Category Archives: Guests

Rockin’ Umbertide

We saw our most recent guests off yesterday. Ron and Linda live in Florence. We picked them up at the train station. It was a spectacular day. We headed to Castiglione del Lago for lunch at the Monna Lisa restaurant. We sat outside. The food was good and we enjoyed watching the piazza. We headed back to Umbertide over the mountain pass above the lake.
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The next day we went to Gubbio. Again a spectacular day. Ron and Linda travel by trains and busses and Gubbio is darn near impossible to reach that way. Here are a few pictures in Gubbio. It was such a perfect day I snapped quite a few.
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The night before our guests left we were treated to a concert.
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Friday was the beginning of the annual Otto Cento celebration in Umbertide. (last year Otto Cento post) Preparations had begun…
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The town was really rocking last night! Our friend Michelle volunteered to be a “lady of the night” at the Bordello. She was cute in her bustier and flowers at her throat and wrists.
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More to come… Otto Cento is four days long.

Guest-less for now

Our latest guests, Steve and Shiromi have gone on to new adventures in Turkey. We very much enjoyed their stay. After our visit to Gubbio we decided the other big town to see would be Perugia. We did some shopping and explored what is left of the fortress built after the Salt war. It was commissioned by the Pope as a symbol of Papal power and was built in 1540. They rased an entire borgo (over 100 houses plus churches and monasteries) to include the houses of the Baglioni family whom the Pope hated. It is eerie to wander what were the streets of the borgo and see the remains of all the houses, which were built of stone as opposed to the brick of the fortress. Here are some photos. It is hard to show the scale of the place. the ceilings are very tall.

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This is a street sign (!) underground.
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We also visited the enormous Etruscan gate. It was built 2,400 years ago and used no mortar. Impressive.
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When Cesar Augustus conquered the city he carved his name into the gate.
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Relaxing in the main piazza. Note the little buzzer in the center of the table to call for service. I’d never seen this before.
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We had a lovely lunch at Ristorante Antica trattoria san Lorenzo. We had been here before and enjoyed the very innovative cuisine. Steve and Shiromi enjoyed it too. We all had the lunch special. This first picture is the little “gift” from the chef before we got the appetizer.
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This was the rabbit.
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We bid Steve and Shiromi goodbye on Thursday. Since then we have been relaxing a little. Right now Umbertide is having the week-long concert festival called Rassegna Bande Musicali Citta di Umbertide. The concert bands come from towns all around us and are very good, most performing excerpts that are very familiar like the march in Carmen. Sorry for the blur!
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I also learned an interesting factoid. Here in Italy you are buried on a Friday, married on a Saturday, and christened on a Sunday! I enjoy watching the weddings from our window. Yesterday there were two that I noticed. The first had an impressive Lincoln stretch limo. The picture below is of the second wedding. This bride was really rocking it out! They had a very loud sound system set up and a DJ spinning the tunes. And note her red shoes!
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Tomorrow we greet Ron and Linda, Americans who live in Florence. We met them in Virginia before they moved to Italy about 5 years ago. We were at that time just dreaming of moving here so we picked their brains about how they were accomplishing it. They don’t have a car and use the rails to travel. We’ll pick them up at the station and visit some places they can’t reach by train. I am looking forward to seeing them.

St. Francis and the wolf…redux

Last year we had company, Kaye and Jeff who were very interested in the legend of St. Francis and the wolf. See post for the legend. We had tried to visit the church in Gubbio where a wolf skeleton was found buried beneath the floor but it was closed. Kaye was bummed. So yesterday, with friends of Kaye and Jeff named Shiromi and Steve, we tried again to visit the church and it was open!! We descended into the crypt and found the stone that was covering the grave as well as a stone cut of the wolf and St. Francis. It was very cool.

Stone cutting.
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Stone from the grave.
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Upstairs in the same church we found a surprise. First I have to tell you that every May Gubbio has an enormous festival/race. The town is divided into three neighborhoods. They compete to carry something called a Cero or candle up from the bottom of Gubbio, to the top of the mountain. The Ceri each weigh around 700 pounds. In the back of the church we found the stored ceri. They are immense. They attach to a frame and are carried upright. They must be very top heavy. The crowds are frighteningly large. We have not gone as we have been warned. Here are the three ceri (sorry for the blur).
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It was a hot day and we did some good hill climbing.  I also found a ceramic shop I had been looking for. I will return to buy a thing or two there. Here is an old iron ring to which horses were tethered.

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And this one I just thought was pretty.

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We had lunch at Ristorante Lupo (Wolf ) at the request of our guests. Here is a picture of Steve’s pretty carpaccio dish. We also got another Buon Ricordo plate while here.

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For our breakfasts with Shiromi and Steve I decided to try a new coffee cake. It has been a hit. It is very moist and keeps well getting better as time passes. Shiromi told me I had to share the recipe so here it is.

Marmalade Cake – 8 to 10 servings
Adapted from the Boonville Hotel

1 small to medium orange
1 lemon
6 ounces raw almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
4 large eggs, ideally at room temperature
½ tsp. table salt
1 ½ cups sugar
2/3 cup olive oil
Confectioners’ sugar, for serving

First, get to work on the citrus. Put the orange and the lemon in a saucepan, and cover with water. (They’ll want to float. Don’t worry about it.) Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain, and cool.

Meanwhile, toast the almonds. Preheat the oven to 325°F, and set a rack in the middle position. Put the almonds on an ungreased sheet pan, and bake until they look golden and smell warm and toasty, 10 to 15 minutes. (I tend to get nervous about burning them, and consequently, I always try to pull them out of the oven too soon. Don’t do that. Let them really toast.) Set aside to cool completely. When the almonds are cool, pulse them in a food processor until finely ground, the texture of coarse sand. Set aside.

Set the oven to 350°F, and grease a 9-inch round springform pan.

When the citrus is cool, cut the lemon in half, and scoop out and discard the pulp and seeds. Cut the orange in half, and discard the seeds. Put the lemon rind and orange halves in the food processor – there’s no need to wash it after grinding the almonds – and process to chop finely, almost to a coarse paste.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.

Combine the eggs and salt in a mixing bowl. Beat until foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar. Fold in the flour mixture. Add the citrus, almonds, and olive oil, and beat on low speed to just incorporate. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack. Remove the sides of the pan. Before serving, dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar.

Note: This cake tastes even better on the second – or even third – day, as the flavors meld and mellow. Store it at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap.

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Today we took a nice walk, stopped for coffee in the Piazza, and were joined by our friend Michelle. They are also having an antique car show here which we visited as they were setting up. We plan lunch at Calagrana a bit later. It is a pretty day so it will be nice.

American guest

I know I have been quiet but we have had some company. His name is Gene and he stayed for about a week. We went to Assisi, Perugia, wine tasting and Bevagna for lunch and Luther took him by train to (very crowded) Florence. I am glad I opted out of the later! We also took a trip to Isola di Maggiori in Lago Trasemeno. This last was a first for us. We had been meaning to go for some time. It is a nice, down kind of day after a lot of climbing up and down hill-towns. We had lunch at Da Sauro on the porch. The food was not notable. Still a nice day trip

This is a picture of Bevagna. I was liking how blue the sky was and the big white cloud.
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Lunch at Trattoria Oscar. They have a nice terrace. Gene and Luther.
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I couldn’t resist taking a picture of my Gaspacho (italian spelling). It was sooo beautiful and cool.
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Stairway in Bevagna
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Here are a couple of pictures from our excursion to Isola di Maggiori. First a couple of the main (and only) street.
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View of the town from ferry pier. It is a 10 minute ride from Tuoro.
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You can walk a good distance around the island, but not all the way. Here are Gene and Luther during our walk.
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We said Ciao to Gene on Sunday.

Yesterday we visited a winery. The Wine Guy is getting backed up on his posts so be patient. This winery also offered many other products like sausage and prosciutto, and olive oil. I visited the future prosciutti housed nearby.
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Finally two in a series of another sunset. Sometimes they can be pretty spectacular.
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We are getting ready for another set of visitors from Australia so I will be writing about that soon.

Castello Bufalini, San Giustino

We have visitors for a couple of days so we thought we would visit a place nearby that is only open on Sundays. It was built in 1487 and continuously occupied by the Bufalini family until 1979 when the last family member died. They kept meticulous records of the farming operation from 1473 to 1979 which are important to historians and chronicle the activities of the estate, harvests, cattle breeding, milling and changing practices of agriculture through the centuries. They spared no expense with frescos painted on the walls and ceilings, Murano glass chandeliers, and extensive stucco decorations. Here are some pictures.

This first one is from a room called the chamber of Pagan delights.
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This is the grand reception room.
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Statue of the Medusa
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Stucco decorations by artisans in Citta di Castello.
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The famous gardens now, sadly, run-down.
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Exterior of the castello which suffered great damage in the 1789 earthquake necessitating the addition of structural buttresses.
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It was a marvelous day and we had lunch reservations at Calagrana. It was Frank’s (one of our guests) birthday celebration. The meal was, as always, wonderful.

My secondi – mixed grilled fish to include tuna, salmon and sea bass.
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We also had our first experiences at the Pronto Soccorso or emergency room, here in Umbertide. Frank had scratched his cornea and it was really bothering him. We visited the PS and they flushed his eye, put numbing drops in and told him to come back Monday to see the doctor. By that afternoon he was all better. They charged him 25 Euro. Not bad!

Today is the Day of the Republic and a national holiday. Out in our piazza they have erected 3 what I would have to call pens. They have Royal Canin plastic on them. This clues us in that it must have something to do with animals. I will report back after we figure it out. Stay tuned!

My sister’s visit

Well, all things must come to an end. My sister has flown away home. She brought the best weather with her and we enjoyed it completely. Here is a brief recap.

On Monday we went to Gubbio and walked our socks off. It is very hilly.
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This was my appetizer at lunch at Ristorante Taverna del Lupo. It was a truffled egg. Looked better than it tasted.

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Next day, Tuesday we were off to the Montefalco wine region. First stop Di Filippo winery. It is a bio-winery so they use no chemicals, let the geese free in the vineyards to help fertilize, and even cultivate with horses.

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Lunch was in Montefalco at Locanda del Teatro. A new place for me right in the town square. They have a lovely terrace out back where we ate. I tried out the pasta with tiny, wild asparagus and fresh fava beans. Yum! and it was as good as this picture looks.

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Bye Cindy and Bill! We really loved that you came to see us in our “native habitat” as you say.

Eventful week

What a difference a week makes. Last Monday we woke to this.
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Yes that is snow on the mountain tops! Today, Sunday nearly a week later we have this.
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Last Sunday was Easter. We had a fantastic meal at Calagrana. Here are a few mouth watering pictues!
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The best thing though, by far is that my sister came to VISIT!!! I am sooo happy to have her here with me! We drove down to Rome and spent the night prior to their arrival in Fiumicino at hotel Pascucci Porticciolo. Luther enjoyed the bright green bath. We dined in their one star Michelin rated seafood restaurant. Very wonderful experience.
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The next morning we picked them up at Leonardo da Vinci airport after their overnight flight. All went smoothly. Since they, Cindy and her husband Bill, are our first guests in our own house and we had not picked up anyone from the airport yet we were doing this for the first time. Parking was easy. Finding the international arrivals was easy and after watching several thousand people exit the doors…there they were!

We drove home and they visited the kilometer zero market, did a little Umbertide stroll, unpacked and we headed to Montone for lunch at Erba Luna. It was so beautiful we could sit outside! Wow. Here is my sis!
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We had some lovely food.
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Today we headed for a couple of hill towns in northern Umbria and very eastern Tuscany. Such a perfect day. We walked the towns and took pictures. Then we headed for lunch at Calagrana. I knew Cindy and Bill would love that place and the food was outstanding as expected. Everyone had a lot of fun.

Unfortunately they are only here for a short week but we have planned a number of excursions and the weather is going to be perfect all week. Yay!

Great visit!

Well we dropped our guests off at the train station around noon today. We had a great visit. They brought great weather with them. Now that they are gone it is pouring rain.

As you know we had toured Assisi a couple of days before where we learned about St. Francis who was said to be able to talk to animals and once preached a sermon to the birds. Anyway, Kaye was taken particularly with a story about St. Francis and a wolf.

Seems a wolf was eating the people and animals in a town. The desperate citizens asked St. Francis to help. St. Francis went into the woods where the ferocious wolf lived and convinced him that God wanted him to stop hurting the people of the town. The wolf bowed his head and placed his paw in St. Francis’ hand and they went together into the town. The townspeople were astounded and agreed to feed the wolf from then on so he wouldn’t be hungry. He lived two years that way and was buried in the churchyard.

We decided to visit Gubbio yesterday. I did learn a couple of lessons with our first guests, do some research! So I downloaded info on Gubbio. A happy coincidence! Turns out Gubbio is the town where the wolf incident occurred! Kaye said she thought the wolf and St. Francis were her favorite things from her trip. Here is a link to the Wolf of Gubbio Legend.

We tried to visit the Chiesa di Pace where a wolf skeleton was found in the 1800s corroborating the legend. It was closed. Too bad. We toured the upper town, took in the view and visited another church. Here are pictures in the church. One is a fresco of St. Francis and the wolf.

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Another coincidence – we had made reservations at Taverna da Lupa (Tavern of the Wolf) so we were all excited that our theme was ongoing. It was a nice place. Not as good as our previous restaurants though. We sat outside. It also turned out to be a Buon Ricordo member. This is a group of restaurants that each have a specialty dish and if you order it you get a ceramic plate (I have probably 6 of them from many vacations – indeed a Buon Ricordo (good memory)). Kaye and I ordered Faraona al ginepro – roasted Guinea Fowl with Juniper – and got our plates. The dish was very good.

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The Plate!

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All in all a nice day. Last night we went outside so Luther could smoke a cigar. HORRORS! Bar Mary was closed! What was this! Even Cafe Centrale was closed. This morning we found out it is now considered the winter season so they close early on Tuesday. We went back up and got wine and glasses and sat outside. Susan and Gary and Mr. Luca dropped by to meet our guests.

Renovation news

We met with Manuele last evening after our sight seeing. It was good to see much progress. The air conditioning units are installed in the living room and the bedroom. We discussed covering the pipes on the patio. Manuele wants to uncover the old ceiling in the hallway where they installed the new stairway. It is now covered with wallboard but under that is the old vaulted ceiling. Of course we agreed with that! He also discussed with us the fireplace. He wants to change it so it doesn’t look like a Tuscan fireplace (who knew!). It has brickwork and he says they only use stone in Umbria. So I was fine with that as well. I believe he is not charging extra for this as he said “I will do this for you”. Also that Zona di Notte thing was again brought up. Manuele made a pretty good case for it and I think we will have him move a glass door which is at the head of the steps into the hallway. He will tint it which will make the master bedroom and bath more private. He said we could probably start moving in in a couple of weeks! whoo hoo!