The Hendersons Castiglion Fiorentino
2014 Trip to Italy and Malta
We drove to the charming town of Castiglion Fiorentino, which is in Toscano. This is a small hill town, which is surrounded by the old city walls. We were able to bring our car into the town so we could unload it, then park it outside the walls. Our apartment was nice, but oh, the stairs. We were on the third floor and the bedroom was a loft above the apartment. We had purchased a confit de canard in France and wanted to have that for dinner, but couldn’t find a can opener! I improvised, using the kitchen shears to open the can. Mel warmed the confit and roasted some potatoes, which made for a very nice meal.
Thursday was dreary – we had been so lucky with the weather thus far. Hoping for the best, we drove to the beautiful town of Arezzo. This is where the film La Vita È Bella was filmed. By the time we got the car parked, the rain was coming down, so we dashed into a nice café not far from where we had parked. We had a leisurely lunch and by the time we finished, the rain had stopped. Arezzo is a charming town with one of the prettiest squares we’ve ever seen. We walked around the town, which was very clean, such a contrast to Napoli! Mel hadn’t had a chance to mail the keys back to the innkeeper in Lamezia Terme, so we stopped at the post office, which was on our way back to the car. She took a number and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually we gave up. It must be the Italian way.
We drove back to Castiglion Fiorentino. We parked the car, then decided to try this post office in this much smaller town – maybe we’d have more luck. They had the same numbering system as the one in Arezzo (take a number from this machine for stamps, from this machine for postal savings account transactions, from this one for a package). Eventually we got to a window and got the keys off in the mail. Our Italian is now good enough that we can conduct basic transactions fairly easily, the real challenge is figuring out the system.
We had read restaurant reviews for a restaurant in the old town, Ristorante da Muzzicone. The specialize in Fiorentine steaks, which they grill on an open fire. The steaks are enormous – they must weigh two or three pounds. There was no way we could eat one of those between us, so we opted for something a lot smaller. Mel had cinghiale (wild boar) which was stewed or braised and excellent. I had a veal dish.
Friday and our last day in Castiglion Fiorentino. We decided to drive to Gubbio, which is where the outdoor scenes in the series Don Matteo is filmed. What a beautiful town!. Again, it is a walled city and you have to park outside the town, but once inside, the streets (narrow, of course) are clean, the buildings are really interesting. One of the culinary specialties in Gubbio is a crescia, a flat salted bread filled with meat, cheese or other fillings, then folded and toasted. Very tasty local light meal. After lunch, we walked around the lower part of town, then decided to find the piazza. Gubbio is different in that the piazza is about ½ up the hill from the lower town. What a climb. The piazza itself is magical, with views of the lower town, and a superb Municipio. What makes Gubbio especially appealing is that they have installed elevators to take people from one level to another. From the piazza level, we took an elevator to the cathedral level. The cathedral is lovely, but it was a real surprise to walk out the front door and come right against the duke’s palace – the front to both can’t be more than 20’ apart.
Taking advantage of the elevators, we made our way back to the lowest level of the town. It was time for afternoon coffee. What a delight! We found a little bar which had some very small biscotti (biscottini) called “fave de morti” or beans of the dead. These are an Umbrian specialty around All Saints’ Day. They are made of almond meal, pinoli (pine nuts)), egg, cinnamon, flour, brandy or grappa, grated lemon rind and powdered sugar. They are not overly sweet, which is why we enjoyed them so much (I made some when we returned home, but they were somewhat denser than the ones we had in Gubbio).
That evening we returned to Ristorante da Muzzicone, it is so good.