Imagine - Wine & Cooking Under the Tuscan & Umbrian Sun

Dec 1, 2018
43,239   |    |    Our Vacations

This video features highlights from our Tuscany Cooking Vacations in Italy, based in Soriano nel Cimino. These clips were put together just a few years after Culture Discovery began planting its roots in the quaint hilltop hamlet of Soriano nel Cimino. If you have not yet read the story of how we began, please click here to read all about it.

This video typifies what you can expect to experience when you come to Soriano for one of our vacation weeks. Over the years, some of the names and the places have changed, however, the spirit and the commitment to which we bring an authentic Italian experience each and every week has never changed. In fact, all of our destinations are based on the same principles that were there from the beginning. Our guests can expect to be treated like family and friends while having the vacation-of-a-lifetime.

The video is 100% authentic and mostly raw footage of our Under the Tuscan and Umbrian Sun Vacations.

Many of the guests that are in this video have become lifelong friends and have returned to Italy to travel with us several times since. some as much as eleven times!  It truly is heartwarming to see the growth of CDV and how we continue to evolve, without losing our core values that were established so many years ago.

In fact, while we give our guests an immersive look into the everyday lives of the Italian lifestyle, we find ourselves becoming more immersive as well. Over the years, we have met so many wonderful people along the way. From Tuscan winemakers to Sardinian shepherds. From beekeepers in Sicily to gondola builders in Venice, our network of friends we’ve made over the years has given us the unique opportunity to explore other areas of the country and learn more and more about the different regional cultures and customs that we share with you, our guests!

Some Soriano History

Only an hour from Rome, the village of Soriano nel Cimino began as an Etruscan settlement more than 2000 years ago. There are many sites in and around the area that prove that Soriano was an important stronghold against the impending expansion of the Roman legions. The town has a natural defense barrier with the Cimini mountain range on the south side of the village. This held off the Roman army for many years, however, the Etruscans were outmanned during the 2nd-century b.c.e. as it then became under Roman rule.

Soriano did not see too much expansion until the early middle ages when the territory was owned by the powerful Orsini Family. Their very noble family included bishops, cardinals, and popes. Soriano was the perfect place to build a castle as it offered high ground, a great defendable position and was within a day or two’s ride from Rome. In times of conflict or threat of disease, or just to escape the hot summer weather in the Eternal City, the clergy and company would retreat to the confines of the durable and nearly impenetrable fortress, Castello Orsini, in Soriano.

With a constant supply of fresh water from underground springs and fertile soil in the countryside, Soriano was an idyllic place to stay. In nearby Viterbo, there was also a Papal Palace from which the high clergy from the Vatican would convene during the warm summer months to also escape the stifling heat of Rome.

In the 13th century, this papal palace in Viterbo was home to the first Papal Conclave when the election of the new pope was first signaled using the white or black smoke to indicate whether or not there was a newly elected pope. This Gregorian method is still in use today.

After the rule of the Orsini family, it fell into the powerful and infamous Borgia family. In fact, when Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia was vying for his papal rule, he included the castle of Soriano as a “gift” to one of the Cardinals as an enticement to gain favor and his vote that would be the deciding factor in Borgia “earning” his election as Pope.

He became known as Pope Alexander VI from 1492 until his death in 1503. He had a mistress, Giulia Farnese. The Farnese Family was equally as important as the Orsini nobility during this period as is seen by the numerous villas and buildings that are so prevalent in the area and down to Rome. There were many arranged marriages between the two families.

One of the excursions on our Soriano-based, Under the Tuscan and Umbrian Sun vacation weeks, takes us to the impressive Villa Farnese in the nearby town of Caprarola. This beautiful example of early Renaissance architecture was originally designed to be a fortress, however, during construction, the plans were scrapped in favor of a more stately and elegant country home or villa. Our guided tour of the villa takes us from the interior 5 story spiral staircase into the multitudes of beautifully decorated rooms whose walls are lined with frescoes. There are a winter and summer garden with an equally incredible design as the interior. Truly a hidden gem in an area that is far off the beaten path. Typically, one would expect to see a home of this magnitude in a large city such as Rome or Florence.

More about the video, Our Tuscany Cooking Vacations, and Soriano in those early years

There are scenes of the Villa Eddarella before and soon after the building of the “new” kitchen where we now have our cooking classes. Originally the classes were taught in the villa’s traditional, family kitchen, which was limited in size and also amenities. While everyone become very close, very quickly, we realized that a new, more working-style kitchen would be necessary.

The remodeling of an amazing and large space in the back of the villa proved to be more than sufficient as it has more modern appliances and can accommodate about 18 to 20 guests around the large prep area. It also is a great space to sing and dance around! Which is something we love to do. You never know when we will put down the knives and break into song and do a conga-style line around the kitchen counter. O Sole Mio or Funiculi Funicula!

Everything has been done to enhance the guest experience. Looking at the video, you will see several wineries.  These are now wonderful friends of ours! They understand that our guests are their guests and treat everyone as friends and welcome guests with whom they want to share their love of their families and their amazing wines.

When you are on either our cooking vacations in Soriano or one of our wine and cooking vacations in Chianti, Tuscany, you will meet these winemakers and experience exactly what we’re talking about. You will drink Brunello wine during your lunch right in the vineyard where those Sangiovese grapes are grown in Montalcino! You will also be drinking Vino Nobile Wine from Montepulciano in the centuries-old wine cellar that many consider as the world’s most beautiful wine cellar! The history of this cellar actually dates back to Etruscan times.

We also visit the Madonna delle Macchie Olive Oil Mill and Winery in Castiglione in Teverina. This olive oil mill has been continuously run by the same family for four generations. We think that their olive oil is one of the best in Umbria! We would declare it The Best, however, we also must respect the equally, beautifully-made traditional, cold-press olive oil from our other olive oil maker friends in Umbria, The Carletti’s. Carlo Carletti and his family are incredible hosts and we love visiting them on our Cooking Vacations in Umbria, based in Norcia and Foligno, not to mention our special weeks in which we harvest olives and make olive oil on these vacations.

Back to Madonna delle Macchie...

They also make some wonderful wines! They make a white wine that is similar to Orvieto Classico, using Grechetto grapes, which are indigenous to the area. Their red wines also utilize local grapes as well as Sangiovese, which is very prevalent throughout central Italy. You will meet Serena and Leonardo, the brother and sister that run the family-farm and are the makers of the wine and olive oil. You will also most likely meet their mother, Nadia, who is the amazing chef behind the relaxing lunch we have in the garden while overlooking the beautiful hills and valleys nearby. Nadia is also responsible for making the wonderful local bean-dish, Faggioli all’uccilletto. This fantastic recipe can be found on our website. Our visit here is truly one of the most memorable experiences of the week and one where the guests never want to leave!

There are also scenes of some of the annual Medieval Chestnut Festival, otherwise known in Italian as the Sagra delle Castagne. This festival takes place during the first two weekends of October and features all the regalia and pageantry reminiscent of the middle ages where the town is specially outfitted during a one-month period. Starting in mid-September, Soriano begins its transformation into a medieval village. It is really an outstanding time to be in Soriano and is known famously around Italy as one of the best representations of a re-creation, not only of the village but also through the numerous events that take place. Particularly, the parade that represents the different clans or "Contradas" that makeup Soriano and the influences they have had on the community from the times of the middle ages. We still offer guests the opportunity to experience the festival each year.  We have two Chestnut Festival vacations each year, based out of Soriano.

The underlying and running theme throughout the video is really about the people. Sure, we go to some beautiful and interesting places and see some amazing things, we cook and enjoy some incredible food, and drink some fantastic wines. But none of those things would taste, see or feel as wonderful as they are without our incredibly wonderful guests that come every week. Whether guests come as couples, friends, family or solo travelers, everyone bonds very quickly in a very short time and then the fun never stops! This has always been at the very core of a Culture Discovery Vacation and one that continues week in and week out – regardless of the location or destination.

We certainly hope you enjoy watching the video as much as we enjoyed making it. We are constantly making new videos and you never know if you’ll find yourself in one of them! We’ll be looking forward to seeing you in Soriano or Chianti. Or maybe it’s the Amalfi Coast you are dreaming of. You can also find us in Bologna, Sicily or Norcia. Wherever you decide to come visit us, you will most certainly have the vacation-of-a-lifetime! There is so much more information about all of these destinations that you can easily find them throughout our website.

A Little Trivia About Soriano nel Cimino

  • In the 13th Century, The Castle in Soriano was the Summer Papal Residence, much as Castel Gandolfo is today.  Much of the village surrounding the castle was in service of the Pope.
  • If you watch the TV Series "The Borgias," the majority of the outskirts of Rome referenced in the show surround Soriano nel Cimino in the true history.
  • The first assassination Rodrigo Borgia orders in "The Borgias," is of Cardinal Orsini in his castle, which in true history was the castle in Soriano.
  • The Franciscan Order of the Catholic Church was officially recognized by the Pope in Soriano's square as a means to bridge the divide created by a split in the order.  Before this Act, Srt. Francis of Assisi was considered a heretic by the Church.
  • During World War II, Soriano was an extremely important base for the Nazis because of it's unique strategic location and ability to see the entirety of the Tiber Valley from its castle. The Nazis occupied the town until Jun 5, 1944, when American bombers bombed the village and liberated the people.
  • Soriano was the home of Alessandro Alessandroni, the whistler and guitarist from the most iconic Spaghetti Westerns, including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars, and many other soundtracks he worked on with his close friend, Ennio Morricone.
  • Soriano is the summer home of Enzo Castellari, Italian film director and producer known for the original "Inglorious Basterds" (as well as a consultant to Quentin Tarantino for his remake of the film), Sinbad of the Seven Seas, and dozens of other films. As such, Soriano has been a popular getaway destination for many well-known actors.
  • Soriano has been used as a set in many films, such that you never quite know what you will find.  The forest above the town was a setting for Red Sonja with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the forest in the film version of Marco Polo, and the streets around the town are often used to represent a small village in Tuscany in many films.

Thanks for watching!

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