Category Archives: Friends

Fun visit !

Our friends couldn’t have asked for nicer weather. Autumn in Umbria is spectacular in an entirely different way from the brilliant greens of springtime.

The visit was with two friends. Eunice, one of my besties from my Book Group, and her husband Mark. Eunice was unable to come with the initial group of Book Group friends a few years ago. We had to make that right! So we experienced it again, with some new adventures thrown in so she has some experiences unique to her.

Our first outing was to Todi, one of my favorite towns in Umbria. Very high on a hill, it is fairly large and completely medieval. The heart of town is the Piazza del Popolo and here you find many gorgeous buildings to include the People’s Palace and the Captain’s Palace. The latter houses the Civic Museum and Gallery. We also found, for the first time, the funicular from a nice parking lot up to the top of town. It eliminates any arduous hill climbing.

Interesting door knob on our walk from the funicular to the Piazza.

One of the prettiest buildings and one of the only green areas is San Fortunato. Built originally by the Romans and converted to a church in the 1100s.

Also in the Piazza is the Todi Cathedral which features a rose window.

The  Captain’s Palace. Very Venetian looking I think.

We had a nice lunch in one of our favorite restaurants, Ristorante Umbria.

The view from the walls which was also enjoyed by our restaurant.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Next up, a visit to Tom and Maximus. This will take a little explaining. Mark and Eunice are big Bernese Mountain dog fans. They have had several over the time I’ve known them. Their latest is Quinn who is 3 years old. When they heard Tom and Carol had a puppy named Max they wanted to meet him. So I asked Tom if we could come up. Well he’s a fine fellow and decided on a BBQ lunch for us all. It was a beautiful, clear day and we drove high up into the mountains to his house. Unfortunately Carol was in the UK because her father was ill so our friend , Joanne, who is Tom’s neighbor came up to join us.

We sat outside where it was breezy and much cooler than I had expected. I brought my World Famous Ribs for our contribution. Tom must have spent hours preparing all the food we had. We had an excellent time and the time flew. When I looked at my watch it was 6PM!! That’s what happens with a lunch here in Umbria with friends. Thanks Tom!

Pretty planter at Tom’s house.

Basil makes a nice arrangement on the set-up table.

The table and view.

The dessert was spectacular. And not too heavy.

Maximus (7 months old) was quite shy and took a long time to warm up to us. Everyone took time sitting on the floor with him. When we rose to leave he suddenly became very friendly! Funny pup. He also likes men more than women.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Our last real outing was to a vineyard in Bevagna, a small town in the wine growing area of the famous Sagrantino grape. It was another spectacular day. The winery Luther chose was Villa Mongalli. We had visited it 2 times before. A family operation consisting of the semi-retired father, two brothers, and their wives and small children. The last visits we had were with one of the brothers, Pierrepaolo. This time his wife, Natasha, conducted the tasting. We tasted a spectacular Rosato, a white Grechetto, a Rosso, two Sagrantini reds and one more, super smooth Montefalco Rosso. We, of course, bought several cases, and Eunice bought one for her planned soiree on the terrace of their rented house.

Sagrantino di Montefalco

Array of our bottles in the sun.

The vines are loaded. This is Sagrantino. They said it won’t be ready to harvest until late October.

We tasted a couple of theses. They are unbelievably sweet!

View across the acreage with grapes and olive groves. Pretty patchwork. I think Bavagna and Montefalco hills are the prettiest scenery in Umbria.

Natasha sent us up the road about a kilometer to a church with picnic tables. It was a lovely place. Way up high with excellent views. And the temperature was perfect!

Our picnic tavola. Prosciutto cotto and crudo, a nice pecorino and two flat breads. We drank a bottle of the Villa Mongalli Rosato. Prefect way to have lunch and not over eat too much.

Eunice and Luther.

View from the table of the medieval town of Bevagna. One of my favorites.

We drove on down to Bevagna after our lunch and strolled the town. Pretty streets.

I loved the sparkling sun on the fountain water.

~~~~~~~~~

After a two day break we joined up on their last night in Umbria at their rented house. We had a nice evening snack table outside on the spectacular terrace. It has perfect sundowners view as my British friends would say.

We really enjoyed Eunice and Mark’s visit in Umbria. It is always fun to show people around and it got us out of the house and into the beauty of our region!

It was our….ahem…year anniversary celebration

SO. The summer solstice is the day of Luther and my anniversary. This year was a significant one. I won’t say the number but it has to do with Gold.

We decided to invite most of our new friends here to a lunch at Calagrana. I wanted it to be family style and casual. Comfortable. The weather was hot but we were on the side porch in the shade with the occasional breeze. Here are some pictures.

we decided to ride in our Chariot the Angelo Giallo.

Ely’s signature cocktail complements of the house. Thanks Ely! But, even on this special day, she wouldn’t tell me what was in it!

Table all set and waiting.

Luther looking handsome in is Hawaiian shirt.

Me ready for the fun.

Some of the friends who joined us to celebrate.

A tavola

Paul, Susan, Stuart, Jill.

Vera, Jen, Joanne.

Cuzin’ Tom. My maiden name is Gilmer. Tom’s last name is Gilmore. Both from Scotland originally. We have to be cousins!

Table

Joseph

Desiree, Vera’s pretty red-head daughter.

All of us!

Chef Albi hard at work at the grill.

And of course I had to have pictures some of the food. I forgot to get it all.

We had a multi-plate antipasti to start. Chicken wings, Charcouterie, quiche…

Torta alla Nonna for dessert. SO good!

I had Ely and Albi special order lobsters for us. And we had beautiful rib eye steaks too.

I think everyone had fun. It only happens once!

Puppy rescue!

Yesterday was an exciting day. I helped a group of FaceBook people in the UmbriAliens group find someone to raise two little puppies that had been discarded. They were found in a plastic bag hung on a tree limb. There were six, so young their eyes are not open and they still have their umbilical stubs. There were six. Now there are two. Four died. People don’t neuter their dogs here and when there are resulting puppies their solution is to kill or discard them. The good news is that these two are now going to be hand raised by my friend Angela here in Umbertide. The person who had been caring for them (Sarah) drove them all the way from south of Rome to Umbertide. Several others involved came along to see the babies and watch them find their new temporary home. No one is sure of the breed but the think they may be pit bulls. Which is good news for them because pit bulls are rare in Italy which will make them adoptable. There is one boy, and one girl. Pictures from Sarah.

Other happenings in Umbertide recently included a vintage car show. I had no idea they were all outside in the Piazza until I happened to glance out. These weren’t all exotic types. Many were ordinary cars of their time. Here they are.

All lined up and driving out. I always wonder where they go. Maybe to another town?

I really am ready for the spring produce to start coming into season. This time of the year there is very little new growing  yet. I’m sure seedlings are being nurtured but they aren’t in our local market yet. Just the same old boring winter veggies. I love them but I’m ready for something new. I always visit the Saturday Kilometer Zero market – our local growers and producers. This time in hopes there might just be something new. Not yet…alas. But the sun was shining and everyone was in a good mood so I snapped a few photos. Still waiting for spring…

Curly kale. Green and purple.

Cabbage and leeks. The leeks are sweet. I poached some in butter the other day which were delicious.

Dried grains are always around. Ceci beans, Cannellini beans, lentils, etc.

Umbrian olive oil – the best!

Specialty of central Italy, Porchetta. Whole boned pig stuffed with herbs and roasted overnight for about 12 hours. Addictively good.

Umbria is the land of Pecorino cheese from sheeps milk. And ONLY Pecorino cheese. The good thing is they make it in many ways, from fresh and soft, semi-hard, aged, and flavored. It is good but sometimes I miss the variety.

And everyone is starting to think about planting spring flowers. So far I’m holding off.

Senore Honey was there with all his products. Honeys from different types of flowers. I bought chestnut honey and was very surprised at the strong flavor. Not sure I like it. He also has bees wax candles and other things.

 

Magical

Just before Christmas we were happy to be invited to dinner with our Italian friends Simone and Simona. We were invited, along with Susan and Gary, to their agriturismo called Podere Vallescura up in the nearby mountains. They are Milanese. Both technically educated. He inherited his family property here and moved away from the hubbub of Milan. It had been uninhabited for 40 years so it has needed much work. They are totally off the grid. Solar and wind plus batteries. Sheep, chickens, olives — all biodynamic. They rent a vacation apartment. Not a lot of cash flow but they make it work. Lovely people.

When we went into the house they had a tiny wood stove with sizzling polenta and sausages going and a lovely big fire in their large corner fireplace. Everything is built by them but it works. It was cozy. They had invited a woman from Merano, up near the alps. It is the German speaking part of Italy. She has a ruin she’s restoring nearby. Her name is Renate. The polenta was served unsalted but with the very salty sausage it was perfect. I’ve been craving it ever since! Then Simone made a lovely risotto with fungi. It was served with their amazing olive oil and bread and also a very special rosemary infused oil. Simone has a still and so he distilled it. Really good. They should sell it! Then we had cheeses — a Parmesan, a nice goat, and a Gorgonzola dolce. With fennel that was cooked tender. And finally, home made yogurt with cinnamon and sweet crumbly and lebkuchen cookies that Renate made. There were also shelled walnuts from their trees.

While I was there I pictured us in their warm, cozy house as though viewed from above, with nothing else nearby in the dark mountains. We were seven people, a pinpoint of light and camaraderie, who enjoyed a special meal and our own company in a warm cozy haven. It was magical.

The drive back was a bit difficult as it was dark and there were creatures in the road. Gary, bless his heart, drove. The roads are paved but narrow and winding and high on the mountainside. The moon, nearly full, illuminated the countryside.🌖 As I said, magical.✨