Rebekah Pizana is a food and wine journalist and recipe writer. Rebekah's columns have been published in newspapers, magazines and online since 2006.
My second visit to Italy was in June 2014. I had only been to the northern part of the country, Milan, Venice, Modena, the alps, and hadn’t yet experienced the heartier flavors we are more familiar with in the U.S. Pasta, marinara, and red wine.
Flying into the Umbria airport, my heart fluttered at the site of hills, rustic villas, and miles of grape vines. About 30 minutes or so from the airport is a rural town called Collelungo. Atop a hill with a backyard of Sangiovese and Merlot sits Podere Calzone, a completely renovated historic stone house with the most idyllic, Italian kitchen you can imagine. An infinity pool, overlooking more vines, hills, neighboring stone mansions and olive trees, complete the picture.
The house is rented out for stay-cationers, ideal for a week or longer depending on availability. Paola, the onsite grocery shopper and chef, is part of the romantic package. After watching her constantly cook and prep beautiful foods, I decided I wanted to take her home with me. Wild boar ragu is the specialty at Podere Calzone. An outdoor stone pizza oven is used to grill crusty bread brushed with olive oil, fresh garlic clove and sea salt. The bread is served with prosciutto, cured and aged onsite, and olives probably picked from one of the trees out back. The meal is complete with unlabeled bottles of red wine, and dessert of homemade limóncello and amaretto cookies.
I’m now planning my third trip, and I have to say that after visiting Umbria I have realized Italy is my paradise. A paradise with stunning seaside towns, castles sprinkled north and south, incomparable olive oil and wine, quaint villages with salumeria and fromage shops you only see in the movies, and of course gas stations with €1 espresso served in a porcelain cup. Le sigh… I cannot wait to go back.