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Family, fishing in Italy, Part V

MOST EVENINGS in San Gemini, we dined in our villa high atop the town piazza. (ABOVE) The seven grandkids often ate in the small tower dining room just off the kitchen. From it, there is a panoramic view of the Umbrian countryside. The adults usually ate a little later in the main dining room next to the kitchen. Jennifer Murphy/Special to the Index-Tribune

MOST EVENINGS in San Gemini, we dined in our villa high atop the town piazza. (ABOVE) The seven grandkids often ate in the small tower dining room just off the kitchen. From it, there is a panoramic view of the Umbrian countryside. The adults usually ate a little later in the main dining room next to the kitchen. Jennifer Murphy/Special to the Index-Tribune

By Bill Lynch

After our day of fishing on the Nera River, guide Luca Castellani (lucacastellani.it) reminded me that he guides on five different fly-fishing areas in the Umbria and Tuscany regions. They include a tailwater fishery on the Tevere, the Santa Susanna River and the Velino River, plus one part of the Nera.

With his help, and that of my other Italian friend, Matteo Marini, one could plan a wonderful combo of food, culture and fishing, and stay in either Umbria or Tuscany and do a lot more than just visit the typical tourist spots.

In a previous installment I mentioned the food experiences that Matteo (culinaryholidays.com) offers. These take place in a private home and are much more intimate and authentic than a typical restaurant in Orvieto, Perugia, Assisi and other well-known and traveled cities in the region.

That doesn’t mean that we didn’t visit those famous sites and enjoy dining out there.

We did. In fact, when we didn’t have a daytime group activity planned, our family of 16 broke up into smaller groups and took off in various directions.

Some of our kids and grandkids even took a day-trip by train to Florence. Joey, our oldest grandson at 12, was so impressed with Florence that he wants to spend a college-year there.

Meanwhile, back in our little village of San Gemini, the two-week-long medieval festival continued, with most of the activities occurring at night.

Because the roads in this mountainous region are narrow and winding, we opted to not drive after dark to go to a restaurant. Instead, we enjoyed dining out for lunches in places like Spoletto, Assisi and Orvieto, and then returned to the village for a family dinner.

Just a few flights of stairs and a steep driveway below us was the small central piazza and narrow street (Via Roma) on which the town merchants had their shops.

Most were tiny, no larger than a one-car garage. There was a butcher shop, a fruit and vegetable shop, a fresh pasta shop, pizza place, a bakery, and a general grocery store where you could buy milk, eggs, wine, etc.

We’d come back from touring, usually in later afternoon, decide who was cooking and what we felt like, and then go down to the stores and visit each shop to pick up the ingredients for dinner.

Because the festival celebrations got going fairly late, we often didn’t eat until 8 or 8:30 p.m. It was a chance to share the various experiences each family group had during the day.

Virtually every night there was some kind of event in the piazza, often involving costumed local residents in some kind of procession. One night there was an incredible fireworks display. Because our villa had a tower, and was located at the very top of the highest point in the hillside town, the fireworks, launched from the soccer field down below us, burst at our eye level. Just far enough away to be safe, we felt like we were in the middle of the bursting bombs and shooting stars. Our kids and grandkids loved it.

Although I would have liked to fish a few more days with Luca, there were so many fun family things going on, that I didn’t call him back.

This week near Sonoma, the best thing happening is that large dungeness crab are being brought home in limits by anglers going out of Bodega Bay starting with the opener last Saturday. Capt. Rick Powers, of Bodega Bay Sportfishing, is having excellent luck with combo trips that allow his clients to pick up limits of rockcod, along with lingcod and full limits of crab. It is great way to enjoy some of the most delicious seafood our area produces. The trips are $110 a day. Call Rick at 875-3344.

Striped bass action has been excellent inside San Francisco Bay this week. Keith Fraser, at Loch Lomond Bait Shop in San Rafael, said the best locations are the Pump House area in the North Bay, and the Marin shoreline further south. Stripers are also being caught drifting shiners off Red Rock, the Brothers, Sisters and the Whaling Station. Rick books Bay party boats. Call him at 415-456-0321.

The northern part of the state is producing some excellent trout and steelhead action on rivers like the Klamath, Trinity and Sacramento. The upper Sac is fishing fair to good, said Bob Grace, at the Ted Fay Fly Shop in Dunsmuir. This is a great time to go there. There are few fishermen and you can almost have the river to yourself.