The daily diary of a wandering restaurateur
May 21 - Assisi, Todi

Of all the places we visited last year, Assisi was one of our favorites. Elizabeth Gray had a friend who was arriving in Assisi today (how's that for timing?) so we thought we would make the return trek for another look around town and to give Elizabeth and Kim some time together. We arrived in town at 10am, the time Kim thought their tour bus would arrive . . . only to find out that they were driving down from Venice and weren't expected to arrive until 3pm!

OooooooK. Looks like we shop! Assisi it a lovely place, but incredibly hilly. We learned the trick last year, however, and caught the shuttle bus to the top of town and walked down. The shopping is terrific . . . but largely because the place is packed with tourists (which is not terrific.) Even this early in the season, the streets were clogged with tour groups. Like little groups of sheep, they follow along behind the tour guide who usually holds some sort of talisman aloft so the stragglers can see where they are going through the crowds. It all seems very strange to me but I suppose it has its place in the scheme of things.

We caught lunch in a little outdoor café. Nothing special to speak of . . . but what we thought was an outrageous tab for a few beers and some sandwiches. I just LOVE tourist towns!

Kim's bus finally arrived about 3:30. Margene and I crashed in the lobby of Kim's hotel while the rest of the folks headed halfway up the hill for another shopping run. A few hours later we were on the road back to Todi (with our new, large-scale map!) searching for dinner. We got up into town (you have to take a funicular -- sort of a cable car-like thing -- from the parking area up the hill) around 7pm only to be reminded that in Italy, restaurants don't even open in the evening until 7:30! About the last thing we really wanted to do at that point was walk, but we wandered around town for half an hour until we could get seated.

We found a restaurant called Le Palme in the Hotel Fonte Cesia, Todi's only in-town hotel. The dining rooms were vaulted stone with fresh flowers and linen on the tables -- definitely a good first impression -- but it was the maitre 'd that really let us know we were in the right place! Domenico ("Mimma") was in his shirtsleeves just finishing up the last-minute details when we arrived. His face lit up in a huge smile, he slipped on his coat and was instantly the personification of hospitality. He knew enough English to make us feel comfortable, poured some complimentary champagne and helped us through the menu. The smile never left his face. Just his tone of voice said "welcome." The food was excellent and the prices very reasonable, but it was the personal attention that made the meal special.

In comparing our local dining experiences, Ristorante Umbria had a better grill menu and La Palme had a better pasta menu. We are still doing serious research to determine where we return for our last night in town, but at the moment I think that Mina may well be the factor that gets La Palme the nod. What sort of folks do you have in YOUR place?

The travelogue shots

Le Palme Ristorante, Todi

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