January 11, 2011

Amelia, Umbria: Punto di Vino's hospitality



by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

While Bar Leonardi is the prime meeting place in Amelia, Punto Di Vino, a wine shop and cafe operated by Luciano Rossi and his extended family within the medieval wall of Amelia, fed me, connected me wirelessly to friends and family, and fed my chocolate addiction with double chocolate biscotti.

My first day in Amelia in 2009, as one of the students in ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime Studies, fell on June 2, a national holiday to mark the end of the monarchy in 1946 and the beginning of the new republic. I lived in a new apartment above Bar Leonardi but when I stepped out of my door mid-morning into a rainy and windy day the piazza was empty. I would later learn that few people venture out into the rain. If you want privacy in Amelia, pick a Thursday afternoon (when the shops close each week) during a thunderstorm in the summertime when fewer people are out than at 3 a.m.

After drinking just one caffe latte at Bar Leonardi, I walked south and found a warm shop, Pizza & Company, with rotisserie chickens and platters of grilled and lightly fried vegetables and sheets of pizza which looks like what we call foccacia in the States. Still jet-lagged and fairly oblivious to what a national holiday meant in Italy, I purchased some grilled eggplant drizzled with olive oil and chives and a serving of roasted potatoes, thinking that I'd return to the shop in the afternoon (which did not reopen because it was also Tuesday).

I walked for hours through the town. It is not that big, but it is beautiful and I kept stopping to take pictures such as the one of the view through one of the gates of the town. After a visit to the duomo, viewing the cathedral's beautiful art and listening to the wind howl, I toured the Cisterne Romane where the Romans had stored the town's water, and then stood outside the doors of the closed archaeological museum until retreating into what seemed like the only open establishment in town -- Punto di Vino.

Luciano's son, Alessio, was likely working as he spoke English and oriented myself and the other students who wandered in that evening and throughout the night.

Although we would gradually discover other great eating establishments in Amelia, the hospitality of Punto di Vino was extended to us for lunch, during the afternoon siesta, and for dinner. Other restaurants may close once or twice a week in Amelia, but Punto di Vino stays open all the time during the summer. It is located on Via della Repubblica inside of the historical town so it's opened doors allowed visibility to everyone who came in and out of the city. In addition, Luciano, his son Alessio, and his daughter Francesca answered endless questions about the town, its customs, and provided fresh food such as salami and cheeses, risotto with fungi, and insalata di pomodore (a "divine" tomato salad with olive oil, vinegar and lemon).

After a day of grey clouds and cold, the warmth of Punto di Vino on that first day was the best of Italian hospitality which has never paled. The next day, a Wednesday, I was startled when I stepped out of my apartment onto the piazza to sunshine and hundreds of people milling around Bar Leonardi.

Tomorrow I'll write about how it took us three weeks to discover one of the best restaurants in town that was just across the road from Bar Leonardi.

Photo: Luciano and Alessio Rossio (standing) pictured with Robin Munro Tyner, Julia Brennan, and Colette Loll Marvin (2009 ARCA students).

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