Greve in Chianti

We went for an overnight to a bed and breakfast outside the village of Greve in Chianti. I had ordered a long time ago, some hand painted ceramics. The artist is pretty popular and put me on the list. It was finished, and ready to pickup in November. I wanted to stay in the BnB which was owned by her friend, and where her studio was.

Turned out, I couldn’t go in December because of travel plans and Christmas. And then in January she went back home to Spain and the BnB was closed for the winter. Then we had the big March trip to the U.S., and on and on. When I finally decided to try to reserve a room he was nearly booked! So I took the one day he had open.

Finally on Thursday we headed out for our nice overnight. It was pretty weather. Perfect top-down weather. We decided to do a wine tasting/lunch combination. We went to Savignola Paolina in Greve. It was a pretty place. Not too big. We had reserved online but they didn’t seem to have our reservation. The staff was super friendly. They set a table for us outside with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. They were all very friendly and seemed genuinely to enjoy chatting, asking where we were from and telling us all about the winery and the wines.

We enjoyed a plate of three types of bruschetta, a plate of charcuteries, and a risotto made from their red wine. We tasted a rosè, and three Chianti Classicos of ascending quality. There is no white wine made in the Chianti district. At the end we had a taste of the one Merlot, which is not a DOC wine. And then the one called Mio which was made by the Swiss owner. Both of these had productions of 1200 liters only. I loved the top Chianti we tasted as well as the one just down from it. The rose was also quite nice and much more complex than any other rosè I have had. We bought a a case of wine.

We then went into the town of Greve. Chock full of tourists. We had a dinner reservation there that night. On we went to find our BnB called Selvabella in Chianti. It was down a tiny little gravel road about 2 kilometers. Thank god we didn’t meet any other cars. We parked and were greeted by Marta, the Ceramicist, and three resident dogs. She was super nice. We toured her studio and I got to see my ceramics.

The top two are the two fish platters. Then my favorite, the bird plate with a European Robin, a European blackbird, and a Hoopoe. The last being a favorite bird. Then two nice sized bowls with a snail and a hoopoe. They are a size I was lacking. Big enough for a big serving of whatever side or salad I made.

We were kind of out in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t want to negotiate the narrow road out and drive after eating and drinking. We asked if they could prepare dinner for us and they said they could. We had a nice dish of pasta and a pretty dessert. Both delicious. There was another American couple there from South Carolina and they also enjoyed the same dinner as we did. Bernardo, the proprietor was a good chef. He loved to experiment so had a lot of ingredients that were unusual. For the pasta we had a goat and pork ragu. On top was a pulverized bay leaf powder. The dessert (pictured) a panna cotta, was topped with a pulverized fig leaf. We talked a long time about cooking.

Next morning we packed up and headed home. Took a southerly route which was much better. We can do the trip in just over two hours. I love the Tuscan wine areas. They are also popular with tourists and the whole area is pretty much booked for the season.

Buona domenica a tutti!

Induction cooking – how I like it

I have always been a gas cooking person. Now I have induction in the new kitchen. I promised to post about how I like it. So far so good! I actually like it, with a couple caveats. Many people don’t know about this. It is a magnetic field that makes the heat, but only in the pot. The surface doesn’t get warm. The metal of the pots get agitated by the field, creating heat. It heats up very quickly, and it cools nearly instantly.

Here is the island with the cooktop. It is hidden. It is above the black oblongs which are where the controls are.

This is a close-up of the controls. The little thing shaped like a corner is to line up the mats for cooking.

These are the silicone mats that you lay on the countertop for the pots to sit on. It doesn’t work without them. They also protect the counter.

I have made numerous things so far. I was pleased to see it gets very hot to sear things like the chops pictured. Here are just a few things.

One thing I don’t like. I boil water for spaghetti or pasta and if I don’t keep the lid on it stops boiling. I also noticed the heat cycles on and off and the water boils then doesn’t, then does. Since I’m not familiar with induction I am not sure this is normal. I have also had sporadic problems with it showing an error when I’m cooking two things at once. I haven’t figured out why. Is it operator error? Is it a defect? Not sure. I guess time will tell.

Il Giardino

It is that time of year. The time for planting. All the surrounding farmers are hard at it. The winter wheat is already high.

The construction crew came last Monday to finally cart off the rest of the debris from the work. Now I can clean the terrace. Luther and I purchased two nice wood planters 80 cm long by 40 cm deep. I was going to put three tomatoes in each but changed my mind and ordered another planter so they can be two to each planter. These are the tomatoes I started as seeds. My house sitters helped tend them. They look good.😊

I also bought some grass for my pond. The fish, Quo and Qua, seem to like it.

The vivaio I found north of us (nursery) has lots of nice plants. Here is first my haul.

I have planted most of them.

Jalapeño and two basil plants
Sage. I have bad luck with sage.
Three lavenders. All my others died. No idea. Why. I got a white one too.

These are the orphan tomatoes. I think I’ll keep one but the other four will be adopted by my friend Elizabeth for her orto.

Happy to get everyone launched. Next up…flowers!

Schengen Shuffle

Ligurian coast

I have to admit I spend a good bit of time reading the Facebook groups that are set up for immigrants to Italy — Retired in Italy, Americans Living in Italy, Ultimate Italy, Affordable Italy, etc. I answer a lot of questions. There are a lot of people who want to move here. I think there are a combination of reasons. The Baby Boomers are all retiring right now. People are tired of the strife in US politics, the anger that seems to permeate society now. Prices are high in the U.S.. There are many descendants of the Italian immigrants who migrated to other countries over the last hundred years who are eligible for Italian citizenship.

I actually enjoy helping people with this…most of the time. Thing is, so many people don’t do the slightest bit of research before asking a very basic question. So many young people want to come and that can be very difficult. There are very few Visas for them. For retirees, it is easier. There is a Visa called the Elective Residency Visa. It is for people with enough passive income to qualify, who don’t need to work…i.e., retirees. Or smart young people who made their pile early and can qualify. But no work allowed.

Night view

Some facts about coming to live here. If you are not an EU citizen, you will need a Visa to come. Buying property is easy but it doesn’t confer permission to stay past the normal 90 day tourist visa. After you receive the Visa, you must apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno (permit to stay) within a week of arrival. Then you apply for residency. (Fact – you can’t buy a car unless a resident). Also, one of the biggest hurdles to living in Italy is obtaining your driving license. Test in Italian. Must be taken within a year of residency. Once you become a resident you will be liable to pay Italy taxes on your worldwide income and investments.

It is this last bit that seems to make people balk at moving full-time to Italy. It is a pet peeve of mine that so many people try to find a way to get out of paying taxes here but still want to be able to live here and enjoy all the things that the taxes pay for. Enter the Schengen Shuffle. Americans, Canadians and many other non-EU countries have an automatic 90 day tourist visa to come to any Schengen country — most of Europe is in The Schengen Zone. So a person can come to Italy (for example) and stay 90 days, then they must exit the Schengen zone for 90 days. They can repeat as often as they want. They never become residents. They never pay taxes. They use things taxes pay for, like museums, monuments, parks, historical sites, beaches, schools, universities, libraries, hospitals, public transportation.

Historical site… Paestum Greek temples

To exit the Schengen zone and stay in Europe there are only a few possibilities. The United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Albania. Turkey. Or you can go back to your home country.

Now, from my personal perspective, the taxes are not all that bad. The tax rates are higher, yes. There is a tax treaty between the U.S. and Italy to protect against double taxation. We pay no tax in the U.S. now. We don’t pay any property taxes on our home here — we used to pay $10K+ a year in the U.S., a big savings. We don’t pay state tax, another ~$8K saved. Now that we have become permanent residents our health care is free in Umbria. [Other regions may vary.] You can apply for the long term residency at the five year mark. The cost to enroll in the system before you become a permanent resident is capped at €2,700 a person annually, but could be less. It is income based. €2K minimum cost. This is cheap by US standards. Cost of living here in Umbria is less than half what people pay in the U.S. and for some of the best, safest and most tasty food anywhere. To me, it is about a wash. Not all that much more in taxes and so worth it to us to live in this beautiful and tranquil country. 🇮🇹

La Dolce Vita 💕

Living here is not perfect by a long shot. There are a lot of hurdles people must leap. The bureaucracy is horrible. One must negotiate everyday life in a foreign language. One must abide by their rules. It is nothing like the U.S. One will get homesick. One will miss things from home. For us, the challenges are part of the draw. It keeps your mind working overtime. All normal, everyday things are now a challenge, or an adventure, depending on how you look at it. We are happy to be living here. Frankly, after ten years here, it is now our home. 🙂

IrisUmbria

My friend Doug and I like to go to the Iris farm over in the Niccone valley every spring to admire the blooms and lovely gardens. It is called IrisUmbria. It is open on weekends in May.

Casale – main farmhouse – and upper fields.


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As an addendum to my Trip Report on Albania. Many people said they’d never go after reading it. I didn’t mean to put people off. The people are so very nice, the prices are so very low. The food is good. Fresh seafood is wonderful. The towns very pretty. The beaches are pristine. If you hike, the Albanian Alps are amazing and attract a lot of hikers. I feel for the people there. They had a very hard time so are a bit behind the rest of the former communist countries who didn’t live under as cruel a regime as the Albanese. It is so near Italy. We will go back, this time to a beach off season. It is just next to Greece and it’s beaches just as nice and at way less than half the price! Give it a try. Another thing that is of interest is that it is not Schengen. This makes it a place to go if you’re trying to do the Schengen shuffle. I will write about the Schengen Shuffle soon.

Trip report – Albania

Another trip report folks. As always many food pictures 🙂. If you’re not interested please ignore.

Monday, April 29
We had an early flight out of Assisi airport to Tirana, Albania. It was about 1.5 hours on WizzAir, another of those low cost airlines that fly in Europe. We met up with our travel companion, Jen.

The flight was fine. We landed in Tirana and made it through passport control. We noticed that our passports had been checked no less than three times! Once to check in, once at Italian passport control, and once on arrival in Albania. Albania is not in the EU nor Schengen and it uses the Leke for its currency. 

We retrieved our luggage and I bought a SIM card for my phone so we could navigate. It was very chaotic and I managed to misplace, lose, or be slick-fingered-robbed of 20,000 Leke that I had just gotten from the ATM. It was only about $20 so not the end of the world. We next rented our car from Europcar. A white fiat with plenty of room. It was a hot day and we slogged to a far parking lot to find the car. It really was quite the madhouse! Cars everywhere jostling to get in and out of the lot, blocking each other’s way. Part of the problem was that the road you had to exit onto was bumper to bumper too. Albanian drivers in Tirana turned out to be pretty aggressive.

Finally on the road out of the crazy traffic we were in on way to Berat. At first it was supremely ugly. Many half finished buildings and abandoned this or that. We got to the seacoast and got our first glimpse of the incredibly turquoise Adriatic. Durrës was the name of this city and it was big. Lots of hotels on the beach. Definitely not my type of beach town.

The taste of the Albanians definitely tends to the highly tacky. Overdone crenellations and white columns abound. Huge stone lions outside businesses, huge eagle-like birds topping rooftops. Seems nothing is too out there!

We were headed south towards some very tall snow-capped mountains. We passed through a large area that bristled with oil derricks. It smelled strongly of oil, similar to the smell of jet fuel. Ugh. We didn’t know they produced oil.

We passed some pretty houses among vineyards and other crops and saw an enticing looking restaurant, so we stopped. Kantina Edoni was perfect. We sat on a covered porch. The temperature was just right. We had salads and melty cheese, olives and then we each had a seafood dish. All, except for the grilled seafood which was over-cooked, good. Albanian food definitely tends to the Greek. A bottle of the local wine from this family owned cantina rounded out the meal. A great find for a first lunch. 

Baked “white cheese”. When you order they ask “white or yellow”. 🙂
Tomato salad(!) two whole and very large tomatoes. Most things are to share.
All the olives we had were delicious. I picked up one of the orange slices was surprised to find it was a lemon!! I never found out what it really was. Why it looked like an orange but was sour like a lemon.
Jen’s cod. She loved it.
Front of restaurant.

Next stop Berat. We arrived at Tradita e Beratit, our hotel for the night. It was up a narrow street of super uneven stones, very hard to walk on. It is family-owned and they were super nice and gave us a welcoming blueberry juice drink and a sweet. We also saw their “museum”. The house had been an inn for 350 years and was their ancestral home. We stowed our stuff in our rooms. Ours had a nice view and was pretty with lacy curtains and a comfy bed, but was super small, I was glad we were only there one night.

In the vaulted “museum” in the hotel.
From our window
Just across from the hotel. Cliff. The castle is on top. I liked the church halfway up.

The town kind of sprawls along the Seman River which is obviously glacial in origin from its color. The really big mountains we saw on our trip are nearby and the river originates there. Our part of town was the oldest. There are three bridges. Two are pedestrian. Since we were only here one night we went out for a walkabout right away. We walked down the river and crossed to the main part of town and saw the promenade along the river and with a lovely park and many restaurants. We visited an old church and a mosque where a kind man lent us scarves so we two women could go in. 

Orthodox church
Art in the church
Berat mosque.
Looking up river
Berat is known for it’s windows.
The oldest bridge.

We returned and decided to eat just below our hotel. They said it was affiliated with them. Dinner was OK. So far things are fresh but very basic. Prices are super low. A salad is $3.50, an entree is $8.00 – $10.00. But don’t expect fancy meals.
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Tuesday April 30
We got up early and had a really nice breakfast. Served on pretty olive wood platters. We had flat, pancake-like eggs, a sweet cake, olives, cucumbers, cheeses, tomatoes, fresh yogurt. Along with blueberry juice and a cappuccino.

Berat breakfast
Hotel cat. She was happy on top of the drink machine and didn’t want to be bothered!

We checked out and drove up to visit the castle above the town. It was more than a castle. Almost a village up there. People selling things. A hotel. Places to eat etc. also a lot of churches and one mosque. Nice weather. My knee doesn’t like too much up and down so I walked up a steep incline and walked around the town but, I let my fellow travelers visit all the churches etc. while I walked slowly back down the uneven road to the car. I had fun and enjoyed the excursion. 

A bunch of kids arrived when we did. Field trip! Photo op!
The castle and wall.
Part of the village
Loved the pineapple topiary.
One of the churches in the castle complex.
Girl scritching stray bitch who was very pregnant. More strays-to-be on the way 😢

We headed north along the same route we took the day before. The traffic is pretty terrible; so many trucks clog all the roads. Very few are more than two lanes. There are hazards like bicycles and people walking, as well as the many stray dogs and cats. We passed right by the airport and continued north to a town called Kruje. It was way up in the granite mountains and was quite large. It also had a castle and we headed there. 

We found parking and walked up the road toward the castle. There were shops all along the way selling clothing, rugs, embroidered table cloths and runners, olive wood bowls and trays. We were hungry so we stopped in a roadside restaurant. It had amazing views across the valley. Another typical lunch. So far the food has not varied much. Starters are always salads, feta or other cheese either baked or not. Olives, etc. Mains are seafood near the coast or roasted meats. Lamb and goat are popular and also beef and chicken. The sides are grilled vegetables, roasted potatoes, French fries, etc. After lunch Luther and Jen went up to the castle. Turns out there were two museums and just the ruins of the old castle remained. Jen and I bought blouses on our way back.

Kruje Castle museum
The bazaar near the Kruje castle.
Odd pizza-like appetizer to share. The bread base is corn bread, a surprise but is common there.

Back in the car we wound our way back down the mountain, this time dodging loose cattle who seemed to be tended by a man but he couldn’t really keep them out of the road. The trip to Shkodër was about an hour and a half more. So many trucks! I amused myself snapping pictures of the amusing and strange architecture along the way. They build these places alone, often in a big dirt or gravel lot with little or no grass or shrubbery. These buildings look stark and alone. Many seem unused.

This one seems to have a missing second floor but they are using the first.
This was a wedding venue. It was in a very ugly area.

We arrived and found the hotel (Çoçja Boutique Hotel) with some amount of difficulty as usual. It is a lovely hotel with underground parking. Prices here being so low, Luther and I had gone for a suite and it was enormous. Very comfortable. Both hotels so far have had little bottles of the exact same shampoo, and tiny soap bars, also both the same. No other “condiments” as I call the amenities normally in a nice hotel like this one.

We met for a drink after a short time to refresh and then decided we were ready for dinner. The hotel recommended a restaurant which is affiliated with the hotel. It was about a five minute walk away. We walked down our street and crossed the big street. On the other side was a really nice pedestrian and bike zone. It went directly in front of the Great Mosque – Ebu Beker Mosque. And just past it the Orthodox Cathedral of the Nativity.

Great mosque

Dinner was delicious. Many dishes made a return appearance. Grilled “white” cheese, grilled vegetables, a Greek salad. Then three seafood dishes. A whole sea bass for Luther which looked delicious, and two shrimp dishes. Mine was shrimp in orange sauce with vegetables, and Jen got whole grilled shrimp. After dinner brandy and a walnut yogurt dessert for Jen. Very yummy.

Baked cheese.
My shrimp
Luther’s bass

Luther finally had his cigar outside. We have a very nice balcony in our room with table and two chairs. It even has a view of the Great Mosque. And I got to hear my first calls to prayer.
~~~~~
Wednesday, May 1
A holiday all over Europe – Labor Day. We weren’t sure about Albania. But it was listed as one on the Internet. We had breakfast at ten. It was good and unusual.

We headed out to visit the Site of Witness and Memory. It is the first museum dedicated to the victims of the horrific communist fascist regime here in Albania. Luther described it as the North Korea of Europe. They were isolated and alone with an evil dictator and regime. Hundreds of thousands died, many innocent of any real crime, many by horrific torture, imprisoned in notorious prisons. Cruelty was the name of the game. The regime stamped out any trace of religion. Most clerics died or were imprisoned. All mosques and churches were destroyed. Atheism was the only possible belief. The museum was very moving. The cells where the prisoners were held are preserved. The torture room is preserved. Some of the victims who lived in the cells were remembered with their pictures inside each one and their stories written down outside the doors. So sad. People can be so evil. I just don’t understand.

This woman refused sex with the commandant and he put her in a bag with a wild cat and beat the cat with crowbars. She was unrecognizable when released. This was a common torture.

We shook off the mood and did some wandering about town. Nice place with pretty parks and walking streets. We sat and had a beverage outside. The weather was perfect. We decided on a seafood restaurant and it turned out to be very good. We had a plate of bruschetta and a salad to share, and we each ordered a fish or fishes. Along with wine. Price was 7,700 Leke, or around €77.00 or $78.00. The prices are amazingly low.

Jen’s cod
One of the mosques
Street life
Talisman. I saw garlic hanging in front of a lot of houses.

Luther and I decided on a siesta in our room and Jen went a-wandering as is her wont. Later we met up for aperitivo in a bar nearby called ORO which had snacks. We had drinks and snacks and a great wide ranging conversation. When we emerged we found ourselves about midway between two mosques when the call to prayer began. It was quite amazing to hear the dueling …. what do you call it?  Singers, callers, Imams, the men who intone/sing the calls? It is such a melancholy, but in a way, calming sound. It had rained while we were in the bar. Our hotel courtyard was wet. We retired to our rooms.

Luther tried to smoke a cigar but got rained out about halfway through. I liked Shkodër but it wasn’t what I had expected.
~~~~~
Thursday May 2
Next morning we grabbed another good breakfast and headed south from Shkodër. About an hour and a half later we arrived at the Tirana airport to drop off the rental car. We didn’t want to keep it because our flight the next day was at the ungodly hour of 6:20am so the rental agencies wouldn’t be open. We took a taxi into town to our hotel called the Capital Suites Center. It was on two floors of an old communist building. The owner, called Albi, was an entrepreneur who bought up the space and renovated it into hotel rooms. To be honest the rooms were not great but for one night it was OK. Albi and his friend, Henry, and Steve the evening clerk were all very friendly and helpful. Albi told us he made money also buying wrecked luxury cars in the U.S. and shipping them back twenty at a time, to be repaired and resold in Albania. We had noticed the Albanese really like their nice cars. They might not have much else but they spend their money on cars. I think there is a lavazh, or car wash, every fifty feet!

We had a fun lunch in a sort of Hard Rock Cafe place near the hotel called Restorant Tymi. Salads all around and baked feta, olives and corn bread in yogurt. 

Tymi

We went off to see what we could see in an afternoon. First up was the large Skanderbeg square. Sight of the uprisings against the Enver Hoxha regime in 1991. We wanted to visit one of the two bunkers left over from that time. The one we went to was where records were kept, tortures were carried out, interrogations were carried out and spies were trained. Everyday people were enlisted to spy on their neighbors and rat them out. No one could be trusted. People abused their power of course, accusing a neighbor of a crime to get back at them for some slight. I didn’t care for how they exhibited everything. Narrow hallways had posters on the walls with a chronological history from the 1950s until the end in 1991. Claustrophobic space with way too many people. 

Communist building on the square
Square
I love Tirana
Entry to the bunker

Out into the sunlight again. Whew. We went to see the Cloud, a sculpture by Sou Fujimoto, then walked towards a very inviting street lined with bars and lots of tall trees and gardens. Quite nice and we sat and people watched for a while with drinks. Fun! Tirana is quite pretty with lots of skyscrapers of maybe 50-60 floors. Many under construction. Interesting architecture. Many shops. Quite prosperous. A surprise to us all. We had expected a gritty city. The streets were wide and all was clean. 

The Cloud
People watching on the pretty street
The guys across from us were looking at all the girls as they passed. Very amusing. But this old woman asked for money and happily they all gave her some.
Boys looking cool never change the world over!
Interesting architecture. Those protruding squares held up balconies 😳
I called this the building block building
Loved this color

We walked back to the hotel to get ready for dinner at a seafood place recommended by Albi. It was delish and the most expensive place we have eaten yet. Pretty space named Gusto. Owned by an Italian. All seafood and fresh fish from the Ionian Sea every day. A big array of fish of all kinds on ice as you walk in. Luther and I had whole sea bass. Mine was grilled and his was in a salt crust. Jen got shrimp risotto. We also had a Greek starter to share – shrimp in a red sauce. Very nice. 

We went to a bar for a nightcap and Luther had a cigar he bought in the restaurant. The bar was short on variety of drinks. No brandy, cognac, amaro, but the music was fun. Oldies.
~~~~~
Friday May 3
Up at 4:15. Ugh! Taxi had been ordered for 4:45 but we were ready at 4:30 and he was there when we went out. 25 minutes to airport and into the fray to get checked-in and through security and passport control. We were very glad to have US passports because there were scanners and our passports were readable. The poor Albanese were stuck in a very long line. A quick macchiato for us and we went to our gate.

There was a big storm with lightening and thunder and rain passing through. Oddly they let everyone get checked and make everyone wait outside. We finally ran through the rain to go up the steps to board. Just after we boarded a very belligerent Albanian man got into an altercation with the crew for some reason. Loud shouting and many hand gestures. The cops were called. The captain said he wanted him off the plane. A friend pleaded leniency. But the captain was really angry that his cabin crew had been abused by this idiot. So off he went with the cops who confiscated his passport. He wasn’t getting to Perugia today. 

So what did I think of Albania 🇦🇱? The people are very friendly. The country has been through a lot. It is still healing. It is extremely cheap. It has mountains, flatlands, and Alps. The beaches are beautiful there, primarily in southern Albania near Greece. Smaller fishing type villages. But locals told us the huge influx of tourists in the last two years have made doing anything in the beach areas in July and August nearly impossible. There are hiking areas in the Albanian Alps which are formidable! Most other tourism is minimal. Probably the only reason I would return would be to spend a week on the beach in May or September. Off season. Just to relax and eat amazing seafood.
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Best and worst.
Best hotel – Çoçja Boutique Hotel in Shkodër
Worst hotel – Capital Suites in Tirana
Best lunch – Fish in Shkodër – amazing and cheap!
Best dinner – Gusto, Tirana
Best breakfast – Berat
Best outdoor sight – castle in Berat
Best indoor sight – Site of Witness and Memory – Shkodër
Best city – Tirana
Best town – Berat

Inauguration of the new kitchen

I know it has been a while so I’m catching up now. We have been pretty busy. We had to outfit the kitchen, both by buying some new things and also bringing things up from the other kitchen. It took a lot of work but it has now reached a state of usability!

We took a trip south of Perugia to a store called Alessandrelli. It is a housewares store. I bought some frying pans, some glasses, plates, salt and pepper shakers, sugar bowl etc. These things along with what I bought online pretty much put me in action. Pictures on the ride to and from show the beauty of Umbria in spring. 💚

I had invited four friends for lunch on Thursday which was Liberation day here in Italy. It may have been premature! But it all worked out in the end. I didn’t know how to use the appliances. I learned how to use the oven. I made a cake! I also learned how to use the induction cooktop. Interesting and will be a future post.

On Monday, we go on a short trip to…Albania! Yes. Albania. Not just anyone wants to go there, but it is what they are calling the “new Croatia”. The beaches are said to be legendary. And it is incredibly cheap! I will, of course do a trip report. It is just for four nights. Probably too short but we can go back. There are flights from our local Perugia airport which makes it easy.

Ciao for now!

Nearly done!

So today we got the countertop. The plumber finished his work. And the electrician sort of finished. He still has several things to finish. He will be the last man standing.

The counter people were extremely proud of their counter with its embedded cooktop. We got a pot of water boiling and discussed the way the controls work. Pictures to come in another post. Here are pictures from today with captions.

Countertop on truck
Elevator thingy
Working the counter and plumbing
Workers are gone. Still electric things to go but mostly done.
Luther called the island Greenland 🙂
Sink
Wine cooler has 2 temperatures, one for white, one for red.

Tonight I cooked dinner up here. But not in the kitchen. I had marinated a flank steak and cooked it on the outside fireplace. But I had to stay nearby to tend the fire to get it hot so I stayed upstairs for the first time. I found it very comfortable. I love the sofa. Here is a view of the kitchen from the sofa. Loving it. Finally a relaxing moment. 🙂

Kitchen, the end game

Monday, bright and early the cabinets arrived. Each painstakingly brought up on foot or in the elevator if it would fit. First here are a couple pictures of the empty space.

I like the color of the wood pieces. And I like my choice of cabinet colors. A very subdued sage leaning almost to beige. I can definitely see the green in them though.

First picture is just after delivery. The others are after they finished for today. The island is not yet positioned where it will be. But you can get the idea. I also found out the counter won’t arrive until Wednesday. The electrician and plumber come tomorrow.

I’ll post more tomorrow! Ciao for now!

Back from Ospidale

This past week we were invited to a birthday party for a young woman turning 18. Her parents threw a big party with a full five course dinner for seventy of her friends. They are our adopted Italian family. Vera and Graziano. I really enjoyed watching the young people. Beautiful in the flush of youth. Wearing all kinds of things… much flesh exposed! The meal was good, a lot of food but fortunately you could turn down a course if you wanted, and I did! Pictures with captions next.

Birthday girl. She has the most amazing red hair. Really sets her apart. She is pretty, AND super smart.
Vera and Graziano, mom and dad.
The adult table
The kids
Kids

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Then the dread intervento happened on Thursday. I went to the hospital early, around eight. They immediately rushed me in and I changed into the hospital clothes. They covered me with a shiny blanket and I was wheeled to the surgery floor.

I gotta say, all the people (nurses, anesthesiologist, medics) were so nice and friendly. Happy to talk about where I was from, to tell me about their families who lived in the U.S. One, a nurse with raccoon eyes she had on so much makeup, told me, upon learning I was from near Washington DC, that her daughter lived in Walla Walla and did I know it. The explanation that it was Washington State and not DC which were on different coasts was hilarious. So I was well entertained while I waited. I will add, no one spoke any English. The norm for hospitals here.

All went well and when I woke I had a real scare because my throat closed up and I couldn’t breath. Probably because of the removal of the tubes. It subsided with oxygen. Whew. Back in my room I slept. The doctor came later to explain the findings. I had two different infections. One fungal in my cheek area and one bacterial behind my eye. The issue in my lower sinus in the cheek was a “fungal ball”. Like it has colonized and rearranged the furniture in there to make itself at home… but this also enabled a bacterial infection to get in the cavity which is right behind my left eye. He said that was more dangerous because it could have affected my eye or gone into my brain. So I am glad I got it done.

I have some pictures of my room. It was for two but it was all mine. It also had another whole room with a sofa. The nurse who brought me in said it was my “suite”. After procedures which was painless I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything hot. Nor was I allowed a hot shower on my head. So dinner came and it was puréed vegetable soup. They told me I couldn’t eat anything hot but this soup was piping hot. I asked if it was a mistake. No. I just needed to let it get cold. 🙄 OK then. It wasn’t very good cold. But I was famished so I ate it. Next morning breakfast. I had a choice of tea or milk. I decided on tea. But of course it was very hot. Another wait for it to cool. Sigh.

My room
The “suite”
Cold, but meant to be hot, soup. Horrible.

Back home on Friday and return Sunday then again next Thursday to find out the lab results and future treatments if any. Following instructions. Still not eating anything warm. I miss my coffee.
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Saturday we went to a celebration of life for a friend here in Umbertide. John Littlewood. An artist and illustrator with a rich and full life. He was British and his wife is American. They started their own businesses and lived all over the world. In the end Umbertide welcomed him. He was an old world gentleman. Friends with all. My memory of him in the piazza always walking to Bar Mary for his caffè will endure. The celebration was in his small gallery in town. It was packed. He was well loved and will be missed. I plan to buy some of his art as I never have and I do like it a lot.

Next big thing is the kitchen comes on Monday and will be installed Monday and Tuesday, All the players will be here, electrician, plumber, carpenters, work crew. It should be finished and usable this week. Exciting.

The weather is summery. Highs about 80. Really nice. There is a street food fest in town on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Looks good. And here is a picture of a park near the Rocca.

Stay tuned for the KITCHEN!!