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For most visitors in Italy, cities like Venice, Florence, and Rome are probably pretty high on the must see list. But venturing into smaller and lesser known towns can offer a host of rich possibilities. Spello is a medieval walled city in the Umbria region of central Italy. Steeped in history and charm, this is the perfect place to get authentic Italian food, far from the hustle and bustle of overcrowded tourist sites. Here are some of the best in town for trying the local cuisine.
For a truly indulgent experience, book a getaway at La Bastiglia. Situated on the east side of Spello with incredible views of the city and surrounding hills, La Bastiglia is a small resort with health and wellbeing at the center of its philosophy. Relax at the spa, swim laps in the pool overlooking the countryside, and, of course, dine at the hotel’s elegant on site restaurant. La Bastiglia’s menu is primarily based on traditional dishes of the region, and sources nearly all of its ingredients from local farms, vineyards, and lakes. If you are unsure what to order, go for the Menu Della Bastiglia, where a chef has expertly crafted a menu with complementing wines for each course, and has received a well earned Michelin star for his craft.
In Italian, this restaurant’s name actually refers to a basement or wine cellar. The name is quite fitting, for both the physical property and the menu. La Cantina is all about contrasting opposites to create a warm and unexpected atmosphere. Designed and built to resemble a wine cellar full of treasures, the dining room opens up underneath brick archways, rustic furniture, and both low candlelight and modern light fixtures overhead. A local magazine recently wrote that this spot was, indeed, a hidden pearl to discover. Pastas are made fresh, in-house daily, and topped with sauces like ragu with wild boar, or local olive oil and truffles. Oh, and of course La Cantina’s wine list is extensive and offers a large selection of local vino.
Equal parts wine shop and restaurant, this little shop is entirely delightful, as is the father and son duo that runs it. Inside Enoteca Properzio, you can find the finest wines from Italy and all over the world. Enjoy an unhurried meal on the outdoor patio that absolutely must include wine with every dish. The owner, Roberto, is incredibly personable, and tries to visit every guest at their table. Take advantage of his knowledge and experience and ask for his recommendations; he will not lead you astray. This is a wine-lover’s paradise, and a fantastic way to sample local plates. Don’t forget to buy a bottle to go, or send some home for when your vacation is over.
Named for the famous epic poem by 16th-century Italian poet, Ludovic Ariosto, the restaurant embodies the Italian tradition of relaxed, laid back meals. L’Orlando Furioso offers exceptional value, and would be great for an easy and low key meal. The menu features many regional dishes, but specializes in pizza. The dough is made each day and topped with tomatoes, cheeses, meats, and vegetables. Get some fresh air and sit out on the restaurant’s gorgeous patio with large canvas umbrellas to keep you shaded and cool on hot days. This is just outside the ancient wall of Spello, but it’s worth the few extra minutes of walking.
There is something incredibly peaceful about rustic simplicity, and Osteria del Buchetto has found it. This restaurant doesn’t really have any frills, but it doesn’t need them either. From the food to the service, and the atmosphere to the ambience, this osteria is completely spot-on. The menu is small, but gives an excellent look into local cuisine. Try a dish of baked polenta with provolone and radicchio, or a steaming bowl of gnocchi with zucchini and green curry sauce. You cannot miss the vistas from the dining deck; with a wide angle view of the Umbrian hills, and Assisi in the distance, the setting makes a magnificent backdrop for any meal.
Traditionally in Italy, an osteria is a less formal restaurant, where you can find more rustic and home-cooked meals. Osteria de Dada’ follows this mode pretty well, offering a comfortable and homely atmosphere in the center of Spello. The dining area is small and intimate, and you are very likely to see locals dining there. Start with a first plate of handmade pasta, like the tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms. Then dine on a tender rabbit stew, a hearty dish that reflects the humble meals of the region. Be sure to wash it all down with a glass of local chianti, or perhaps a glass of sweet vinsanto and crispy cantucci cookies.
Il Pinturicchio was named in honor of a local celebrity, the Renaissance painter Bernadino di Betto, who designed the nearby Baglioni Chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore. The restaurant embodies both an elegant feeling, with careful plating and a beautiful ambience, but remains friendly and approachable. Serving traditional Umbrian fare, this spot has been a favorite in the city for years. Try a unique pasta dish with pumpkin, thinly sliced almonds, and pecorino cheese. For something more unique, start your meal with a vegetable involtini, like a roulade or roll, made with rice, sausage, and a saffron cream sauce.
A true gem in Spello’s culinary scene, this restaurant has been a local treasure for more than 30 years. Inside, the restaurant is inviting and warm, while the outdoor terrace offers panoramic views of Umbria. Il Trombone’s menu is seasonally driven paying special attention to ingredients that are locally available and at the peak of freshness. During the spring, try a vegetable flan with black truffle, and asparagus tagliatelle, or a bright carrot cake with almonds. Operating once as a piano part, Il Trombone still often hosts live music acts, giving guests a unique opportunity for entertainment during their meal. So find a seat and relax with what is sure to be one of the best meals of your life.
Looking for creative twists on traditional pastas, warm, pillowy gnocchi, or ancient romanesque architecture? You will find all of that at Ristorante Locanda del Postiglione. The small restaurant is tucked away in a historic building with all of the charm and warmth of days gone by. Begin what is sure to be an amazing meal with an antipasti plate; crostini with various tapenades and sauces, a silky liver pate, a selection of local meats and cheeses, and a balsamic vinegar that is sweet as honey. From there, try a plate of gnocchi with truffles, or a creamy risotto. Whichever dish you choose, you will feel like you just stepped back in time to experience a taste of the old country.
Porta Venere, literally translated to ‘Venus’ gate,’ is the entryway into Spello through a large arch in the ancient wall that surrounds it. Though just a few steps away from this entrypoint of the city, Ristorante Porta Venere sits back a bit from the street and could be easily missed. Acclaimed by many as the best restaurant in Spello, Porta Venere serves time-honored Umbrian cuisine. The restaurant’s website describes its food as rich and savory. Combining tradition with modernity, both the presentation and the ambiance is clean and innovative. If the weather permits, grab a table out on the balcony. You will be rewarded with sweeping views of the Umbrian countryside over the city’s wall while you enjoy your meal.