The daily diary of a wandering restaurateur in Italy
July 27 - Isola Maggiore/Passignano
Time is running down for us here and there is some pressure to get the rest of the "gotta go there" trips scheduled. We spent a good part of today on Lake Trasimeno, traveling by ferry from Castiglione del Lago to Isola Maggiore, the "big island" in the middle of the lake known for its lace. The day was warm and sunny, the lake was calm . . . and there was not much on the island. Oh, there were several old women sitting on the street making lace -- very quaint -- but what there was of the rest of the island was devoted either to restaurants, gelato or souvenirs for the tourists.
Eric and I camped out in one of the local watering holes, under the shade of a tree by the water, and conducted an in-depth research program on the local beer until the ladies returned from the lace chase, having bagged a few beauties. We sat down to lunch a little over an hour before the next ferry . . . and should have known there was no way we would ever make it! In a hurry? Fageddaboudit! Italy in general and dining in particular seems to move at the pace of the service providers and nothing you can do will change it. So we were there 90 minutes longer than we expected . . . it was a pretty day and we really didn't have anywhere else to be anyway!
From Castiglione del Lago we drove to the top of the lake (Lake Trasimeno is the fourth largest lake in Italy) to the town of Passignano where we had heard that you could buy pottery from Deruta (the ceramics capital of Italy) at prices lower than what we would find in Deruta itself. There was a pile of pots, to be sure . . . and we will still go to Deruta on Friday! The town itself had a wonderfully treed area next to the lake, a welcome refuge from the increasing heat. Not much of a breeze stirring, however, and we eventually ran for the air conditioned cars!
The surprise of the day was a long conversation with Gilda, the housekeeper for the place we are staying. She speaks no English and we barely can get through a menu in Italian, but we talked for over an hour about everything and anything. She is originally from Albania and will be moving to Tampa on August 15th to stay with a friend and hopefully to find work. How much courage does it take to leave everything you have known, move to a country where you do not speak the language and try to support yourself. In addition to being a great housekeeper, she is also a licensed electrician. Her husband is a gardener and chauffeur.
For dinner, we went back to Caffe Corsini (or whatever its real name is) to turn the rest of the crew on to the amazing veal dish we had last night. We were excited . . . and they were out of veal! We improvised and had a terrific meal, even though the service was still virtually non-existent. I guess it proves that good food can carry you but if we could have put the personal connection we felt from Silvana (where we will go for our last dinner in town) together with the food quality from Caffe Corsini, we would be there every night!
The gang at lunch
Isola Maggiore and Passignano
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