Berkeley East has spent more time in Italy than any other country, including the United States. Given that Italia is a fairly small land, we find ourselves revisiting places, out of both necessity, and desire. And upon planning our trips to provision BE before setting sail, Umbria (just three hours by car) came to mind.
The only Italian region without either a coastline or a foreign border, Umbria is one of the country's most fertile expanses, often referred to as "the green heart of Italy." With rustic mountains, gorges and rivers in the east, rolling hills and emerald valleys in the west, the area is a scenic wonder and gastronomic paradise.
This was our third trip to Umbria, and "our little town" of Spello. We fell in love with the tiny hillside hamlet called Spello in 2011, and often talk about spending extended time there. We have a favorite restaurant, a favorite hotel, a favorite coffee shop, a favorite dish (truffle pasta) and favorite provisioning places nearby. While the constant change and newness of the cruising life is exciting, it can sometimes be a bit daunting and isolating, so there is comfort in the familiar.
Roberto and Luca at "Enoteca Properzio 2" greet us as if we are long lost friends. Whether they truly remember us, or not, is uncertain, but the enthusiastic welcome is appreciated. The proprietor of our hotel also acts as if he has been anxiously awaiting our return. The atmosphere and people of Spello give us that warm feeling of coming home.
We spent a few days getting reacquainted with the town and the area. And since this was a Berkeley East "provisioning" trip, we had to procure supplies, which required stops for Umbria's specialty products like truffles, faro, spicy sausage, figs, olive oil and of course, wine.
Visits to all of our favorite vineyards helped to secure grape juice and olive oil, and regional delicacies for the season. Again, the people all acted as if they remembered the American cruisers who often come to Umbria to fill their boat's wine bilge. One stop brought sadness as we learned of the passing of the winemaker who first introduced us to Umbrian wines during an all Italian/French spoken tasting. His wife continues the tradition, and kindly presented us with a magnum of our favorite blend upon our departure. At another small cellar, we chose a reserve wine that had just been bottled, but were told they could not sell it for months because it was not labeled. Our disappointment was lessened when they wrote on an unlabeled bottle and gifted it to us instead.
Even when exploring a new estate, we felt at home as the bottles were placed on the largest Lazy Susan (turntable) that we have ever seen. Anyone who has ever had wine at our house understands that sentiment.
With our provisioning complete, we decided to have one last look at Spello before returning to BE. So we asked the hotel owner for permission to fly the drone from his terrace, his granddaughter translating our request. He smiled broadly and nodded yes as he raised his arms as if he was shooting and said "POW!" laughing all the while. Then he gave us his card so we could send some drone pictures of his hotel, and asked when we would come back to Spello again.