When you are an expat you make friends quickly, but oftentimes people leave to move to another country or back home. Sometimes you never see those people again. Then there are the people you keep in contact with and see if you are able to get together. This is the case with my friends in Italy. I met them while living in Grand Turk. They would have me and other people over for long lunches that sometimes led to dinner or dinner that led to lots of wine. Both times I went to Grand Turk in 2011 I paid them a visit. I even brought them tortilla chips in my carry on once because they couldn’t get them or tortillas in the store there. We have kept in touch over the years. Eventually, they left Grand Turk to move to Italy where he is from. Even before they made the move, we had talked about me coming to visit since I would be so close. I was determined to make it there this year as they are always showing me lovely photos of their village and I missed my friend’s cooking!
I have now decided that visiting friends should be the only way to travel! They showed me things I would never have found without them and it was also very relaxing. Also the area, Umbria, they live in is absolutely stunning. They live in the village of Alviano, Italy. The historic part of the village is small, but there is plenty to do in the surrounding area. You will need a car to visit some of these places and possibility even to visit Alviano. In Alviano Scalo, there is a train station, but you would need to arrange a taxi to take you to historic Alviano. Only a few of these things are in Alviano, but are in the surrounding area. I highly recommend you rent a car and explore Umbria or all of Italy.
The castle! It seemed every village I went by had a castle on a hill. Alviano was no exception. The castle is still used as the city hall, but has it’s own history. It was built in the 15th century. Inside the castle is a small chapel with frescos from the 17th century. Unfortunately, I decided to be technology free this afternoon and had no camera with me, not even my phone so I didn’t get pictures of the frescos. There is also a small museum in the castle that you can visit. However, you might want to bring a translator app as I am guessing the labels are all in Italian like they were in the rest of the castle. Here is a link to the castle’s website. Behind the castle is the church. The church bells ring in Alviano all day, which is charming till you are trying to sleep! The people of Alviano take great pride in their village do lots to maintain it. Saturday is market day and there were fresh fruits and flowers to buy. Go early though as it ends around 1pm.
They also took me took a local cold sulfur spring. I did some research and there are many spas in Umbria with natural springs both cold and hot. The local spring was ice cold. I could barely put my feet and legs in at first. Slowly you get used to it and it was so hot outside, it started to feel good. I did manage to dip myself up to my middle but no further. My friends were much braver and one of them went under the water. The pool they have created isn’t deep but you can lie down and immerse your whole body. Since there was no air conditioning and Italy was having a heat wave, I began to appreciate the cold. My legs were numb when we got out. My friends say this is a local secret, so I won’t tell you the name of the spring and I couldn’t tell you where it was anyway! So if you make it to Alviano then ask a local and they might tell you where it is. If not, I am sure you can experience this at a local spa.
Being Italy, there are numerous restaurants in the area, but you may not be able to find them without some guidance. Many are on small roads and don’t always look like restaurants. My favorite was Il Fontanile. Another place I wouldn’t have found without my friends. I ordered the Stinco. It has a longer name on the menu, but I didn’t write it down. Don’t worry if you want to order, just say Stinco and they will know. It sounds terrible right?! However, stinco is the word for pork shin. The pork shin is slow cooked all day with seasoning. This one had rosemary stuffed inside it. This is by far the best thing I have ever eaten. The portion is large though and I couldn’t finish it. Il Fontanile makes everything homemade and the meat is acquired locally. The homemade pizza looked amazing and they handmade everyone I saw as we were sitting by the pizza oven.
Get out and explore. My friends took me to several towns that had many historic sites, i.e. more castles! I recommend Amelia, which is a larger town. The historic part of Amelia had streets so narrow, I wasn’t sure how we were going to fit down them in the car. People walking the street had to press themselves into the walls so we could go by! They also were having a festival that weekend. Many of the small towns have festivals or sagras throughout the summer and you should try to find out where before you go. Another town that was worth exploring was Goive. The castle in Giove was at one time owned by the famous Italian family Farnese.
Where to stay? There are too many options in Alviano itself. I looked and there were only two Airbnb options in Alviano proper. The newer part of Alviano, Alviano Scalo may have a hotel, but I couldn’t find one. Il Fontanile has six rooms though and is very close to Alviano. The restaurant was so beautifully done; I am sure the rooms are the same. Bonus is dinner is easy to find. If Il Fontanile isn’t your thing, then I recommend looking into Airbnb to find a house or apartment to stay in, as you will feel more like you live there and can experience Umbria in all its glory.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post when I talk about the best attraction in the area!