Viterbo: a Room with a View

Viterbo4If you can believe it, I am taking a class on Italian food and wine. The class is incredible! Amongst other things we get to indulge our senses and taste delicious wines and delectable meals. This past weekend, we took a day trip to Viterbo, for a tour of a vineyard and a visit to my professor’s wife’s restaurant. Viterbo5 Viterbo3 (group shot)We took a bus from Rome to Viterbo early Friday morning. When we stepped off the bus at Tenute Olivieri vineyard, the sun was beaming hotter than it ever has since I got to Italy. It was beautiful with endless rows of grape vines surrounded by mountains and picturesque clouds. We met up with our professor’s friend who’s the owner of the vineyard. He explained the entire process: from little details like putting rose bushes every ten rows or so because they are a sensitive plant and show signs of infection before grapes do, to the complex distilling process, to eventually bottling. We even purchased the discounted wine that we would eventually be formally critiquing at lunch.Viterbo15After the tour, we took a scenic drive through the forrest right outside of the city of Viterbo to go for food tasting and wine pairing. Our professor’s wife, Claudia, owns a nice restaurant a part of a quaint property that has a natural swimming pool full of koi and frogs.Viterbo7She specializes in throwing elaborate events such a all day wedding recitals. Her English was broken so she spoke Italian in a theatrical way and our professor translated. She is a classically trained ballerina and says she treats cooking “like it’s a performance.” And boy, does she know how to cook!Viterbo8 (horizontal crop)We were treated to one of the best meals I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat! We began with a classic risotto with a spin. It was rice in a black-truffle butter sauce with parmesan, shallots and white wine. But the kicker was it was paired with a goat cheese gastronomic gelato. The flavor, texture and temperature combination was so unique and delicious! The savory gelato was like nothing I had ever tried before.
Viterbo9 Our next course was Pappardelle pasta in a wild boar sauce. Pappardelle is a flat and wide egg noodle, similar to a thick fettuccine. I was a little turned off by the idea of eating wild boar meat but it was actually very delicious. The sauce had boar, minced veil and pork sausage (my vegetarian self is rolling in his grave) that was sautéed in butter with garlic and a little tomato as a unifying ingredient. The dish was bold and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, crushed red chili pepper, rosemary, sage and bay. Strangely enough there was even a secret ingredient of bitter chocolate.
Viterbo10Then we had the best chicken I’ve ever had, called “Pollo Viterbo Style”. It was cooked with guanciale (cheek bacon), olives, garlic, rosemary, crispy potatoes and lots of butter. Tender, juicy and savory beyond belief! I imagined it was slow-roasted all day to be cooked to this perfection, but Claudia said it takes about 40 minutes. Lucky for me there was a whole extra plate of this dish that I got to enjoy. Viterbo13I thought my belly was at maximum capacity, but of course I had room for dessert. It was a custard covered in a rum reduction sauce with shaved almonds and crumble topping. A sweet way to end a wonderful lunch. If this meal was truly a performance, as Claudia had described, it deserved a standing ovation.Viterbo11I’ve always considered myself a major food fanatic. I’ve been cooking for myself for ages and always watched the Food Network since I was a little boy. So critiquing food is right up my alley. Critiquing wine, on the other hand, is a whole other story. We learned how to judge the various wines based on the professional parameters and some of the stuff seems ridiculous to me. I have trouble classifying the ‘brightness’ between ‘radiant’, ‘lustrous’, ‘luminous’, ‘vivid’, or ‘lively’ But I do know the wine was good, it was not a 1€ bottle, and it was a lot of fun playing the snobby part of a wine connoisseur.Viterbo26After the incredible meal our professor took us on a little tour of the medieval city. One of my roommates, Justin, and 2 of our friends in the program, Jane and Priyanka, decided to stay in Viterbo for the weekend. A friend of Jane’s, Alberto, lives in Viterbo so we met up with him after the tour. It turned out that his uncle owns a bed and breakfast on the property of his house. Little did we know, this was not just any property.

Alberto met us just outside the city walls. We asked if his home was nearby and he simply pointed to the lone house on the rolling hill right before our eyes. It was a glorious 4-story house surrounded by trees and a garden perched right smack in front of the medieval city. We all opened our mouths shocked and said, “are you serious?!”

We walked to the beginning of the property which had a grand entry-way. There was a round-about driveway with a huge staircase that had 2 orange trees on either side. Alberto led us to a sweeping lawn and said to wait here while he got his uncle.
Alberto introduced us to his uncle who was very kind. He gave us the keys to our rooms and showed us where they were. Once we were in the room I looked towards the window. It was covered with two layers of curtains, and the top fabric was tied together with a bow. I untied the bow like it was a Christmas present and drew back the curtains.Viterbo18The view from our window was absolutely breathtaking! I never could have imagined a window in my own room being so amazing. The perfect sight — straight ahead — of the medieval city. I was blown away and had to take a million photos, of course.

Although it was already dusk and rapidly turning to night time, Justin, Jane, Priyanka and I decide to go on an adventure. We knew Viterbo was well know of it’s thermal hot springs and Alberto told us there was free natural hot springs a 10 minute walk from his house. This “10 minute walk” turned out to be almost an hour but we eventually made it. Turns out the hot spring weren’t even hot at this time of the year and quite possibly only a hot-spot for mischief, but we still got some fresh air and had a nice walk.


A little later, a friend of Alberto’s came and picked us up a brought us to the city center. Alberto and some of his friends were cooking up a meal for us. We entered the apartment to see a group of Italians surrounding a giant pot of tomato sauce. This seemed very fitting. We were introduced to the group and met Alberto’s lady, Kelly.

We recognized Kelly had an American accent and asked where she was from. She’s from Santa Cruz and goes to school at San Diego State in my hometown. Just then, I received a message from my friend Olivia from back home that said: “Duuuuuude you’re in Viterbo?! My friend Kelly Edmonds lives there you should hit her up and she can show you around!” I looked back up at Kelly and asked hesitantly “…wait… are you Kelly Edmonds?” She looked at me like I was absolutely bonkers and cautiously said “yeeeeeeah, why?” I explained the crazy small-world situation and our mutual friend. Turns out Olivia is great friends with Kelly and Alberto and they are going to be roommates once Kelly returns back to America.

Viterbo27

What are the chances that I have a close mutual friend with a random girl in a random apartment that I just entered across the world! And even wilder, to discover it like that! I love crazy situations like that, it sometimes makes me feel like things were meant to be. We took this photo and sent it to Olivia, who responded with “Ahhh I’m freaking out right now!”

Alberto, Kelly and their friends are incredibly nice and showed us a great time! They cooked us from scratch the best lasagna I’ve ever eaten and we has an awesome night on the town. We went from bar to bar down the main strip in the downtown area where all the young locals hang out. We ended the night dancing to live music and a place called book bar.Viterbo20The next morning I woke up, still stunned by our view. We had a nice little breakfast served by Alberto’s aunt and uncle. We decided to take a cab to hot springs a short drive away. We spent hours soaking in natural pools that washed away any grogginess from a late night out. We were living in luxury. Viterbo24 Viterbo21 Viterbo22 Viterbo23 Viterbo25 Afterwards, Alberto gave us a tour of his property. His house was built in 800AD and has been passed down through his family since the 1800’s. He showed us the original frescoes on the ceilings and a secret cave and tunnel system that runs underneath the house.

We walked through a garden and he showed us the Etruscan tombs on his property. I mean come on, who can say something casually like that. It was stunning up there with hundred-year-old+ olive trees (that they use to make olive oil), pomegranate and other fruit trees all framing that unreal view.

Twas an excellent weekend living like royalty in Viterbo! 

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One thought on “Viterbo: a Room with a View

  1. JZ March 19, 2015 / 2:18 am

    Damn. You make everything sound like paradise. You do an awesome job making the viewer feel like their there with you in these moments. Peaceful and captivating pictures, accompanied by the stories of beautiful experiences. So much freedom and love exists within this expression.

    Like

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