A Little Slice of Home

By Jane Mountain | April 6, 2013

Boats on Lago Trasimeno

When Stephen opened the shutters this morning, we saw something we hadn’t seen since we left LA. Bright, unabridged, full-on sunshine! Being on the second floor of one of the few buildings on Isola Polvese, we had a gorgeous view of the glass-like lake and the small hill town of Castiglione del Lago in the distance. One tin boat with a couple of fishermen aboard completed the view.

lake in umbertide italy

We headed downstairs for the included breakfast, only to discover that no breakfast was in evidence. We’d not had an exactly friendly welcome the day before (even though we were the only guests), so we weren’t really surprised that one more thing was not as it should be. Luckily, we have our own food with us. Despite the beauty, I was looking forward to getting off the island.

One of the minor struggles of each day is getting everything packed up and ready to load onto our bikes. Each pannier has its particular contents, and each to be stuffed in such a way that those contents fit. Sometimes this goes smoothly and sometimes… let’s just say our cooking pannier and I had a minor disagreement this morning and I may have let my frustration get the better of me.

Onion Pizza Again?

By the time we’d packed everything and loaded our bikes onto the noon ferry, we’d burned through our breakfast and were hungry again.

We rode through a series of small villages and closed-down seaside resorts, looking for a likely pizzeria. Finally we saw a place. Stephen went in and came back with two slices of onion pizza, which is really just some thickish soft bread with thinly sliced onions on top. No sauce, no cheese, just onions.

In this part of Italy, this less-than-tantalising concoction is sold in almost every Pizzeria Rustica and in this case, it was the only vegan option. So we stopped again up the road at In Coop, a major grocery store chain here, to stock up and eat yet again.

A Lovely Ride

The day of riding, once we actually got started, was great. The sun was out, we made good time on our 400m climb and we flew fast and furious down the other side into an idyllic little valley filled with sheep, chickens, turkeys, and even a few truffle pigs.

bike ride through umbertide

Jane enjoying the views outside Umbertide, Italy.

We also came across our first other touring cyclist, Matthew from the Netherlands. He had spent last fall riding around England, France, and Spain, wintered at home, and was out on the road again. We were going in opposite directions, so sadly we didn’t have much time to chat. His ambition is to ride through Scandinavia in winter, so maybe our paths will cross before Stephen and I flee that part of the world for warmer places this fall.

Our destination for the night was Le Tortorelle, a vegetarian agriturismo that had caught my eye months ago in Lonely Planet. When we rolled up there were 15 or so cars in their long driveway. As we suspected, that meant there was no room at the inn for us. Since we are getting used to there being no guests anywhere, this was a bit of a shock. The woman who greeted us did not speak any English, but in Italian we asked her if there was camping nearby or another B&B she would recommend.

She told us to go down the road to the first house on the right. “Americana” she kept saying and “hospitalite”. I asked if it was a B&B and she said “no, no. Americana. Hospitalite.”

OK then.

American Hospitality

We rode down to the house and, tentatively, not sure why we were even there, shouted out a greeting to the couple chopping firewood in the yard. Since they were English speakers, I hoped they’d be able to direct us to a place to camp or recommend an inexpensive B&B nearby.

Without hesitation, they offered us a flat space at the back of their yard for our tent!

We were surprised and enormously grateful. We felt a little awkward and very un-Canadian accepting, as though we were being way too pushy. At the same time, we were very happy to have a home for the night. The incredible generosity continued as they offered us the use of their bathroom and invited us to come along on the pizza night they were having with their friends that night.

We happily accepted.

It turns out there is a pretty big ex-pat community in this part of Italy. Bruce had invited some of his friends who live in the area out for a meal. An enjoyable evening ensued. We ate maybe the best pizza we’ve had since we arrived, and engaged in some of the best conversation we’ve had since we arrived. No offence to our Italian friends, but it’s so much easier to converse in English!

There was also plenty of wine to go around too, which added to the lively chatter.

We talked with Bruce and Jan (American and English) about their house swaps and how they are free to go anywhere they like, since people always want to come to Umbria and stay in their little farmhouse. We talked with Paul (English) about his work here as a landscape architect and the sailboat he keeps on Lago Trasimeno. We talked to Tom (American) about the cycle touring he’s done and the research he’s doing into a cross-Italy and Croatia route. We talked to Ev (Jan’s mom, visiting from England) about everything under the sun. We didn’t get to talk much to Margie (American), since she was clear across the other side of the table, but she sure seemed like fun.

Sadly, we were having so much fun, we forgot to take any pictures!

Thanks Bruce and Jan for providing us with such a great evening and such a beautiful place to stay! If you are ever in the neighbourhood, look them up on HelpX and stay for a few days of work on their property. They are excellent hosts and lead a life that would inspire anyone.

Soundtrack: NO, Don’t Worry, You’ll Be Here Forever | Gord Downie and The Country Of Miracles, The Grand Bounce | Big Sugar, Hemi Vision | Eels, Wonderful, Glorious  

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