Category Archives: shopping

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.

Perugia, more on reno, market day in Umbertide

A lot has happened in the last couple of days. Yesterday morning I said we were headed for Perugia. We left and it was pretty sunny but by the time we got there it had gotten blustery and cold with glowering skies. It did not really rain though, just spitted a few times. I need to get some warmer clothes!

We were headed to scout out the MiniMetro. We found it with no problem. It is small with only 6 stops and goes from the bottom of the hill near the stadium to the very top of the hill town in the center. We purchased our ticket and boarded. It’s fun to watch them operate. They attach themselves to a continuously moving cable. When they reach a station they unhook and small tires convey them to the platform and stop. Then they propel them forward until they hook back onto the cable. They run about every 2 minutes so no waiting. They reach the end of the line then spin around on a turntable and go back. Very steep trip up to Perugia. Takes about 15 minutes to go from end to end with free parking at the bottom and it drops you right at the top in the center of town.


Arriving in the center on a spectacular overlook of the countryside from up there we head up just a short way to the main area of town. We visited two churches. First was Chiesa di Filippo Neri. I had heard it was incredibly ornate. And it was. I was sorry to see huge cracks in the domes which could have just been in the frescoes, but who knows.


We walked up the steep narrow streets. It is really a beautiful town with hundreds of tiny, almost cavelike streets.


We visited the Duomo, or the main cathedral. It was enormous.


Then we visited the National Gallery of Umbria. If you want to see pre and renaissance art this is the place to go. The works start in about 1230 AD and work up to the 18th century. It is almost all religious in subject matter. Many of the works were beautifully rendered, the colors vibrant. But it was all meant to scare the crap out of the people. Their lives were dominated by the church. I never saw as many “Adoration of the Christ”, “Escape to Egypt”, “Annunciation”, “Cruxifiction”, “Flagellation of Christ” and “Christ going into Heaven” as I’ll ever need to see again! The subject matter varied little. The saints changed over time. I did enjoy it, but I was very done at the end. The first picture is the Griffon which is the symbol of the city. Reminded me of Buckbeak for any Harry Potter fans out there.




We spent 2 hours in the museum! Then headed out to find lunch. We tried two of Luther’s recommended ones, both were closed, either for good or for lunch that day. We fell back on Da Cesare where we had dined with the Gang on our last trip to Umbria. We ate inside since it was so cold outside. The food was classic Umbrian and we split a mixed Bruschetta antipasti and both had pasta. It was good. Since we returned we have gotten a good recommendation for our next trip for Bottega del Vino from our friend John in Montone. It sounds great and we look forward to trying it.

We headed back on the MiniMetro and then home where we had a meeting with Emanuele at 4:30 at the apartment. We met up with him and his partner Paolo and the Electrician and the Plumber. I had sent a rather curt email in the morning about the fact that the sofa was STILL uncovered which may have lit a little fire under him because they covered it while we were there. We had discussions about the pantry space. It will be a nice big space and he has good ideas for shelving across one whole wall and then on the otherside for part of it. We explained that we wanted some floor space dedicated to the cats which is always a priority. So all is well at Via Grilli – for now.

Today we did a bunch of errands. We first had Cappuccini at Bar Mary and did people watching at the market. Then I did my shopping to include tomatoes, potatoes, onions, arugula, and those red and white beans that are so good. Look at all these peppers!!


Then we got our porchetta pannini. That stuff is like CRACK! I thought about it all week since last Wednesday. This time Luther didn’t make the mistake of not getting one. Don’t you love the pig face!? Poor pig but I have to see he was much appreciated in his final form.




Next we hit our favorite seafood stand to buy fish for dinner tonight. We got whole sea bass to try.

Then we split up with Luther going to the barber to get his first haircut. It cost €8.00 (!) It looks way better than the scalp job he got just before we left at the hair cuttery. I went over to the shopping part of the market to see if I could buy some warmer clothes. I scored two nice hoody shirts that are more like sweater material, one has a zipper and is black, the other purple. They cost €3.00 each (!) This stall, like many, you just dig through piles of clothes to find stuff. Then I hit a nicer stall. Everything was hung up and it was nicer quality. I bought a quirky pair of pants with a tweedy look and rolled up bottoms. It is stretchy material, snug in the legs. And a pretty sweater (beige) with a matching infinity scarf. It is very long tunic style. Maybe now that I have an Italian haircut and Italian market bought clothes they won’t immediately know I am foreign! Nah, it’ll never happen 🙂

We headed to the bank next to put down a 50% deposit on the lighting for our house and dropped it off at Emanuele’s office with Paolo. Whew! all done and glad to get back to the apartment to eat our Panini, get out of the cool weather and read a bit.

Concert, food touching, buying envelops, and IKEA excursion

Saturday evening we went to the Brahms 3rd Symphony concert in the Chiesa di San Francesca here in Umbertide. It was a 50 piece orchestra who had only played together for a couple of weeks and they were from all over the world. It was very good. The church acoustics were lovely. The 3rd movement was especially lovely.

Before the concert we tried out Inferno e Paradiso (hell and heaven) which was across the street and situated in the old vaults under the street. They served grilled meats and pizzas only. Also they specialized in beer. What we had was not good but if you stick to beer and pizza I think you would be happy enough.

Sunday we had a lovely lunch at La Chuisa. It is an agritourismo a couple of miles from Umbertide. The food was very homey and tasty. We sat on the porch. The weather was beautiful. We actually had 3 courses. We split an antipasti and we all had a pasta and a secondo which was their special braised chicken. I was amused that the chicken came on a plate with a small bowl of salad and some potatoes. Italians never let their food touch. Everything was well spaced. Susan had mentioned that she had a bunch of Italians for Thanksgiving and they all got up and got one thing at a time and ate it, then went back to get another. They were appalled that the Americans just piled everything on a plate together! Too bad, they miss that wonderful medley of mashed potatoes, dressing and turkey smothered in gravy!

Yesterday we did errands. I purchased 5 envelops. Yes 5. They sell them individually! I would have never guessed. I also got some sticky labels and fixed our doorbell which still had the wrong name on it. Also fixed our mailbox label which had Luther’s MIDDLE name on it but that didn’t bother the mailman as he still brought our mail to it. We also signed onto the Italian police website and checked our Permessi – it said they are in progress. Well I guess that’s good. I also took a picture of the cat “ladder” in the small street behind us. They built it specially so their cat could come and go to their second floor.


Today we went to IKEA! It is on the Adriatic coast about 1 1/2 hours away. We stopped into a winery that Luther had chosen on the way. There was a beautiful old church just along the driveway – the word for country church is pieve. A stylized version of it is also the winery logo. It is not normally open but a photographer had come that day and they had opened it up so I was lucky to get some pictures. The young woman is Sylvia who did our wine tasting for us.







Before we visited IKEA we had a wonderful lunch at Hotel Cristoforo Colombo. We had had trouble finding anywhere to eat. It was an industrial area we just happened upon this hotel. The food turned out to be great with lots of very fresh seafood. I had the Taglietelini with clams.


I did some recon at the IKEA for future purchases but did buy a cushion, two pillows covered in linen for the couch and a cutting board which I had been sorely missing in the apartment.

Sofa and Spello

We woke to a rainy Tuesday. Reminded me of our January trip but warmer. We decided to go visit Divani & Divani which is the Natuzzi store down between Assisi and Perugia. I was not expecting to buy anything, but when we arrived we realized it was their July sale, one of two sanctioned by the Italian state. No one is allowed to have a sale other than in January or July in Italy. Many of their sofas were on sale for 50% off. I really loved some of the sofas and even though we really can’t use it until our house is done it was such a savings we decided to go ahead and buy one. I toyed with the idea of leather as we had in Alexandria but remembered the damage the cats claws caused to it. In the end we went for a nice big beige fiber (cotton and linen) one. The covers all can be removed so I assume they can be cleaned. Here is a picture:


It will be delivered next week.

I am pretty excited about it. It is my first nesting thing and I feel very good that I have done at least one thing towards the furnishing of the house!

After that we had planned to go visit Spello which is a pretty hill town we have never been to and to a winery Luther wanted to try called Sportoletti between Assisi and Spello. We had a nice tasting and purchased a mixed case of 3 of their wines.


Next we drove the short distance to Spello. The densely inhabited town, built of stone, is medieval, and is enclosed by medieval walls on Roman foundations, including three Roman gates (Porta Consolare, Porta di Venere and the “Arch of Augustus”) and traces of three more, remains of an amphitheater, as well several medieval gates. Spello boasts about two dozen small churches, most of them medieval. The town is famous for the Infiorate which includes a whole night of work to create over sixty flower carpets that adorn the streets for the Corpus Domini feast. Here is a website with some pictures from the Infiorate in 2014. It is important to note that these are all made from wild flower petals that are gathered in the hills. It is incredible. I plan to go next year!

Here are some pictures I took today:






We went to Enoteca Properzio in the center of town. It is a wine store and restaurant. It was a hoot. It was a lot of show but fun. We didn’t know what to expect so just went with the flow. The father, Roberto, son, Luca, and daughter Irene were all present. They had the show down pat. They poured wine by the glass and we had bruschetta to start with a Grechetto white Umbrian varietal. Excellent. The bruschette were, two with olive oil from two local producers to compare and contrast, and one with lovely fresh tomatoes from their garden. Next we had a Sangeovese also an Umbrian varietal red. We had it with the two pasta courses, one with the black summer truffles shaved liberally over and the other with tomato sauce. Last we had a very expensive, jammy red, also Sangeovese but 2011 vintage. Excellent wine and paired with two cheeses and balsamic vinegar. Everything was good but I could have made any of it. It was notable for it’s fresh local ingredients that blended very well with the wines and were appropriate for the summertime. Pictures!






A really weird “small world” thing happened in the restaurant. The person we met a number of weeks ago at the wine bar across the river from us in Umbertide, Geoff was at the table next to us! How strange is that? Like we know a lot of people here (not) and one of the few should be in the same restaurant that is about 30 miles from where we both live.