Postcards from Umbria

My Blog: Stories about Rocca di Benano and the people who make it special


Orvieto is famous for many things: its iconic cathedral, Orvieto Classico wine, Etruscan pottery, and its funicular. Dig just a little deeper, though, and you’ll find a city at war. It’s a sweet and creamy war.

It’s a gelato war.

In the beginning, there was Pasqualletti’s. They had a little shop on the Corso (main shopping street), just at the corner of Via del Duomo (the pathway that leads to the duomo). As far as I was concerned, Pasquelletti’s was synonymous with gelato in Orvieto.

Then I noticed battle lines being drawn in the form of a couple of bars proudly serving Sarchioni’s. I confess to having a soft spot in my heart for Sarchioni’s, having been to the “Mother Church” — their bar in Torre Alfina. In fact, I’ve been there often enough to become recognizable to its owners. I like everything about Sarchioni’s — the gelato, friendly people, gelato cakes (yes, I’ve had a couple), and the village of Torre Alfina.

Torre Alfina

Torre Alfina

But back to Orvieto …. when a Sicilian couple opened a tiny shop practically across the Corso from Pasquelletti’s original shop, I decided neutrality was the only answer. Call me Switzerland. Their sweet stuff hails from Sicily, where gelato was invented, and is just as good as (better than? I have to re-check that) the others.

But let’s be fair to the good people of Orvieto. They aren’t uniquely warlike, gelato-wise. The entire region is entrenched in this sweet war. A mere 30 minutes away, for example, in the small town of Bolsena, there’s yet another battle-worthy warrior: Santa Cristina’s.


Would that war were always so harmless.

Putting Francis in Charge

We followed our friends to our rental car at the beginning our short vacation together, feeling a palpable sense of freedom and relaxation. The source of our contentment was easy to pinpoint: we weren’t in charge. While we had all chosen the destination and lodging together, another couple had rented the car and they would be doing the driving and navigating. As Paul and I climbed into the far back seats of the rented van, we felt as much like privileged children under the care of doting parents as any middle-aged people possibly could. We were so unburdened by responsibility that we were practically giddy.

All of which leads me to tell you about Francis Surman.

About me collage2

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From Banks to Baths, and Back

At home in Ohio, my life can be a hot mess — I run too fast without ever catching up, desperately chasing efficiency and accomplishment. In precious moments of clarity, I know that this freneticism is mostly manufactured, born of the American tendency to equate one’s busy schedule with productivity.

I also know that efficiency isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Take, for example, being summoned by one’s Italian bank to come into any branch office and sign a piece of paper. Such was the gist of a letter we received.

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