The Americans are coming!

I am amazed at the numbers of Americans arriving here in Italy right now. I guess many people waited until fall to come on the much wanted trip after the lockouts and lockdowns. I heard Florence is back to the teeming crowds of tourists, so long gone. I’ve seen pictures of other tourist destinations which are also very crowded. It is all good for the Italian merchants, restaurants and all the tourist oriented industries who have all suffered so much from this pandemic. They are all very happy to hear American voices again.

We have been meeting some of them. For a meal or a drink. Some are virtual-friends through my blog. Some already have places to live here and have returned after a long time of not being able to come. Many are looking for a property here. It looks like the property market is finally heating up somewhat.

We had a nice dinner with a couple who own an apartment in one of the many reconstructed borgos around here. Purpose built from old farms or small abandoned villages into vacation home enclaves. For my foodie friends, this was my Primi course last night. Pasta with a duck ragu, figs and nuts. Unusual and very good!

We just noticed there is a cannon in the Piazza outside! Along with the Italian banner. It is time for Otto Cento! For those who don’t know, Fratta ‘800 or Otto Cento has always been our town’s biggest and most fun festival. It was always held about this time of year and lasted for four days. A quasi recreation of the beginning of the Italian republic in 1861.

People dressed in period costume, re-enactments abounded, the cannons boomed, the horse Calvary were here, the briganti hid in their lair along with the ladies of the night in the brothel until Saturday night when they overtook the town. Garibaldi turned the tables and order was restored on Sunday. Four days of mayhem. 15 or more popup restaurants serving period food. Entertainment in keeping with the 1800s. Alas, since Covid it has been a shadow of its former self. But some people are keeping it going with restrictions. Hopefully in 2022 we can get back to our normal one.

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Today a decree will be signed to mandate vaccination to all workers in Italy.

From TheLocal
“Italy is expected to become the first European country to make its Covid-19 health certificate mandatory for all workers in both the public and private sector from October, as the government tries to speed up vaccinations and keep the infection rate down.”

Apartment for sale

Hi everyone. I thought I would take this opportunity to mention again that we are selling our nice apartment here in one of the most convenient little towns I’ve ever encountered here in Italy. Literally anything you could need or wish for is within walking distance of our apartment. You go to the normal little medieval towns in Umbria, or Tuscany, or to a pretty hill town, and they steal your heart. But there is no “there” there. There are no services. You have to drive everywhere. But not here. It is all close by, reachable on foot. In a flat riverside town, surrounded by mountains. You will get integrated into the Italian life. You will know the shopkeepers, and they will know you. This is not to say Umbertide is not pretty with historic sights because it is also that.

We have the best of both worlds in our apartment, a town view of our main piazza, and a bucolic view of the mountains, river and fields from the back. We LIVE on our terrace in the summer. The people here in the Centro, which is like a town within a town, are super friendly. There are two nice bar/coffee shops just downstairs and the two weekly farmers markets are just out our front door. Here is a link. Umbertide Apartment.

Vino on our terazza
Misty sunset
Moon over the Tiber
Summer flowers and sunset

If you dream of Italy. Maybe my apartment will make your dream come true! Nancy22314 at yahoo dot com. We can do the sale directly without a realtor’s fees. My real estate agent from when we bought will handle all the legal paperwork and obtain a Notiao. 🌈

Pizza night at Calagrana

Every Sunday is pizza night at Calagrana. Fun and casual. Albi mans the wood burning outdoor pizza oven with his assistant. We ran into many longtime friends we hadn’t seen in a very long time. All were in good spirits and have weathered the pandemic. Also we saw newly returned friends Linda and Evan. They will be here enjoying their apartment and the pretty autumn weather. We brought along our friends Jane and Christie who now own the little apartment overlooking the square where we stayed while renovating our apartment. We all tucked into our pizzas, hot off the fire. So good! Thanks Team Calagrana.

My pizza bianche with ham, funghi, olives and artichokes
Luther’s more traditional with salsiccia.

Madonna del Riga

Today is Umbertide’s patron saint day. Madonna del Riga. It is a holiday in Umbertide. It also coincides with the band/orchestra concerts in the piazza. We have had five nights of lovely music. Bands and orchestras from all over Umbria have come to perform. I generally enjoy the music from our apartment. It is one of my favorite things. Here is the program.

Not all of the bands are super good but it doesn’t matter to me. I just love that normal life has returned to our world. We have been through a lot. We didn’t have this traditional series last year, due to Covid. We went through a three month super strict lockdown last spring. Then a summer of loosening and fun. Only to be slammed in the fall. We didn’t leave our Comune, Umbertide, for FOUR MONTHS from Christmas to after Easter. Finally, things are a bit more normal.

Tonight is Umbertide’s own. Our town band. I have to say it is pretty darn good, for a town our size. As a friend says, from 7 to 70, all ages. Tonight the band was all inclusive with the adolescente band as well. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this return to normalcy. I think of this as Umbertide’s living room. 🙂 Look at the turnout. I think I’m not the only one craving normalcy!

A curiosity — Monte Ruperto

I tell you there is always something new to learn! A couple of days ago I was looking up a place in Le Marche on Google maps. I noticed, to my surprise, a chunk of Umbria completely surrounded by Le Marche. Like it was a little island stuck in the next region. Of course I was curious and so went looking and found out it is a Frazione, or a part, of Città di Castello, next town north from us. It is called Monte Ruperto. It is an Umbrian enclave surrounded by Pesaro and Urbino. It is 30 kilometers from the center of Città di Castello. So, how did this happen? Enquiring minds.

It is described as a historical curiosity. The mayor of Città di Castello can claim the noble title of Baron of Monte Ruperto while he serves as mayor. The story goes like this…during a time of famine, caused by a heavy snow, the Baron asked for help for his citizens. Only Città di Castello responded, sending a mule train with supplies.

The Baron was grateful and decided to donate his territory to Città di Castello, along with the title which was bestowed on the sitting Mayor. He can wear the period dress and has the dual role of Mayor and the Baron of Monte Ruperto.

The story is an old one. The inhabitants of Monte Ruperto had tax benefits. A document dated 1274 and reaffirmed in 1574 established that they owed the municipality only five soldi, in usual currency, per hearth (per house), to be paid on 27 August.

There is not much left in the little Frazione. It is about 500 hectare and once had four towns. They are gone or they are ruins now. There are only mountains and forests left. Photo borrowed from Città di Castello.

Piazza

Something I have avoided posting about. Since the curfews were lifted, the bar in our main Piazza, called Cafe Centrale, has gotten increasingly popular with the ragazzi. This is the perfect Italian word for young guys (and girls). It is a nice bar. He regularly hosts musicians, and has good cocktails and food. August, as most know, is the party month when people vacation, no work is done and much is closed. In the Piazza, as the month progressed the crowds got worse and worse. They stayed out there until dawn sometimes. And need I say they were loud? OMG. They were loud. And they were drunk. The bar owner, Diego, eager to recoup all the losses of the lockdowns, stayed open until the customers left…so, until around 4am 😳. Needless to say, this encouraged the crowds. Luckily for us we sleep in the bedroom in the back of our house. So we didn’t really hear it that much and if we close the window in our office it pretty much cuts the sound completely. Thanks to good windows.

In the morning the wreckage of the night is evident. Trash, broken bottles, vomit, the smell of pee in the small streets. Things came to a head when an article was published in the newspaper about it and it turns out one of the residents swore out a “denuncia” on Diego. The court said he needed to control the crowds. He appealed, and they said, no go. Fix this. Diego spoke to the Mayor and agreed to close at 1:30 am.

I bet you’re thinking we should have just called the cops. What cops? Our cops are in bed asleep. The Carabiniere are awake, maybe, but they can’t be bothered with a group of noisy kids.

So the saga continued. The first night, a Friday, that he closed early, I was up at 2am. I noted very loud crowds of ragazzi. The bar was closed. I was amazed to see packs of people, five or six strong, coming from all directions to congregate in the Piazza. They stayed even though he was closed. I suppose when other bars closed the people came to Cafe Centrale because they knew he was serving. The following night the crowds were also large. But the next day, a Sunday and the last weekend in August, things were calmer. And so it has continued. There are lively crowds which give our Piazza life. We love this. But now they are normal crowds of people sitting, eating and drinking. Music plays. It’s hard to tell if this is because it is September now or because the word is out that it’s no longer party central. Tomorrow is Friday. We will see what happens then.
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Always an adventure in the Big City!

Alien eyes

I read a post by a friend today. It was about the fact that we stranieri, foreigners, who come to live in foreign lands, come with different viewpoints. We see things differently and notice the differences in our new land, which the residents don’t see, because it’s so familiar to them. It’s because we strangers look on things with “new” eyes. It would be the same if reversed, I’m sure.

One thing they don’t seem to see here, is that they don’t market themselves. Or not well, anyway. I’ve always said, Umbria just doesn’t “get” marketing. It doesn’t have a regional program to market itself to the world, like say, Tuscany does. It’s why many people who asked me where I was moving before we came had no idea where Umbria was when I told them. I, personally, am fine with Umbria as it is. But Umbria could be more if it knew how. It is so much like Tuscany. The landscape is nearly identical, save for the sea. The food and wine are very similar. Wild boar, porcini, and salt-less bread, all shared by the two regions. And yet, Toscana is overrun with tourists. While Umbria is tranquil and undiscovered. The traditions that so many tourists love are all sleeping here.

They just don’t understand marketing. A good, and slightly amusing example is in our town. Or was, I should say. We had a really nice Jazz bar on a nearby street. But you wouldn’t know it was there because it had no sign. When friends from California mentioned they should put up a nice sign, the owner said, “I don’t have enough business for a sign”. True story. The Jazz bar is long gone, for obvious reasons. This the defunct Jazz club. It looked just like this when it was open. No sign, no hours…who would know it was even there?

Don’t get me started on websites, which are, in my opinion, one of the easiest ways to market yourselves. When we first came we always reflexively went to the website looking for info. Take for instance, a town with an annual festival. You want to know the schedule. When you go to the town website, you see the schedule for 2016. It is 2021. They haven’t updated their site in five years 🙄. This is typical. Hotel sites list specials from two years ago. Restaurant sites don’t list their weekly closing day. They don’t say if they are open for lunch. Many don’t even say where they are! An art museum in Citta di Castello we wanted to visit listed their hours. So we paid them a visit, only to find them closed for TWO MONTHS for renovation! Wouldn’t you think they’d tell you this on their website!? It IS an important bit of information. Anyway, they’ve beaten us down. We don’t expect accurate information on a website anymore.

We had a nice monthly magazine for the Upper Tevere Valley before the pandemic. It had articles about businesses and items of interest. It was free, so there were lots of ads in it. Me, being new, I was always interested in knowing what was out there. Half the time, I’d find a business and it would have nice glossy pictures etc, (they do design well) but it wouldn’t say where they were, no address, not even the town sometimes, or when they were open. I guess if you grow up here they’d expect you to know. Marketing 101. Italians are surprised when I point out these “tiny” omissions. They just don’t “see” it.
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It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. The weather is perfect. Warm days, blue skies, cool nights. Suddenly, it’s fall. Photo from my walk today.

Information for those who are traveling to Italy from the US. The EU put the US on the list of countries no longer able to come without restrictions. Each country will make a ruling for themselves. Yesterday, Italy reimposed the requirement for a negative Covid test in addition to proof of vaccine. It says specifically, “presentation to the carrier at the time of embarkation and to anyone in charge of carrying out the checks, of the certification of having undergone, in the seventy-two hours prior to entry into the national territory, to a molecular or antigenic test, carried out by means of a swab and negative result.” This takes effect from today August 31 to October 25 unless amended.

Buona giornata a tutti! 🌈

Etrusco Carne Locale Radicale

This is our favorite butcher. It is about 20 kilometers from our house in a town called Bosco on the way to Perugia. We wouldn’t normally travel so far since we have nice butchers in Umbertide. But for something special, this is the place to go. It is extraordinary. It is local meat. I’m not sure why it is so special and so much better than other meats…but it is.

We took a trip down on Tuesday. When we go, we buy a lot. Normally, I make my own hamburgers from ground beef here because the pre-made patties are not good IMO. At Etrusco they make them really well. So we got four. Also we got some steaks which seem to me to be the equivalent of flank steaks and skirt steaks. Not normal cuts here. We got some pork sausages and a giant pork chop. But the coup de resistance was the bistecca. We got a T-Bone. But we also got a Tomahawk steak. I hadn’t heard of this cut until a friend in Florida posted a picture (thanks Lynn!) Then, suddenly, there it was at Etrusco. Serendipity.

Tonight I cooked it on the grill. It was raining and a bit of a challenge to cook, but I cranked out our tende di sole (awning) and it was fine. I had worried about the heat and smoke on the awning but it worked OK. The steak was exquisite. I don’t think I’ve had a better steak at home in my life. Picture — you can see where it gets it’s name.

And after slicing for dinner.

Mmm mmmm good. Sorry to my vegetarian friends. We don’t eat a lot of meat but if we do, it must be exceptional. I have complete faith in this butcher in how the animals he sells are raised. I do not buy meat that is factory farmed. Here in Umbria there are so many family farms, with small productions and humane treatment of the animals. If you deal with local butchers you know where the animals were raised and how. Same as your vegetables. Raised nearby, with no pesticides. It is one of my favorite things about living here.

Cagli – Le Marche

In case you thought we never did anything…today we did a little day trip to explore a town we drove past last month. Cagli, in the Marche region, our next door neighbor. We are actually very close to both Le Marche and Tuscany here in the Upper Tiber Valley. We went the scenic route. It was a beautiful day. Perfect for the top down. Here are a few pictures I snapped along the way. I was very surprised to see a lot of the trees were changing their colors already. And even more surprised to see mostly orange. It is not a common color here. More yellows. Very few reds.

Heading into the big Apennine mountains – they form the spine of Italy. From north to far south.
Pretty sky
Many rocky cliffs
Trees turning
The long and winding road.

But then…a thunderstorm! Funny. I’m no meteorologist but I’m interested in things like how the big Apennine mountains affect the weather patterns. On the west side of them all was clear and no rain in sight. But once into the mountains I suppose the weather gets disrupted by the mountain ranges? I dunno. And I’m even more interested in the weather on the eastern slopes and the Adriatic. Anyway, we had a bit of a downpour just when we arrived into Cagli. We had to take cover in a coffee shop.

We had reservations in La Gioconda Ristorante. When the rain let up we found it and decided to eat inside since it was still sprinkling and cool. They did not ask for our Green Cards. The place was nice. The food good enough but not special. The service perfect. And they had a few nice touches like gifts from the chef, house made bread, and separate truffle and porcini menus. I went with the porcini, one of my favs.

Interior
My antipasto. Porchini arrosto (roasted) on a bed of potatoes with panko. Yum.

After lunch, we walked around the Centro Storico.

Porta Massara
The Comune
Fountain with four faces and sweet, potable spring water.
The main piazza, Piazza Matteotti, what else?
Torrione Martiniano
Pretty streets.

There is always something to love in an Italian town. No matter how far off of the beaten track. We had a lot of fun, and a lovely day.

Sounds

From our apartment we can hear many sounds. It’s not annoying at all, it is just the sounds of life in an Italian working town. I enjoy it.

This morning, as I was standing in the kitchen, I realized I was hearing the sound of a lawn mower! “So?” You say, “It is not an unusual sound”. But it IS here. It is a sound so familiar from living in suburban US neighborhoods that I hardly noticed it, until I realized I never hear it here. Or certainly not the ubiquitous background hum of hundreds of them in a grassy neighborhood in the US. It’s something I hadn’t thought of until today.

Another thing I never hear here, and I certainly do not miss, is the sound of fans. Intake fans, exhaust fans, air conditioners, heat pumps. I hated it when we lived in the city. Even the ever present fans in our homes pushing the air through all the ducts and vents of our forced air heating systems. Forced air heat isn’t a “thing” here. Almost all homes are heated with gas hot water radiators. Or they are heated with wood or pellet stoves. Quiet systems.

So…what am I hearing now? Well, from the front of our house, I call it the “town” side, I hear the sound of the morning rounds of the little street sweeper. It is a small vehicle that can fit through our narrow streets. It spins and twirls across the piazza. Cleaning up after the partying of last night. There are trucks making deliveries on the piazza. And the sound of the construction in the apartment next door. From Bar Mary downstairs I hear people calling “ciao” to Irene who works the morning shift. And calls of “Ciao Angelo” to the Alimentari owner. Irene is constantly shifting the chairs and tables, returning them to their proper places. They scrape on the stones. Later the Briscola players will come. Old men pensioners, who spend their days playing cards. The games can get heated, and loud. 🃏

From the “country” side of our casa, I can hear the bird songs. There are chickens nearby and I can hear them clucking loudly as they lay their eggs. The rooster, who I heard every morning, is no longer needed, and has gone into the cooking pot I presume. The dogs, kept penned up on the farms nearby bark. Little kids call out from a playground beyond the copse of woods. The starting gun of the fishing contest scares the pigeons who roost on the roofs and they fly, en mass in big circles, their wings whirring until they settle again.