I was so excited to run into Emanuele in the Piazza last night while Luther was smoking his cigar. He told us work had started in the apartment today! I went over this morning and sure enough they have moved all the furniture into the living room and have removed the TV and refrigerator. Sorry to say they also removed the built in bookcases in the office. That took me by surprise but oh well, what’s done is done. I believe they started cleaning out the attic too. Here is a picture of the future kitchen with pull down attic stairs.
Today we went to Sansepulcro in Tuscany only 30 kilometers from Umbertide. It is a pretty little town with lots of little streets. They also have a museum with many 15th century paintings which we visited.
Aldous Huxley called this painting the most beautiful painting in the world. It is called the Resurrection. When up close and personal it is extraordinary which this photo doesn’t really get across.
There was an amazing collection of old locks and keys. They were extremely intricate and many were beautiful. This picture shows one of them with its key. Notice the triangle and below it the flower and then below that another shape in the key. The lock is just beside it and you can see where the triangle and the flower fit (you need to click to enlarge). They were pretty incredible.
This is the madonna in a picture from the 1400s by Santi di Tito. She is looking at the Christ child. All of his paintings were wonderful.
These were random items that I was drawn to.
After the tour we went to Ristorante Al Coccio for lunch. It was a very “traditional” looking place with lots of knick knacks.
We chose it because of the aroma wafting from it. It just drew us in! The food was quite a bit different than the Umbrian food we have gotten used to. We started with a traditional Tuscan bread salad as an amuse bouche. The thrifty Tuscans use up old bread this way. By moistening it in the salad dressing of oil and vinegar it softens it up. It was quite refreshing. I had a mushroom flan (never saw that in Umbria) with a cheese fondue and truffles as an antipasti. Then I had the ravioli with Chianini meat sauce from the famous Chianini white cattle. Luther had taglietelle with duck ragu. It was all very good. The people behind us tucked into two big Chianini steaks. We’ll have to go back and get that sometime instead of a primi. It sure smelled wonderful. Here is a picture of my ravioli.
This evening we met up with Michelle and her partner Paul for a drink in the Piazza. She will be leaving in just 3 days. I will miss her a lot. Paul was interesting and he will be here for 10 days after she goes. He is Dutch. Perhaps we’ll see her again before she leaves. We swapped contact info so we can keep in touch. Maybe someday we will meet again…
Tomorrow I will go over to the apartment so see how Giovani did today. I met him while I was there this morning taking a look at the work.
Yesterday was market day. I decided to get my first porchetta panino. In Italy panini are not grilled or heated. It is just the word for sandwich. Porchetta (pronounced por-kay-ta) is sold from trucks and is the most wonderful concoction. It is a whole pig that has been boned and then wrapped in it’s own skin and roasted for a long slow time. The outside gets crunchy crispy and the inside is soft and juicy. At the Wednesday market there are 3 different porchetta trucks. All the time I’ve been going to the market there is always an enormous crowd around one truck. I always figure that that would be the place to get porchetta as obviously everyone else seems to know.
For some reason when I was passing THE truck I noticed there were way fewer people. In fact I was served almost immediately. I asked for a panino and they sliced the pork up right onto a soft roll. I intended to save it for lunch but alas I almost didn’t take a picture of it before it was gone! My favorite part was the unexpected crunch of the salty cracklin’ skin.
My cousin Meg asked me to put up a picture of our sofa in situ in our living room. So here it is. It is very large but fits the space perfectly. It will seat a bunch of folks or two lying down 🙂 I put our two new pillows in the corner.
We have a friend here whose name is Michelle. She is living in a house just behind us owned by a woman named Hillary who owns Alpacas. Michelle is house/alpaca sitting for 10 weeks while Hilary goes back to England to see her new grandbaby. We met Michelle just when she arrived. She was born and raised in Bermuda and speaks with an American accent. She is adventurous and has lived in many places most recently Cypress in a goat shack as she describes it. She likes to garden on the terrace of Hilary’s place so I brought some of the plastic planters with succulents from our terrace to see if she would like to replant them. In turn she brought me a bag of alpaca shit. I spent a bit of time getting it up to our terrace in stages as it weighed a ton. She tells me that unlike horse manure it doesn’t need to “cure” to be used as fertilizer. I will save it until I get new planters. Michelle will only be here a few more days. I will miss her as she is an interesting person. She is going to get her teaching certificate from Montessori and then she thinks she will move to Vietnam for a while. Her partner crews large tanker ships around Africa. Scary nowadays with all the pirates.
Yesterday evening around 9PM or so we heard a lot of people talking from BEHIND our house. This is unusual as it is a tiny little alley of a street and is normally very quiet. It is the same street that has the cat ladder I mentioned. I peered down from our window and saw a bunch of folks and several long tables with benches all set for feast. And feast they did!
It got very loud and they had an accordion. It sounded like the perfect Italian celebration. We weren’t sure of the occasion but I think it was an engagement party. I suppose it could have been an anniversary party for a long married couple. Whatever it was it was obvious they were having fun. I got up at 12:30 and it was silent and there wasn’t a trace of the party. The picture above isn’t very good but it will give you an idea of the tiny street and the people gathered there.
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.
I forgot to mention that when we went to the wine co-op near Castiglione del Lago (the place with the wine pumps) I noticed something amusing. Luther has his Gambero Rosso or Red guide to wine. It is how he chooses where we will go to taste and buy wines. They are rated by price and quality. He picked this co-op that we visited from this book. Before we go into a winery he checks which wines got the best scores.
So we go inside and we go over to the shelves and find one of the whites he is interested in. It cost €2.63 a bottle (about $3.00). I could see he was conflicted. It just really goes against all things holy that a good wine should cost so little. I smiled at him and said “It really kills you to buy wine this cheap doesn’t it?” And he admitted that it was true! But we did buy a half a case. And you know what? It is really good!! Just goes to show that you can’t judge that a wine is good just because it costs more.
We did a bit of exploring yesterday. We visited a few towns we had not been to before. Chuisi, Citta di Pieve and Ficulle. We had lunch in the last place. Here are a few pictures. The first two are of Chuisi.
These two are at the restaurant where we had lunch. These nice Italians were so cute and loved that I took their picture. I will say one thing about Italians that we meet, they usually ask if we are English and when we tell them we are Americans their faces really light right up! They like Americans!
There hasn’t been too much happening. Just odds and ends that I’ll catch up on.
We spent a couple of quiet days. We caught up over lunch with Susan and Gary who had been in the Dolomite mountains in the Alto Adige part of Italy. It used to be Austria before the first world war. They still speak primarily German and it is Germanic in feel. We have been several times. It was not their cuppa tea! Also they had a lot of rain which was unfortunate.
We met with Emanuele and he “says” he is all set to start work on Sunday. I am excited but not holding my breath. He also brought us a letter from Fed Ex.
This was our next challenge. We had arranged for Luther to get his prescriptions sent to our Texas mailbox. They showed up last Friday. I arranged for them to be sent to Emanuele’s address as someone is always there. The letter he brought was from FedEx regarding customs who want to know exactly what is in this package. We had been expecting this. They emailed us a bunch of forms and we filled them out. We had to go to the bank to arrange to pay the €40.00 they charge. We could have gone to our bank website to do this but the site was down. We only had 3 days to get the funds there so opted to go in person to the bank.
SO we sent the money and filled out the forms and sent them all back. We hope this will allow the medicine to be delivered. This whole thing is costing a good bit of money. First the prescriptions cost around $30.00. Not bad. Then it cost $56.00 to sent them via FedEx. This was the least expensive method that was trackable. Add to that the €40.00 (about $52.00). At least we only have to do this every 3 months. Once we are registered here we can get the Italian health insurance. That will be a WHOLE other experience!
So we congratulated ourselves with a trip to the restaurant across the river today with a nice lunch all’aperto. As an added little factoid – in Italy never ask to dine al fresco as we do in the US. This means literally “in the cooler” or in jail!! HA HA!
We have two upcoming events. One is a tour of Umbertide Underground! It is through the wine club and is next Tuesday afternoon. Apparently Umbertide is honeycombed with tunnels, catacombs, old wells and cantine. We will get a guided tour and tour La Rocca which is the big castle built into the town walls.
The other is a concert in the Chiesa de San Francesco on Saturday evening at 7PM. The church was built between the 8th and 12th centuries. The concert will be a 50 piece orchestra playing Brahms. I am quite excited to see this.
I got up and out the door this morning to a beautiful perfectly still Tiber river and a good walk.
We decided to go to the local market in the piazza. I like the Saturday market because it is quieter and all local products from right around here. I found a man with gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. Up to now I had not seen any. I bought a bunch of my favorite Cherokee Reds that I remember I could get in Virginia.
After stowing our purchases we headed down the street to the car. We said hello to our neighborhood cat Sirene. As you can see she probably gets fed by all the neighbors!
It was a beautiful, cool day and we had decided to go over the mountains to Lago Trasimeno where we had done so much of our house hunting in January. We found it much more crowded around the lake as there are tons of holiday makers out and about. Slow trip behind bicycles and 3 wheel Ape trucks. We stopped in a wine outlet of Duca della Corgna. This is the first place that I have been to where they will fill your bottles up for you from their “wine pumps”. Ha! As you can see from the picture there are 3 types of wine and the prices are per liter. It works just like a gas pump! (click to see it bigger)
We headed up to Paciano. If you read the blog about the house hunting trip you will remember that this was the pretty hill town into which we nearly bought. It was the dead of winter and the little town was quiet as a could be. I had always wondered how it would be in the summer.
We parked and there were a lot of folks at the bar at the base of town. We walked up into the town and it was almost as quiet as before. The other bar had some folks at the outside tables in the center of town. It was as pretty and tidy as I remembered, but oh so dead! We agreed that we were glad we had not moved there. Much more fun in a happenin’ town like Umbertide.
We drove on the beautiful tiny road along the hillside to the other hill town of Panicale which I have always wanted to visit after reading some blog posts by residents there. It is a really pretty place quite a bit bigger than Paciano. Great views from the walls across the lake to the mountains beyond.
We wandered about a bit and found that most of the town was just houses and a couple of churches on little twisty street. Very picturesque. The only real activity was in the main piazza where there were several shops, a busy bar and two or three restaurants.
We chose Lillo Tatini for our lunch which we were determined would be a small one. We sat outside with a nice view of the square and the food was very good and not too much. I would come back.
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned the fact that a Bar in Italy is not like a Bar in the US. They are places to get your morning (or late morning, or afternoon) coffee and a cornetto for breakfast. Most have gelato in the summer. You can get a beer, wine or grappa as well. Or you can meet up with friends.
Each Italian town has at least one Bar in each neighborhood. Sometimes they are just a block or so apart. Each has it’s own clientele from nearby. But Italians cannot be far from a coffee so you can find Bars along the roads and autostrade too. Even gas stations have Bars. Then you are assured to never be far from a caffe.
In Umbertide just in a 5 or 6 block area I counted 10 Bars. In the Piazza in front of our house are two, Bar Mary and Caffe Centrale. It is very amusing that each of these has it’s own loyal clientele. Mostly the Americans who live around here go to the Caffe Centrale but there are some who have loyalty to Bar Mary. Caffe Centrale is a lot nicer than Bar Mary. Nicer tables and chairs, nicer inside, nicer outdoor covers over the tables. Bar Mary has cheap plastic tables and plastic chairs that stack that are so rickety they recommend you stack two together to sit in! They also have four big yellow square umbrellas to cover the outside tables. They are always crookedly set up and look a bit messy. Bar Mary attracts most of the Brits around here. Also all the old men who play the Italian card game called Briscola gather at the tables in front of Bar Mary and in the winter in the back room to play. It is rather odd that none of these old men ever buy anything to eat or drink while they are there. Also anyone else can sit outside without buying anything.
The owners of Bar Mary are Mary (duh) and Irene (pronounced Eh-ray-na), sisters probably in their late forties or so with very over processed and permed hair. Bright yellow it is. They are both very sweet though and very friendly to us. They know exactly what we want to order each time of day. Cappuccino sensa scuma in the morning, beers if it’s noon or late afternoon, red wine for when Luther smokes his cigar on the Piazza. Oh I probably don’t need to say Bar Mary is “our” bar. We chose it as our Bar when we were here in January and Jim our Realtor told us it was his “office”. He lives in the country so when doing business in town Bar Mary is his place. So it’s ours too now. He calls the two girls the Straw Dogs. It’s pretty descriptive.
Right now things are not right with the world in the Piazza Matteoti because the Bar Mary is closed! Yes CLOSED! for vacation. I am happy for the Straw Dogs because those ladies work very hard. They are open from 7AM to 1AM every single day of the year except their vacation week. They work the place alone except for a man whose relationship to them I have yet to figure out. He is handsome in the Italian way, shaved head, nice build but has a bad overbite. He “may” be married to Mary but I am not sure yet.
Last Sunday we were out for a beer in the afternoon. It was just before they were closed for the vacation week. (They went to the beach) Anyway. we went in to pay for the beers and Irene leaned across the counter to give me a double kiss! I guess I am accepted in the Bar Mary. My Bar.
Well. We have had a couple of issues with these boxes. They sent a list of questions from customs. I had declared that I brought cat food with me and turns out that is a no-no. I think U Pak – We Ship should provide a list of dos and don’ts for shipping things to Europe. Once I googled it I found lists of things that you should not ship to include pet food. Link: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs/banned-restricted.htm
Customs first asked if it was meat based. Duh! Cats are carnivores. So I said yes and I explained it was prescription food because I was not sure I could get it here. Next they asked the weight of it which I provided. Time passes. Next we were told our shipment had been “selected” for a “detailed inspection” like it was a prize or something. Sigh. All I could think of was that all my careful packing was for naught.
After another week we got the word that it had been cleared for shipment. We are not sure whether the cat food got confiscated or not. When it gets here we will know. They say in 7-10 days we should hear about when it should arrive. I have re-iterated that they CANNOT come on market days (Wednesday or Saturday) and MUST give me 3 days notice so I can let the police know. Living right on the Piazza makes things a bit more difficult not to mention every one sees all of your business but oh well!
Today we bought a microwave and a 30 inch TV so we can at least watch streaming movies. We also may look into a satellite account. We need to see if it is portable to our other apartment.
Ciao till next time!
Yesterday we got our car washed! OK mundane unless you live in another country. There are two ways to do it. You can wash it yourself (sponges, soap squirter provided) or you can have their cool machine do it.
We opted for the machine. It is like a car wash that moves up and down your car rather than your car being pulled through it. It takes up much less room. You park your car and put the money in and there is an arch with brushes, water squirting or air as the process moves forward. It was pretty interesting to watch.
Today is Saturday and we had lunch at Villa San Donino in Citta di Castllo. Actually out in the country. Beautiful venue. Tents and pretty table cloth covered tables and all the chairs covered with bows tied around them. Susan said they do a lot of weddings. It would be lovely for that. It is also a hotel with a big pool. Pictures of the main building which is a church in the back and the beautiful, cypress lined, very long driveway up to the church.
I was so pleased with my choices of food. I did not get too full but was not hungry. My first course was Tagliatella arugula (green) with vegetables from their garden. Here is a picture.
Luther got a mostly meat plate. It was huge.
My entry was veal with black truffles and potatoes. SO good. Perfectly cooked and not too much. And YES those are all shaved summer black truffles.
Here is our favorite lunch wine choice from Tuscany. It was lovely and light. We all loved it.
Thursday. Nice summer day. Getting warmer after weeks of cool weather.
Today we planned to visit a winery and to go to a restaurant in Montefalco. The restaurant is called L’Alchemiste. We had been there on our Umbria trip with the Gang o Six about 3 years ago. Susan and Gary had not been there yet so we invited them to come too.
We went to a winery that Luther picked out on the road to Montefalco. It was quite a ways off of the highway on a long dirt driveway. The name of it is Milziade Antano Fattoria Colleallodole. Quite a mouthful. They specialize in Sagrantino wines. These are big reds and an interesting fact is that this grape grows on only 250 acres in the entire world! And it is in only 3 towns in this area.
We tasted a white, a rose and 4 reds. They progressed from an extremely tannic young Sagrantino through to an aged and lovely DOCG wine. These were pretty expensive wines as Italian wines go. Here are some pictures of the winery (to include tomatoes and a demi-john outside and then inside with the wines.
We drove from there to Montefalco and walked up into the pretty hill town. It isn’t very big and centers around a pretty central piazza where they were ambitiously setting up bleachers and a stage for a big concert.
We ate outside and it was pleasant. The food is not your predictable Italian food. We had squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta on sliced pears to share among the four of us. Next most of us had a melted cheese with radicchio wrapped in crisp phyllo. When you cut it the cheese oozed out onto the plate. After that we all had pastas. Susan and I had the house lasagna. Oh my! It was exquisite. It was vegetarian. Mushrooms came through in the smooth bechamel and it had no pasta in it. Rather it had crepes on top. Here are pictures:
Looks like tonight they are putting on a play in Umbertide in the piazza. Should be interesting. Here is the stage in progress from our window (sorry about the screen).