Umbria Food and Wine Tour with Chef Jerry Pellegrino
Umbria Food and Wine Tour with Chef Jerry Pellegrino
July 14 – July 20, 2019
Lead by Jerry Pellegrino, the chef/owner of Schola Cooking School in Baltimore, Maryland. The interplay between food and wine fascinates Chef Pellegrino, with his understanding of the two at the molecular level a direct result of his Doctoral work in molecular biology at Johns Hopkins University. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients that worked together with wine lists at all his restaurants; where diners could be swept up in Chef Pellegrino's passion for food and wine and discover the distinctiveness of ingredients and the way they work together. He is currently the co-owner of Schola, a private cooking school, located in the heart of Baltimore’s historic Mt. Vernon district. He and his partner, Chef Amy von Lange, teach hands-on classes to a variety of students covering a vast curriculum. For 15 years, Chef Pellegrino has served as the Vice Chancellor Culinaire of the Baltimore Bailliage of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers and often featured in cooking segments on local television. He is the co-host of the long running radio show on NPR 88.1FM, WYPR’s “Radio Kitchen”. He has been nominated various years as Chef of the Year, awarded by Baltimore’s Academy of Travel, Tourism and Hospitality and was named One of Maryland’s 50 Most Influential People in 2017. For a full list of awards and honors, head to www.scholacooks.com or download his full bio.
24/7 bilingual onsite support
Double occupancy accommodation at ICA
3 meals per day (*except as noted)
Itinerary as described with all ground transport and guide
Activities described in the itinerary
Ballroom Dancing Class
Hot Air Balloon Tour
Not included in cost
International Airfare for participants
Travel Insurance with Emergency Evacuation coverage (required)
Health Insurance (required)
Meals on excursions
Snacks and beverages at stopovers in transit
Day 1 – July 14
Arrive in Monte Castello: Orientation
After lunch, participants are shown to their rooms and relax until we meet for a tour of the village at 5 PM. Afterwards, we meet at the Café Centrale to enjoy a glass of Prosecco and a spectacular view of the Tiber Valley. At 5:30, maestro muratore (master mason) Sandro Tomassi, will provide a tour of the village and will discuss the ancient techniques of muratura tradizionale in pietra (traditional stone masonry). Sandro is a resident of Monte Castello – as his family has been, since the 18th century (and likely before those records). His family has practiced masonry nearly as long, maintaining the traditions handed down from the ancient Etruscans. Sandro will point out some of the interesting features of the village, including the infamous“doors of the dead,” seen around the village. Afterward, he will demonstrate the technique of cutting stones by hand and laying walls in the traditional way.
At 7:00 PM, we will move to the ICA terrace for a wine tasting and a sampling of some of the unique salumi and cheeses of the region. We will see why Condé Nast called our area: “the top upcoming wine region in Italy.” It will be an informative and tasty introduction to Umbrian wine and cuisine!
Dinner at 8.
Day 2 – July 15
Introduction to the Environs of Monte Castello and Truffle hunt
After breakfast, we’ll experience an introduction to the kitchen by our chef, Katia Costanzi, who will introduce us to the flavors of Umbria and to the extraordinary ingredients she uses to prepare our delicious meals.
We’ll also meet some of the producers of the products that we use in our kitchen, such as: artisanal cheeses, sun-dried fruits and nuts, and ingredients from the forest including mushrooms, truffles, and wild game. We will meet Massimo Cappoccia, whose family has been producing some of the finest olive oil in the world for generations and sample some of their best production. Afterward, we will meet our friend Andrea Barcarotti, whose occupation is to seek out the rich treasures of the Umbrian woodlands. Andrea will introduce us to the bounty and diversity of truffles and mushrooms found in the forests that surround Monte Castello. We will follow his dogs Zara and Sasha into the forest and see just how it’s done. It is truly amazing to see these incredible dogs scurrying through the forest and field fringes, discovering fresh and aromatic truffles.
At 6 PM, those who are interested can meet on the terrace where dance master Silvia Battimazza will introduce us to the favorite pastime of the village, ballroom dancing! There are many opportunities to interact with locals at the Bar Torraccia through dancing and appreciating the live music offered there and thus is a great opportunity to develop skills that will help you be a part of the family.
At 7 PM, we’ll have an introduction to wines of the region and a tasting, accompanied by a representative from the local Conti Faina Vineyard. This is one of the oldest and most venerable vineyards in our area and we will visit their ancient cellar later in the trip. Dinner will be at 8:30.
Day 3 – July 16
We will depart at 7 AM for our trip to Florence, and have breakfast en route at Autogrill (breakfast today is not included). The quintessential Italian highway rest stop, Autogrill is nothing like the 7-11 type food stores or fast food one finds at highway rest stops in the United States, for example. Established after the Second World War as a state-owned enterprise, Autogrill certainly has fast service - the preparation of an exceptional cappuccino, for example, in the blink of an eye is amazing! However, the range of delicious sandwiches and sweet rolls, excellent coffee, and fresh-squeezed orange juice is extraordinary!
After our brief stop, we will exit the Autostrada and pass through the heart of the Chianti Classico territory. Here we will stop at vineyards producing Chianti Classico, before arriving in Florence. In this way, we will have a real hands-on experience of the wines we will sample in the city famous for art, food, and of course, wine.
Once in Florence, we will begin a walking tour of the historical city, passing by such landmarks as the church of Santa Croce (where Michelangelo, Galileo, and other great Florentines are buried), the Duomo (one of the world’s great architectural masterpieces), and Piazza della Signoria (original site of Michelangelo’s David and of many significant events in the history of Florence). Nearby, we’ll enjoy a late lunch at the fantastic Mercato Centrale (Central Market). The building was constructed in 1874, when Florence was the capital of Italy. The building was re-designed by Giuseppe Mengoni with the addition of one of the world’s great food courts, in 2014 to celebrate the 140th anniversary of its iron and glass architecture.
Also called, the San Lorenzo Market, it also offers a fascinating glimpse of the everyday life of Florentines as they shop for fresh fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, and other products. The lunch today is not included in the trip price as so many options are available to visitors. However, we strongly advise sampling the bollito (boiled beef) sandwich at the iconic Da Nerbone sandwich stand. (Don’t miss the spicy green sauce and a glass of the red table wine to complete the experience.) Upstairs, you’ll have the opportunity to sample one of Florence’s culinary masterpieces, Bistecca alla Fiorentina, as well as fried rabbit, in addition to a selection of seafood, breads, pastries and wines- thus showcasing the range and diversity as well as the richness of Florentine cuisine. (Here you will also find an excellent range of draft beers with many Italian options.)
We will depart Florence about 6 PM and en route to Monte Castello, at 8:30 we will stop for dinner of fresh fish at Ristorante Da Faliero on the beautiful shore of Lake Trasimeno, virtually on the spot where Hannibal defeated the Romans at the famous Battle of Trasimeno.
We will be back in Monte Castello by 11.
Day 4 – July 17
An Overview of the Neighborhood: A Balloon Tour of the Tiber Valley
At 6 AM we will depart for Bevagna, about forty minutes by bus, where we will have an aerial tour of Umbria by hot-air balloon. After the flight, we will have breakfast with prosecco in Bevagna at 9 AM, followed by a vineyard and cantina tour of the Dionigi Vineyard.
We depart for Assisi at about 1:00 PM and participants will have time during our stay to get lunch on their own while exploring the city. Upon arrival, we’ll be dropped off at the Church of San Francesco, UNESCO World Heritage site, one of the most impressive churches in Italy, and one of the most important churches in the Roman Catholic Church. We will discuss its architecture and its artistic treasures. We will tour the church as a group and point out important monuments and allow time for individual exploration and contemplation. Afterwards, we will Depart for Deruta to see the renowned Nulli Majolica pottery studio, where those who are interested can try their hand at pottery throwing on the wheel. After, a brief stop for amazing homemade pastry and gelato in Deruta (cost of pastry, gelato, and other refreshments is not included).
As we continue, we’ll visit the town of Montefalco, home of the world famous Sagrantino Wine, which is grown nowhere else on earth. We will stop at one of the most famous vineyards in Europe, Arlando Caprai, to enjoy a fantastic wine tasting. While here, we will learn about the history of this famous vineyard that did so much to cultivate and refine the renowned Sagrantino grape, taking it from lowly origins to one of the most celebrated and unique wines in Italy. We will also stop at Lungarotti vineyard for a wine tasting before continuing to Monte Castello and arrive by 6:30 PM.
Dinner at 8.
Day 5 – July 18
Orvieto and the Vini Etrusco Romana Trail
After breakfast, we will take the Via Antica - “old road” to Orvieto, passing through the Parco Naturale Regionale Tevere as we ascend to the mountain ridge above Monte Castello to the southwest. First, however, we will stop for a look at one of the most idyllic views of Monte Castello, from a cleft in the ridges called, La Bocca della Strega - the “Witches Mouth”. Here, when the right winds blow, a haunting, mysterious, moaning sound emerges from the valley. We will pass through the picturesque hamlet of Doglio, as we wind up to the ridge, passing through picturesque woodlands, rich in the truffles for which Umbria is famous. Soon we reach the top of the ridge and the plateau. Here amazing views await us at every turn, until we reach the castle hamlet of Titignano. This is arguably the best view of the Tevere -Tiber River as it swells to become Lake Corbara. We will have lunch in the castle and while there, sample their excellent wines.
Afterward, we will continue on the old road leading to Orvieto. This wine trail includes the DOC denomination wine producing area that runs between Orvieto and Amelia, producing wines such as: Orvieto Bianco DOC, Orvieto Classico, Orvieto Classico Superiore, Orvieto, Orvieto Superiore, Rosso DOC, Orvietano and Lago di Corbara.
Approaching the city, one is immediately struck by its remarkable location. Perched on a plateau atop a column of soft, volcanic rock called tuffo, the sheer cliffs reveal caves and holes which are the sources of illumination for an ancient underground city, well below the city of the middle ages we see today. Upon arrival in Orvieto, we will begin our tour with a descent into the Pozzo di S Patrizio - St. Patrick’s Well, a masterpiece of Renaissance engineering and carved from the living rock beneath the city, composed of a double helical stairway, in which those going up and those going down, never meet. It is an extraordinary place!
Afterward, we will walk together to the Duomo (Cathedral) of Orvieto. Here we will have a brief lecture explaining the significance of this remarkable example of Italian Gothic architecture. People will have a chance to wander around the exterior and through the inside of the church and perhaps visit the famous frescos of Luca Signorelli.
We will then meet at an enoteca, just off the main square for a wine tasting. We depart Orvieto at 2:00 PM.
At 3:00 PM, we arrive at, what the 19th century English poet, Lord Byron, called: “the most beautiful waterfall in Europe”. The Marmore Falls. The extraordinary thing is that all this natural beauty is in fact, manmade, and in this it is a remarkable testimony to the astonishing engineering capabilities of the ancient Romans!
Initially, the purpose of the project was to drain a swamp - the residual side benefit of diverting the river that was necessary to accomplish their goals, however is the creation of this spectacular landmark! The sight of water plummeting down the cliff from 541 feet, is unforgettable. Today, the flow of water is controlled by a dam producing hydroelectric energy and thus the water for these falls is released only at certain times of the day. We will arrive shortly after the release of the water; however, we will arrive in time to see the water slowly (at first) increase in velocity, building to its full grandeur. Those interested can hike up to various points along the waterfall – each offering incredible views (plan on getting wet!) and at some points the intrepid are treated to unique circular rainbows in the mist.
We will depart about 5 and arrive back in Monte Castello at around 6, time enough to clean up before dinner at 8:00. We will meet again at 7:30 for drinks.
Day 6 – July 19
The Sibillini Mountains and the Vini del Sagrantino Trail
We will leave immediately after breakfast on our trek to the spectacular Sibillini Mountains, along the Sagrantino Trail and here we’ll see some of the finest vineyards in Umbria. Our path itself follows the routes familiar to the ancient Umbra people and then later by the Romans. We’ll explore a spectacular landscape that includes abandoned castles, ancient hamlets, and extraordinary vineyards. Passing through the rolling mountains on our route, we pass through ancient villages such as Gualdo Cattaneo, Bevagna, Montefalco, Giano dell’Umbria, Castel Ritaldi, Bettona, Cannara. On our return, the sight of the vineyards and olive groves cloaking these rolling hills - on the opposite side of the mountain range- in the late afternoon light is unforgettable! In this landscape you can truly see Umbria as the “green heart of Italy.” Here you find arguably the most Umbrian of Umbrian landscapes. You’ll also arguably find the most Umbrian of Umbrian wines: Sagrantino di Montefalco D.O.C.G., Torgiano Rosso Riserva D.O.C.G., and Montefalco Rosso D.O.C.
The full-day tour today takes us on a broad overview of the area and we will see a number of spectacular sites. We will pass by the famous mineral water sources of Sangemini and Aquasparta. We’ll pause only briefly at the beautiful spring, but long enough to sample its water (the Romans believed would make one a good orator) and to enjoy a leisurely cappuccino on its banks. Along the way, we will also see one of the most truly impressive sights in Umbria, the Ponte delle Torri, outside of Spoleto. The 230-meter-long and 90-meter-high medieval bridge has an obscure history . As Domenico Pacieri writes, “If you ask the story how, by whom, when it was erected, the story remains silent.”
From here we will continue along the valley to the extraordinary town of Norcia. Renowned since the middle ages, the village was a center for surgeons, and also for butchers. Its cured meats are among the most famous in Italy, and as we stroll through the city we will tour the various shops and sample their delicacies – and bring along some samples for a great-picnic lunch in the mountains! As we leave Norcia we will continue to ascend into the mountains to the ridge, from which we have amazing views. Crossing over, we enter the Piano Grande (great plane) of the Sibillini Mountains. The great plane itself is a large plateau that boasts one of the most spectacular displays of wildflowers in the world in June and July. Ascending on the other side of the basin, we arrive at a spectacular high point, from which – on a clear day – it is possible to see both eastern and western shores of Italy! Around you, in the distances, you see a place with a remarkable and mythic history- you’ll see in the distance, the Cave of the Sybil, and Pilates Lake (believed to turn blood-red at certain times) – the valleys in the distance were home in the middle ages to magicians and necromancers. We’ll pause at this mystical and beautiful place and enjoy a picnic lunch of cured meats and cheeses from Norcia as well as some of the other local produce – including renowned truffles and mushrooms – all accompanied by the wines of the vineyards we will visit on our return home.
After lunch, we will return to Montefalco - about an hour away. As we see the town in the hills above us, we’ll tour vineyards producing the Sagrantino grape. Perhaps our most unique stop will be the Cantina Fongoli: owned by the same family for generations, it is one of the most atmospheric – and oldest – cantinas in the region. We will talk with the oldest member of the family and experience the breadth of his knowledge and his connection to the wines the family produces, as well as his perspectives on the challenges of bringing an artisanal product, with a familial heritage, into the contemporary market.
We’ll be back in Monte Castello in time for dinner, and reflection on a remarkable day.
Day 7 – July 20
Final Day in Monte Castello
On our final day in Monte Castello we will have time for packing and enjoying the beauty and serenity of the village, and for finishing up workshops or shopping. Katia has a special lunch planned and for dinner, we will enjoy our porchetta in context of a fantastic farewell dinner.
Day 8 – July 21
Departure for Rome Airport Sunday morning at 7 AM.
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