Christmas day.  It is variously described as “abandoned” or a “ghost village” but turned out to be pretty lively.  The village sits out in a striking position on a promontory of rock and is only accessible by walking over a long steep elevated bridge.  A lot of restoration must have gone into the place over recent years and it is better condition than most Italian villages.  It is obviously a great “earner” for the newer adjacent municipality of Bagnoregio.  Parking, as usual, is problematical.

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The temperature today is 6ºC but with a howling wind across the bridge the “feels like” temperature must have been well below freezing and it brought tears to our eyes, literally.

It was a pleasant surprise to arrive within the walls of the old village.  It all seemed quite authentic and picturesque and, with no cars to contend with, it was peaceful.  There were also not too many tourists.

We had a good look around and got in just ahead of the crowd for lunch at a small trattoria with an open fire for cooking.


Tuesday 31 December 2019

Soriano nel Cimino

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Today we visited Viterbo, the main town for this area.  It was not particularly interesting and is one of those towns with loudspeakers in the streets so for our whole time there we were assaulted with Christmas carols – arrrgh!  (Graham’s revenge?).  Parking and getting in and out of town was fairly uncomplicated though.

We decided not to have a big lunch as we have New Year’s Eve Dinner coming up tonight at the Palazzo’s restaurant.

With some colder weather on its way we have decided not to continue with our “agriturismo” stay after Soriano as the farm is at a higher elevation and most likely up some rough country laneways.  We can say that with confidence because even some of Italy’s main roads are like rough country laneways.

We checked the weather forecast for our days there and the area is expecting snow.  We don’t fancy a second snowed-in Italian New Year, having experienced one last year so, after tonight’s New Year dinner and tomorrow’s public holiday we will head back to France on Thursday 02 January, stopping overnight along the way and arriving home in Roquebrun the next day.


Wednesday 01 January 2020

Soriano nel Cimino

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Well, we certainly finished the year with a bang (or rather with a burp)!

Dinner was five (large) courses spread over four hours.  We had thought it was four course so the surprise one, after the main course, caught us totally unawares.

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Starter was a platter of cold meats, homemade cheese and bruschetta served on a cartwheel sized wooden platter, one for each of us.  One platter would ordinarily have been sufficient to share between two.  There was a small bowl of honey as well to have with the cheese which was something we had never tried before.  It was very good and something to remember for home.

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First course was a very tasty gnocchi with a wild boar and cream sauce.  Very nice.

The second, and main, course was grilled pork tournedos with porcini mushrooms after which the waiter said something about a traditional ‘cake’ or so we thought; so we were surprised when a rather large plate of lentils and sausage (cotechino) appeared.

Apparently it is a traditional Italian New Year dish symbolising abundance and is believed to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year, that is if you don’t mind starting the New Year with a bad case of indigestion.  By this time all the diners were showing signs of strain and made only a token attempt at eating the whole plateful, ourselves included.  At least they weren’t fagioli del purgatorio (purgatory beans) which is a specialty of this region, Lazio.

Thankfully the fourth and final course appeared as midnight approached.  It was the traditional New Year Pandoro cake (which is traditionally pyramid shaped with an eight-pointed star section) served with chantilly cream and berries, and no, it didn’t come in a box.

We waddled back to our apartment to watch the modest fireworks display of Soriano as well as all of the twenty or so surrounding villages off in the distance.

That’s it for 2019 and for this travel journal.  2020 awaits!

© Cheryl & Clive Miller 2019-20