Fam-Tastic Holidays

“The best part about our vacation? The time we had with each other. It’s tricky to get everyone together since we don’t live in the same city anymore, and Rocca di Benano was the perfect place for a reunion. It’s a little sad that we have to go across the ocean for such uninterrupted family time, but we can’t wait to do it again.”

A guest wrote this about their summer vacation at Rocca di Benano, but our villa is a special place for reunions at the holidays, too. I’m speaking here from recent experience. Paul and I had a wonderful reunion with old friends over New Years this year.

IMG_3581

IMG_3433We planned our holiday around the Umbria Jazz Festival, which comes to Orvieto every year between Christmas and the New Year. I had heard about it for years, but this was our first chance to experience it.

And what an experience it was! The streets of Orvieto, which are alluring under ordinary circumstances, come alive for the five days and nights of the festival. There are pop-up stores, Christmas trees, and little white lights and illuminated stars strung over cobblestoned streets. And there’s the music.

I know what you’re thinking: December and January!? What’s the weather like?

It was fine, and here’s what meteorological history tells us. Pretty good! Still don’t believe me, or even the meteorologists? Then take it from guests who celebrated New Years in Benano several years ago. Their story is here.

So the weather is nice, but the real draw is the jazz. If you’re a serious music fan, you can find the schedule online and plan your visits around favorite artists, concerts held in historic buildings, or special jazz dinners organized in some of the finer restaurants in town.

You don’t have to be a jazz aficionado, though. Just being there is experience aplenty. The music and its lively energy permeate everything. When a door to a crowded bar opens to the street, music from a small combo playing inside might waft out into the brisk night air. Best of all, there are regularly scheduled “funk-offs” in which a small band winds through a different part of town. Schedules are posted, so it’s easy to catch one.

Once the funk-off goes by, it’s practically impossible not to join the crowd and follow as they lead you, Pied Piper fashion, to a piazza where they will perform for another 15 or 20 minutes.

What a unforgettable way to ring in the New Year!

Gelato

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.

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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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