Category Archives: shopping

Unmistakably Autumn

Well, it’s official. It is suddenly Fall. Temperatures still rise to low 70s in the afternoon but as soon as the sun sets it is decidedly chilly. This is the time of year I have a hard time deciding what to wear. Inside the house is colder than outside so I tend to overdress. This is not a problem for Italians who dress to the calendar, not the temperature. So already they are wearing puffy winter coats and scarves. And I’m in a T-shirt.

And it is time to wrap up the corn saga. As you may recall, I planted corn in containers on my terrazzo and also in a friends garden. We had the hottest summer on record and consequently only a little of the corn plumped up and was edible. I believe I harvested 11 ears. And they were wonderful. The container corn was not a success at all. It tassled and had small ears that never matured. So here is our final goodbye to the 2017 corn project. Next year!


And the foods in our markets are changing rapidly. Gone are the tomatoes…sniff. And the melons. But we still have mounds of just ripe peppers to include the picante types. And we still have zucchini. The sweet, tiny ripe grapes from the fields nearby have just come in. And the pumpkins and winter squash have arrived as well.

Recently I did an interview with a writer for International Living. She’s writing an article about retiring and the differences in prices people can expect between Umbria and the US. I was happy to oblige. One misconception is that we have to pay more to eat local and in season here. I remember visiting the farmers markets in Virginia and paying top dollar for the products. Not so here. If you buy seasonally, when the vegetables and fruits are at their peak and bountiful, you pay the least because there IS such bounty. And I am definitely a person who cooks and cares to eat good tasting food which is in season. I spend around 8€ ($9) for a big grocery bag of fresh produce.

Winter squash is so seasonal.

Almost too pretty to eat. Looks like sculpture!

The citrus has arrived. It will get better as we go through the winter.


Last of the Borlotti beans and eggplant. The eggplant is scrawny.

And the pears are plentiful and luscious.

The Wednesday market is very different than the Saturday one. The Wednesday market is mostly the big vendors who go from market to market in the different towns each day (for instance Città di Castello is Thursday, Gubbio is Tuesday). Their produce is not necessarily local. I believe they DO buy local when they have the chance but most of the food comes from the south of Italy and Sicily. Still local to this country but… And you can get things from them earlier than when they are coming into season here. You can also get tomatoes all year, from Sicily, but I don’t care for them. There are one or two locals who come to both Wednesday and Saturday markets. Now, the Saturday market is only very local products from nearby farms. Thus you really do eat only what is in in season nearby. Winter can be pretty sparse in this one.

Greens are what is growing around here.

And cauliflower…

And Cabbage…

And I thought I would plant some fall things this year. I got a few lettuce plants and four petunias. I think the petunias may last the winter. And we shall see how the lettuce does.




Ciao a tutti! I am passing along some observations I’ve made about products here in Italy. They are just little, everyday type things that I’ve noticed. My point today…everything here is flimsier than the same product I am used to in the US. Here are just a few things that I’ve noticed.

Cardboard boxes of wraps…like Saran Wrap, aluminum foil, etc. are very flimsy. The box itself is made of the thinnest cardboard. This makes it nearly impossible to tear off the wrap. You end up crushing the box in the process. I have an American Glad Wrap box that I just put the Italian product in. It has held up for two years! (I guess it is getting a little worn out, still better than the Italian box)

Then there is the wrap itself. Aluminum foil is the worst. You can’t put it in a pan without poking a hole through it! And don’t ever try to wrap anything in it. This is one of the items I bring from the US when I go back. Good old Reynolds foil.

Note the thinness of the foil and the flimsiness of the box.

Plastic water bottles are made of such thin plastic that you can crush them into a ball with no effort. I’ve tried with water bottles in the States and couldn’t do that. In fact all plastic bottles are this way here. My lime juice bottle is permanently crushed from squeezing. My sunflower oil bottle has dimples from just holding it. Maybe this is environmentally friendly because less plastic is used?

You know those little twist ties you close bags with? Well, the ones here have such a small filament of wire in them that they won’t even stay bent. They are useless. I save my old ones and use them over and over. The white one is the Italian one. The black is one I brought along from the US.

Something else I use over and over. Ziplock bags. I wash them and hang to dry and reuse. This is because we can’t get them here. Also, it is ecologically friendly.

Just little differences I thought would be fun to mention!

Kilometer zero market

Beautiful weather has brought EVERYONE outside for the Kilometer zero market. I’ve mentioned it before but to explain again, it is a market of only local and self producing or growing vendors. Diverse but much smaller than the Wednesday market. I bought a jar of tiny preserved artichokes and the nice lady gave a jar of asparagus paste to put on bread, fish, chicken, just about anything. I also browsed through all the stands, thoroughly enjoying the scene.

Items for sale by the nice Senora

The local Alpaca farm called Maridana Alpaca brought in their wares. All natural colors of the Alpacas.

The baker from Citta di Castello is always at this market with pizza bread, focaccia, breads, donuts(!) and sweets.bread

Next weekend is Pasqua which is Easter. Everywhere you go there are small to giant chocolate eggs and specialized cakes and biscotti. This is a cake all wrapped up and ready to go! Today is Palm Sunday and I was treated to a lovely bell serenade from the big bells in the old church on the Piazza. They are wonderful.easter_cake

This is my favorite greens and vegetable man. He also sells herbs and plants for the garden.greens

Local honey and products of the bees.honey

Black kale is what the sign says but I’ve never seen any like this before. I didn’t buy it. I think you’d prepare it like any cavolo nero.

And here is the Slow Food booth. They had all sorts of free food for the taking. I tried that square cake. It was apple and super moist.   slow_food

Anyway, that was my day at the market. And later that afternoon me made the Passagiata (stroll through town) along with a bazillion Italians. Then sat in Bar Mary to have an aperitivo and watch the action. We are happy it’s spring!

Gorgeous Saturday

We are just back from a three night trip to Torino (Turin). I will post about it soon. But today we are just enjoying this beautiful spring weather. Everyone is out and about and Umbertide is coming alive after the long hibernation. I bought some more asparagus today. This time it is wild asparagus that people around here go out in the fields and woods and forage. I am looking forward to trying it tonight.  I am now using my new Canon EOS 100D camera. Takes nice pictures! Click to see larger versions.


I also got a tip from a friend about a butcher I had never tried. I don’t know why I hadn’t as it is very close to us. Perhaps because there is a large butcher just before you get to it that I always went to to buy our meat. This butcher shop is quite small. The selection is different too. They always stock Pork Belly or Pancetta in big slabs. I got to try it recently and it was melt in your mouth good with great cracklin’ skin. They also always have lamb and of course beef and chicken. I decided on a pork leg and first seared in the oven, then slow cooked it. We will eat it tonight.


This time of year is artichoke season. I do love them. But I don’t buy them like the Italians do! they get dozens at a time! Goodness knows what they do to them. I’d like to know!artichokes

And these are the beautiful “famous onions of Canarra”. They are very sweet. Two people come with their van every week. A very old man and a young man who must be his grandson. They are very nice and I always tell them buongiorno even if I’m not buying that day. The onions are beautifully braided. I buy whole ropes of them. They are perfect on salads and roasted. They also caramelize like a dream.onions

This is the old man. I’m sorry his face is in shadow. It was a very sunny day. His grandson is in the van behind him braiding more onions.

old onion aguy

US wedding, addendum

I forgot a big part of my trip. I forgot to say I got to visit my sister…twice! Once for dinner and the second an overnight and dinner at their house in Wintergreen.

It was a pretty easy and very beautiful drive from Hot Springs to Wintergreen. We went up the Maury River gorge. Gorgeous! But the prettiest part was Route 56 up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. That road has many hickory trees and maples. They were at their peak color and it was breathtaking. Brilliant golds, yellows, and reds. The parkway was pretty too and surprisingly nearly empty on a Sunday.

We had lunch at Devil’s Backbone, a brewery we all like and she made a delicious chili for dinner. When we left the next morning I had packed up the numerous things I had ordered and had sent to her house. Thank you Cindy! We stopped on the way to the airport and bought some hard to impossible to find items from the grocery store…zip-locks and Aluminum foil (natch), cranberries for Thanksgiving, brown sugar, cocoa powder, oh and Grape Nuts (I had been craving them). Our suitcases overflowed.

Ceramic table arrived!

Yesterday was Venerdi Santo or Good Friday. You may remember we purchased a ceramic table top in Deruta, world famous for it’s ceramics. We have been dealing with Ceramiche Artistiche Gialletti Giulio. They are friendly, helpful, and seem to treat us fairly on cost. In February I ordered a 100 cm table top and iron base. They promised to get it to me by the end of March before my sister visits. They got close. April 3 they delivered it. It was only one person, Michele whom we deal with and he asked Luther to help bring it up the stairs. It weighed around 70 Kilos so it was HEAVY. All is well. It looks beautiful on our patio!


Close up of the artists work.

Last night was the Good Friday Fish Evening at Calagrana. They had a packed house. I think everyone there was British. That is the one disadvantage of Calagrana. But Ely is British and her husband is Italian. I believe Ely is the one who dreams up the dishes and Alberto makes them. They are a pretty good team.

Here is what we had.
First course was Spicy fish cakes served with garlic dip. Forgot to take a picture. It was fairly spicy and I would have liked more of the garlic dip.

Next was Prawn and aubergine Millefoglie. The eggplant was like potato chips! Really crunchy and the prawns were sweet. My favorite dish of the evening.

Then we had Creamy risotto Frutti di mare. Perfectly cooked, crunchy arborio rice and mixed seafood to include mussels, shrimp and squid. High on my like list.

Next was the main or Secundi. This was a Mixed grilled fish. By this time I was pretty full. It was not a really exciting dish either. But the fish was well prepared.

Finally dessert of Panna cotta of white chocolate and raspberries on a crumble base. Very good even after all that food. A fun evening.

We got back and the streets were crowded with the faithful who had just finished carrying Christ around town. I went into the church before we left for dinner and saw the “coffin” type wooden box with a glass top inside of which was Jesus. There were poles that stuck out of the ends for carrying. Interesting.

Hot peppers! Found!

After our Italian class on Thursday I talked everyone into going to Arezzo to a food store I had been wanting to visit called Essalunga that I learned about in one of the groups I am member of called Italian Reflections Group. A great group of folks with all kinds of good information for Expats in Italy. Since we were already in Citta di Castello for our class it wasn’t too far away. Off we went. The store is just off the highway that goes past Arezzo and is huge and very modern and new looking with big wide aisles. We had fun looking at all the wares and sure enough they had a lot of things I have not found here like fresh hot peppers. We also found some lovely tuna steaks (ate them last night!), salmon filets and other unusual spices. Here are my peppers! I will freeze them until I need them.


After our shopping trip it was time for lunch. Arezzo is nice in that it has lots of parking lots one of which Susan and Gary told us about which always has spots and also has escalators up to the town. We had picked a possible restaurant called Ristorante Chiavi d’Oro. Golden keys restaurant. It was on Piazza San Francesco which was a straight walk across the centro. It is a lovely city with lots of shops, art galleries etc. I need to come back for more than lunch someday!

Our lunch was very good. There was a tiny menu with about 6 items in each category, antipasti, primi, secundi. Susan got the most scrumptious flan made of Gorgonzola and so light and airy. I got the salmon tartar. Here are pictures.



Susan and Gary had pastas and Luther and I got the rabbit. All were good. We agreed we would go back.

Today is a beautiful, very spring-like day. Probably about 60 degrees F. The sky is blue. We decided to go to Marsciano to buy outside chairs. There is a factory outlet for a store called EMU which sells all outside furniture. We bought 4 pretty metal chairs in a orangy-yellow color. I hope they look good with our table when it arrives.


We bought a nice steak at the store and I will grill it tonight since it is so nice out.

Ciao a tutti!

Sunny market day and…

Today is a sunny, cold Wednesday and the market is in full swing. I can never resist a picture of the brilliantly colorful produce. I plan to try a recipe for cuttlefish tonight so I’ll be visiting the fish people.


Since my last post I made a BIG list of things we need to get done. Here it is:

  1. Order screens for windows
  2. Go to Tiziano and order guest room furniture
  3. Go to Leroy and Merlin to get things for the guest bath
  4. Call TV guy about missing connections (AGAIN)
  5. Go to Deruta to order an outside table
  6. Pay TV tax
  7. Renew Permesso di Sogorni
  8. Take Permesso receipt to health department
  9. Call for Stranieri class
  10. Go to EMU to order outside chairs
  11. Go to initial doctor appointment
  12. Schedule MRI
  13. Look into fireplace doors
  14. Look into awning for terrace
  15. Buy pots for terrace
  16. Go to Essalunga in Arezzo

So far we’ve worked our way from 1 to 7. But those were pretty significant things.

The window screens needed to be ordered because before we know it, it will be warm and we’ll want to open windows. We don’t want the cats to fall to their deaths so screens are necessary. A window screen is called zanzariera in Italian after the word for mosquito or zanzara. I like that. And I like that the word zanzara kind of sounds like a mosquito does.

Getting ready for our first guests (MY SISTER!) so items 2 and 3 need to be done before April. We ordered a dresser, wardrobe and bedside tables from Signore Tiziano which should be here in a couple of weeks. And we got items for the guest bath.

We went to our favorite ceramic shop in Deruta Ceramiche Artistiche Gialletti Giulio. We ordered a 100cm ceramic table-top and base. They should be ready to be delivered by the end of March.

We did pay our TV tax so we don’t get fined. And we did call the TV guy again. This is because they didn’t have cables to hook the speakers up to the TV when they delivered them way back in December. We’ve been trying ever since to get this finished. Frustrating.

We applied for our renewal for the Permessi. We went for two years this time. We have our appointment for March 3 at the Questura. We’ll see how long it takes this time.

The other items are not quite as pressing. We definately need an appointment to attend the Stranieri class in Perugia. It is a requirement to be able to stay in Italy so important. We need to do it before June. We also have to take the Permessi receipts to the Health dept before June when our insurance runs out. And we’ll need to get outside chairs before April. Doctor stuff can’t be put off for too long. Pots for the terrace need to be done before springtime planting. The fireplace and awning are less time sensitive. Essalunga is the last supermarket that I have on my list to visit to look for exotic things. The nearest one is in Arezzo – about an hour from here.

We also went over to Emanuele’s office and picked up our new carpet for the office. It was not an expensive carpet but it looks nice. Last item we have to buy now is a sofa bed for this room. The only thing is that we have to be SURE that whatever we buy can fit up the stairs into the apartment. Remember the table!!


Rain, Rain, Rain…

I was wrong about my cold. It didn’t go away. I still have it but it is very manageable. Also I still have internet on this computer!

Yesterday was market day. Typically we don’t go anywhere in the car on market day because it would mean losing our parking space. That is OK because on market day, everything comes to us! We did some shopping for cheese and vegetables. It was cloudy and windy but not cold. Just when the vendors were tearing down the heavens opened up and it poured. It poured all afternoon and into the night. I checked the weather report and it looks as though this was the first day of five straight days of rain. They are already having floods in Rome.

Today we woke to rain as advertised. The Tiber river is swollen and full of debris. We had planned to go to the furniture store and order our mattress and bed frame today. So we moved ahead with plans. First we stopped into our apartment to retrieve our rain coats which we had not needed since we came. I was happy to see the electrician has installed the wires across the ceilings that will hold our halogen spots.

Ordering the bed and mattress was difficult mainly because we have a mattress now. And we have a platform bed frame. Trouble is, the mattress does not fit the platform. This means we have to buy a bigger mattress for the platform and a frame for the smaller mattress. This was VERY difficult to explain and make clear to the kind man we are dealing with. He called his daughter who spoke a little English but not better than Luther’s Italian. Anyway, in the end we managed to order it. Or I think we did 🙂 Always an adventure.

Now it is evening and it is still pouring outside. Luther was not happy as he has missed his runs. He was going to go but thought all the Italians would think him an idiot and they probably would! I suggested he walk up and down our many flights of stairs. Kind of his own personal stairmaster. Which he did!

Furniture store and Civitella di Ranieri

We did visit the furniture store I mentioned. Actually it was better than I thought it would be. They had tons of antiques and it was interesting to look. One thing I am looking for is a table for the kitchen. I can’t buy it until the kitchen is installed and I can measure. They did have lots of tables of all sizes to include new unfinished ones which I liked a lot. Cecilia met us there and we talked about custom tables which they make there. We will return once our kitchen is installed.

We also attended the concert at Civiteli di Ranieri on Thursday evening. We went to the short reception and met Russel Scott. He is a composer and also the music critic for the New Yorker. A very interesting guy. The presentation was him introducing two of his compositions and then they were played on a very poor audio system. Very muddy sound. I think he was displeased with it too. But it was fun to go and it widened and stimulated our musical interests. The foundation needs to upgrade their sound system.