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Report 834: There's No Such Thing as Too Much...Pasta and Ceramics

By Palma from California, Fall 2005

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Page 14 of 23: Saturday, September 17: Deruta

photo by Brad Hansen

Deruta plate

We drove to Tavernelle after breakfast for a stop at the TIM store to add minutes to our cell phones, then continued on the 40 minute drive to Deruta. My plan for the day was to buy an assortment of 10 dinner plates in different patterns that will all go with yellow chargers for a fun table setting. The couples split up to facilitate shopping.

I was armed with my Slowtrav list of 11 reputable stores, and found all but one. After two hours of scouting, Brad and I narrowed our search to two places we really liked. The first was Fornace San Lorenzo, a small showroom, but beautiful pieces made by Monica and her husband. We met their two dogs and were shown many albums of photos of past clients with their pieces in their homes or on return trips to Italy. The ceramics seemed to be of very high quality, and Monica described their process of adding 12 minerals (instead of the usual 7) to the clay. She showed us all stages of production from design, the painting workshop, the “fornace”, completed pieces, and the shipping room. We spent at least an hour with her, but since each creation is really a custom piece, it was hard to decide what we wanted. We finally agreed on custom lamps for our master bedroom, with a different scene on each. We were inspired by a lamp in the entry of our hotel, where the front of the villa with cypress trees was recreated on a large table lamp. Monica graciously agreed that we should take time to think about it, look at pictures, and email her our ideas later. She actually apologized that she couldn’t invite us to pranzo today because her husband had gone on a day-trip to Perugia, so she had not cooked for herself. We returned to the other shop where we chose 11 (in case I break one) different dinner plates. We were all DONE (for the day) with ceramics, and hungry for pizza.

We stopped at Tavola and Favola for pizza and then a gelato next door. We returned home for a three-hour nap. Jan and Les decided to stay in, so Brad and I drove to Panicale to try a restaurant the hotel recommended, Lilo Tatini on the main piazza. We shared a plate of spinach ravioli in a pine nut sauce. I had pork loin with porcini in a fig sauce that was wonderful, and Brad enjoyed his lamb meatballs in a bean puree. There were some sprinkles of rain which cancelled a music concert that had been scheduled in the piazza, but it cleared up during dinner, so the cafes were filled with gelato customers after passigiata.

On the drive home, Brad and I discussed our first impressions of Umbria (vs. our love of Tuscany). We are both looking forward to Assisi tomorrow, and think the landscapes we have seen so far are beautiful. This is much too short of a visit to really get a feel for the place (we’re starting to GET this slowtravel concept…), and the weather is cooler than I like. We agreed to come back on our next Italy trip for eight days to wander slowly and visit all the other places this itinerary didn’t allow. We will come back in July 2007 to see the sunflowers in bloom.

The other issue has been our hotel. Villa Montesolare is a lovely property (though somewhat remote), but it lacks the feeling of warmth and Italian hospitality we are used to. Our room is quite large and comfortable, but even the other guests are less than friendly. The proprietors are formal, smile stiffly, but seem to be slightly insincere. They lack the graciousness we have come to depend on at other places we have stayed all over Italy. Even breakfast is a disappointment. We tend to eat only a roll or croissant and LOTS of coffee, but here there are four or five slices of cheese on a plate for the whole dining room. The basket of croissants has five miniature rolls in it, so if we are the first ones there at eight, though we assume they will refill the basket, it FEELS like if we each take one, we might be depriving the other guests of breakfast. I am of Italian descent and my experience is most Italians love to feed you, or overfeed you. Here it seems we are offered just enough to get by. Guess I need to write a review…

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