Author Archives: Nancy Hampton

Project: Corn

Ciao a tutti! Today I’m posting about a food that is near and dear to my heart. Sweet, summer corn! When we lived in the US as SOON as the corn started coming in I had it frequently. I am a corn snob, however, and when I was buying at the farmers market I would push my fingernail into a kernel and if there wasn’t a squirt of liquid I wouldn’t buy. It is a sign of freshness and when it was picked. As soon as corn is picked the sugars in the kernels start to turn to starch and harden. No longer a succulent sweet ear but a hard starchy one. I had a garden a couple times in my life in which I grew corn, my mantra was…get the water boiling, go pick the corn off the stalk, immerse in boiling water for 5 minutes, slather with butter and a sprinkle of salt and EAT! Heaven.

The sad story is that here in Europe, all over as far as I’ve seen, people see corn as animal fodder, not for human consumption, on the whole. In Italy they do have canned corn, they do NOT have frozen which is infinitely better. I have searched for corn here and on two occasions last year I found some. The first had been allowed to stay on the stalk far too long and was all starch and inedible. The second, from Umbria, in the super market, in NOVEMBER(!) was actually almost good. SO…

I decided to buy seeds and find some way to plant some. On the Burpee website I came across Container Corn. It is corn that will do well planted in pots. So I bought some to try. I also bought two other types in hopes of finding an outside place to plant. I did manage to partner with my British friend Angela and paid for a plot to be prepared. It was hardly optimal. Good sun but the soil really wasn’t tilled deeply enough. We planted anyway so we’ll see.

I’m happy to say my corn on my terrace is doing really well. Angela told me the corn there was up and growing. I think I will have at least some corn this summer. Happy days!

Here is my corn.
corn2

I call this my orto. It means vegetable garden in Italian. It has my two spicy peppers and the corn.
corn

I love sweet basil and it’s almost ready to harvest the tops for pesto!
basil

My herb garden: parsley, thyme, sage, rosemarie and chives.
herbs

Flowers
planters

tunias

tunias2

Happy growing to any of my gardening friends. I will post progress reports occasionally.
Buona estate!

Lemon harvest!

My little lemon tree had 12 lemons on it! I am amazed at the output of these little trees. They flower and fruit all year. Already we have many new flowers and baby lemons. So I harvested ten of the pretty lemons and decided to make preserved lemons with them. Then I can make some Moroccan food this fall. They have to sit for at least three months.

lemon_harvest

preserving

Bellissimo view with our new Tende di Sole open.
tende_di_sole

Table set for dinner all’aperto. Nice. Did you know Al Fresco doesn’t mean eating outside in Italian? It means spending time in jail!
dinner_table

Fun with friends…old and new

We have had visitors for in the past few weeks and I’ve documented some of our adventures in pictures below.

Our first visitors were new friends. They own a place down in the south of Italy in a small town called Pisticci. They came to Umbertide for a few nights staying in a nearby B&B. We had fun showing them around. Our first lunch at Erba Luna in Montone. We went to Erbe Luna to escape a gaggle of loud Americans. But damned if they didn’t end up with us anyway. Can’t win. But they gave us our most memorable moment when one of them asked if a dish came with a side of spaghetti…must have been Italian Americans…maybe from New Jersey (no offense New Jerseyans). Reminded us of the movie, Big Night.
Erba_luna

Ravioli with tartuffi, truffles…
ravioli_truffles

Pretty stairs down from the walls above to the outside dining terrace.
erba_luna_stairs

View from Montone toward the Apennines.
Montone_appinines

Sunday was a beautiful day to go to Calagrana for Pranzo. Asparagus, poached egg showered with truffles.
tartuffi_asparagi

Too pretty to eat Scampi with grilled polenta.
2pretty2eat

Such perfect weather. Such a perfect view!
beauty_calagrana

We went to a couple of wineries for tastings and then to Montefalco to our favorite L’Alchemista. The Giro d’Italia was passing through town that day and they were all decorated in pink flags, bikes, and paraphernalia.

giro_d_italia

Ravioli and favas. Spring is the time for fresh favas.
l_alchemista_ravioli

We had a great time getting to know our new friends and plan to see them again soon.

The next weekend Luther and I decided to go to the Cantine Aperte, or open cellars. Many participating wineries. We chose one in Orvieto. It was a beautiful day but all the places we went to were very crowded.
Our picnic. It was a pretty day.
luther

Our next guests were very old friends…well not physically old! We’ve known each other since we all lived and worked in Germany 25 years ago.

We visited Montone for lunch and our great Wednesday market. The next day we went to Assisi. Our final day we visited Tabarinni, one of the best wineries in Umbria, lunched in Montefalco and went ceramic shopping in Deruta. Then, on the way to Rome we stopped in Orvieto mainly to see the magnificent Duomo. We had a light lunch of assorted bruschette and meat and cheese plates.

Lunch in Assisi. Another beautiful day.
Carlo_mary

The grilled octopus appetizer was amazing.
belissimo_octopus
As were the pastas.
pasta_Piaz_erba

pasta_favas

We enjoyed our time with our last guests. Talking of old times, eating, drinking and catching up.

Drivers license saga continues…

When we last checked in on the drivers license issue we had returned from Rome with our Attestizione affirming we were us, even though our documents didn’t exactly match. Errand to Rome.

Our next visit was to the Comune where we had the very helpful lady in the Records office affix our photos to a paper which stated we were, indeed, us! Who knew they’d have a form all ready to do this? Strano!

We took these new documents back to the nice lady who’s helping with all this and she looked very pleased. She had to go, with this enormous pile of accumulated documents, to the equivalent of the DMV in Perugia. She called them pazzo, which means crazy. We had read the reviews on the web for this place and I’ve never seen such! Like the third circle of hell. She told us she’d call after her visit. Which she did and had good news! We were to come in and see her doctor for a cursory exam and we should be good to go.

We returned to her office and went in to see the doctor who asked me to read maybe four letters from an eye chart and 25€ later (each) we had his certificate of approval. What a scam. She told us to come back the following Friday. Oh and we had to pay 300€ to her, the first she’d asked for, for her services rendered. This was quite a bit but she had paid for our stamps and fees so I think it was worth it.

Yesterday was the big day! We hoped to actually pick up our licenses… well, we sort of did. We went back and she gave our German licenses back and a sheet of paper for each saying we had applied for the conversion. She said, depending on which bureaucracy got the job we would have the plastic card in a month or two, or four…who knows? Anyway, we are done except to wait for her call that they have arrived. I am SO glad this is done!

Trip Report – Paris!

Our trip this time was to visit with friends who are living and working in Paris for three years. They live in a wonderful part of town in the 2nd arrondissement. Their time would be up at the end of the year. My sister, who is also friends with them, was meeting us there. So we had a fun trip combined with a great visit with my sister. Win, win.

We arrived at CDG airport in Paris on Saturday at 5PM. We managed to go through passport control and claim our luggage with no problem. We had directions from our friends to take the train then walk to meet them. The train was a non-stop from CDG to Gare du Nord but then it becomes a regular Metro train. Lucky for us we got off at the next station – Chatelet.

We texted our friends that we were walking and we negotiated the tiny, crowded cobblestone streets with no problem, ultimately meeting up with our friends at Redd Bar for a glass of wine. We dropped our suitcase in our rented VRBO flat, which was spacious if quirky.

Dinner was in Liza Paris, a Lebanese, small plates place. It was fun. Off to sleep after a long day.

Sunday was gray with heavy drizzle. We had breakfast with our friends in their apartment just a block from our flat. Croissants were wonderful as was the coffee. This day we planned to visit Musee Jacquemart Andre. He was a member of the upper middle class in the 1800s. They were just below the aristocracy or what we would now call the 1%. The museum featured his and his wife’s extensive art collection in their magnificent house on Blvd. Haussmann. They apparently spent more than the Louvre each year on their collection! They went to Italy at least once a year thus the collection leaned heavily towards Italian masters. Very interesting with the audio tour.

Beautiful staircase.
staircase

painting

We walked from there to the Seine and along the bank toward the Tuillierie Gardens. We admired the barges, many of them house barges, moored along the way. It was still very gray and began to rain when we stopped in a cafe in the park for lunch. We had buckwheat crepes called Galettes filled with ham, cheese, egg, and mushrooms (for me). After lunch we walked back to our neighborhood for a glass of wine and then adjourned for a nap.

Big ferris wheel.
paris_eye

Dinner was in a place called La Dame le Pic. It was a very upscale place with two tasting menus. I picked the one that included 2 appetizers, one entree and one dessert. The chef was adventurous with her ingredients and presentations. Everything was beautifully prepared. I had an oyster starter with green apples, fennel, and a green gelee, then a spring vegetable one with radishes, radish chips, artichoke. Then my entree was the John Dory fillet. And I chose the citrus dessert. All of the courses were very small and works of art.

When we left around 11:30 PM the entire city of Paris was in a celebratory mood with exuberant horn honking and congratulatory shouting. The election was over and Emmanuel Macron was the new French president beating Le Penn by a huge margin. This was good for moderates and those who want to preserve the European Union. Also for us who have a difficult time with Trump and Brexit. It was exciting to watch the celebration!

Monday, a holiday, Liberation Day, dawned gray again. We hoped to see the sun. This day we had tickets to visit the Vermeer exhibit at the Louvre. We met at the corner cafe for coffee and breakfast if anyone wanted some. The we took Nina, the dog, for a walk and Cathy headed back home while we continued our walk down to the Seine where we walked along the brand new river walk. They closed a tunnel that used to be used by cars. And opened it up. This was great because it was always a complaint that you couldn’t use the river as most cities did, for recreation etc. Now there are informal gardens, big trees, paths filled with bikers, walkers, runners, skateboarders all enjoying the river. There were cages filled with children. I couldn’t find the peanuts or I would have fed them 😉, actually they were cages enclosing the soccer playing area. They had this cool stuff that looked like concrete but was very spongy to walk on next to the play areas with climbing walls etc. to prevent injuries. Lovely improvements.

We stopped for a croque monsieur and a glass of wine. We headed to the Louvre to see the Vermeer show. It was very crowded even with advance tickets. Long lines everywhere. Finally, once we got in, it took forever to get near the paintings. But they were beautiful. The show was really good despite the crowds. Afterwards we visited the Maille mustard store. More mustards and condiments that you ever thought possible. Then we headed back.

This night we had dinner on a bateau called Le Calife. It is moored by the Ponte des Artes. It was a leisurely three hour dinner as we motored first upstream to Ponte Austerlitz, then downstream to Pont de Grenelle. Notable sights were: Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Grand Palais, the Invalides, the Palais de Chaillot and the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, and the remarkable bridges: Pont Neuf, Pont Marie, Pont Alexandre III, Pont au Double, Tournelle Bridge. My favorite part was the sparkley Eiffel Tower. It twinkles all up and down its height on the hour for five minutes. I had seen films of it but it was magical in person. The food was quite good and all prepared on board. I had the foie gras, the roasted lamb shoulder, cheese course and iced nougat for dessert. It was a one of a kind experience. Here are pictures taken from the boat.

Notre Dame just peeking up.
notre_dame

This is the model for the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the French.
lady_liberty_model

On the hour, the Eiffel tower twinkles all up and down it’s height. Magic.
twinkling_tour2

The ferris wheel at night with the French tri-colours in honor of the new president.
eye_night

This young man sat at a table next to us, all alone. He looked out the window with unseeing eyes. We wondered what his story was. One we thought of was that he’d proposed to his lover on Le Calife but before they were wed, she died in a tragic accident. He returned on the anniversary every year. Of course we have no idea.
pensive

Walking home.
walking_back

Tuesday dawned with the hoped for sun! One of our main objectives for this trip was to visit Giverny to see Claud Monet’s beautiful gardens so famous from his paintings. We had waited because seeing it in the rain would just not have been right. We took the train from Paris and in an hour arrived in the nearby town where we caught the bus to the little village of Giverny. There were crowds but they didn’t really affect the experience. The famed water lilies were not yet blooming but there were plenty of other flowers and bushes abloom. I took a TON of pictures but tried to pick a few that I liked best.

garden5

bee

garden4

garden3

garden2

garden1

We also visited his house. The gasp producing moment was when we entered his studio. The walls were COVERED in paintings. Probably hundreds of millions of dollars worth. And there we were, nothing between us and these incredible works. Stupefying.

inside2

inside

I loved the kitchen.
kitchen

We had a nice lunch on a terrace of a little hotel in the village. There are actually people living there although it is overrun with tourists. We explored and then headed back to Paris.

lunch_nice_day

My sis looking smashing in her new hat!
cindy

We had dinner in Pirouette this evening. Randy was very upset that they didn’t have the tasting menu available for us. That was his main reason for picking the restaurant. We were sorry not to try it but went ahead and ordered from the menu. It was fun because of the company. The menu choices were very French…eel, sweetbreads etc.

Wednesday, we had a quick breakfast at the corner cafe and headed to the train station where we got the CDG train. Cindy’s flight and ours left only a half hour apart so we could all go together. Sad to say goodbye but it was great to have an adventure with my sister!

Trip Report – Lincolnshire England

Another trip report so you can skip this if you are not interested.
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Our annual trip to the British Isles. We arrived at one PM Tuesday via Ryanair. We rented our little red Vauxhall and off we went. Hungry, we went in search of lunch. We went into the little town near the airport and found a pub called The Nags Head. Luther began his Beer studies with a pint of Invictus. He pronounced it golden and light. Then we got on the M11 northward to Lincolnshire.

We went through what is called the Fens. Flat as a pancake and just about as interesting.  Then we got into the Wolds, a hilly and very beautiful area. The entire area is full of old windmills, most without the blades. They are now used as museums, incorporated into houses, made into pubs and many are abandoned. They are brick with small windows up the walls that taper to the top where the blades used to be. They were mills to grind the grain.

There is a crop here that is brilliant yellow and they go for miles… very spectacular. I think it’s canola.
canola_fields
We were again staying in a National Trust Cottage. This time at an estate called Gunby Hall. We arrived at  and, from the parking lot,  made our way to the Orchard Cottage. Of course we got lost, wandered about and finally found it. The way it works is the key is in a lock box and you have the code. You never see anyone. This cottage is very comfortable with wifi, two bedrooms, a bath and a half, nice kitchen and our own private garden. The Gunby estate is open daily, the manor house and the gardens. It closes at 5pm and then everyone is magically gone! And we have the gardens, which are amazing, all to ourselves. It is super private in the cottage as they keep all the visitors away from it.

I took some pictures early the next morning after the rain stopped and the sun shone out.

A wild meadow just in front of our cottage with active bee hives.
blue_meadow

Garden gate.
arched_gateway

Rustic garden path.
blue_meadow_path

Bunnies behind our cottage.
bunnies

Magnificent Cyprus of Lebanon – almost 200 years old.
cyprus_of_lebanon

Formal garden path.
garden_path

We went to a pub for dinner and were very disappointed. It was called the Fleece and maybe it was what I ordered but it was inedible. Sounded good. Peeled scampi with salad and potatoes. I wanted something lighter so I ordered it. Canned cold, watery shrimp, dry salad and boiled potatoes…totally dry potatoes with nothing on them. Butter would have been nice. I even hid my shrimp under the salad because I couldn’t force myself to eat them. Ick.

Next day, Wednesday, we were off to Lincoln. Weather was alternately sunny, rainy with sleet and hail. Wild weather. It was good we were mostly inside. We toured the magnificent cathedral built in the 11th century. Amazing building and how they built it back then boggles the mind.
cathedral

cathedral_crossing

Just one of the many stone details.
stone_head

The Dean’s window
deans_rose_window

Beautiful pulpit
pulpit

One of the most fun things was The Lincoln Imp. A legend tells of it being a creature sent to the cathedral by Satan, only to be turned into stone by an angel. Now it is the symbol of the city, including it’s soccer team. We had a devil of a time finding it :-). It’s very tiny. See this picture. It is not the big head. See if you see the imp.
imp_big

Cropped so you can see him.
the_imp

Magnificent organ
organ

Exterior – storm is coming.
cathedral_storm

Then we toured the castle. It has been there since the 900s. We saw the ACTUAL Magna Carta. Signed in 1215. This was the first Bill of Rights. And also a copy the Charter of the Forest from 1217 which basically re-established rights of access to the Royal Forest to free men which had been eroded by William the Conquerer.

Castle.
Lincoln_castle

Lincoln street.
Lincoln_street

After this we had a nice lunch in the Wig and Mitre pub. Fish and chips with mushy peas was very good here.
pub Then we headed back. This evening I made salmon steaks and sautéed vegetables.

Next day, Thursday, we decided to go on a brewery tour. It was again a nasty rainy day. We think it will be better later in the week. First we visited Skegway, a seaside town. We approached from the north. It is an old town with a big clock tower. Full of take out food shops with Cornish Pasties and Meat pies and sweets. Tons of pinball emporiums, cheap clothing, beach stuff, charity second hand stores. AND I’ve never seen so many motorized wheelchairs and elderly people. Luther says that’s why the shops are full of cheap junk so the old folks think they are getting a deal. OK, I know we are probably considered elderly but we are not yet as elderly as these people were. Just north of this part of town are the enormous caravan parks, mobile homes used as holiday houses parked chock a block with roofs as far as you can see. Also tacky restaurants with karaoke nights and a huge water park and enormous amusement park with the biggest rollercoaster I’ve ever seen. Who sez the British can’t do tacky?

We headed up to visit the Bateman brewery in Wainfleet All Saints. Brewing since 1874. We took the tour which was quite fun and afterward we had a light lunch in the cafe. Luther found their ales quite good! Especially the XXXB.

Luther….studying.
2017-04-27 13.17.26

The bar was inside an old windmill, so it was round.

inside_windmill_bar

For dinner we went to the Blacksmith’s Arms. It was a couple of miles from our Cottage. Nice pub! Front room crowded with locals drinking and chatting. We were seated in one of the dining rooms and Luther had the mixed grill and I had the chicken breast. Both quite nice. Luther’s had everything but the kitchen sink in it. On the way out all the people sitting around the front room, mostly on benches were so curious where we came from.

Finally the day was nicer on Friday. We had reservations to visit the RAF Scampton airbase just north of Lincoln. This was where the Dambusters missions came from. They blew up dams in Germany in the Second World War. There was a movie made about it back in the 50s. They had to come up with all sorts of innovative solutions for the plan to work. They sent 19 missions…only 11 came back. So many men lost. The base is also home to the Red Arrows, the British aerobatic team similar to our Blue Angels. Just our luck, they had flown out the day before we came, to go to Greece to practice in better climes.

Luther sitting in a Red ArrowIMG_1184

The bomb used to blow up the damsIMG_1189

Two Red Arrows and a stunt plane

IMG_1207

Luther sitting at Guy Gibson’s desk. He was the head of the operations. He had a dog, a black Labrador. His name rhymes with Digger. A funny thing happened while we were in the hanger. Digger had gotten hit by a car and they carried him back on a wooden bed. We were standing by this bed and suddenly, out of nowhere, a black Labrador came running around the corner. I think our guides were the most affected. It was like seeing a ghost!IMG_1210

For lunch we went to the Dambusters Pub. I had fish and chips again and Luther had a sandwich. We stopped in Waitrose, a really nice supermarket in England. I bought a few things to bring home. We also bought half of a jerk chicken to cook for dinner which was very good. Another good day.

Saturday dawned beautiful with blue skies and puffy clouds. We were touring National Trust properties today. But first…a mission. I am partnering with a friend, Angela, in a garden venture in Umbertide. I want to grow sweet corn. She has land. I’m paying for the man to prepare the soil. Angela asked me to find horseradish, parsnips, and runner beans for her. So we had to visit a couple of nurseries before we found them. Yay!

Then we headed out to see Tattershall Castle. We could go for free because when you rent a National Trust cottage you get free entry to nearby Trust properties. It was beautiful and imposing and the history was great which I will not go into here.

Church near the castle on the walk there.
old_church_windows

Castlecastle

Church from the castle.church_from_castle

There is a funny story about the fireplaces in the castle. The castle was a ruin when a gentleman bought it and meant to restore it. When he paid for it he went and saw that all the fireplaces had been removed. He said “where are my fireplaces?”. Come to find out someone had taken them all out, crated them up and they were on the dock due to be shipped to America. He paid 2,700 pounds for the castle…and 5,500 pounds to get the fireplaces back! This is one of them.fireplace

Then we started back to our neighborhood, looking for a pub in Croft a sibling of the brewery we visited. We found it but it was closed. So we headed to Burgh le Marsh where we had lunch at the Bell. I tried their Piri Piri chicken which was yum. Spicy!

More studying…
beer

We returned and took the Gunby Hall house tour. It was in the Massingberd family for 250 years and nearly all their belongings are still in the house. The story is that the family fell on hard times, having to sell lands and even personal things like family portraits. Lucky for them the tenants bought them and returned them to the family so they still remain. It is a beautiful house. And the gardens can’t be beat.
formal_garden

This evening we had pasta from the left over salmon with snow peas, onions and garlic…it was good enough.

Sunday was bright but very blustery. We had planned nothing for the day other than a Carvery lunch at the Blacksmith Arms. It was good, if typical but then I knew it would be! For dinner we have left overs, some cold cuts, bread and a pear for a picnic of sorts.

Observation. Lincolnshire is beautiful if a bit old fashioned. Usually, if you do your research you can find gastro-pubs or otherwise good pubs with excellent food. Not so here. Stuck in their ways with heavy, not-so-good food. It didn’t feel like any thought or effort went into it, just going through the motions. We left and drove south and got into Essex where we stopped at The Eight Bells for lunch. Lovely salad and a burger. Nicely prepared with care. So I’ll avoid areas like Lincolnshire from now on.

We enjoyed our trip!

Only Wine Festival – Città di Castello

Every year we have meant to go to the Only Wine Festival in the town just north of us. This year we did. The purpose of the festival is to promote young winemakers around Italy. The winemakers must be under 40 years of age. It helps them get publicity and visibility they may not have gotten elsewhere. The festival has a website and we checked it out. There were many special tastings such as a Whisky tasting, Sparkling wine tasting, Cigar tasting, beer tastings, regional wines such as Umbrian, Tuscan. These had to be reserved and had a fee. We decided to go for a targeted wine tasting of wines grown in volcanic soils around Italy. We really didn’t know what to expect so this was an exploratory mission. entrance_to_fest

wine_tent
We arrived around 5:15 and our tasting was at 6PM. This left time to do some of the regular tastings. There were many different venues. There also were two full floors of a palazzo that had numerous wine stations for tastings. Ostensibly you paid 15 Euro and that entitled you to five “Free” tastings of the wines. Only in Italy would they say you were getting free tastings but you had to pay the 15 Euro for them. Anyway, since we were going to the Volcano tasting we decided to just get one “Free” tasting for the 15 Euro and we’d share it. They give you a nice glass with a little sack you put around your neck to hold the glass and five tickets for the tastings. Turns out no one takes your tickets so you go in and it’s unlimited tastings for as long as you can stand up! It wasn’t too crowded because it was early. We enjoyed all the young winemakers who were eager to talk about their wines.

tastings
Then we went upstairs to the Volcano tasting. We didn’t know where it was and there were no signs. Typical. We asked but no one knew. Finally we found the room way back in a corner. We went in and there were tables set up with six glasses at each setting. The room was hushed. We sat at a table in the front and after we sat down three other single men came in one after the other and joined us. A sommelier came and introduced each wine as they were poured by numerous pourers throughout the room. Of course I didn’t understand everything he said . But I did manage to catch the grapes for each, whether they were aged in oak and for how long, and the region they came from. The first one came from Lazio, north of Rome. Next two from Orvietto. Then one from the Veneto and finally two from Sicily on Mt. Etna. All were white except for the last one, a light red. It was quite interesting. One of our table-mates asked if I could understand it and I said, maybe 30%. Turns out hes a vintner from near Orvietto and one of the wines was his. It is also a vineyard we tried to visit once and were turned away. We will try again soon. One amusing aside, they had a signer for the deaf. She had both Luther and I suppressing giggles every time we looked at her. Signers have the most expressive faces and she was one of the best with rolling eyes, smacking lips, pursing lips and bulging cheeks. I wondered if the sign language in Italy was the same as in the US…

volcano_wine_tasting
The sun was setting when we left and walked through this park to our car park. Beautiful!
CdC_park

We will go back next year but this time we’ll stick to the regular “Free” tastings.

More on Italian Drivers Licenses

I have not written about the ins and outs of obtaining an Italian Driver’s License. Our situation is a bit different from most Americans because back in the 1990s we lived in Germany and, at the time, we could obtain a German license easily and still retain our US ones. These licenses never expire(!). All EU countries and many non-EU countries have agreements where you can exchange a license for one in another country with reciprocity. We are trying to take advantage of this by exchanging our German licenses for Italian ones.

The United States does not have reciprocity with Italy. The main issue is that America does not have a country driver’s license. Each state issues their own license. When we move from state to state in the US sometimes we even have to take the test to get a new one depending on the rules of each state. So this means Americans can drive legally in Italy using their US license for one year after they become residents after which time they need to take the tests for an Italian license. Many Americans are under the impression that they can obtain an international license from AAA and drive legally on that, renewing it yearly. This is not true. You can drive on one of these for only one year before having to take the tests. The penalties are onerous if you don’t get an Italian license after a year. Fines and worse than that, your auto insurance will not cover you in the event of an accident.

I can’t speak from experience since I have not taken the test but I do know what it entails. There are two parts; written and practical. You can study for the written test and take it on your own. Once passed then you will need to enroll in an auto scuola to take the practical part. You cannot take this on your own due to a recent law requiring you to enroll in a school. It is a real scam because it costs at least 500€. The written test is all in Italian and extremely technical. There are ways to study for it online or you can go to the school for this too. Here is a first hand account of an American going through the process. It is long but very informative.

Once you are finally able to get your license there are restrictions for the first three years of driving (even though you may have been driving for 40 years!). You may not drive faster than 100 KPH On toll roads and no more than 90 KPH on non-toll roads. For the first three years there is Zero alcohol allowed. And for the first year a limitation on the size of the engine or horsepower of the car you can drive.

Errand to Rome

This past week we took a day trip to Rome. We are STILL trying to get our German drivers licenses converted to Italian ones. We started this process last year and hit a road block. Italians like every document to match perfectly. In our case our Italian documents say we were born in a city in the US, while our German licenses list our state. Even though we brought in our birth certificates which list both they said no. And we’ve learned two main things here. One, when a bureaucrat makes up his or her mind you have no recourse. And two, they each make up the rules as they go along. We gave up until it occurred to us that we could just try another place and hope for better luck.

So we went to the next town called Trestina. And we visited the little auto services place there. A nice woman is helping us and we took in all of our copies of all of our documents. We waited and she called and we returned. This time the discrepancy was not only our places of birth but Luther’s name. On his Italian documents he is Luther Pearson Hampton III. On the German drivers license he is merely Luther Pearson Hampton. Oh no! So, she explained we had to do an attestazione to swear we were who we said we were even though we were born in different places and had different names. And we had to do this in Rome at the American Embassy.

So we created our attestazione and took the train to Rome. It was a pretty day. It takes about two hours to get to Rome on the train. Then we walked the maybe ten minute walk to the Embassy. They were super nice there. Nothing like the Florence Consulate. We went through the security and the man took our papers and said they get this all the time. We paid $50.00 for each notarization. Cash cow for the Embassy! Another guy stamped and witnessed our signatures. Mission accomplished. We were back home by 6pm.
attestazione

Next steps, we have to get four photos made. And we have to affix one to a piece of paper stating who we are and our address. Then we have to go to the Comune and get them to attest that we are who we say and that we live at that address. First we have to find that office since all the people from the Comune are scattered around town due to the renovation. I sure hope we can get the licenses after all this!

Sunday lunch in Montone

It was one of the 10 most beautiful days in all eternity yesterday. I’ve never seen it so clear. Temperatures in the 70s F. We had already planned to go to Antica Osteria in Montone for lunch so off we went. Montone is the nearby hill town. It is only about 10 minutes from our house. It is a beautiful stone and brick village which is very tidy and well cared for. They are famous for their annual film festival. It was started by one of the Monte Python people who lives in Montone part of the year. All 800 residents work for a week to put on the festival. They have 4 big screens set up around town and each as it’s own little restaurant and bar manned by the citidine. Anyway, I took a few pictures of the town, of course!

One of many gates into town. We chose to enter through this one.
montone_gate

The clock tower above the main square, which is quite small but still manages to have a restaurant and a bar and a Tabacchi. The bells ring every quarter hour.
clock_tower

View from our outside table in the square.
montone_street

My carpaccio starter.
carpaccio

I think this is the first time I’ve had lamb chops since we moved here. These were good but I like them a bit rarer than they were. Served on arugula salad with tomatoes.
chops

We bumped into friends who ate near us and brought Monte along. He looks bored.
monte

On the way out of town. Pretty vista.
gate3

gate2

And here is the town as we drove past it after we had gone down the hill. Perches right on top of two hills.
hill_town