Ristorante Pascolò – by the sea

Ristorante Ristorante PascolòPascolò
Via Giuseppe Pellegrino 154
Vietri sul Mare (SA)
39-089-763-062

http://www.ristorantepascalo.com
Owner / Chef: Pasquale Vitale

Pasquale confesses to having been a vagabond for many years – traveling and learning his craft as chef.  He worked in many fine hotel restaurants in Italy’s famed resorts.  Then he spent six months in Miami, where he admits to acquiring excellent organizational skills.  These same skills and his love for adventure is what he brought with him when he returned to his hometown of Vietri sul Mare.  He opened up his restaurant in 2006, giving it the name Pascolò, with a subtitle “Arte in Tavola.”  Art is what he brings to his tables.

PasqualeLocated directly on the marina of Vietri, his family-style restaurant has both indoor and outdoor dining in season.  Naturally, his cuisine is primarily seafood-based, featuring the freshest catch of the day.  In addition, Pasquale loves to “revisit” some Campania classics, adding his special twist.  We tried his version of spaghetti alla chitarra, traditional pasta of the region, usually served with lamb.  His is dressed up with the frutti del mare – a dish that appeals to the eye, as well as the taste buds.  Pasquale loves to save his pièce de resistance for the meal’s end. We had a pastry-like cake made called scomposta al limone made with limoncello – Pasquale’s creation meant to leave its sweet taste lingering in his customer’s memory.    Remember we will.

 

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

 

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Villa d’Este – a garden that stuns and soothes

Villa d'Este (4)

Villa d’Este
Piazza Trento, 5
00019 Tivoli (Rome)
Tel: 39-041-271-9036
http://www.villadestetivoli.info
villadestetivoli@bestunion.com

A UNESCO World Heritage Site,  belonging to the Italian State that oversees its restorations and maintenance, Villa d’Este and its gardens were built by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este in the early 16th century.  Designed by architect Pirro Ligorio and realized by Alberto Galvani, the villa and gardens are located in Tivoli, outside of Rome.

For me, a walk through the garden is always perfumed with nostalgia, a longing to go back. In my case, it would mean going back more than fifty years, when I was first introduced to the gardens by my father. Actually, it was not without the loving companionship and assistance of my mother that we made these trips with my eleven siblings in tow. But it was my father who had a way of making me feel as if he had brought me alone to see the beauty that he so deeply appreciated. He made it a place of joyful learning.

He would patiently explain its wonders and I would be ensnared in that magical net. Where else in the world can one see such an extraordinary system of fountains, fifty-one to be exact, with a profusion of spouts, waterfalls, grottoes, basins and channels, all in a liquid dance that worked entirely without pumps, dependent on gravity alone? The water is supplied by the Aniene, a 62 mile-long river that flows westward before it joins the Tiber in Rome.

Villa d'Este (8)

Villa d'Este (1)A long panoramic terrace leads us from the villa and its loggia to the upper levels of the estate and then what is known as the Cardinal’s Walk, a shaded path, takes us from one end of the garden to the other. I could not possibly list the marvels of the illustrious fountains that make this Italian Renaissance garden so famous. And so, I will revisit some of my favorites. I can see my little brothers propelled ahead of us to be the first to discover the next new treasure or to distance themselves enough to get into some watery mischief. We older children are lagging behind them, intrigued by the Hundred Fountains. Constructed between 1566 and 1577, the fountains have close to 300 spouts fed by three levels of canals running side by side, each sending its water to the canal below. Many of the original sculptures that adorned the walls along these channels have deteriorated or disappeared altogether, leaving their replacements and the walls covered in vegetation and a velvety moss.

Oval Fountain

My younger siblings have beat us to the Fontana dell’Ovato, one of the first and most famous of the garden. I recall vividly the thrill of walking beneath the cascade of the Grotto of Venus, both wishing for and dreading a gust of wind that would have us all soaked through. I imagine the Cardinal’s guests, who used this space on hot summer days felt the same way. The original statues of the grotto are now in the Capitoline Museum, and visitors are currently not allowed to walk beneath the cascade.

Villa d'Este (5)Villa d'Este (3)

Surpassing the enchantment of the Fontana dell’Ovato is the spectacular Fountain of Neptune with water jets reaching over 40 feet into the air, flanked by other jets and multiple cascades. It commands a view of the three massive rectangular fish ponds which originally served to provide fresh fish and ducks for the Cardinal’s table. Designed to connect the Fountain of the Organ and the Fountain of the Seas, they offer perhaps the most temptation to small visitors to get splashing.  Is that my little brother leaning over the edge, water up to his armpits, in an attempt to catch a fish?

Villa d'Este (7)One of the sculptures removed from the Organ Fountain is the Statue of Diana of Ephesus, now placed at the end of the garden. Even though it appears ancient, it was made in 1568 by a Flemish sculptor, who was inspired by the ancient statuary found in other Roman villas. Known also as the Fountain of Mother Nature, it has jets of water spurting from each of her many breasts, so my father explained, to represent fertility. Now, fertility is something we understand as members of a large family, but it made us giggle nonetheless. We may have even counted to make sure there were twelve breasts!

Over the decades since my first introduction to the Villa d’Este, I have enjoyed the gardens over and over again. The artist in me is always revitalized by the many fountains that delight the eye and sooth the spirit. It is not without gratitude that I think of the Cardinal, the architect and landscape artist, the sculptors, engineers, gardeners and grounds-keepers who have made this experience possible. And thank you, Dad, for the memories.

Villa d'Este (2)

Full ticket: € 8,00
Reduced ticket: € 4,00

Guided Tours:
Guided tours of the garden and villa are available.
Prices:
Guided tour in the Italian Language (max. 25 persons): € 90. Each additional person please add € 3,50 to a maximum of 50 persons.
Guided tour in other languages (English, French, German, Spanish) (maximum 25 persons) € 110. Each additional person please add € 3,50 to a maximum of 50 persons.

copyright Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

Villa Il Poggiale – from family home to elegant hotel

2017c Villa Il Poggiale

Villa Il Poggiale
Via Empolese, 69
50026 San Casciano di Pesa (FI)
39-055-828311
http://www.villailpoggiale.it
villailpoggiale@villailpoggiale.it

A steady downpour holds me captive inside, but it is Villa Il Poggiale that captivates me. A Florentine Renaissance home, this villa dates back to 1408, passing down ownership from one family to another until it was purchased by the Vitta family in 1960. Three generations enjoyed this, their family home, and when no longer needed as a residence, it was decided that they would convert their elegant mansion into a hotel. The owners have worked hard to maintain the style and charm of the original interior, even as they expanded and re-designed the structure, so that one can still enjoy today the welcome of its shaded loggia, the frescoes that adorn walls and ceilings, and the intimacy of the rooms. Villa Il Poggiale offers all the luxury of a first-class hotel, but has successfully achieved their goal of maintaining the feel of home. This is made clear from the beginning when we are handed the keys to the front gate and the entrance to the villa so that we can come and go as we please.

At the moment, I am sitting quietly in our room listening to the music of raindrops. I am embraced by the comfort of our room, one of the 24 rooms and suites in the villa, each furnished differently with the finest of linens and antiques. I glance out my window from time to time to watch the puddles form below in the garden and in the distance, a purely Tuscan landscape glistens in the mist. I wander through the many little salons, each one beckoning me to sit and read my book within their cozy spaces, and I finally choose one. As late afternoon arrives, and it is clear that there will be no swimming in their lovely pool, I choose to visit the in-house spa and indulge in the warmth of a sauna.

We dine at the villa’s restaurant, La Tinaia, the space where the peasants used to bring the grapes at harvest time. Here, where the emphasis is on taste AND healthy eating, guests are given a choice – not an easy one – from a fixed menu or à la carte that reflects the simple yet refined cuisine of Tuscany. A generous buffet of antipasti leads the way and the entrées that follow include ingredients brought right from their garden to the table. The wine list does the rest.

It is easy to fall in love with this villa and the staff who treat us like family, but the countryside awaits. Villa Il Poggiale offers custom-designed tours of the neighboring towns, with wine-tastings and even cooking classes for those who wish to explore Tuscany in this relaxed manner. Even for the independent traveler, the possible excursions throughout the Chianti region are many: Greve, Panzano, San Miniato and the towered town of San Gimignano await. And then, there is Florence…

copyright ginda simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

Ristorante San Martino 26 – a “towering” cuisine in San Gimignano

San Martino 26 (16)Ristorante San Martino 26
Via S. Martino 26
53037 San Gimignano (SI)
0577-940-483
http://www.ristorantesanmartino26.it
Owner: Fabio Pernarella
Chef: Ardit Curri

Fabio Pernarella and his family bring 27 years of restaurant experience to this relatively new enterprise in San Gimignano. Perucà is their other ristorante, where their entry into the restaurant business had its humble beginnings. For over two decades it has been a most popular Tuscan restaurant, not to be missed. But in this city of fabled towers, Chef Ardit Curri, a true culinary artist, offers a cuisine that towers above the rest, taking a traditional way of cooking to new and creative heights at Ristorante San Martino 26. Like the cuisine, the ambiance is a harmony of light and contemporary décor, blending beautifully with its ancient stone walls and cellars.

San Martino 26 (3)The only way to really explore these tempting innovations is to sit back and enjoy one of their seasonal tasting menus. Journey along with the chef and let your waiter pair the wines with the various courses, making this adventure a celebration of all that is good and beautiful in Tuscany. Each course was brought to the table like a small gift, beautifully presented, familiar yet surprising: like Il Fegatino Toscano, chicken liver with vin santo on a home-made pan brioche or the poached egg yolk hidden in a mound of whipped egg-whites and Parmesan, topped with truffles. We particularly enjoyed La Chitarrina, fine hand-made egg noodles made spicy with aglio e olio then coated with a more delicate creamed anchovy and shrimp sauce.

Our wines included the famous Vernaccia wine of San Gimignano, a crisp white wine locally produced from the Vernaccia grape. Earliest mention of this wine dates back to records from the 13th century, but since the Renaissance, it has been considered one of Italy’s finest wines. With our main entrée, roast pork with steamed carrot and purée of green beans, we sipped a Super Tuscan Peperino. The sweet Moscadello di Montalcino, with its gem-like topaz color, accompanied our dessert and it was a match made in paradiso. In spite of what seemed like an endless parade of dishes, because portions and flavors were balanced to perfection, we left completely satisfied at meal’s end, ready to explore the treasures of this medieval city.

San Martino 26 (10)

Chef Ardit Curri

copyright ginda simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

Ristorante Pomarancio – a riverview restaurant

Ristorante Pomarancio

Ristorante Pomarancio
Via Gabriotti, 14
Umbertide
(near the historic center)
39-075-941-5886

info@ristorantepomarancio.it
http://www.ristorantepomarancio.it/

 

 

At the confluence of the Upper Tiber River and its smaller tributary, the Reggia, sits the town of Umbertide.  Ristorante Pomarancio is across the river, a stone’s throw from the historic city center and is named after the 16th century artist whose paintings can be found in the nearby octagonal church known as la Colleggiata.  Ristorante Pomarancio offers outdoor dining on a delightful patio overlooking the river with a view of Umbertide’s ancient dwellings, their muted colors softly reflected in the waters below the city’s old stone walls.

Pomarancio’s large interior dining room has a contemporary, understated elegance, featuring pure white china on linens in shades of khaki and off-white, accented by napkins the color of pumpkins.  Soft music plays in the background, but at least twice a month, the restaurant offers live music.  Just recently, on Valentine’s Day, they hosted an evening of jazz to their 120+ diners.

We enjoyed a leisurely Sunday lunch.  A pleasant Rosso di Montefalco wine kept us company through a four-course meal that began with a mound of porcini mushrooms on a bed of watercress and rucola greens, topped with shavings of pecorino.  A light primo of spinach-filled crepes was followed by stinco di maiale al vino rosso, tender pork shank braised in red wine.  Pomarancio’s chef is from Puglia, bringing a little southern zest to the more traditional dishes of the Umbria region.  Enrico Bacchetti, the restaurant’s manager is a man of vision, each new idea simmers until it is a fait accompli.  Expect to eat well and be entertained on a regular basis at the Pomarancio – a successful part of Umbertide’s restaurant scene.

view from Pomarancio (sm)

View of the River and Umbertide from restaurant

 

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

 

Scimitar – a floating restaurant on the Adriatic Sea

SciScimitar 1mitar
Banchina no. 13
Darsena Centrale
Porto di Fano
39-0721-831-473
info@scimitar.it
www.scimitar.it

What could be more enchanting than to dine in a floating restaurant on the Adriatic Sea?  Add the glow of a fading sun, followed by the glimmer of the port lights reflected in the water, and the scene becomes unforgettable.  Built in 1970, Scimitar was once a ship in the British Military Navy, serving in a variety of capacities before eventually “retiring” in the port of Fano.  Damaged by fire, it remained anchored for ten years.  Then, following ambitious plans and years of careful restructuring, undertaken by Marco Pezzolesi, Director of Fano’s Fisherman’s Cooperative, it was given new life in 2007 as a floating restaurant.

There’s more than just panoramic scenery here – the food is excellent too and the fixed priced menu is easy on one’s wallet.  The all-seafood menu, featuring four courses, changes slightly each day, according to the daily catch.  To begin with, a trio of cold antipasti, fresh marinated anchovies, chilled salmon with arugula and cherry tomatoes, and a “salad” of diced potato and octopus.  This is followed by a warm antipasto of steamed clams and mussels.  There are two primi – a pasta and a risotto and finally, the centerpiece of the meal – a huge platter of fritto misto, calamari, shrimp and sardines, fried in a batter so delicate, they nearly lifted themselves off the plate before we could dish them onto ours.  This abundant mound of fish comes with a crispy fresh insalata mista.  We choose a local white wine, Bianchello del Metauro, and it is a perfect choice for one of the best seafood meals we have had in Italy.

Scimitar is moored at Fano Port, on the central dock between the fishing port and tourist marina.  Beautiful views, soft music, excellent cuisine and choice wines – ingredients that will keep the Scimitar afloat for many years to come.

Scimiar 2

 

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

La Foce – A Tuscan estate with a unique history

La Foce Sept 2014 (21)

La Foce
Strada della Vittoria, 61
Chianciano Terme
39-0578-69101
http://www.lafoce.com
http://www.dopolavorolafoce.it

I knew within the first few pages of Iris Origo’s book War in Val d’Orcia that I would have to visit this 15th century Tuscan estate and see for myself the place where Iris and her husband fought to save the lives of so many during the Second World War. Knowing their story of a hidden war within a war gives an added significance and appreciation of La Foce, its villa restored by Iris and Antonio Origo in the 1920s and the gardens that are considered some of the finest in the country.

 

Located in Val d’Orcia near Montepulciano in the southern portion of Tuscany, La Foce was surrounded by a vast landscape of poor, bleak, unihabited, unworked soil. British born, Iris was 22 years old when she married Italian nobleman Antonio Origo. When they purchased the property, their dream was to change this territory into fertile farmland, and at the same time improve the living conditions of the contadini. Strong-willed and caring, she never flinched when faced with this barren wasteland, but went to work, creating in the end, a veritable paradise. At its peak, the estate included 57 farms spread out over 7,000 acres.

In 1939, the Origos built the Dopolavoro, which translates as After Work, creating a meeting place for their workers to enjoy a glass of wine together, play bocce, and share news. Country dances and plays were held here. They also built a kindergarten, school and clinic on the estate – all this to care for their working families, during very difficult socio-economic times.

It would be easy to forget the hardships, the sacrifices, and the terror the Origo family endured during 1943 and 1944, when the war was being fought right on their doorstep and each day tested their divided loyalties. Germans occupied Tuscany and the Allied forces were advancing from the south. The Origos harbored war orphans, refugee children and a steady stream of downed Allied pilots, Jewish refugees and escaped prisoners of war who hid out on their property, aided by the local populace, who provided food and clothing when possible. All at tremendous personal risk.

 

But today, we feel the blessing of a beautiful garden, graced with stillness and peace. The golden sunlight flickers on the brilliant purple of the wisteria-covered pergola that runs along the upper terrace. It glints and dances with glee on the yellow and orange of the citrus trees potted in tubs amid the hedges. Making the most of the estate’s striking position, British architect Cecil Pinsent designed the grounds and the farmhouses, an endeavor that began in 1927 and took twelve years to complete. Cypresses and rows of clipped boxwood divide the gardens into neat sections, leading the eye to wander to the distant views of the untamed countryside that holds La Foce in its embrace.

 

The postwar years were marked by continuing challenges, as the sharecropping system that had existed in Italy since the Middle Ages came to an end. Many of the tenant farmers left the land to find work in the cities, abandoning the farmhouses that eventually fell to ruin. In spite of this, the estate as seen today is a living testament to the dreams, the tenacity, and the love of two individuals who made a difference. The Dopolavoro has been brought back to life as a restaurant, where one can taste typical Tuscan country fare, flavored with the herbs and olive oils of La Foce, in an atmosphere seasoned with a real sense of history.

La Foce

La Foce’s garden is open for guided tours every Wednesday afternoon and every weekend from mid-March to November.

copyright Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com