La Dolce Vita

Staying with Nick and Simona was like stepping into a Rossellini film. I really can't thank them enough for their seemingly inexhaustible hospitality even in the face of a distant relative turning up almost unannounced on their door step and proceeding to borrow money and eat (& drink) them out of house and home.

It's always a little nerve-wracking meeting family for the first time especially when you will be staying with them; what if you don't get on? Simona would later confide over a cigarette that she had shared this concern. Would that this distant relation who was cycling across Europe be a bit straight-laced (no drinking no smoking etc) and had been rather relieved to see a roll-up peeking out from behind my ear as I stepped of the train. Fortunately despite my manifest faults as a house guest we got on famously.

Simona's professional cooking skills and infectious good nature. Nick's wisdom and amazing tales from his time as a freelance photographer in far flung war zones. It all combined a breathtaking Umbrian backdrop to feel utterly intoxicating.

The view across the rolling Umbrian hills from the Patio

On my first day we took a trip to Orvieto and Nick told me the story of the city during the Axis retreat up the Italian penisular during WWII.

As British forces approached fortified Orvieto a young German officer approached under a white flag to argue that the city should be spared and the fighting resumed further up the road.

Naturally suspicious an English Major cautiously went up into the city to investigate why this place should inspire such a fervent desire to spare it when so many had already been shelled.

Walking through the seemingly deserted streets he turned into the Palazzo dell'Opera and saw the reason why.

Nick had timed his tale so that we made the same turn the English major would have and the sight was enough to stop me in my tracks.

Sun glinting off the gothic facade I challenge anyone not to stare in wonder.

The city, its people and its beauty were saved and in the midst of all the wreckage and carnage of war Orvieto stands as a reminder of the humanity and the aesthetic appreciation of two brave army officers from opposite sides.

You can read the full story here: pictures courtesy of one Nick Cornish.

Returning the next evening to enjoy Aperitivo (my new favorite thing) and a return visit to the cathedral

Much of my time was spent luxuriating on the farm anticipating the nest culinary delights that Simona would spring come the evening. Home grown courgette flowers stuffed with anchovies and cheese was just one of the memorable taste bud tingling delights.

Check out to get you stomach growling unstoppably]

I was also allowed to raid Nick's library. Time was found to go swimming in a volcano (extinct) and lounge by Allerona's local pool and help Nick with putting a automatic watering system into the vegetable patch. But first and foremost it was a stress free zone.

Looking back at Orvieto

My visit to Allerona bookended my dash back to London to sort out passports and insurance etc. It was with the heaviest of heavy hearts that I left to continue on my journey. I will be back to help with wine and Olive harvests in the future but for now it was time to hit the road again.

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