back to Bolsena

On our first trip to Italy, we discovered Bolsena when we chose a place on the map to break our journey from Cortona to Rome. Our brief sojourn left us wanting to return and see more of this beautiful town as well as explore the magnificent Castello Rocca Monaldeschi.

Refreshed from our sustenance at RetroGusto, we continued down Corso Cavour

to the medieval Fountain of San Rocco. Built in 1450, the spring water was deemed to be miraculous when San Rocco recovered from a thigh wound after drinking it.

We made our way up ancient stone steps, along narrow alleys and through medieval arches to the castle.

A thoughtfully positioned bench beckoned us to rest awhile and admire the vista across rooftops to Lake Bolsena under the gaze of insentient eyes.

A fortress was originally built above the town in 1156 to protect from invasion. In 1295, the Monaldeschi family of Orvieto asserted their power and moved in. The walls were reinforced and the castle extended with the addition of three more towers. The Monaldeschi ruled until the mid 15th century and over the ensuing years the fortress was robbed, burnt, restored and used as a prison and warehouse. Renovation work began in the 1970s and the restored fort has been home to the Territorial Museum of Lake Bolsena since 1990.

Unfortunately, the museum was closed but the climb had certainly been worth it. On the opposite side of Piazza Monaldeschi,

the 15th century Church of San Salvatore was intended to look more like a fortress than a religious building.

We returned to the car

and parked lakeside for lunch at Trattoria del Moro, an experience we had been looking forward to since our first visit.

Lake Bolsena is the largest volcanic lake in Europe, formed 370,000 years ago following the eruption of the Vulsini volcano which was active until 104BC. The lake covers an area of 115sq km, has a circumference of 43 km and a maximum depth of 151 metres. Impossible to envision from photographs.

Our meals were equally as delicious, if not better, than we remembered.

The same can’t be said for the weather but the inclement conditions didn’t detract from the peaceful surroundings as we ambled back to the car.

I would like to think we will return again to Bolsena and Trattoria del Moro.

Botswana Butchery

Leaving the ferry after our wonderful day on Waiheke Island we enjoyed a supplementary beverage at Viaduct Harbour before exploring further.

1.Viaduct Harbour

With evening meal time still a couple of hours away, we scouted the restaurant menus along Princes Wharf. There were some definite possibilities but the doof-doof music emanating from the establishments wasn’t really enticing for a relaxing dining experience.

2.Princes Wharf

Returning to the old Ferry Building, we settled in the sunshine at Botswana Butchery for, you guessed it, another beverage.

3.Botswana Butchery

We were very comfortable watching the ferries come and go

4.wharf

and, after perusing the menu, we moved inside to dine as the light was fading.

5.Botswana Butchery6.Botswana Butchery

The stunning décor coupled with genial waiting staff made for a lovely, relaxing ambience.

9.Botswana Butchery

10.Botswana Butchery

Using the best local ingredients, the meals were superb. I had Crispy Half Duckling with blackberries, parsnip puree, baby vegetables, watercress & duck jus, while Michael opted for the Raukumara Venison Loin (from the Raukumara Ranges, Bay of Plenty). Steamed Seasonal Vegetables completed the main event.

There was only one element left to make my day complete – Vanilla Crème Brulee with cherry sorbet, rice flakes, pickled cherries and a meringue cigar.

14.Vanilla Creme Brulee

Wrest Point

Michael’s gig at Cascade Brewhouse in January gave us the opportunity to stay in Hobart overnight and the perfect excuse for a belated wedding anniversary celebration. We hadn’t been to Wrest Point since a holiday in 2007 when we enjoyed a fabulous evening in the revolving restaurant, it was time to revisit. Not only did Wrest Point become Australia’s first legal casino in 1973, its fascinating history dates back to 1789 when a chap named Thomas Chaffey was transported for life to Norfolk Island. He married Maria Israel, was made a constable and given 39 acres of land. When the settlement on Norfolk Island was closed, he received 62 acres of land in Hobart and built a house on land at Queensborough which became known as Chaffey’s Point. Thomas’s son, William, built an inn on the site called the Traveller’s Rest in 1839 and it was later purchased in 1939 to create a prestigious international hotel, the Wrest Point Riviera. The current Wrest Point hotel was built on the same site and is still the city’s tallest building at 64 metres.

1.Wrest Point Tower

The complex has been extended over the years and now includes a conference centre as well as a range of bars and restaurants and three accommodation options depending on your budget. We had booked a Water Edge room but were upgraded to a newly refurbished Harbour View Deluxe  King on the sixth floor of the tower. The décor was tasteful

and the view stunning, although we didn’t have much time to spend admiring it.

5.river view6.river view

After the Brewhouse, it was a quick freshen up and change for our reservation at The Point on the top floor of the tower. A selection of breads were presented, followed by a delicious venison taster.

For entrée, we both chose the Rannoch Farm quail breast, house made falafel, onion, Cygnet mushrooms, herbs & red wine jus.

11.quail

We differed on main course with Tasmanian slow cooked lamb rump & braised neck, cauliflower, sweet potato, snow peas, almonds, green raisins, herb salsa verde & dukkah seasoning and honey glazed duck breast, braised red cabbage, parsnip, bread dumplings, caramelised chestnuts, duck & orange jus.

Had we not opted for the table d’hôte menu, we would have declined dessert, not realising the meals would be quite so generous. We soldiered on. I had textures of rhubarb & berries, honey crème brûlée, elderflower, milk crumble, lemon sorbet, pistachio sponge & meringue, while Michael managed the walnut & maple syrup tart, buckwheat pastry, red wine poached pear, sauce Anglaise & yoghurt sorbet.

With no room for another morsel, we were presented with a mist shrouded platter bearing chocolates and a congratulatory anniversary note. How could we refuse?

16.Happy Anniversary

The following morning, a spotlight of sun pierced the clouds, illuminating the Derwent River and the cast of players waiting in the wings.

17.morning light18.rowers

A group of rowers appeared on the stage

followed by a lone paddle boarder, obviously confident enough to carry a backpack.

It wasn’t long before a seaplane landed then cruised downriver and disappeared from sight.

With the water entertainment over, we wandered through the venue to explore the immaculate grounds.

32.lawn31.pond

Cormorants preened on mussel crusted rocks,

with an enviable view of the Tasman Bridge and Mt. Wellington beyond.

35.Tasman Bridge

Vegetables and herbs are grown in the gardens, a ready supply to serve the patrons.

Boardwalk Bistro

39.Boardwalk Bistro

overlooks the marina.

40.marina

It is no surprise that Sandy Bay has the most expensive real estate in Hobart.

41.Sandy Bay

Our only disappointment was that we weren’t staying for longer but there is always a next time.

42.Wrest Point Tower

Pienza

We took our time driving from Le Grazie to our next destination, Podere Montepozzo, in northern Lazio and stopped to explore Pienza. Established as the medieval village of Corsignano, Pope Pius II renamed and redesigned the place of his birth in the late 15th century. He enlisted the help of architect, Bernardo Rossellino, to create the ideal Renaissance town and it has remained unchanged since that time. We parked the car and made our way to the centre of town,

1.Pienza2.back of Pienza cathedral3.Pienza

the colours of spring brightened the pavements.

On the lookout for somewhere to lunch,

we found ourselves at the edge of the village

20.Pienza21.Pienza

stunned by the breathtaking vista across the Val d’Orcia to Mount Amiata beyond.

22.Val d'Orcia23.Val d'Orcia24.Val d'Orcia25.Val d'Orcia26.Val d'Orcia

Returning to the main square, we couldn’t resist a peek inside the walls of Relais Chiostro di Pienza, an exquisite hotel on the site of a 13th century Franciscan convent. The beautiful ancient cloister

27.cloister

led to the former garden of the friars and the perfect venue for lunch, La Terrazza del Chiostro.

28.La Terrazza del Chiostro

With storm clouds gathering on the horizon, we risked outdoor dining.

The service was impeccable, from the leather bound menu to the handbag holder (hastily produced when I placed my bag on the floor), the unique cutlery

and that spectacular view.

36.Val d'Orcia37.Val d'Orcia38.Val d'Orcia

The meals were delicious, starting with a colourful palate cleanser and a selection of breads.

The pigeon was a work of art with breast, leg and a wing lollipop coated in hazelnut & mushroom powder and the local pork fillet with wild fennel carbonara sauce and seasonal vegetables was mouthwatering.

We finished our meal just in time before the heavens opened and wandered through the opulent interior of the hotel

before braving the weather the short distance to Pienza Cathedral. Built in 1459 on the ruins of an ancient Romanesque church, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

49.Pienza Cathedral

The gothic interior is quite spectacular

with elaborate altars

53.altar

and intricately designed labyrinthine ceilings.

The baptismal font seemed simple in comparison.

I think someone was contemplating a quick confession before we left.

Returning to the car, we found divine inspiration to remind us of our objective.

65.Aperitivo Van

Mount Gnomon Farm

We had been wanting to visit Mount Gnomon Farm for years but the timing was always wrong. Finally, last Sunday we drove the short ten minutes from Penguin along winding roads, through beautiful countryside, to experience the recently re-opened restaurant. The rustic simplicity of the exterior

1.restaurant

continues once inside.

2.interior

From quirky door handles and unique light fittings

to walls adorned with animal hides and ‘family’ photos, the ambience is warm and inviting.

A colourful palette of wildflowers is framed by the dining room window.

8.view from dining room

The front verandah overlooks fields of grazing sheep,

9.view from front door

a charcoal spit and bespoke fire pits await the next big event.

10.spit

Resident pooches Cyril and Winston eagerly welcomed us, happy to accept attention without demanding it.

Agricultural scientist, Guy Robertson purchased this magnificent parcel of land ten years ago, principally to raise free range pigs and promote the end product of premium free range pork. Nestled against the forest reserve of the Dial Range, they certainly have no problem with neighbours.

19.Dial Range20.Wild garden & Dial Range

The estate has become much more than a pig farm but I’ll get to that after lunch. Unfortunately for Guy, but fortuitously for us, last minute cancellations meant the three of us were the only guests. Perusing the menu, it was difficult to make a choice, we wanted to try everything. With a little encouragement from Guy and his team, that’s exactly what we did. French chef, Madjid, specialises in charcuterie and so, at the top of the menu, we started with the impressive French Charcuterie shared plate. Ham hock terrine, wallaby terrine, pepperberry cured pork fillet, saucisson sec, saucisson a l’ail, smoked ham, apple puree, garden pickles and sourdough bread.

21.French Charcuterie shared plate

Mount Gnomon smoked chorizo with pumpkin puree & sage, Mount Gnomon smoked bratwurst with house sauerkraut & German mustard and a salad of borlotti beans, celery, fennel & orange followed.

24.salad

The roasted suckling pig leg with sausage stuffing, carrots, garlic crumb & jus convinced us of the superior quality and flavour of Mount Gnomon free range pork.

25.suckling pig

Next came free range chicken served with spinach, roasted pumpkin, burnt butter, lemon & toasted pine nuts.

26.free range chicken

Crispy Kennebec potato with smoked paprika mayo and local green vegetables with a herb dressing, Coal River Farm fetta, preserved lemon & mint completed the feast. (I missed a photo of the greens, trust me, they were incredible).

27.potatoes

I should point out, these dishes were shared between us, we hadn’t really succumbed to an attack of gluttony. The menu changes every week depending on the fresh farm produce available, what a great excuse to return and sample more. Local beers and ciders are also on offer, along with superb Ghost Rock wines. We were confident we could manage the one dessert on the menu with a pause for digestion and so, embarked on a Guy guided tour of the farm. A new lamb had joined the flock of Shropshire sheep that morning, I’m sure he grew more cute each time I looked at him (actually, not sure if he is a he).

The other lambs had a head start and for some, the grass was definitely greener the other side of the fence.

Across the paddock to the west, the traditional Dairy Shorthorn cattle enjoy far reaching views as well as luscious green pasture.

34.views to the west

To the north, the young apple trees of the cider orchard align with the pristine waters of Bass Strait.

37.view to the north

A wild edible garden

38.wild garden

occupies the space between the restaurant kitchen and the most spectacular raised vegetable garden I have ever seen.

39.vegetable patch

My hopes of cuddling a piglet were dashed when we learned the hundreds of Wessex Saddleback pigs that usually reside here had been relocated to enable regeneration of the pastures.

40.pig pastures

I’m sure they will be eager to return to their home beneath Mount Gnomon.

41.pig pastures

For the few that remain, the rich, red soil was irresistible for a spot of wallowing.

I imagine this would be a soothing respite

47.pig in mud48.pig in mud

from suckling twelve large offspring.

49.piggies

Back at the restaurant, I entered the inner sanctum to witness the cured meats awaiting their turn on the charcuterie board.

50.charcuterie

The exercise and fresh air had primed us for the delicious peanut butter chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis & crunchy topping.

51.mousse

If you can’t make it to Mount Gnomon Farm, you can find their products on menus around Australia as well as at farmers markets and festivals across Tasmania. If you can make it to the farm, next Sunday would be the perfect opportunity with a big day planned for the launch of Mount Gnomon Farms very own cider.

52.event