The Aire we parked in is just outside the wall of the medieval town of Montefalco next to a vinyard looking out over the valley. When we arrived it was free AND it had electricity… a first for Italy, however by the time we left – it was only four nights before you ask – they had installed a meter charging 5 euros for 24 hours.
On Monday, after a rather hilly and disjointed morning run as I hadn’t a clue where I was going, we set off to have a look around the town. Montefalco is fairly small with all of its narrow cobbled streets leading up (literally) to the main square…. or circle to be precise. It is strategically placed on top of a hill with the main plaza on the ‘hump’ and the rest of the town skirting around it, taking in the views of the valleys below on each side and the mountains beyond.
Like Montepulcino and Montalcino, Montefalco is mainly known for its vinyards and wine – the Sagrantino grape to be precise, and although they also produce white wine, it is the red and the red dessert wine that they are famous for. As we were parked next to the ‘Cantina Fratelli Pardi’ vinyard we thought we should go and find out a bit more, tasting three different white wines (which were slightly warm unfortunately), two reds (one rosso and one Sagrantino) and one red (Sagrantino) dessert wine. The Sagrantino was nice although I am not sure it was worth the 18 euros a bottle price tag that it had. The red dessert wine however, was very nice, something we hadn’t tried before although it tasted similar to a Port. The process for making the dessert wine is very similar to red wine, but before the grapes are crushed and put in the barrel they are left to dry for a month like raisons which increases the quantity of sugar, thus intensifying the sweetness of the flavour. The process is different to Port or Sherry which means that once the dessert wine bottle has been opened it needs to be consumed within a few days – fine for a group of you, but a bit much for two so I think we will stick to Port or Sherry 🙂
This area of Umbria also produces beer, not just ‘lager’, but beer similar to that which we brits like to drink…. less bubbles and a bit warm J So, next time an Italian mocks you about drinking warm beer, feel free to highlight that Umbria makes their own fair share of it and it seems to be fairly popular…. Needless to say that we haven’t managed to try any yet as the place we wanted to visit was shut….
As with the other Medieval towns we have visited Montefalco is only small but as it is centrally placed we decided to stay a few nights and cycle out – or better said ‘down’ – to some of the other villages surrounding it…. It was just unfortunate for the legs that we had to come back up again afterwards 😦
So on Tuesday morning we cycled (free-wheeled most of the way actually) down to Bevagna which is roughly 10km from Montefalco, parked up the bikes and had a walk around. Bevagna is slightly off of the beaten track so doesn’t have as much through traffic but sitting on a river it is equally as pretty and worth stopping off if passing through.
After a good walk around we got back on the bikes and continued on to Spello roughly 10km further climbing up the foot of the mountain. Spello has a huge amount of character, even more so than some of the other medieval towns we have visited recently, with tiny roads and alleyways climbing steeply up the hill, lined with buildings once again maintained to that ‘shabby chic’ level rather than being manicured, looking like an assorted chocolate box – all different shapes and sizes, lived in by normal people….. just not one to visit if you have a push chair or wheel chair I am afraid.
On Wednesday, despite a little bit of saddle sore we got back on the bikes and headed to Spoleto ….. the last medieval village/town that we plan to visit in Tuscany and Umbria. Spoleto is one of the larger medieval towns we have visited with a fort/prison at the top of a steep hill with a pathway circling all the way round it, providing views out over the bridge and valley below…. not too bad a spot to eat our lunch….
The cathedral in Spoleto was also pretty impressive but as a whole, now we have seen a fair few medieval towns in Italy I think Spello is my favourite, although as Keith says, Montefalco has a good balance and was the best placed for us as it enabled us to get to other places on the bikes…… I think we can happily say that we have ‘done’ our fair share of medieval towns now – and just in case you were wondering, Spoleto was a 50km round trip with an 800m climb …. A good bit of leg work !
So, on Thursday we moved on, travelling all the way to a town called Bracciano which sits on lake Bracciano – a long way for us! We chose to stop at Aire ‘Le Mimose’ (14 euros per 24 hours) although there are several campsites here as well probably due to the proximity to Rome. The Aire is over looked by the castle (apparently it is where Tom Cruise got married), 200m from the lake and 500m (200m of which are up) from the town itself. The town is a bit rough around the edges and feels a bit commuter-like without much soul, but I guess part of that is because we are only 30-ish km outside Rome, the lake however is clear as clear can be and beautifully tranquil – thankfully we are staying closer to the lake!
The lake is 35km all the way round and despite it being a really foggy morning, we thought we would pack our sarnies and have a cycle round to see what the other villages/towns were like. It is a nice ride as although it is a national holiday there still wasn’t a huge amount of traffic on the road and the route is reasonably flat. The route only passes through two other towns – Anguillara Sabazia, which had a market where we stopped to have a look around and Trevignano where we ate our lunch which was much more tranquil and more ‘holiday’ like. A pleasant ride on what turned out to be a warm day as the fog cleared.
I have decided that the Italians are either insecure, or searching for an Arc as when they travel in Motorhomes they appear to only ever be in pairs, or possibly more, we first saw this in France last year … but it appears to be the case within their own country as well not only when they venture further afield.