Sunday Territorian 12 Jun 2016
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44 FRONTIER TRAVEL SUNDAY JUNE 12 2016 NTNE01Z01MA - V1 I t begins with a cello, its velvety sounds filling the gilded nave of St Peters basilica. Bachs Suite No 1 prelude is beautiful at any time but here, among the renaissance frescoes in a 10th century abbey in Perugia in central Italy, it is sublime. Hours fly like minutes as La Nouva Musica, a baroque revival group from London, plays Bach and Handel with such youthful exuberance that its hard to believe these composers have been dead for almost 300 years. During interval, I wander the aisles of the church and stop at masterpieces by Perugino (a friend of Da Vinci and teacher of Raphael), by Vassilacchi (a student of Tintoretto) and others. I marvel at the woodwork of the 16th century choir stalls, said to be among the finest intarsia in the country. Ive rarely seen a concert venue like this, a precious space so readily used, but this is Italy, where music and art are as important as food and wine, and where history is to be celebrated and lived. Tonights concert is one of 14 in the Umbrian Musical Festival, or Sagra Musicale Umbra, that draws artists from around the globe to this captivating province. Picture yourself sipping prosecco at sunset in the medieval town square of Bevagna before a modern troupe called Soqquadro makes over Vivaldis Stabat Mater where else, but in a 13th century palace. Devour pizza in a trattoria beside the 12th century boyhood home of St Francis of Assisi before the Tallis Scholars perform under the lapis lazuli domes of the Basilica of St Francis. Admire handwoven linen in the Tessitura Pardi boutique in Montefalco before Russian pianist Irina Lankova plays against a backdrop of Perugino frescoes in the Museum of St Francis. Trust me, these are pinch-yourself moments. There are many other highlights on this tour with Australian-run company Living Italy, and theyre not all about the music, because while the Italians invented the cello, piano and violin, and gave the world opera, they have also perfected la dolce vita. Living Italy serves up a generous slice of this sweet life, incorporating cooking, wine tasting, art appreciation and history into its small-group itineraries. Ours is a movable feast as founders Carol Searle and Neil Moore hand-pick the best of whats available. Both fluent in Italian, the couple moved from Sydney to Umbria in 1988 and painstakingly transformed a 13th century ruin into a family home (as you do). Moore is an accomplished artist whos loved ancient history since he was a child while Searles passion is music she has sung professionally and taught in Australia. Together, they make a formidable team. Home base for our group a banker and his teacher wife from Sydney, a music student from Melbourne and two new retirees from Hobart is Camiano Piccolo. The property is a stroll northeast of Montefalco (a town of 5000 people and 28 churches) and it has been in the same family for more than 500 years. Today it boasts 25 comfortable, individually furnished guest rooms, a swimming pool, tennis court, restaurant and rambling gardens. Patriarch Piero Fabrizi, a spritely octogenarian, works in the dining room while son Giuseppe manages the 25ha property with wife Simona. Giuseppe is also head chef and his popular take on classic cuisine has seen the restaurant recently open to locals and daytrippers. On warmer days, when we eat outside under large umbrellas, looking through pencil pines and olive trees to the patchwork hills beyond, it feels like a languid scene from an EM Forster novel. But who needs the Tuscany of Forsters Room with a View or Where Angels Fear to Tread when you can have Umbria, the unspoilt green heart of Italy? Umbria is the only region that doesnt border water or foreign land, so its traditions have been particularly well-preserved. The ingenuity of the Romans, the egalitarianism of the Etruscans, the vibrancy of the Renaissance filtering south from Florence all have influenced the Umbrian identity. I have come for the music, but these 10 days have delivered much more. In the kitchens of the stately Villa Pambufetti, Ive learned to make strangozzi long, flat noodles shaped like the bootlaces Umbrians used to strangle priests who came to collect taxes for the papacy in the 14th century. Chicken cacciatore, calzone, rocciata strudel and sweet biscuits of red wine and olive oil Ive made those too, and devoured the lot with my fellow cooks in a renaissance garden. Ive tasted some of the finest local Sagrantino wine at the boutique Colle Ciocco vineyard, sampled olive oil at Casa Gola, one of Umbrias most photographed designer homes, and hunted for truffles in the hills of Monteluco a favourite haunt of actor Richard Gere, whose photograph hangs in the dining room of the truffle hunters home. Ive watched ceramics being made in Deruta, admired the feat of the Roman aqueduct in Spoleto, and been swept up in the joyous Quintana parade in Foligno where folk wear baroque costumes and march to drums and trumpets. This is my fourth trip to Umbria and my second tour with Living Italy, which also takes groups to Puglia, Abruzzo and Sicily. Every region in Italy offers something different, but for me, Umbrias charms are hard to beat. The 19th century composer Giuseppe Verdi famously said, You may have the universe if I may have Italy. I would be content to simply have Umbria. GETTING THERE The writer flew Emirates to Rome (via Dubai). emirates.com.au STAYING THERE Camiano Piccolo. camianoagriturismo.com GETTING AROUND Living Italy is a specialist travel operator providing tailored escorted tours in Umbria, Puglia, Sicily and Abruzzo. Tours range from seven to 21 days and start from $3162 with various inclusions. livingitaly.com The Basilica of St Francis of Assisi; inset, a classic Italian restaurant in Montefalco ESCAPE ROUTEUmbria Everyday life takes place in this wondrous living museum, complete with music, art, food and wine STORY KYLIE LANG Stop dreaming and start packing. ESCAPE has partnered with Flight Centre to offer readers the opportunity to win a share of $20,000 towards their ultimate holiday! For your chance to win, enter codeword: THRILLS online at www.escape.com.au/win Competition opens Sunday, May 29 and closes Sunday, June 19 with a new codeword published in ESCAPE each week. YOUR SHARE OF $20,000 TOWARDS YOUR DREAM ESCAPE! WIN Terms and conditions: Competition is open to Australian residents only. Competition opens 29/05/2016 at 00:01am AEDST and closes 19/06/2016 at 11:59pm AEDST. Winners will be drawn at 2 Holt Street, Surry Hills, NSW, 2010. Total prize pool $20,000 inc GST. Winners will be notified by telephone or email on 20/06/2016 and announced by 21/06/2016 on www.escape.com.au/win. The competition is a game of chance. For full terms and conditions visit www.escape.com.au/win. Authorised under permit numbers: NSW LTPS/16/03887, ACT TP 16/00964 and SA T16/863
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