Revealing a few of the culinary experiences of the Umbria Electric Bike Safari.
Eating well in Italy is a right. Italian's are food enthusiasts! Everyone stops for lunch, and dinner is always a major event, whether eating at home with family, in the local pizzeria, trattoria or the finest restaurant.
Eating 'well' to an Italian means knowing the source of the food, understanding how it is prepared and with what ingredients, all culminating in an ordering exchange often resemblingthe complexities usually reserved for a house purchase, rather than a lunch order!
Eating is always an event in Italy.
The food is to be savoured to it's fullest extent and the time, a minimum 90 minutes, is used to reflect, compose, recharge and prepare for the long afternoon.
Throughout your Electric Bike Safari, you experience 'eating well' and in a variety of settings.
Your finest dining experience is orchestrated by chef Giancarlo Politio who deliverers with flare, an evening of entertainment where the food has centre stage, well maybe just right-of-centre, because really, we all know that Chef Giancarlo is the bucco in this ossa! Fine Italian wines, drawn from all regions of Italy decorate the wine list and Chef Giancarlo will enthusiastically propose wines to accompany and enhance each dish all carefully prepared under his very watchful eye.
By contrast, we join the office workers of Umbertide ( Um-ber-ti-de ) for a simple pasta-course lunch and maybe a salad, with wine, water and coffee. The event is set on a perfectly manicured place-setting with crisp, white, linen table cloth, laid out under a functional pergola, adjacent to a small, town pizza packed with cars and our ebikes, all doused in brilliant sunshine. We are waited on by Samantha, the owner. Everything is fresh and the atmosphere, tranquil. The clientele are chat quietly throughout lunch. There is a sensation of relaxation.
In the middle of the 'Pian di Marte' ( plain of Mars (the God of War)), hidden from view, is an old monastery. Here, Elio quietly prepares traditional meals using local ingredients. By local, he means 'on-his-doorstep'. Largely, but not exclusively vegetarian, Elio once prepared a dish of what looked like meat balls in a sauce. He arrived at our table with beaming smile, cradling a brown, earthenware bowl, the size of a small wash basket. The contents were steaming. He explained that he and his wife had collected wild fennel-tops early that morning from the adjacent field and made these 'meat-balls', with no meat. I wish I had the culinary words to describe to you the eating experience. They were extraordinary! Who knows what delights await you when we stop at San Cristoforo for lunch.
High on the ridge behind Assisi, along the road famously taken by St. Francis, is a small agritourismo which everyone drives by, except, occasionally, for a few locals and us, on our eBikes. Nonna Grazia knows that we still have 20 miles and a hill to climb before we reach Assisi and we really don't want huge portions!
To Nonna, we need feeding up, to ensure that we are prepared for the afternoon and given that breakfast was such a long time ago, we must be wasting away!
The kitchen door is in constant motion
The table creeks under the load! Anti-pasta, primi, secondi, contorni, water, wine by the jug and coffee and dolce to finish. The kitchen door is in constant motion, as plates arrive, are described and jostled into position on the table. You can't eat it all, but you cannot resist, so you just try just a little of everything because it is all so wonderful!
Finally, the kitchen door and the voices from beyond are quiet and it is time to find a spot outside in the garden under the ancient tree. Pull up a chair or just lie on the grass and let the digestion take it's course for 30 or 40 minutes. The warm sunshine glinting through the tree seems to help settle your lunch-load.
In Cortona, you wonder if you have misread the directions. The small, dark courtyard just off the main pizza, is an unlikely place for a restaurant. Even as you push back the door, things don't feel quite right. Carlo, the owner, will most likely be the person to welcome you and immediately put you at your rest. La Grotta, the Cave, is a modest, family run restaurant in the best possible Italian tradition. The menu is comprehensive and includes the famous Chianina T bone steak, for those so inclined. My personal favourite meat dish here is the grilled liver with a side dish of spinach. Try anything on the menu without fear of disappointment.
The Umbria Electric Bike Safari is a journey of cuisine. Whether slurping capucio, sipping grappa or sucking in the last 3cm of that delicious pasta covered in sauce, your senses are continually presented to differing flavours, culinary colours and grand odours.
Don't expect to loose any weight while on the Umbria eBike Safari because we're always 'off the eaten track'.