Today we’re thrilled to offer a guest blog by our long time collaborator, artist and curator Richard di San Marzano of Spoleto. He leads and perfectly organizes every aspect of our Secrets of Spoleto culinary tour in Italy, in one of our very favorite towns.
I started conducting unique and authentic culinary, art, and history tours based in Spoleto in the mid 90’s. Much of my inspiration came from my childhood travels with my grandmother, Betty di San Marzano. She was an artist gifted with an astute and inspirational way of communicating with love, passion and great lucidity about art, history and how to ‘see’, to absorb more of the wonders to be found.
Relatives and friends came from all over the world to join her, usually staying at Casa San Marzano (where Michael Adams penned his acclaimed book Umbria, Faber and Faber, 1963), and we would set off on day trips to explore and discover. With her, I picnicked in the ruins of a Roman Amphitheater. I drew on the slopes of a mountain overlooking a hill top village. And I learnt why bread baked in ancient ovens without salt tasted so good toasted and drizzled with real olive oil. Thus began my life long love of art history and fine dining.
To wander and explore her streets and alleys is to walk in history, and it has been written that no town more truly represents what has made Italy, stone upon stone, layer upon layer, than Spoleto.
– Richard di San Marzano
On Visiting Spoleto
On my historical and culinary tours of Spoleto, we celebrate a culture where the journey never grows predictable, and always leaves one wishing to return, for the time is never enough. I believe it is important to never to rush, to have time to sit and absorb – whether the life of an ancient piazza, or the light shimmering on the leaves of olives trees on the slopes of a high hill.
Spoleto has, since antiquity, woven a particular spell over travelers for its perfect positioning in a dramatically beautiful setting and its rich and varied history spanning the ages. To wander and explore her streets and alleys is to walk in history, and it has been written that no town more truly represents what has made Italy, stone upon stone, layer upon layer, than Spoleto.
Here you can still see massive polygonal stones set in place before the coming of the Romans. There you can walk in the steps of Emperors such as Claudius, who sojourned here, and Vespasian, who passed his youth in a home just off the forum, now the Piazza Mercato (market square), where town folk still gather and shop to this day, two millennia later.
Gastronomy in Spoleto
The recognition of Spoleto in recent years as a gastronomic center is especially based in the use of only the finest quality natural ingredients in its cooking and an almost tenacious holding on to tradition. It is referred to as cucina sana e genuina, literally, ‘healthy and genuine cooking’.
The art of this extraordinarily old and varied culinary tradition is in the creation of superbly satisfying dishes of deceptive simplicity and naturalness. The whole landscape comes to the table, lamb from mountain pastures, trout from the fast flowing river Nera, truffles black and white from hill forests, lentils from the high plain of Castelluccio, herbs and salad ingredients that grow wild and are gathered by hand on the hills and high valleys, sausages from pigs allowed to rootle in the oak groves, and olive oil, cold pressed, beautifully colored, and aromatic.
Our gastronomic tour of Spoleto allows for you to experience cooking with a variety of cooks, especially as no two Italian cooks prepare even the same dish in the same way!
Bon appetito e salute,
Richard di San Marzano
If you’re ready to travel to Spoleto with Richard, please contact us to book. We offer the fabulous 6-night itinerary year-round for as few as two people! And don’t just trust our opinion, but check out what our recent travelers Freddi & Gifford had to say:
“…what a surprise Spoleto was with all the charm of its people, senses and the beauty of Italy. Loved cooking with all four of our chefs, learning about the Umbrian culture and seeing all the local sites with our own private guide that we had for a week!”
By Peg Kern
Search our blog for more chef interviews, recipes, and destinations features.
Sign up to receive our newsletter, which includes travel tips, recipes, promotions, and information on our best culinary vacations.