Italy Part 3: Orvieto

[ITALY RECAP: Italy Part 1 and Italy Part 2]

Lorenzo and I stayed at Agriturismo Frallarenza for a couple days near Allerona and Orvieto in the third stop of our vacation. Agriturismo is a combination of words for “agriculture” and “tourism” in Italian, and a style of vacationing in farm houses. Frallarenza is a working olive farm house and we found it to be heaven in Tuscany, and a perfect resting place after traveling up and down in Italy.

The first part of our trip was centered around sight-seeing and visiting museums and historical sights – a rollercoaster of old and new sights. Honestly, we were slightly tired from it all and we needed a small break from the typical touristy stuff. This was the highlight of our Italian vacation from Rome, Florence, Naples and Orvieto was our favorite place to stay. We felt that our stay at Agriturismo Frallarenza was very romantic and cozy and gave us a true understanding of the typical Italian farmer lifestyle.

We found new friends with Francisco and Serena, the kindest of our Italian hosts because they were helpful in local recommendations and helping us get around town. They were kind enough to pick us up from the train station when we arrived into town, which we are forever grateful. Lorenzo did not have enough time to get an international driving license, and we traveled solely by train everywhere. They have a friendly and loveable Australian shepherd named Gigi, and she loves a good belly rub. Plus they have 6 cats and a bird that Gigi recently rescued, too.

We stayed in the smaller apartment which was beautifully decorated with Serena’s ceramics, which are also available to purchase – the hooks, the plates, almost everything you see has is her unique pottery. It’s absolutely gorgeous and I bought a plate and bowl home to remember her. I loved the sitting area that you have in the front of the apartment, and there is an outside dining area, too. Sunsets after 9pm, let you truly enjoy nights out under the Tuscany sun.

Frallarenza is the ideal location for a Tuscan getaway. There is a beautiful pool, beautiful garden of flowers everywhere, outdoor games, and they have wi-fi internet available, too. I loved walking around and snapping away lots of pictures of Serena’s garden – all the gorgeous flowers were hard not to take pictures of.

Francisco and Serena also stocked the kitchen with a couple of goodies – eggs, water, beer (Birra – the Italian kind), juice and milk, and assortment of cookies and breads in the pantry along with their homemade jams. Plus, the espresso machine that is so handy to use everyday. Serena made dinner for our first – homemade lasagna and tarts for breakfast and lovely profiteroles to enjoy as snacks. You will never go hungry if Serena is cooking for you.

I took the cooking class with Serena and Francisco and we prepared a feast of gnocchi, pizza rustica, meat roulade, torta di fragole and wine. They also provide the written recipes so it’s possible that you recreate the food at home, but it’s not the same.

Francisco taught us his one of his family’s dishes of pizza rustica, which is also known as salt cake – it’s basically a savory two-crust pie. He prepared two versions, one with 3 cheeses (fontina, mozzarella and parmesan) and cut-up ham, and another one with stewed escarole, garlic, raisins and pine nuts. Both were equally tasty, and I favored the sweet and savory of the vegetable pizza more.

I learned a tip about making gnocchi – use old potatoes and when making pesto add a cup of pasta water to the pesto to spread it a little thin. It allows the gnocchi and pesto flavors to meld together as one.

In my opinion, pesto is the only way to go when enjoying gnocchi because perfect little pillows of air married together with the fresh and fragnant pesto is simply fantastic. Later you enjoy a nice slice of torta di fragole, too. Yum and yum, I’m still dreaming about this divine meal.

While staying and relaxing here, we decided to take a day trip to Siena. There is a nearby train station at Allerona (but it does not sell tickets there – go to a nearby tabacchi store to purchase train tickets), and travel 1 1/2 hours to Siena. It’s a fast train ride and you’ll be there before you know it. We found Siena to be the perfect day trip. It was a smaller version of Florence, less tourists, less crowds, and so much history as well. Just take a bus into the center and you’ll find where everyone is shopping and plenty of restaurants to eat at it.

We took the book recommendation of Rick Steves and went to Antica Pizzicheria al Palazzo della Chigiana instead of the typical pasta and sandwiches restaurants for lunch. It’s off the beaten path, and away from the center of the dome. A pizzicheria is a ham and cheese grocer’s shop, and it was one of the best lunches we had experienced and enjoyed. Upon walking in, we were greeted with a sample of white wine to cool us down.

The chef gave us a sample of the best meats and cheeses, a bag of bread, dipping sauces, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and along with our chosen bottle of wine…that was a perfect lunch.  We also discovered pan forte which is a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts almost like a fruitcake, but it tastes so much better. You only need a small wedge, and shots of grappa and fresh picked strawberries to complete the meal.

We also went wine tasting at the a nearby castle that is seen in the picture on the website. They had a wine festival and only had their white wines available for us to sample. Overall, we loved our stay at Agriturismo Frallarenza because it was well priced and well worth it’s value in gold and wine! We will have the fondest memories of Italy from Orvieto and Siena, a little romance and relaxing was needed after the hustle and bustle of traveling.

Day 7: Traveled from Florence to Orvieto,Day 8: Cooking class, about 4 hours.Day 9: Day trip to Siena

Day 10: Wine tasting at the castle, depart Orvieto to Rome via train.

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