Category Archives: Umbertide

The Christmas season

For us it has been a lovely time. We welcomed guests, had a small get together with the guests and friends, a beautiful Open House that we attended, a pizza Christmas Eve with friends, and a lovely Christmas lunch at Joseph and Paul’s house to which we all contributed.

Our friends arrived on December 18. There were three of them, two who live in Doha, Qatar and one in Jersey City, NJ. I know George from when he was a colleague of mine at MITRE Corp in the 1980s. We kept in touch and George and Mary visited us in Germany in the 1990s. Since then we know where each other are but seldom see one another so we were very happy that they got the time to come to Italy for Christmas. I am sure it is very different from Doha!  Warren, their friend from NJ, we had not met but were very happy to make his acquaintance. We only had a short time so we took them to Assisi, which is the top stop in Umbria. It was lovely for Christmas dressed up with many Creche. The Basilica of San Francesco took their breaths away as it always does mine. I was absolutely amazed. When we arrived– We. Were. The. Only. People. In. The. Upper church!! I have been countless times but not in December. Wow. It was a very spiritual experience. We have always jostled with crowds. The vistas from the town, even though the weather was spitting rain, were pretty. We had a special lunch at Piazetta delle Erbe, our favorite restaurant there. It was very good here are a few pictures of the beautifully presented food.

Risotto
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Salmon
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Pork
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The next day we stayed in Umbertide for the morning market. Everyone tried the Porchetta, a local specialty of slow roasted pork with cracklin’. On a roll it makes the perfect breakfast! We perused the produce and checked out the “walmart” come to town with other wares. Afterwards they shopped at Buscatti for Umbrian textiles and the cashmere shop for beautiful fashions from Umbria. I bet many people don’t know Umbria is well known for it’s wonderful cashmere made right here.

We headed to lunch in Montone. a nearby hilltown, at a place called Tipico. Excellent, locally sourced Umbrian dishes. The day was beautiful. Not at all cold and blue skies. The views from Montone are spectacular.

This evening I had invited most of our American neighbors over to meet our guests and have a little refreshment. It was very much fun, I think, for all. Here is a very bad picture taken with my Ipad. Sorry.
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Alas, all good things must come to an end and we escorted them to the train station and sent them on their way for a few days in Venice. It should be pretty at Christmas. Italian towns go all out with the decorations and Venice, with it’s canals, must be beautiful with the lights.

Now things have settled down for a long winters sleep. We watch the fields that, even now, are awakening with the winter wheat, bright green. January and February are long, dark and cold but we take heart that the days grow longer now and spring comes here in March. A belated Buon Natale and I wish you all a Buon Anno!

See the tree, how big it’s grown…

We brought the Christmas tree that we bought the first Christmas we were here inside for the season. It lives out on the terrace throughout the year except for December. This is the 2016 tree. it is sitting on the floor.
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And THIS is the itty, bitty 2014 tree. It is sitting on a stool to make it taller. That’s no longer necessary!
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Here is our town tree all lit up.
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Today was an exceptionally foggy day. And, unlike many days, it lasted all day. I braved the cold and went out to see what sort of images I could get. I thought they would look better in black and white. Very atmospheric. Here are a few. Click for a larger version.

This is la Rocca or our fortress with a smoking chimney in front of it.
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The bridge over the Tiber.
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Road along the river.
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Interesting tree.
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The town walls and houses above it from across the river.
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And finally, a lone fisherman.
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Our Comune is getting a renovation

For the last month preparations were being made for our Comune, or City Hall, to be renovated. First they built fences for all the equipment and daily I hear the crash of the debris being wheelbarrowed to the shoot into the dumpster. It is a big building, once a beautiful Palazzo, and still has the frescoes inside and a magnificent staircase.

The last four or five days they’ve been erecting the scaffold on the entire front of the building. Since we are across a narrow street from the Comune we have a birds eye view of all these proceedings. Now that the scaffolding is up I cannot see the equipment down below. I can, however, see at eye level the guys working on the building who will use the scaffolding. A little disconcerting on the fourth floor! Used to my privacy. This we can look forward to for a minimum of two years, and being in Italy if it progresses as usual, it will probably be twice that.

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I will miss the weddings I used to watch from my window. And the weekly markets are squeezed onto one side of the Piazza. I feel for the businesses on our little street who are not nearly as accessible or visible as before. And it remains to be seen if there is room for the Christmas tree. Which, by the way, is due any day now!

Festa di San Martino

Today, for the first time that I know of, Umbertide is celebrating the Festa di San Martino. It is celebrated with roasted chestnuts, new wine, sweets, prosciutto, and bruschetta. Lovely and one of my favorites. I took a couple of pictures, bought some chestnuts (which I love), and we engaged in the passagiata on the chilly evening.

Canaiola wine.
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Roasting chestnuts.
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The band.
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Yesterday was a good day. We got lots accomplished. First and foremost was the everlasting issue of our immigration agreement. If you’ve been reading, it is recurring theme. As you may remember, we signed an agreement when we got our first Permessi di Sigorno to fulfill certain criteria. Well, since we had not fulfilled these, not because we hadn’t tried mind you, we got a letter in the mail telling us our two year period was over and we were on probation for another year after which we’d be deported. So, we decided to pay a visit to the immigration office in Perugia. We finally managed to find a person who knew what was what and could help us. Wow! Very friendly, nice, and helpful. We had, of course, pretty much complied. All we need to do is bring our proof of passing the A2 level Italian proficiency test, our deed that we purchased our house, our health cards showing we have gotten health insurance. They said that would be sufficient. Yay! Happy days.

A US wedding trip

We are just back from our trip to the US to help celebrate our nephew’s wedding. A good time was had by all.

We arrived in DC on a Sunday and crashed. Then we did a couple of days sightseeing and a day of shopping. We visited the newly re-opened Smithsonian Gallery of Art – East Wing. The building is in itself a work of art designed by I.M. Pei.

3000It’s only flaw was a limited amount of exhibit space. With this redesign it now has much expanded space and they opened two of the three towers. On the roof terrace is a big blue chicken sculpture by German artist Katharina Fritsch.dsc06475

We also got to see the recently de-scaffolded US Capital building. When we moved away it was completely covered. Now it gleams in the sun. It has never looked this good.

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We dined on some ethnic food to include Oyamel, a great Mexican place, and Rappahannock Oyster bar which has world class farmed oysters. We’ve missed them! The big splurge was Komi which many said should have received a Michelin star in the recently published guide. I will say it was mighty fine. There is no menu. They bring about 12 courses, starting small and getting bigger as they go along. So good. And we elected to get the wine pairing. We never do this but we were glad we did. The sommelier is excellent and all the wait staff made us feel very special. Recommend it.

On Thursday we rented a car and drove to The Homestead in Hot Springs, VA – about a 3 1/2 hour drive. We attended the beautiful wedding of our nephew, Dave and his bride Shira. It was a Jewish ceremony although our nephew is Christian. It was lovely. I did not take pictures. It was outside and the weather was fine. We partied into the night. I wish this young couple all the best in life.

While there we strolled the grounds and played a rousing game of mini-golf with Luther’s brothers family who were there from California. Again, the weather was perfect. The trees were beautiful.

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We are back home and I am happy to say we have finished our travels for this year. I am glad to be home in tranquil Umbertide. Long trip back. While we were gone there were three (!) earthquakes of 5.6, 6.1 and 6.6 on the Richter scale. No damage in Umbertide but in the mountains just 40 miles away is devastation. So much lost. One of my favorite cathedrals collapsed in the town of Norcia. Here is the picture I took about 2 years ago. Sadly it is almost totally destroyed. My heart goes out to the people. The one good bit of news is, no one was killed.

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On our way home we stopped for provisions. I spied, of all things(!) corn on the cob! Now, if you’ve been reading this you know I have searched for decent sweet corn since our first summer here. I found some inedible this past summer. So I slyly put my finger nail into a kernel and lo and behold! it squirted juice. This meant it wasn’t totally gone to starch. I notice they are grown in Umbria so are local. I bought two cobs and cooked them last night. They were decent! Sweet. Not as good a fresh summer corn but, good. The only thing that puzzles me is…it’s November! I mean who heard of corn in November?dsc06501

Coincidentaly, I had ordered corn to be sent to my sister. I picked it up on our trip so next year I will have corn! I hope to find someone with garden space to lend or rent. But one of these packets has “Container Corn”. It can be grown in pots! So next year my terrace will be farm-like. I am pretty excited about this!
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So, you decided to move to Italy…

I just put up a page, accessible from the top navigation, with a summary of information about moving and living in Italy. It is called “So you’ve decided to move to Italy”. I will constantly update it with things I learn that I think will be useful. Go to the page here.

Our third Otto Cento

It was a success! There were fire eaters, dancers, music, burlesque, beautiful stilt dancers, costumes. We had some friends come and have dinner with us Friday night. We joined in the merriment and were serenaded by the Briganti. Speaking of which, they got up to their usual antics on Saturday when they took over the town. This year they had a “christmas” theme. If you look back over my previous Otto Cento posts you will see they are very naughty boys.

An antique cycle. It was a cycle inside a big wheel with what looked like training wheels.
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The decorated town.
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The “christmas” tree. Look closely.
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Victory flag.
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A day in Italia.

People always ask us what we do on a daily basis. Today we decided to work on a big list of errands we needed to do. Usually it is hard to get multiple things done all in one day. First thing is we decided to drive since we had so many things on our list. We almost always walk everywhere.

We had recently gotten a really big gas bill. 586€ to be exact. For two months. We noticed that 314€ of that amount were taxes(!) so we decided to visit Aimet Luce & Gas which is handily just about 1 minute from our front door. They had been a scary experience when we first got signed up but today they were very nice. They assured us that this tax is imposed on all Italians and is not more for us Stranieri or foreigners. Sigh. Oh well. We have to pony up the money.

We next visited our bank. We are trying to change our bank account from one for Stranieri to one for residents. Our bank is the Monte dei Paschi di Siena. It was founded in 1472. Get your mind around that! They bankrolled Christopher Columbus! In order to physically enter a bank here in Italy you must go through an airlock…. Yes, an airlock. You push a button and a rounded door slides back. You enter and it closes and you are in a tube. You then place your index finger on the sensor plate. If you pass, the interior door opens to let you in the bank. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck in there! We had visited the bank last week and they affirmed that we were being charged a LOT of fees because we have the type of account we have. He said he would work on changing it for us and since we had not heard back went there first. Alas he was not there so we left through the exit airlock.

We then went to the pet store to buy kitty litter and food. The people there are super nice and give us the sconto, or discount, when we come. They also signed us up for their new point system! Um… I am not sure this is as great as they seem to think it is but we can earn points and get “stuff” later for the points. Sorta like green stamps… OK I’m dating myself! Anyway… Checked that off our list.

Next we headed to the dread Poste Italiane, or post office. Here you can spend a lot of your life waiting. The post office does not just do mail. You can pay your bills there, also arrange for your permit to stay (in Italy) appointment, and they function as a bank. So when you enter you are confronted with a machine with an array of buttons that you will push depending on what you want to do. They are not always completely clear. I’ve watched Italians punch all four buttons hoping to go to a window and apologize but still get what they want done! Hah! So miracle of miracle we punched the P button and within five minutes had mailed our letter to the US. This is not normal. At. All. We usually spend at least thirty minutes in there whenever we go. I am not really complaining, I enjoy watching the show so to speak. In fact, the people working there (who have jobs for life and cannot be fired) are a sad lot themselves for some reason. They seem to take delight in flying through the numbers really fast. If you don’t jump up when your number is called you are out of luck. I witnessed an old man get passed by because he couldn’t get there fast enough. He resignedly went to the machine for another ticket.

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So that mission accomplished we headed for our doctors office. This is always an adventure. Our doctor has published office hours five days a week. Usually two hours a day. Heretofore we had gone early, like if her hours start at 9:30am we’d aim to arrive at about 9:15. Only problem with that plan is that she is frequently late…sometimes an hour or more. So today we went later figuring if she was late we’d get there after she had worked through the people waiting. Here in Italy you don’t make doctors appointments. You go during the hours. There are no staff, no receptionist.  When you enter there are usually a number of people ahead of you…and multiple doctors use the same building. So you must ask, “who is the last for [doctors name]”? Someone pipes up so you know you go in after he/she leaves. My plan to come later worked as there was just one patient in front of us and best yet(!) the doctor was there. So we got our prescriptions refilled.

Next we decided to visit Paulo, Manuelle’s right hand man. He helps with bureaucratic things. We knew our real estate taxes were due next week and he can calculate them for us, then we pay. We were happy to learn that since we just had the one house, and it was our first in Italy, we owe no real estate taxes! Hooray! We did pay last year but Italy passed a law saying first time owners are exempt.

Since things were going so well we went over to the car wash. Our car was filthy so we vacuumed and washed it and were off to get some diesel. Then we dropped off our purchases and got our prescriptions filled and parked in the garage. Wow. What. A. Productive. Morning.
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More good news…Yesterday I got my diploma for passing the required A2 level Italian proficiency test! So at least I got that one under my belt.

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