I’ve been meaning to share this gorgeous post with y’all for over a month now! But “life” kept getting in the way.
My pal Rebecca, oh she is so wonderful. A true soul sister of mine on so many levels, she is one of the strongest, smartest, and funniest women I know, hands down. And believe me, I’m a tough sell. So it’s with enormous pleasure that I get to share with you today a friend of mine and part of her livelihood.
Rebecca is an American originally from Chicago, and she moved to Assisi in 1993. She’s a talented writer by trade, but also runs an agriturismo (farm stay) in Umbria; specifically, just outside of the undescribably gorgeous town of Assisi, a famous destination for religious pilgrims as it’s the home of St. Francis of—well—Assisi.
The agriturismo property has been in the Italian side of Rebecca’s family, the Bagnoli, for generations and generations. Actually, it was Rebecca and Stefano Bagnoli who restored the land and buildings to convert it into the agriturismo that today is Brigolante.
There is a LOT of history here. The main farmhouses date back to at least the year 1100, and the farm itself is still run by Stefano’s parents Ugo and Emma. This is the quintessential Italian family business, updated for modern times without sacrificing tradition.
A few weeks ago I had the great fortune to go hang out with Rebecca and her family for the weekend. While I (mistakenly) thought I’d be couch surfing, which frankly would have been more than fine by me, I was floored to learn upon arrival that one of the guest apartments was vacant that weekend and so Rebecca was generously “putting me up” in style.
Oh, dear Lord in heaven, I was REBORN, people! Reborn.
You see, when you’re a single, divorced, working mom of three kids (I love to pull this card, I do, but it’s the damn truth), things that previously you would have taken for granted become like gold in your hands.
A hot shower. Until the hot water runs out.
An entire hour of uninterrupted silence.
Being able to use the restroom facilities in your own home, in complete privacy.
These are my guilty pleasures, people.
Therefore, spending a weekend at Brigolante while also enjoying the good company of one of my soul sisters, was utter bliss.
And, because I like to share my bliss, I will now let you in on my weekend. Also because, God knows that Brigolante should not be kept a secret. Should you be visiting Italy, it’s only an hour train ride from Rome.
Wanna come on a tour? Come on!
Up those stairs was my front door. Swoon.
Now let’s look down from my front door. This property is super photogenic from all angles.
Oh my gosh! I had a bedroom, a living room, a little kitchen area, a BATHTUB… heaven… the furnishings are gorgeous and hand-restored.
I got a gin + tonic and/or (ok, it was and) vodka with a twist aperitivo. I’m a special guest, you see. A woman after my own heart. [does happy dance]
And, the flowers! Rebecca’s 12-year-old son is the gardener responsible for the potted flowers. Amazing.
And then there were roses that were so … doing their gorgeous rose thing.
Did I mention that this property is photogenic? Because it is.
See how photogenic? Look at these here lovelies:
I told you it was a working farm:
Paths that lead to places are one of my favorite things to photograph:
I could have sat on these deck chairs all day:
Wait, I sort of did, actually:
Ever wondered what an Umbrian Kenmore dryer looks like? Wonder no more:
Ever wondered how an American on an Umbrian farm gets her mail? Well, in a U.S. Mail mailbox, of course:
Rebecca brought this over from the States two decades ago. She says that the local postman does actually use it to deliver her mail. However, since he didn’t know how the flag worked (it’s by now long gone, but it used to still be on the box), he’d actually raise the flag when he put mail in, rather than vice-versa which is how the U.S. mailbox actually works (you put the flag up to let the mailman know that there’s mail to take out). Oh, Italy, I love you, I really do.
Now, you know that Rebecca got into tourist mode to show me why Umbria is known as the green heart of Italy. Umbria has some of the best patchwork quilt views in all of Italy, IMHO:
Rocca Maggiore, the fortress above Assisi:
And then, Assisi. Oh, Assisi, you’re so pretty.
And you know I told Rebecca that I wanted a romantic candlelight dinner for two. And so it was. We drove to the quaint little town of Montefalco, famous for its namesake red wine, and had un tavolo per due at Enoteca L’Alchimista. Oh, so amazing. (I know, I keep saying amazing.)
My date had the cheese plate as a starter. To die for.
I asked for a plate of torta al testo because this Umbrian flatbread can’t be found in Rome:
And I kid you not when I tell you that this filet mignon was hands-down one of the best steaks, if not the best steak, I’ve ever eaten in Italy. That’s saying a lot because generally speaking, coming from the US tradition of steak, I’ve found it sort of hard to find good matches here in Italy to what I’m used to back home. This was up to the task. It was accompanied by three different kinds of salt (see the little containers in the upper left):
There is something so incredibly seductive and inexplicable about a steak that stands on its own without need for any sauces. Yes. Steak can be seductive, and inexplicable. In my world, this is possible.
Before you think that I washed it down with Montefalco Rosso, I decided to employ the poetry of the swerve. The enoteca had a great list of artisanal beers, so I went with this:
This is Santachiara, one of the lighter beers produced by Birrificio Artigianale di Montefalco (formerly Birra Camiano). My intention was to drink this with my appetizer and then go to a more full-bodied beer with the steak, but I stuck with just this one. It was lovely. Unfiltered and unpasteurized, fermented in the bottle. I can’t find a website for them, but here’s a video from Eurochocolate 2013, the international chocolate festival held in Perugia every year. Perugia is famous for chocolate (natch) but here the owner of the Birrificio Artigianale talks about how Umbria is also becoming a sort of hotbed for artisanal microbreweries, and on the occasion of the Eurochocolate fest, he produced a special chocolate beer in addition to their four regular beers.
And then, of course, I paired all that with more grilled vegetables. Love, love, love.
But lest I become too healthy in my food choices, I also chose the oozing warm chocolate volcano cake. (They don’t actually call it that. I do.)
And so, folks, there you have it. The picture-perfect weekend. It was made even more delightful by an entire Sunday spent in the company of the missing link in this trinity of friendship, a family I love to pieces, the Martinez-Brenners, who run The Beehive in Rome and Cross Pollinate.
Kids happily jumping on a trampoline while the moms gab? Yes, heaven exists, trust me on this one: it really does.
Moral of this story? When in Italy, get thee to Umbria, Brigolante, Enoteca L’Alchimista, and vast emerald green expanses of sheer joy.