The little adventure I had last weekend was thanks to my former colleagues, who awarded me a Smartbox package as one of my going away presents. This is a pretty cool system–sold at many bookstores–that amounts to an all expenses paid weekend getaway almost anywhere in Italy. (According to the website, Smartbox operates in many other countries as well and is the “world leader in gift experiences”). There are different kinds of packages, e.g. for relaxing weekends, sporty weekends, arty weekends. Because my former colleagues know me well I got the ‘Soggiorno Gustoso’ (Tasty Getaway), which was basically all about food. Thanks guys!
We stayed near Vitorchiano at a place called Villa Arzilla, a beautifully restored farmhouse dating back to 1617. Fireplaces, pool, family style meals (more on that later). Very highly recommended. Vitorchiano is a medieval town not far from Viterbo. According to Villa Arzilla’s website, it boasts “very suggestive urban assets.” Suggestive is a direct translation of a favourite Italian adjective, suggestivo, a word I’ve never understood. Suggestive of what? Anyway, off we went to lunch.
La Laterna is a charming little restaurant in tiny downtown Vitorchiano, just up from the obligatory war memorial and old men gossiping in the sun. There are trees growing inside the restaurant and garden gnomes scattered around outside. My kind of place! We started out with toasted bread draped with my beloved Lardo di Collonata.
Thanks to the presence of The Vegetarian, there were lots of vegetables.
I had an amazing soup with porcini mushrooms, followed up by fried artichokes and borage leaves. Mmmm. Fried stuff.
After a brisk walk around the Monster Park in a (mostly vain) attempt to digest lunch, we repaired to our villa for dinner. There were yards of marinated vegetables, a sort of rice and meat turnover, lentil soup, two kinds of pasta (one with leeks, one with sausage), and a version of saltimbocca using chicken instead of veal and nestled in a bed of rich saffron mashed potatoes. Also an amazing chocolate dessert and many little cakes. Replete, we repaired to our rooms to play lots of cards.
Thankfully, breakfast was a fairly modest affair, allowing us plenty of space for lunch once our touring was completed (of which more later). I had really been looking forward to lunch because we planned to hit a spot in Caprarola where I’d had a very memorable meal years earlier. It was a little restaurant clinging to the side of a cliff and it could have come right out of a movie about Italian stereotypes: unending plates of food, red-checked tablecloths, and everybody singing. Tragically we got lost on our way to Caprarola and instead we were forced to share a fine little trattoria in Tuscania with a group of Italian Hell’s Angels. The food was very good, especially the chicken (fried!). I had two portions.
Back in Rome, I determined to cut back on the food intake a bit. Not much luck there. Last night I ate a boatload of sushi. Literally. It was served in a boat.