Clark and Mary Johnson

Joined July 2017Living in: Washington, United States
  • Day15

    La dolche vita and the $7 cone

    September 17, 2017 in Italy ⋅ 🌧 19 °C

    There is one street in Rome that beautiful people strut there stuff. It is called the La dolce Vita walking zone. We read about this in the Rick Steves book and assumed this was just hype. When we mentioned this to our Umbrian host she immediately knew which street -- so apparently this was the real deal. We took a stroll and enjoyed the action. People were painting, building sand sculptures, and playing music.

    But the crazy high point was a gelato shop that was "over the top". As you walk into the store you see the entire back wall is a "chocolate fall" -- as in 780 pounds of molten chocolate flowing down a wall that spanned about 40 feet. This place was Jamming! When you order a cone you can get the crown dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with nuts. Then they fill the bottom of the cone with chocolate. Then you pick three flavors of gelato. This is not on our diet!

    But it WAS an experience!

    And with that, we check out of Rome and return to our home

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  • Day14

    Borghese Gallery

    September 16, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Back in Rome now after a bus ride and various goodbyes to our group. We quickly made our way to our hotel and then took the metro out to the Borghesani park and gallery.

    This setting was created in the early 1600's by Sipione Borghese. He was the nephew of the pope and as such was appointed as a cardinal to a leading position on the Vatican. He used this position to amass tremendous wealth which he spent lavishly on art. The gallery is rated "must see" and this is an understatement.

    The sculpture is of such high quality one wonders how anyone could carve these dynamic representations of human figures from a solid block of stone. The pictures do not do them justice -- trust me, they are spectacular.
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  • Day13

    Bartoli family - lunch

    September 15, 2017 ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    After the truffle hunt we gathered in the family's home for lunch. That's truffle spaghetti. They were serious about the wine informing us that the bottles had to be empty before we would be allowed to leave 🤗.

    The older gentleman spoke at length of the family's traditions. As he finished he brought out home made cheese and walked around to each of individually and carved a thin slice for us to enjoy.

    The whole family's pleasure at our visit was infectious-- we all had a great time! What a great way to finish our visit to Umbria.
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  • Day13

    Bartoli family -- Truffle hunt

    September 15, 2017 ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Still further into the mountains we arrived at what was once a village. The map no longer lists this as a village because beggining in the 1930's families gave up their homes and moved away -- likely for economic reasons. The great grandfather of the current owner purchased the homes as they became available. Then again in the 1960's a second wave of migration occurred -- this time the youth was probably not willing to remain. This time the father of the current owner purchased each home that was available. Today they own the entire village. Each home came with some land so they own all the land around them and actively farm cattle, sheep, hay. In addition they offer the individual homes as rentals to tourists. They also happen to be on top of a location where truffles abound. This year being so dry was not a good year but we learned that in a good year they could expect to harvest 4-5 pounds of these pricey gems everyday during the two month season. Although the black truffles are not the most prized they still command $1500 per pound -- that's $7600 on a good day -- do the math...

    They no longer use pigs to search for them. Pigs like to eat them which causes two problems 1) you can't get them back if the pig eats it and 2) they destroy the truffle's substrate. Several years ago a wild boat got not the fenced area and destroyed much of the collection area. So they use dogs instead. It was really something to walk around the property with the owner while he gently worked with his dogs. They were exceptionally well trained! As expected it was difficult to find anything but at one point one of the dogs came down out of the hills with her mouth closed -- no tongue hanging out -- and promptly dropped a black truffle into his out stretched hand. It was really something to experience these two old friends working together
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  • Day13

    Bartoli Family -- Part one

    September 15, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    It is difficult to imagine but this was the best day of all. After the Monteluco stroll we went still further into the mountains stopping briefly at a view point for a group photo.

  • Day13


    September 15, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    This is another of the mountain retreats established by St. Francis. Marney would like this one. To say it is peaceful is not enough. Even serene lacks something. It wasn't something you were looking at but rather something that enveloped you -- an experience of inner silence. Our group, normally boisterous, dispersed into small groups and spontaneously spoke in muted tones.

    A special place.
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  • Day12

    Montefalco: Part 2

    September 14, 2017 ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    After the vigorous walk we went to a winery that has been in the same family for many generations. The owner took us into the vineyard to explain the process from start to finish. They produce four wines: a white and three red wines. All of them use a specific grape called Sagrantino ( for some extra information see: ). One of these (Passito) is really a challenge to produce. They harvest the grapes VERY carefully because they have to set them aside on bamboo mats for three months. If the skin of any grape is broken the juice flowing out can result in mold which can infect the entire harvest. The picture shows the current harvest of 3000 kilos. We understand that he will have about 2100 kilos after drying. You can imagine how little juice will be available once you remove the stems and skins.

    The stainless steel fermentation vessels have a water jacket. He uses this to set the temperature of the "must" which allows him to control the rate of fermentation. The next step is to age the wine in oak barrels. The right side of this picture has smaller barrels. The 3000 kilos will only produce enough Passito wine to fill three barrels. Then they have to wait three years before they can bottle and sell the product. It is expensive but he told us he can't really recover the cost of production -- he does it to continue the tradition. In fact, his great grandfather supplied the Vatican until the 1930's.

    This family is pretty amazing. The father moved his family to South America leaving behind the family vineyard. They spoke Italian in the home and were very successful in their adopted country. Still, the mother country called to them and the grandparents brought them back to be schooled in Italy. As they matured into adults they assumed the responsibility of maintaining the family's traditions. Surprisingly, the wife is a Korean who was raised in Australia. She prepared a wonderful Italian meal. When we talked with her she asked if her husband's tour had been good. We told her it was great. She was so cute when she told us to not let him know. "Don't tell him" she said. All told, this was a great experience.
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  • Day12


    September 14, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    The toughest hike to date. Three hours of up and down -- some great views of the landscape. But the best part of the walk was spontaneous. Our guide walked into a vineyard along the way and introduced us to the farmer and her crew harvesting the grapes. They were all so gracious and joyous. Look at the farmer explaining in words and multiple hand gestures that she is the only women here with so many men. They offered us handfuls of grapes to taste -- yum!

    I can only post six pictures at a time so please see next post for a continuation of this day.
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  • Day11


    September 13, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Perugia is the capital of this region and has been for centuries. We got a very good tour that helped us understand the history associated with the buildings and art. It goes back to the Etruscans (gate photo). Over the centuries the remnants of the Etruscan walls were used as the foundations for villas and palaces.

    The town symbol is the Griffin -- shades of Harry Potter. Check out the window with sweets. Even without indulging I am sure I have gained five pounds here.

    We spent our free time in a museum. I'm getting the hang of it -- this one did a nice job of documenting the development of art from the 12th through the 16th century. While the main story was the development of perspective, we also witnessed the evolution of color, realism, and towards the end emotion and scenes from daily life.
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  • Day10


    September 12, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    We started in Collepino -- it seems every hill top has a small village from the Middle Ages. Of course the ones we see have all been restored. Everything is spotless.

    The walk followed the ancient route of the aqueduct that supplied Spello. Along the way we walked through olive groves. These are amazing trees. They grow without irrigation -- even this Summer which was both hot and extremely dry. The trees live for centuries -- the oldest in Umbria is from the 1700's. But they need to be pruned every year if they are to produce enough olives for oil production.Read more

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