Exactly 11 years ago, Dottie and I inadvertently discovered the tiny hilltop village of San Gemini in southern Umbria. We stayed in an incredible villa built on top of Roman, then medieval, ruins by the Italian sculptor, Canova, in the 1850s.
Canova is long gone, but his villa has been preserved, with some modern conveniences, by the Grandjacquet family of Rome. A grand or great-grand patriarch of the family raised it from near ruin in the last century, and today the family keeps part of it for their part-time residence, and offers the rest as a vacation rental.
San Gemini is very small, covering an area roughly the size of the Sonoma Plaza.
During our first visit, which happened to be during the town’s medieval festival in honor of its patron San Gemini, we were captivated by its unspoiled authenticity, and the warmth and graciousness of its residents. Dottie said to me then, “Some day I’d like to bring our whole family here.”
At the time, our family consisted of us, four adult children, a daughter and son-in-law, and one grandchild. Today the family numbers 16, including seven grandchildren, ages 5 to 12.
And Dottie’s wish came true last Saturday when all 16 of us arrived here in San Gemini in the middle of a thunderstorm and a festival set in the Middle Ages.
Since this is supposed to be a fishing column, I will tell you that the trout fishing nearby is good. The Nera River, a tributary of the Tiber, runs through the mountains, of which San Gemini is a part, and has trout in it willing to rise to a fly.
There is even a little fishing tackle place on the outskirts of town.
I will offer a firsthand report on that next week.
San Gemini doesn’t appear to have changed much since our last visit, and the annual festival goes on. It is primarily a local affair and we are apparently the only Americans staying here in the village.
Our grandkids love it. Italians love children, and while the kids speak only a few words in Italian and the locals only a little English, they manage to communicate.
I’ve noticed that our youngest, 5-year-old Lily, is already repeating Italian words as though she grew up here. She may not understand what she is saying, but her accent is authentic.
Next week, I’ll report on our adventure in a mountain hideaway and the fishing.