Category Archives: Umbertide

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Fall is upon us

It is amazing how fast the seasons change here! It was just a little over a week ago that it was blazing hot! Now it’s cool and a few showers. It feels very autumnal 🍁. Nights cool down so much we have to wear sweaters to sit outside in the evenings. We have friends visiting right now. They are staying at a friend’s vacant house in Montone. They said it’s like the desert [edit – ha ha ha, no it’s not like dessert! Sorry!] the way it get so cool at night.

Autumn Umbrian tapestry.

It is also the end of the growing season. They are busy harvesting the grapes. They started with the white Trebbiano Spoletino. Then, surprisingly they said the Merlot was next. It will continue through September and into October/November with the Sagrantino grapes, the Cabernet, and the Grechetto.

Sagrantino

I also am harvesting my bumper crop of hot peppers. We grew Jalapeños, cayenne, and two types of habaneros- chocolate and orange. We also have a small bush-like pepper with tiny hot peppers. It’s very ornamental.

Here is just part of my crop.

Next post will be about a fun visit with one of my besties and her husband.

Enjoy the season!

Fratta ‘800 2019

Another Ottocento has come and gone. As my loyal readers know, every late August, early September we have our annual festival called Ottocento, or Fratta ‘800. It celebrates the formation of the Italian republic in the 1800s. Garibaldi and his Red Shirts beat back the Briganti who had overtaken Umbria. In the four days of the festival there are reenactments and lots of gunfire and general mayhem, along with bands and dancers, stilt-walkers, duels, and executions. Always fun. Here are some pictures.

Saturday evening. Despite the rain the bands played on.

Curtained entrance to one of the Taverne.

They dedicated this statue to, Our Hero, Garibaldi!

Entry to the Briganti Taverna.

They played into the night. At 2AM I was up and the entire square was hopping up and down. What is it with Italians?! They simply hop up and down…I guess they can’t dance.

After.

The Briganti got up to some shenanigans of course. It took a lot of effort to finally find someone who could explain the meaning of the sign. Thanks Lisa! Literally it means “cows to pasture” I knew it had another meaning, probably more vulgar. Turns out Vacche also means Loose women. And Pasco could mean a male appendage. Then taken all together it means – The woman are out getting laid. Once I got the meaning I realized this was blocking the brothel. Made more sense then.

Belatedly, I found out the Briganti had set up larger than life-sized posters of themselves in drag. The facial hair made for some butt ugly women! Wish I’d gotten pictures.

The Briganti hoisted their banner in their lair this year.

The calm after the storm. Pretty Umbertide doorway.

Moon over Umbertide

Summer is in full swing. The town of Umbertide is jumping. Last weekend there was a function called Calice sotto la Rocca. It means glasses under the fortress. It was nice. You paid 20 Euro and got a glass. There were five booths, each had a locally produced wine and a course from a local restaurant. It started at 8PM but, as we expected, we were practically the first people there. In fact they hadn’t finished setting up yet. Very typical. I took a few pictures.

The booths. The wine awaits.

I’m always amused by the young Italian men. They are peacocks.

The moon rose from behind the Collegiata which is our church built in the 1400s

The Rocca. Our fortress.

Antipasto was a nice, cool seafood salad.

By 9PM the crowds had arrived. They played rock and roll from the 60s.

The other courses included a Porchetta on bread, then a potato gnocci with truffles, and an odd potatoes on bread for the Secondi. The dolce was a tiramisu in a cup from Tortecetera, our local cupcake shop.

Other happenings around town. We have just celebrated the re-opening of Cafe Centrale under new ownership. It is the second bar on our main piazza. Quite posh with furniture and french pastries. It is popular with the young 20 something crowd.

Saturday is a very happy day in the dog days of summer. The kilometer zero market is chock full of local produce and people come to one of the two bars for coffee or drinks. The happy hum of voices is clearly audible up at our house.

Today is Ferragosto. The 15th of August. Everyone goes on picnics, to the beach, or to a restaurant for a long Pranzo. The weather has broken temporarily from a really hot spell. It will be a good day for gli Italiani. Buona Festa!

Scarperia e San Piero, in the Florentine hills

Road trip!

We were feeling like we needed to get away for a bit so decided to go on an overnight trip to a town called Scarperia e San Piero. It is in the foothills of the Apennine mountains, north of Florence. We took the Angelo Giallo and with the top down, set out on back roads. We drove north to Città di Castello and then headed west up into the mountains. The roads were fun. The sun was hot. The stupid GPS sent us down an impossibly small, steep road but we managed to meet only one other car, thankfully! We arrived in the region called Mugello. I had not heard of it. But there are many places still new to me! It is a lovely region with many special things. One is a famous racetrack called the Mugello Circuit. It attracts car and motorcycle aficionados.

I had booked us into a B&B called Villa Manini in Ponzalla. It was an old fashioned place. We were on the top floor, naturally. It had a bedroom and a sitting room and two baths. Several closed doors indicated it could include more bedrooms for a family or group. Our proprietress, Angela, greeted us.

Here is the sitting room.

Bedroom

We had one disappointment. We had wanted to go to Antico Osteria Nandone, just near our hotel, but we had been unable to reach them on the phone for reservations. So we drove there just after lunch time. It was closed up. But there was furniture in the garden and I was sure it was not out of business. We tried again to call that evening with only the answering machine to talk to. So, we gave up on that idea and decided to try Fattoria il Palagio. It turned out to be nice. We were seated in the garden.

The doors are interesting with a little, tiny door in the big doors.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned the way we reserve tables here. Luther’s name is really hard for Italians to pronounce or understand. So, to simplify things we reserve under the name Luigi. Works out just fine and amuses people very much!

We returned to Villa Manini and enjoyed some wine in their pretty outside terazzo. It was fun because a nice thunderstorm was brewing with rumbling thunder and flashes of lightening. It got closer and the wind picked up. Wilder and wilder it got! Finally we retreated inside where our innkeeper had opened all the windows in our apartment and it was lovely and cool and I fell asleep listening to the storm.

The following morning we rose and went for the colazione included with our room. It was a typical Italian breakfast with coffee, juice and an assortment of sugary sweets. Get those kids off to school on a sugar high I always say! I’ve been amazed at how the Italians think a cornetto or a breakfast bar is a healthy way to start their day…and the children too!

We drove the couple of miles to Scarperia which is, and has been, famous for the hand forged knives they have made there for centuries. I had read about them at least a few years ago and saved the information. We’ve always needed steak knives so finally we were going to get some.

Scarperia is a small town of about 4,500 people. It’s flat and has a nice Centro Storico. There are nice little, mostly pedestrian, streets with coffee bars and shops. The people are very friendly and welcoming. Not at all touristy and very comfortable feeling. I could live there. It is also on a good train line with service to Florence and north to Ravenna.

Walking down Via Roma…because ALL roads lead to Rome! Pretty wrought iron piece.

Palazzo dei Vicari. It is a turreted residence built in the 1300s, with the piazza facing the front and the castle behind it. It was restored after a 1929 earthquake, redesigned to look more like Palazzo Vecchio in Florence; it’s actually believed that the two palaces were built by the same architect, Arnolfo di Cambio. The façade is decorated with many coats of arms of former vicegerents, or vicari. It seems they only served a six month term so there were a LOT of them.

From inside the courtyard.

Tributes

Tributes. These are outside and worn down by weather.

Outside the Palazzo.

Knives

So, on to our main errand of the trip. Knives! There were a lot of shops selling their own knives. I had my eye on one named Coltelli dell Artigiano, which we found right on Via Roma.

Display case. The knives are beautiful works of art.

Brochure.

I bought a set of six steak knives with horn handles.

I also had been attracted to their knives which were copies of old knives from particular parts of central Italy. This one is from Perugia. Elegant and simple, it is beautiful. It is a pocket knife so it folds.

Close ups of the blade. Decorative.

Back home

Last night there was a gala charity fund raiser in the Piazza. Thunderstorms rolled through about 8PM and I was afraid for them but they covered everything and all was well. They are probably used to that in the summer! It was obviously a black and white as most folks wore only those colors. They had a baby grand and music into the night.

Heat wave

Welcome to summer! We went from cold rain to steaming heat. We are doing our normal “Shutter Management” . We open everything up when the sun sets, and close everything up when the sun rises into the sky. It is still nice and cool at night. Up in more northern Europe, Berlin, Paris etc. the heat was amazing. Records were set. Paris saw 45.7C or around 114F degrees. And remember, people don’t have AC here as a rule. I read an article about all the heating and cooling contractors up there being inundated with requests to install it. And they used to make fun of the Americans for having it. Harumpf. We merely got up to 37C yesterday. Warm but not terrible.

Umbertide is up to it’s old tricks. The Vespa Club hosted Vespa Clubs from ALL over Umbria. I saw shirts from Spoleto, Spello, Todi, Orvieto, Perugia. There were a LOT of vespas!

I went for a walk last week early, before it got very hot. Along the very placid Tivere river.

Along the way.

I had been asking Luther to let me know when the sunflowers were blooming along his running route out in the farm fields. He said today was the day. So I drove out there, after I was released from Vespa madness., to get a few pictures.

 

And finally a shot of our terrazza with all the pretty blooming flowers. A far cry from the horrible mess we had out here while our last pet sitters were here! The rain really delayed everything but I’m happy to say they have all recovered.

Happy Summer everyone!

Real Estate in Italy

Real estate in Italy is a totally different animal than in the US. Reasons why:

  1. it is not a good investment. You will be very lucky to recoup your money from purchase and any renovations you do.
  2. you cannot be in a hurry to sell. We are told allow average of 3-5 years to sell here.
  3. Italians and Americans have very different ideas about houses/apartments. What should be in it. How much you should pay for what’s in it.
  4. Italians inherit property over centuries. They all have multiple houses. They do not have mortgages. They do not buy houses because they do not need to. They are house rich and cash poor.
  5. The market is stagnant. Or actually declining.

I tell you this because we have listed our house. Not because we aren’t happy here. It is my dream house. It is just the way I want it. But, being realistic, we are aging and a house on the fourth floor (American), third floor (European) is not optimal for aging in place. There is no possibility of an elevator.

Today we had a nice, young Italian couple look at the apartment. Normally we get English and Americans looking. We have listed at two agencies, one British/international, and one Italian. The couple seemed to like it. It is interesting because all the Italians we know say an Italian would never buy this place. One, because it is too expensive. And two, because it is not to their taste.

I beg to differ on both points. First, we paid €20,000 more than we are asking (!) and we put another €65,000 into its renovation. So, perhaps we paid too much. But getting it with all the bells and whistles for only €230,000 is a deal. Second, we renovated and furnished it with all Italian finishes and products. Our kitchen is manufactured by Pedini — a well known Italian kitchen designer. Our furniture is all purchased here. It is Italian in every way. But maybe a bit more sophisticated Italian than many Umbrians are willing to embrace.

This all said, I am in no hurry to sell. I will be very, very sad to move away from here. And I am not sure where we will go. It all depends on what is available elsewhere when we sell. I have many new friends here in Umbria. A nice support system, and I would miss them. I am loathe to leave it. Except…and it’s a big except…Umbria is not what I call Stranieri (foreigner) friendly. We cannot get a Permesso di Soggiorno (Permit to stay) for more than a year, commonly 2 years elsewhere. We are told we cannot apply for the EU Long Term Residence Permit, supposedly available to all foreigners after 5 years of Residency. Why? It is an arbitrary decision by this region. And no recourse that we know of. So, moving from here could facilitate these things for us. A real conundrum.

Of course, I don’t expect to sell anytime soon. So we aren’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future. Rest assured, I will continue to write on NancyGoes from whatever location we land in, in Bella Italia. In case you’re interested here is our listing.

Anatomy of a market day

I am always fascinated by our weekly market. I like to shop there. I love the slice of life when the people from up in the hills come to shop and socialize. I even like all the Expats who come and fill up Bar Mary, sitting in the sun and having their first drinks. So today I decided to try to take a series of the life of a market set-up. Actually, I’d love to know more about the behind-the-scenes of the markets, but I’ve been unable to do that yet. Once I’m more fluent in Italian I will ask. In the market there are very small individuals who sell one thing. Like the young man in a white van with his Famous onions from Cannara. He does sell dried beans, lentils. Also fresh fava beans in spring and Cranberry beans in summer. There are also four Porchetta trucks selling their famous pork. Everyone has their favorite. There are the very big industrial vendors, and the small ones with their own produce. I have two favorites. One is a local family that I like to support, and across from them a larger, not-quite-industrial one which I go to for their citrus and seasonal things. The Polizia Municipale walk through and check all their permits. There are a few musicians who, when they come liven up the scene. And the inevitable people asking for money from you. So, that description got a little long! I just wanted to try to paint a picture of the scene. And now I will talk about the set up and break down of this market, week in and week out.

I got up at 5AM to take the first picture. The two what I call “industrial” vegetable vendors begin earliest because they have the biggest trucks which need to be unloaded and then get out of the Piazza. The one on the right with four tents is the biggest. But the one over by the building is about the same size. They mostly bring the produce from the south. Sicily, Basilicata, Puglia, Campagna. They are the cheapest stands. AND they yell…at the top of their lungs…to attract customers. Or so I’m told. I also noticed the markets in Sicily operate exactly the same with the same men yelling. So I’d hazard a guess that these big vendors are from there.

Early birds start to shop at the, just set up market. This is the market just before it officially opens at eight. There are smaller trucks who come in later than the big guys and set up last. There is a large blue cheese and cured meats vendor and it is a treat to watch that thing fold itself up.

Starting to break it all down. This is about 1PM. The market closes at noon but they will sell you stuff for an hour or more until they have it all packed. As you can see, the little trucks are mostly gone.

Before cleanup. This is one of the two big trucks. The workers have it all on pallets and roll it in.

They leave behind PILES of trash, but they kindly separate it into plastic, biodegradable and wood.

The first town trucks arrive about 1:30PM. These are the Umbertide trucks. They have small trash trucks, each picks up a different trash. After that the town street cleaner truck shows up. You may wonder why the town has to clean up after these people. Well, not just any town can have a market so it is considered an asset and privilege. It brings in business. So the town does its part.

The last “Industrial” vendor waits for his big truck. These guys have it all on the pallets and ready to go. Where is that damn truck? They do have a long day. I assume they must have a warehouse where they load the truck even earlier than the 5AM when they show up here. Then they are still here until 2:30 or so.

And finally – back to normal. Hard to imagine there even WAS a market today. it is amazing to watch.

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.

 

Pretty day for a walk on the river

So, it seems the weather is slowly warming. We had a 60 degree day recently and the ENTIRE town was out walking and enjoying the sun. I decided to join them.

The townsfolk. The Nonni and all the grand babies in strollers were everywhere.

Clear blue skies with the town reflected in the river.

A price of winter

The winter fields, ready for planting.

Walls again.

Winter market is sparser but still has what you need.

My lemon tree has been very prolific this year. I counted 23 lemons on it! For January I brought it inside to the guest room where there is some sun and the heat is turned off. It likes it cold, but not freezing. Now that it’s nearly March it is back outside. I have to keep a close watch on the nighttime temperatures and cover it if it is supposed to freeze.