We embarked early today, leaving Casa Petra by 8am so that we could arrive at the Frantoio Gaudenzi Oil Mill by 9am, as they normally finish the day’s production at 10am (they start at 5am – a bit too early for us!). (From the brochure) “The oil mill is furnished with modern machines that work the olives at low temperatures and extract cold oil. The result is a product intensely and brightly green coloured, with the typical fruit smell and a wide and persistent taste, with the characteristic bitter and spicy note.” We were allowed to enter directly into the production area and see where the olives are dumped into the machine. Today, the mill was processing Quinta Luna extra virgin olive oil. This oil is made from 3 different types of olives that are harvested within the end of the month of October starting from the fifth moon after the flowering of the trees. They are then “de-leaved” and washed and carried to the next machine that chops them into very fine pieces. The chopped olives are then carried to a centrifuge that spins out the water and oil from the chopped olives and separates the three. The oil is then taken to another centrifuge that spins it again to remove any remaining water. From there, it is filtered and left to sit for 2-3 days to allow any sediment to settle and be removed from the oil before it is bottled. We were given a taste of the fresh olive oil, with had a strong peppery taste. We were then given a taste of the oil that had already been bottled as the taste of the oil changes as the sediment is withdrawn. It was a bit smoother, but still had the peppery aftertaste. Leaving the oil mill, we traveled into Spoleta to sit at the cafe in the Piazza della Liberta for drinks. We had hoped that the watch store down the street would have been open – there was a watch in the window that Uncle Randy had his eye on. Unfortunately, the store was closed because the owner was on holiday. We continued our journey, this time traveling the S209 that went through the Parco fluviale del Nera. The scenery was beautiful, and the roads were again very narrow and windy. There were plenty of bicyclists along the roadway to dodge (go around) – I think we may have seen mom and dad along the way (JK!). We had decided to stop at the Cascata delle Marmore to see the waterfalls. The GPS took us up to the top of the falls. The very nice lady at the ticket and information area explained that we could take the trail to the upper falls area which was only 400m down (but very steep), or we could walk to the bottom (again very steep), but it would take about 20-25 min to walk down and about 45 min to walk back up. However, we could also drive back the way we came and park at the bottom of the falls and follow the very flat 200m walkway to the observation area at the bottom! That was the option we took. The other thing in our favor was that normally the falls are “turned off” Monday through Thursday, but since they were doing some special work, the falls would be on from 1200-1230 today. It was about 1150 when we left the top! We drove to the bottom, found the parking, found the trail and made it to the observation area with about 15 min to spare. We just sat in wonder. After a while, we realized that the water flow had decreased immensely, but it never really stopped. (Travel book) “In antiquity, the River Velino did not spill into the River Nera as it does today, but stagnated in the marshes of the Rieti plain. In 271 BC the Romans decided to link the two by digging a channel, the Cavo Curaino, which feeds today’s main waterfall. Since then, the Cascata delle Marmore has been at the centre of the entire river system of central Italy, provoking bitter debate between those who wanted to close it down and others who wanted to extend it. The latter option was chosen in the 15th and 16th centuries, with the work entrusted by the popes to the great architects fo the day (Antonio da Sangallo, Giovanni Fontana and Carlo Maderno), who were to transform the falls. The latest alterations, to adapt the falls for hydroelectric power, took place in the 1920s.” On our way back to the parking area, we stopped at a trattoria for lunch. I had homemade pappardelle noodles with a wild boar ragout. Yummy! I cannot tell you how much I am loving the food here – everything tastes fresh and homemade! After a leisurely lunch, we headed back to Casa Petra to relax for the afternoon.
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