Our Italian friends Michele and Luisa invited us to a lunch event at the restaurant of one of the most famous cooks in Italy, Gianfranco Vissani. It is called Casa Vissani and it is on the banks of Lake Corbara which was formed by damming the Tiber. It is 45 minutes drive from here in a very picturesque area.
It is a five star restaurant and cellar but they have special events to promote the skills of the kitchen. We booked in for the” one hour lunch”. It was an experience that I can heartily recommend. The idea is that they provide a low cost set meal at a large communal table capable of seating up to 16 persons.
We arrived early and were welcomed in by our waiter, Roberto who showed us around and told us of the history of the place. It was started by Vissani ‘s family as a trattoria for the workers who were building the dam. He has transformed it into a gastronomic temple that is beautifully decorated in interesting ways
The four of us were joined by a couple from Naples. We were a convivial group and Roberto continually answered questions about the food and the restaurant
Our starter was foie gras con tè nero affumicacato e squarcquarone sabbleè e mandarini cinese which translated as foie gras smoked with black tea and a biscuit of a type of soft cheese with chinese mandarin.
Then came Polenta di Marano con ragu di manzo alla liquirizia e mousse caldo di carote. This was a delicious special polenta with a strong meat sauce and a carrot puree. The meat had been prepared with liquorice but although you could smell it there was no taste of it. The meals were small but exquisitely prepared.
The desert was Ganache di fondente ed amaretto zabaione al fondente morbido con salsa di arancia a Grand Marnier
The meal was accompanied by a wonderful handmade bread and a selected olive oil. To drink we had Acqua Nepi from near Soriano which is slightly bubbly and is bottled exactly as it comes from the spring. It has been in use since before Roman times. The wine was an excellent white and was a Sannio from near Naples.
The meal cost us AU$41.00 and at the end Gianfrano’s son came out to answer questions and talk about their place. Everyone was so pleasant and welcoming that we will definitely be going back to try their one hour dinner which has 6 courses and costs AU$68.00. They say the dinners are more linked to tradition while the lunch is more innovative.
To get a good idea of the experience go to http://www.casavissani.it
A view over Deruta
Throughout Italy there are towns that specialize in pottery. One of the most famous is Deruta in Umbria near Perugia. The great part of the pottery that you see in Orvieto, Perugia and Assisi is made in Deruta. It is a fascinating place to visit.
They have been making pottery here since Roman times. There are nearly 200 pottery kilns and there is a pottery high school that teaches the youth of the town to paint and produce pottery.
Apart from the pottery showrooms the old part of town which is perched on a hill that overlooks the valley of the Tiber and the valley of Umbria, is one of the most beautiful small towns in Italy and is worth a visit.
We were lucky to stop at the workshop of Ubaldo Grazia. This is the oldest of the potteries here and has been going since 1500. Ubaldo is the 25th in the family to run the business and has 2 grandchildren ready to follow on. Their work is famous throughout the world. They showed us through the museum of their work. Then they asked if we would like to see their workshop. We saw how they applied the patterns form a stencil and how the hand painting was done. It requires concentration and a very steady hand.
The Grazia family showroom
Finally we were lucky enough to meet Ubaldo himself. He is a charming man who is very conscious of his heritage and concerned about how to take it forward especially during this financial crisis. We chatted and found he loves to find traditional osterias in the area and we exchanged the names of our favourite eating spots. We bought a beautiful hand painted piece and left feeling we had been lucky to have a special experience.
They specialise in a design called raffaelesco which was inspired by the works of the artistRaffaele.
Ubaldo recommended the restaurant Il Borghetto in the old part of town as the perfect place to eat local food after shopping in Deruta
Rome is full of famous palazzi built by the ruling families that became fabulously rich by having a family member become Pope. Some have become Embassies like the Palazzo Farnese which is now the French Embassy. many have been sold to the state and have been converted into museums and galleries like the Villa Borghese and the Palazzo Barberini which are both art galleries.
There is one that is still in the family’s hands and can give you a wonderful insight into the lives of the Papal families. The Galleria Doria Pamphilj is right in the centre of Rome and is probably the largest palazzo of this type still in private hands
View from Via del Corso
The entrance ticket also provides for an audioguide. The thing that really struck me is that the English version is narrated by Jonathan Doria Pamhplij who is one of the owners of the building and its incredible art collection. It is the best audioguide I have ever had, It is like being led through the palace by someone who knows and loves the place. He takes us through the rooms that have been restored and maintained with the care that only family owners can give.
The Reception Hall
In the 1600s art was used to cover walls and the paintings were even commissioned to fill spaces. They have kept the positioning of the paintings as they were originally. These were some of the richest people in Rome and were very serious art collectors. They have works by Caravaggio, Raphael. Titian, Breughel and many other famous artists. In any other gallery they would have a room to themself but here they are all mixed together. However the most famous is the portrait of Pope Innocent X by Velasquez and his carved bust by Bernini
Innocent X by Velasquez
Paintings crowded on walls
If you want to have a preview they have an excellent website at http://www.doriapamphilj.it/ukhome.asp
Apart from the incredible art there is a collection of Roman sculptures and the furnishings and frescoes of the palazzo to amaze you.
However the most interesting thing for me was the way the Jonathan Doria Pamphilj on the audioguide talked about the colourful history of his ancestors. I loved the story about Pope Innocent’s sister-in-law Olympia Maldaichini who convinced him that it was immoral for the church to be collecting taxes from all the brothels of Rome so he should give them to her which certainly helped the families finances. She then put the Popes coat of arms over the doors so they would not be raided by the police. This was a woman to be in awe of. She was Princess of San Martino nel Cimino near us and there she instituted a social planning experiment where retired prostitutes from her brothels could have a house if they married local miners and settled down. It looks like a mining town from the midlands as all the houses were the same.
I can really recommend this gallery as a great thing to do in Rome. Here are all the details.
How to get there: Take the train from Orte to Termini then take the No 40 bus to piazza Venezia (4th stop)
Hours: Almost every day from 10.00am to 5.00pm Check the website
I advise you to visit in the morning and then go for lunch. Suggested places nearby: If you want something light don’t disregard the tea rooms in the galleria. They are an oasis of calm in the caos of Rome and serve panini or salads.
For something more substantial you can walk from here to the Pantheon and we recommend “Da Armando al Pantheon”. Otherwise walk down via del Corso to “Dal Cavalier Gino” . Both serve typical Roman cuisine and it is best to search for them on the net or Google maps.
Tea Rooms in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj
The most important task we had to complete this visit was to have the outside of the apartment painted.
The BBC is sustained by reality shows of people who go to Italy and other Mediterranean countries and renovate houses. Were we starting on a soap opera Italian style. It seemed so when we ordered a new balcony in October. When we came back in February it was almost ready but we found we had out that because the new one was different form the old one we would have to get permission form Rome. We were concerned but the builders all said that when the scaffolding was up they would do it anyway and no one would realise.
We found tradesmen that the local Sorianese recommended and got quotes. Just before we left Australia we got a message that they wanted to put the scaffolding up. When we arrived the apartment was encased in scaffolding. The first coat was on and htey were only waiting for us to decide on the final colour.
The only hold up was getting the balcony railing up. As you can see from the photos it was quite a job.
Once it was up they welded it in place.
Then it only required the scaffolders to dismantle all the scaffolding and the painters to fill the holes that had attached it to the walls
Scaffolding coming down
Now we could start to see the finished product.
All we had to do now was to buy planter boxes and fill them with flowers to make the apartment more beautiful
Planter boxes on balcony
Finally the job came in right on budget with no terrible surprises except they had said to allow 6 weeks in case of rain and unforseen events and they finished 4 days after we arrived.