Heating in Italy: I don’t know if you have noticed but wood burning pellet stoves and fireplaces are an important part of houses here. The Italians, in all their wisdom, have decided to buy electricity from France and Switzerland rather than produce their own. This results in very expensive power. Gas is the alternative and it is also prohibitively expensive. Therefore everyone here heats with wood.
The apartment: We rented the flat where we are staying from Lynda who lives in England. She lived here in Umbertide in various houses with various husbands over 20 years. She doesn’t normally rent her flat but Jim (our realtor) is a friend and asked her. She picked up a quick 750 euro so good for us all. We thought that was pretty reasonable for 3 week rental. We won’t use the entire 3 weeks but that’s OK.
It is a really nice space on the top floor with views of the Tiber. It has a really large open plan living room, dining room and kitchen. Nice terra cotta ceiling with beams. Tile floor. Cute little wood burning stove in a big fireplace. One large nicely appointed bath and a nice bedroom with a couple of wardrobes and a dresser. I couldn’t have asked for more except it has no TV or internet. It is funny how much you want these but we are managing. Susan and Gary (new friends) have loaned their extra apartment to us a few doors down up 68 steps (!) to use that internet. It is the only way I have been able to keep in touch. I go over one or two times a day to check mail and update this blog. We have also been watching a lot of DVDs that Lynda has here in the flat.
Dining and shopping: This town has plenty within walking distance. A small supermarket called Conad we can walk to in about five minutes. It’s a big Italian chain. Next to that is a really good butcher with beautiful looking meats, prepared foods etc. about 3 blocks away is the A&O (almost A&P!) which has much better produce and selection than the Conad. Underneath it in almost a parking garage like place is a really good wine store. Wines here are very inexpensive if you buy Italian. Outside of town in the ”suburbs” (which are decidedly NOT picturesque) are lots of other markets like the Co-op (big grocery, department store) another, larger Conad, and lots of other shops butchers, etc. (Bar Mary below)
Of course there is the big Wednesday market with all the produce, cheese, processed meat and fish. On Friday there is a fish truck that sets up shop on the street nearby. I glanced at the fish (straight from the Adriatic) and they looked wonderful. Nice to know that even though we are land-locked here in Umbria there are fish sources.
In town are several restaurants and pizzerias. We have dined twice at one in a hotel that has quite good and very reasonable food. The folks are friendly. We ate at La Rocca which is a fish restaurant. We ate the best place in town (forgot the name) one night. It is a beautiful space with a little tiny menu but everything we had was great. There is this ravioli type pasta called mezzelune which is half mooned shaped. It is filled with soft cooked egg and topped with asparagus and bacon. Jim says they stir up the egg and freeze it in little chunks. Then they wrap pasta around it in the half moon shapes and drop it in the water. The boiling water cooks the pasta, thaws and soft cooks the egg so when you cut into it the egg runs out. It was really good. We were the only customers the whole night. Jim says it’s because it’s winter. There are lots of good pizzerias around as well.
Friends we have made: Before we left on this trip I had been reading everything I could find about places in the area. I found many blogs with information about places near and far as well as expatriate websites that are a wealth of information.
One blog is called Americans in Umbria. Through this site we “met” virtually Susan and Gary who live in Umbertide. It was they who inspired me to try this town. Susan and I wrote back and forth for a couple of months and when we arrived here we met at a bar for a glass of wine and then on Sunday they drove us up to Montone, a nearby hill town, to have lunch at Erba Luna, a really nice restaurant in that town. We also visited their lovely apartment down the street from our flat. It is very spacious and beautiful. We have enjoyed them very much and hope to become fast friends.
As mentioned earlier I found Don and Jodi in Castiglione del Lago. I made contact through Trip Advisor and we finally met in person on this trip at a little café called Café Alise. They have a lovely home with many cats. There is an apartment on the ground floor that they rent out to vacationers. They have a lovely yard with olive trees and a summer kitchen. A little piece of heaven.
Don and Jodi had introduced us to Bob the Builder via internet (an Englishman who’s been in Italy for 25 years). We met him with them that day. We agreed to let Bob find some properties that were not formally listed through agencies as they could be a better bargain. In my house hunting posts I tell of our experience.
Natalie and Paul are friends of friends. They live in a village between Umbertide and Citta di Castello. We met because friends of ours winter in Florida in a hotel which turns out to be a favorite of Italians coming from New York and New Jersey. In conversation they mentioned that we were looking in Umbria soon and were given Natalie’s email. I wrote to her and she replied very helpfully. We have not met them yet but plan to meet at a pizzeria for dinner soon.
(Later) – we met Natalie and Paul and had a great dinner at a pizzeria up the valley. They are very nice folks and we hope to get to know them better once we move. They have been here permanently for about a year and a half.
We also have not actually met but plan to meet John who has a house in Montone and has just retired. He and his wife plan to move for at least a year to try it out. Hopefully we will meet them someday after we actually move.
So I guess it pays to network no matter where you live!