Talla, Town of Uncertainties

July 7, 2014 / Places
Talla, Tuscany

Pino dubbed Talla, tiny town in the Casentino Valley, “il paese delle incertezze.” Yes, “uncertainties” threaded through our visit there. Where is/was the Ponte D’Annibale? We followed the directional arrow just before the town, leading us up winding roads (asphalt and then gravel) overlooking sweeping views of rolling emerald green hills bordered by deep green forests… but wondering when we’d find “Hannibal’s bridge.” We never did. “C’era una volta” (“It existed once upon a time”), a farmer with a shovel told us when we finally saw a human along the route.

Stuning views on the way to find the Ponte D'Annibale

Next stop: la casa di Guido Monaco, Benedictine monk (born in the late 10th century) and medieval music theorist, regarded as the inventor of modern musical notation (staff notation) and writer of Micrologus, one of the most important medieval musical treatises. The stone house with slanted tiled roof under shady trees was charming… but built in the 10th century?

Guido Monaca monument in the town piazza
Casa di Guido Monaco, Talla

We headed on down into the village of Talla, stopping in a café where we, chatted with the “locals” about the town, the bridge and the town’s main claim to fame, the Benedictine monk.  

While sipping an espresso at the bar, Adriano, retired waiter in a boarding school, told us that although Pomposa near Ferrara vaunts itself as the monk’s birthplace (Arezzo claims him, too, even calling him “Guido d’Arezzo), “e’ impossible,” because that area is marshy and an ancient text states that the monk was born “near wooded pastures”.

At the coffee bar, locals gather
In my opinion, he's ours
Antonio's unsure about Guido Monaco's origins
Pino and Silvanp talk over Guido Monaco's origins

Antonio, retired truck driver, joined in the discussion but admitted his own uncertainties, while offering an “undeniable certainty” about Talla. “We are the only town in Italy without dialects! We speak perfect Italian.” His proof? Driving a truck all over Europe for twenty years and wherever he went, being asked why his Italian had no accent.

Another “certainty” of Talla? You cannot miss lunch at Ristorante L’Orcello just steps away from the cafe’ where outdoor tables flank the monument to Guido Monaco. The antipasto of bruschette topped with Tuscan white beans, white truffle, and a soft local cheese told us we were in for a treat. Pino opted for stinco di maiale con patate arroste (roasted pork shank with roasted potatoes) while I was tempted by two pasta choices: spaghetti alle cipolle (with onions) and tortelli di ortica con salsa di noci (large homemade ravioli filled with nettles, topped with walnut sauce). Host Walter (wife Anna and sons inside cooking up the goodness) resolved the dilemma: I’d have two “half-portions.” (ha!)

L'Orcello tables at the back
Antipastos tempt at L'Orcello
Antipasto goodness
-Tastes- of two pasta dishes
Tortelli con ortica, noci
Stinco con patate arroste
Cipolle al forno e verdure grigliate

I had to ask Walter a question (even Pino didn’t know): “Che cos’e un orcello?” “The heels of the bread loaf”, Walter told us (bringing out two to show us, placing them near our wine glasses), “in Talla dialect.”

On my next trip to Talla, I’ll have to ask Antonio about that: dialects or not in Talla? Another uncertainty.

Talla backstreet
Outdoor tables of L'Orcello flank hte monument


Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

22 Responses to “Talla, Town of Uncertainties”

  1. Matt Cappiello

    The description of Talla becomes alive and very real with the “conversations” with the townsmen. And the food in the restaurant….I’m on the way…..

  2. Kevin Crocker

    HI Anne, and again you regale us with the wonders of small towns in Italy. We miss so much when we stick to the main roads. It is always so refreshing to hear your stories from the small communities that are themselves thriving with their own tales. The meals looks scrumptious and reminds me of many we have shared. Love your miniature histories, keep them coming.

  3. Mary Cappiello

    Annie—Another great find with more of color perfect pictures to go along with your commentary. We love them and hope to see them keep coming!

  4. christoforo frazier (amico di Montalbani)

    Loved reading about Talla. We are so missing the Casentino!

    • Cindy

      Always enjoy hearing about the small Tuscan towns. Your descriptions are always so vivid, Anne.

  5. Anne, You write the most interesting and intriguing articles. It is always a pleasure to see you and Pino out and about… From the photos I can see the locals are also enjoying your company. Keep traveling, keep writing.

  6. John Perides

    Thank you, Anne and Pino for another terrific story. I am so excited about being in Tuscany and Umbria again this Fall. You know me. I am about the food of the region. When I see the pictures of your “lunch for two” I nearly swoon with delight. I am looking forward to finding numerous meals to compete with this one when we are on our journey. Wonderful!

  7. mary Jo Barbato

    Such a phenomenal guide. We met Anne in 2004 and are only 68 days away from seeing her again in September this year. We have booked several days tours with her and can’t wait to see what she shows us this time! Love the Assisi area SO much!!!

  8. Living the Majesty…indeed! I’m just back from my beloved Umbria, but reading your posts, Anne, excites my interest and curiosity about so many aspects of life in the green–and floral–heart of Italy.
    Your commentaries and photos deserve the broadest possible audience of readers and travel-planners; one could easily plan several exciting itineraries based on your digest of what’s happening in the historic towns and hamlets central Italy. Your deep knowledge of the region–its cuisine and culture–is unparalleled!

  9. Jack Litewka

    A very interesting piece, with some deeply/poignantly amusing conversational bits…like great theater.

  10. Lucy Smith

    Thanks for this post, Anne. Your stories always make me feel like I’m there, and the photos are just amazing. ESPECIALLY of the food…..mmmmmm!

  11. The title made me chuckle since our lakehouse is located in “Uncertain” Tx…..yes, it’s really a town. Pop: 93!!! and oh how your food pics make me remember my meals there in Tuscany…..the cheeses….sigh**. and that ravioli? Oh MY!
    Where is this little located? and do you and Pino just take off on explorations of places you’ve not been? You know how I love the details!!!

  12. David Barneby

    Talla is an attractive little town in a beautiful rural region . I often used to drive through Talla on my way into Casentino . I considered buying an old water mill beside a rushing rocky river , not too far out of the town . I enjoy seeing the excellent photos , I should have explored the town more fully .

  13. Jan Johnson

    Wonderful Annie! Thanks for sharing your trip to ‘uncertainty’ – the conversations and great food brought to life with charming photographs.

  14. John Molloy

    Very much enjoyed reading this travel essay and it certainly made me want to visit the area. Thanks Anne.

  15. George Howard

    Another wonderful glimpse of the real Italy. I can’t wait for me and my camera to take another journey with you.

  16. Stephanie

    I’m so happy you and Pino like to explore! Another little Tuscan gem! As always these little towns seem to be nestled in the most beautiful little corners of the countryside. As always, reading your posts are like miniature history lessons with some good humor tossed in. Your pictures are the best! I could almost smell the aroma of the delicious looking food right thru my pc screen! I miss Italy everyday, thank you for transporting me there thru your words and pictures.

  17. Patrice Makovic

    I feel like I just spent the day in Talla! Great article and pictures.


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