Lemon Shells Stuffed with Lemon Sorbet

We first experienced this delicious desert at Nonna Gelsa's Ristorante in the Tuscumbrian town of Umbertide, Italy, some 13 years ago. We loved the desert's simple elegance and were blown away by how refreshing and light the lemon sorbet was. When we introduced our son to this desert three years ago he too had a similar experience. So when we recently had some close family friends over to dinner at our place we decided to attempt to make this very special desert.

Our eldest son, Jake, was very enthusiastic to help prepare the desert with his father. Indeed, it proved to be a great bonding experience. We first started by gutting the 8 lemons. Using a two sided grapefruit knife (one edge had two blades to cut the  membranes while the opposite side had a serated/curved blade) we were able to gut the lemons fairly quickly. I handled the cutting while Jake handled the juicing and the zesting (he is now an expert zester). We then placed the empty lemon shells in the freezer and started on making the sorbet. Jake loved this part as it was fairly easy and required more sugar then he had ever seen. After preparing the sorbet we placed the sorbet in the freezer and stirred/mashed the sorbet every couple of hours. By the end of the 2nd day, Jake really mashed the sorbet and learned how to whip it into a smooth creamy texture. The zest flecks were really neat to look at and Jake said that the sorbet tasted delicious. The next day we stuffed the lemon shells with the sorbet making a point to let the sorbet overflow a bit. We placed the tops back on each Lemon and let the stuffed shells sit over night in the freezer. Our friends absolutely loved the desert and it was especially refreshing after a rather large meal.


Yields: 8 servings
Prep time: 20-30 min

8 lemons*
1/3 cup lemon zest (you'll need 3-5 additional lemons)
1 cup strained fresh-squeezed lemons Juice (from lemons used for cups)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 grapefruit knife or similar type of knife to gut and clean out the lemons
* You'll need one lemon per person. Make sure the end (not the stem end) has a nice shaped "bump" and try to purchase uniform lemons.)

1. Cut off the top 1/3 of the lemon (not the stem end) and reserve for the "cap." 

2. Hollow out each lemon by using a grapefruit knife (the angled blade keeps you from puncturing the bottom and you can also cut underneath the center of the fruit) just inside the rind and circling the flesh (being careful not to puncture the lemon). 

3. Remove juice and flesh and put it in your juicer. Use a strainer if you do not have a juicer.

4. Make a slight shallow cut on the bottom of each lemon shells (being careful not to cut through to the inside of the lemon). This will make them sit straight and not fall over when placed on a plate. 

5. Freeze the shells at least one hour or overnight. Then fill with sorbet and freeze again. this sorbet can be made ahead and will keep several days in the freezer. The frozen shell will prevent the sorbet from melting too quickly when you serve it.

Making Lemon Sorbet (should be done in advance of the steps above)
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water until sugar dissolves. Add lemon zest. Stir until mixture comes to a boil; boil 2 minute. Add the lemon juice, stir well. Remove from heat, cool, and strain. Pour cooled mixture into a shallow container, cover, and freeze overnight.
Ice Cream Maker - Transfer mixture to ice cream maker, process according to manufacturer's instructions.
Freezer Method - Pour into container, cover, and place mixture in the freezer. When it is semi-solid, mash it up with a fork and refreeze again. When frozen, place in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Cover and refreeze until serving time. We found that we had to mash the sorbet several times over two days in the fridge.
NOTE: Can be prepared 3 days in advance. Cover and keep frozen.
Makes 8 servings.


Altabella: A slice of Tuscumbrian Paradise

There are, undeniably, many beautiful places to visit throughout Italy. Indeed, every region has no shortage of spectacular views, fine wines, dazzling architecture and delicious region/city/town-specific cuisines. Our favorite area, however, and certainly still a hidden gem of central Italy, lies in the small unassuming valley of Niccone.

The valley is about 25 km long, running from the twin villages of Mercatale (in Tuscany) and Lisciano Niccone (in Umbria), down to the village of Niccone, where it meets the River Tiber. We are partial to this area because of its natural beauty, off-the-beaten-path feel and because it offers so much for travelers seeking to experience Italian culture without the typical summer crowds. We also love this area because it is a wonderful place for families with children to visit as it offers a variety of family-friendly activities and experiences and it serves as a great base from which to springboard to all parts of Central Italy.

A L T A B E L L A   P R O P E R T I ES

View from Altabella Properties
While there are many excellent places to stay in the Niccone Valley we would be hard pressed to believe that there is anywhere as nice to stay at as the Altabella Properties which is located in the heart of the Niccone Valley along a small road on the way to Preggio.
Map from Altabella.com website
The Altabella Properties "comprise three classically restored stone villas on a 155-acre estate on the border between Tuscany and Umbria, 30 minutes east of Cortona.  Experience the deep pleasures of Umbrian country life in a location of extraordinary natural beauty with easy proximity to some of Italy's richest artistic, culinary and cultural treasures." (source: Altabella Website)

Katharine Michaels and Elizabeth Wholey are the two managers of the Altabella Properties and their dedication and commitment to the properties and its guests is unmatched in our opinion.The property is meticulously maintained and has all the modern amenities one would expect including WiFi, a gorgeous pool, cooking/touring/concierge services and much more. The location of the property is a 3km drive up a private road and offers its guests complete undisturbed privacy and spectacular views of the Umbrian hills of Preggio and beyond. It is the ideal place for guests seeking rest, relaxation and reflection. It also is a terrific place for family reunions and gatherings.

The interior of La Pietra, an Altabella property (pictures from Altabella website)

U S E F U L   I N F O R M A T I O N

The main police station is located just outside old Umbertide (Piazza Matteotti 1, tel: 0759-419-250, E-mail: vigili@comune.umbertide.pg.it, Commander: Dr. Gabriele Tacchia). It is not often that one will run into the local police but it is always a good idea to keep a copy of your passport in the glove compartment. Also make sure you have your car rental agreement in the glove compartment at all times. We have only been stopped twice by the local municipal police and on both occasions we were very happy that we had our passport, rental agreement and driver's license on hand. To learn more about Italian police please see our section on Italian Police.

There is a ospedale (hospital) in Umbertide that seems capable of managing minor injuries quite well.  We had an aunt of ours who had an allergic reaction to a wasp sting and she was seen to immediately by a very nice hospital staff and doctor. The hospital is located along Via Forlanini, just past La Rocca in Old Umbertide. The phone number is 075-941-7494. In the event of an emergency, you should go to Pronto Soccorso (emergency room), once at the Umbertide hospital.

If you look on the map of the town, the hospital is just off the street behind La Rocca, the big medieval tower in Umbertide. Drive to Umbertide, take the second left after you cross the bridge, and drive in front of the round church and halfway around the roundabout. Take the street that goes in the direction of Montone between La Rocca and the La Rocca trattoria. After one or two blocks you will see a hospital sign with a bed on it. Turn right there. You will see a parking lot on your left, planted with tall pine trees. Turn left into the little road, go straight, and you will arrive at Emergency. Someone will speak English. On the map of Umbertide (below), this is Number 9, Ospedale Civile.

Keep in mind that many of the rural areas in Tuscumbria are home to scorpions, vipers and wild boars all of which can inflict serious harm if come across or provoked. Altabella is no exception to this so understanding how to immediately treat these types of injuries until help can arrive can and knowing how to get an injured loved one to the medical attention is crucial in saving a life or avoiding more serious injury.

If one is bitten by a viper it is important to tie a tourniquet between the bite and your heart (so as to prevent venom from reaching your heart more quickly) and get the victim to a hospital as soon as possible. Boars gashes and wounds should be attended to immediately to avoid infection and large loss of blood. Fortunately, the scorpions in this area are not poisonous but do inflict painful bites depending on their size.

Dr. Rita Mommi
cell 336-6346-51
She is in Preggio Monday 11-12 and Thursday 2-3, and in Umbertide M, T, W and F 8:30-10 and Thurs 5-7. She speaks English.  In Umbertide she is on the street just past the Taverna of Pulcinella, off Via Fratta which is the second street to your left going out of town, past the Umbertide train station. A bit hard to find the first time.

Using the Telephone
When answering the phone you say "pronto".
When dialing to Italy include - 011-39 before the number you are dialing
When dialing a number within Europe - 39 before the number you are dialing
When dialing only in Italy do not include 011-39.

Important Telephone Numbers
Police - 113
Ambulance - 118
Umbertide hospital - 075.941.5944
Info for all of Italy - 12
International info -  176
English speaking operator - 15

Post Office
Located along Viale della Repubblica, it is possible to purchase stamps and send mail from this post office.

Pharmacies, like stores, are not open during certain times so always check in advance what their hours of operation are. 
  • Pharmacy 1 - Piazza Matteotti 2 06019 Tel: 075-9413228 - Fax: 075-9420272 Director: Dr. Gaetano Reggiani
  • Pharmacy 2 - Largo Cimabue 06019 Umbertide Tel: 0759417878 - Fax: 0759413505 Director: Dr. Ceracchini Luisella

Train stations
Terontola Train Station
The closest train stations to Altabella Properties are located in Perugia and Terontola. We prefer to take trains from Terontola at it close to the houses and you can leave your car at the station for free. One can take trains to Florence or Rome from  Terontola which is about 1.5 hours (Florence) & 3 hours away (Rome) but can possibly be longer if you take the slower trains. You can look at train schedules and purchase tickets for in advance from Trenitalia.

Perugia FCU & FS trains
There is a station in Umbertide located on the road between the old and commercial parts, run by the FCU (privately-owned) railway that runs from Perugia to Sansepolcro. The train sometimes has only one car so make sure you buy a ticket in advance to ensure you get a seat.

If you need a taxi from Terontola "go across the street from the station to the bar and ask for Roberto Iacomi Servizio Taxi, care of the Caffe Degli Sportivi. His cell phone is 338-100-8098, and his telephone number is 0575-67101." (Altabella.com). There are also small shops and a pharmacy one can shop at if you need anything.

Playgrounds for children
Playground in Mercatale
Initially, we were surprised that we would have difficulty finding playgrounds for children. There are only a handful of playgrounds we know of. There is one very small playground in Mercatale with a jungle gym. There is another near Umbertide at a restaurant called Lo Sherleffo and at another restaurant called Nonna Gelsa in Niccone. We are going to explore Umbertide more to see if there are playgrounds that have been built recently and hopefully add to this short list. ****Update - (8/2011) - Recently, we were able to find several more big playgrounds in Umbertide. One belongs to the elementary school which is just a couple blocks from the main square (walk towards Conad and you will see it on the right side). The other big playground and playing field is located in the commercial area of Umbertide just opposite the street from COOP supermarket. We also wanted to point out that there is a smaller play area at both Nonna Gelsa's Ristorante in the Village of Niccone and just outside Girasole's Ristorante on the s416 heading towards Mercatale.

  • Cinema Elios - (V. Garibaldi 18 - 06019 - Umbertide (PG) - Tel: 075 9412387)
  • Teatro Dei Riuniti - (P. Braccio Fortebraccio - 06019 - Umbertide (PG) - Tel: 075 9412697)
  • Associazione Farneto Teatro - (Vocabolo S. Giuliana-Pierantonio 32, 06019 Umbertide (PG) tel: 075 9420297)
COOP Supermarket, Umbertide
  • COOP - in the Centro commerciale "Fratta" on Via Rodolfo Morandi.
    This is a handy little shopping centre with a number of shops, lots of car parking space and a good Pizza al taglio (take away).
  • Conad - on Via Martiri della Liberta.
    This is part of a parade of shops which includes a good fresh pasta shop and delicatessen. 
  • Supermarket in Mercatale 
  • Colestrada Hypermarket - Located just outside Perugia just off the E45 as you head towards Umbertide.
In general the food shops in nearby towns will meet most day to day needs. There is however a Hypermarket just off the E45 near Perugia at Colestrada (drive past the turning for Perugia Airport/San Egidio, follow the bend round and take the far right hand lane to the access road for the shopping complex). Facilities include a huge COOP, electronics, clothes and shoe shops as well as restaurants and bars.

Travel Tip**** We have gotten along quite well by shopping exclusively at the COOP in the commercial part of Umbertide and the smaller market in Mercatale. However, we encourage you to shop around and explore the food scene a bit more. It's fun and you'll see a lot of new things along the way. Try to brush up on your Italian food vocabulary and measurements or bring a travel dictionary with you if possible. You will not regret it.Always remember that when you are buying meats, pastries, baked goods always look for a ticket dispensing machine as some of the modern supermarkets have a ticketing system to determine who gets served. Also, when you are buying vegetables and fruits make sure to look for stand alone machines where you can weigh your items and then stamp a sticker on the bag (which the machine prints out). The cashiers will not weigh you fruit & vegetables for you. (The smaller supermarkets do not have this type of weighing machine) Additionally, make sure you bring coins with you as some large supermarkets will have shopping carts available for use but you will be required to leave a deposit (1 or 2 euro coin). These carts operate very much like the ones you find at the airport except you get your money back when you return your cart.

Fruit & vegetable weighing machine

Shopping carts

Meat Shop
There is a very good macelleria (butcher's shop) on Via Roma in Old Umbertide You will also find a decent meat shop in Mercatale. The meats offered at both of these shops are fresh and locally produced.

Butcher's shop in Mercatale

    Natural, Organic, Raw, Vegan & Vegetarian Foods in Italy
    There is an organic shop in Spedalicchio and many restaurants, such as La Chuisa, offer organically grown meats. Please see our section on Natural, Organic, Raw, Vegan & Vegetarian Foods in Italy for more information on this topic.

    Eating Kosher in Tuscumbria?
    While we are not kosher, we have had several family members stay in Umbria who are. As most people know it is quite difficult to find kosher stores, food and restaurants in more rural areas. Please see our section on Eating Kosher In Italy to find more information on this topic.

    Please see the section on Tuscumbria: Restaurant Reviews for a more extensive list along with reviews on many of the restaurants, advice on tipping and where to eat organic.

    While there are many more restaurants in the area, here are the most popular places to eat that are closest to the house:
    • La Fattoria I Girasoli Di Saint Andrea 
    • Agriturismo Ristorante Calagrana
    • Agriturismo La Chuisa
    • Ristorante la Locanda di Nonna Gelsa
    • Trattoria Mimi
    • Ristorante La Castagna 
      Travel Tip**** Always check with the restaurants in advance to confirm their hours of operation and to determine if reservations are necessary. Many of the smaller restaurants require reservations be made in advance as it helps them to make sure that they have sufficient food on hand to accommodate their guests. In our experiences traveling throughout Italy most, if not all, are family-friendly and adore children, especially young ones.

      Wine Shops
      It is easiest to pick up regular table wine at any of the supermarkets. Even smaller convenience stores offer a decent selection of tasty table wines. The best wine stores with the largest selection of regional wines in the area are located in Cortona (Molesini) and Umbertide (Enoteca). Please see our section on Wines, Stores, Tours and Tasting for more on this topic.

      Outdoor Markets

                • Monday : Assisi, Marsciano, Perugia
                • Tuesday - Gubbio, Perugia 
                • Wednesday - Perugia, Umbertide 
                • Thursday - Citta di Castello, Perugia, Camucia, Mercatale 
                • Friday - Bastia Umbra, Perugia, Tuoro Sul Trasimeno 
                • Saturday - Castiglione del Lago, Città di Castello, Gubbio, Perugia
                To get a more detailed information about the hours of operation of each market and what is being sold please see Anglo Info.

                Things to do
                Tuscumbria has a multitude of things to do.
                • Visit Cultural and artistic sites
                • Golf
                • Horseback Riding
                • Beach
                • Wine & Olive Oil tasting
                • Truffle Hunting
                • Cooking
                • Bicycling
                • Shopping
                • Markets

                Things to do with Children in and around Umbertide
                • Citta della Domenica: Nature Park for kids with animal petting zoo and reptiles. Open 15th March - 14th September every day. Monday to Friday 10:00 - 18:00 and weekends 09:30 - 19:00. Open weekends only from 15th September - 2nd November. At Via Col di Tenda 150, Perugia (PG) Tel: 075 505 4941 Fax: 075 505 4941
                • Fantasylandia - Inflatable toys to play on, electronic games, indoor open spaces, restaurant and room for birthday parties for up to 400 people. Open Monday to Friday from 07:30 - 13:30. At Via della Piaggiola, 06024 Gubbio (PG) Tel: 075 922 0053 Fax: 075 922 0053
                • Parco dell'Arringatore - L'Arringapiccoli: Park promoting the appreciation of open spaces and nature. A section of the park, called L'Arringapiccoli, is set aside specifically for children, with special events throughout the year. Tel: 333 413 8856 
                • Perugia Officina per la Scienza e la Tecnologia: The POST Science museum for children has interactive displays interesting for people of all ages. Explanations in Italian, though the exhibits are easy to understand for those not speaking the language. Via del Melo 34, 06123 Perugia (PG). Tel: 075 573 6501 
                • Pozzo della Cava: Caves under Orvieto originally dug by the Etruscans. Via della Cava 28, 05018 Orvieto (TR). Tel: 0763 342 373 Fax: 0763 341 029
                • Maridiana Alpaca FarmFraz. Niccone, 173 - 06019 Umbertide (Perugia)  P.IVA: 01219580543 Tel. +39 075 9410934 - 335 157 0202

                Gelato near Altabella Properties
                Colleti - Located in Umbertide behind Collegiata (the instantly recognizable octagonal church in the middle of old Umbertide).
                Mercatale - There are also two a small but nice gelato shop in Mercatale.

                Cooking & Tours
                For those interested in learning how to cook we strongly recommend taking a look at Amore Sapore which offers cooking classes taught by expert chefs. Amore Sapore is an excellent way to receive an introduction to the culinary arts of homemade pasta & desert making, the preparation of local, seasonal  vegetables & foraged foods and  roasted & grilled meats.

                One of the chefs and co-founders of Amore Sapore, Elizabeth Wholey, who, in addition to having provided wonderful wedding planning for us, also offers a host of informative and enriching tours throughout Umbria. Learn more about these tours at Elizabeth In Umbria.

                Driving Direction to the Nearest Towns
                For all of these directions you must first leave the property by driving down to the bottom of the hill, take a right and follow this road until you get to the main road. The sign marking the road to Preggio will be on your right (and is also the direction to Umbertide while left is to Mercatale and Cortona).

                Please HONK your horn around every corner so that any driver coming up or going down will be alerted to you. This will avoid any accidents. Drive slowly.

                Directions to Ossaia, Cortona, Terontola, Siena
                • Go down the hill and take a right at the bottom.
                • Continue to the main road.
                • Take a left onto the main road in the direction of Mercatale.
                • Follow the road into Mercatale.
                • In the center of town, you will have the option to go left or right. Follow the road right.
                • Follow this road straight and go up the mountain and down. This will take you about 30 minutes.
                • Once you come down the mountain you will continue straight. Please note that if you need gas there is a gas station on your left at the bottom of the mountain as you go towards Cortona.
                • Drive straight and follow signs to Ossaia. The turn for Ossaia will be a sharp left turn. If you miss the turn the road will take you to Cortona.
                • After making the turn to Ossaia, continue straight. You will wind through the town of Ossaia. It is a very narrow road that knifes through the town so be careful.
                • To continue on to Terontola follow the road through Ossaia and go straight. The Terontola railroad station will be on your right. If you pass through Terontola you have gone too far.
                • If you follow signs to Cortona there will also be signs to Siena which you can follow and is about 1.5 hours from the house.

                Directions to the Commercial Part of Umbertide, Citta Di Castello & Perugia
                • Exit Right onto the main road in the direction of Umbertide.
                • Follow this road until you reach a point where you can only go right or left. 
                • Make a right in the direction of Perugia and Umbertide. Follow the road through the old part of Umbertide.
                • Go through the old part of town and the industrial part will be on your left. 
                • If you continue straight instead of turning left towards the commercial part of Umbertide you can follow signs that will direct you to either Citta Di Castello or Perugia (E45). If you follow signs to Perugia, the E45 will eventually bring you to signs leading to the S75 that will lead you to the A1 (Autostrada).
                • The super market is called COOP.
                Map of Umbertide
                Directions to Tuoro Sul Trasimeno, Lodi at Tuoro
                • Exit left onto the main road in the direction of Mercatale. 
                • Follow road into Mercatale.
                • In the center of town the road will fork and you will have the option to go left (Tuoro) or right (Cortona). Follow the road left towards Tuoro. This will bring you up through the mountain and back down. On the other side is Lake Trasimeno. Follow signs to Tuoro sul Trasimeno.You will pass small towns but if you keep going straight you will eventually reach the lake and Passignano Sul Trasimeno which also has a beach and ferry stop.

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