I made a delicious soup today for the second time. I didn’t have a recipe, but this is what I did.
Olive oil 1 stalk celery chopped 1 carrot chopped 1 onion chopped Sprinkle of pepper flakes (optional) Half a head of cabbage chopped 1 cup puréed roasted winter squash (I do this ahead and save or freeze it) Broth (vegetable or chicken) to cover vegetables about 8 cups or more to taste Optional extra additions as you like. I added a turnip and some sliced mushrooms, and a little left over broccoli. 1 tablespoon curry (hot or mild) About 200 grams (1/2 lb) of small pasta like orzo or other soup pasta 2 Tablespoons of butter salt and pepper
Sauté the onion, carrot and celery in oil until soft. Add the chopped cabbage, roasted squash and stock (also any optional veggies). Simmer for 45 minutes. Add the curry and simmered for another 5 minutes. Stir in the pasta and butter and cooked according to the package to al dente. Salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle some good quality extra virgin olive oil if you’ve got some.
I used a special pasta I found called Fregola. It is an artisan pasta made by hand from Sardinia. I really like it. It is small but nice and chewy. Any small pasta will do.
As I mentioned in the last post we were going to Calagrana. It was coolish but nice and sunny today. Good Thanksgiving weather! We drove Christie and Jane along with ourselves. At table was a great mix of people. There were fourteen of us. The restaurant had two other tables of two and one of four.
It turns out I knew some people either actually or virtually at all the tables. Two were people I was only Facebook friends with Joan and Giovani who I enjoyed meeting. They live in Deruta – the Ceramics town. And Cathy and Sal who we met a few years ago when they viewed our apartment. They ended up buying out in the country in the beautiful valley south of Gubbio. Then there was Tanya, Lisa, Nigel and Michael who are local friends.
At our table were six Italians, one British, and seven Americans. A great mix with me getting to use my Italian because I was near the Italian group. The Italians are all enthusiastic Thanksgiving fans. Especially Fabio 😁. We buy our olive oil from him.
The meal. Ely had made a lovely group of four finger foods. I know there was date wrapped in prosciutto, arancia, and two others I couldn’t identify. I am missing one in my picture because I ate one before remembering to take a picture
Then came a delicious risotto with zucca and Scamorza cheese. Smoky flavor. Albi is a Milanese and risotto is their special dish. The rice was al dente, it had a very, slight crunch in the mouth. Perfetto!
Then the feast. Turkey with all the trimmings. The bird was 18 kilos or about 40 pounds.
The dessert was a ricotta tart with candied fruit and vanilla gelato. A treat because they don’t often have vanilla here.
Our friend Christie who was one of the couple who bought our previous house can really sing well and she gave us a song. The song was, Put Some Sugar in My Bowl. 🙂 Oh la la.
We arrived at one pm and left at five thirty. A normal Italian pranzo with friends. I thank Susan and Gary for treating us to our meals. Luther and I provided the wine. I thank Ely and Albi and Ristorante Calagrana for the feast! And I am thankful for all the people I can call friends here. Makes me very happy.💕
On our way out, I paused to take this photo of the valley from the restaurant at dusk. The half moon had risen. It was lovely. I hope that all that celebrate it, had a nice Thanksgiving.
We are in Thanksgiving week. There are a few other things happening. We have done some doctor stuff. We got our flu shots Tuesday. But we want a Covid booster and our doctor said we need to go to the health department (CUP). Well I asked in the Facebook group for expats here called Umbrialiens and got some interesting insights. I got a link from a friend for online appointments and was surprised that none were nearby. Another friend north of us said the Upper Tiber Valley, where we are, has a shortage of vaccine. Only health care people and over 80 years old can get it. I guess that explains the lack of locations near us. I really don’t understand how our little area doesn’t have vaccines when the rest of our region does. 🤦🏻♀️. Mystifying. Anyway, we made an appointment in a town near the lake and will go in December. I know so many people with the virus. I really don’t want to get it, or if I do, I want it to be not terrible. ~~~~~~~~ I had a lovely coffee with a good friend, Elizabeth today. She is doing well and expecting a lot of guests in the upcoming months. She wrote a book a few years ago about the Upper Tiber Valley called Sustenance which is a wonderful chronicle of the artisanal producers in the valley. ~~~~~~~~ We had a lovely dinner with our friends Susan and Gary last night. We went to Grace, our nice neighborhood restaurant. Good food. Great to catch up. You may remember they were our first friends here and had the small apartment we stayed in during our first renovation. And another bigger place. They have sold both so they won’t be here often and we miss them a lot. We are simpatico is in all ways. Hard to meet people like this. We did plan a vacation together next year for October. Should be fun. To the Loire. We are compatible travel companions and always have fun together. 🥰 My most interesting dish from dinner was a red cabbage soup. I love the color!
I also met with my architect, Irma, at Nicoletti, the falegname (cabinet maker) who will be making our cabinets. It turned out to be productive but somewhat stressful. The decisions I was making I’ll have to live with for a long time. 😳 I was surprised to see the list of orders for custom made cabinets included the UK and France. It was cheaper for Nicoletti to make them and ship them than to have them made in their own country. I went into the factory part which was a beehive of activity. They can make ANYTHING exactly like you want. Pretty impressive. Anyway, now I’m in the queue. They will make them in January or February and install them in March. Hopefully the first two weeks of March since we will be in the US after that. I don’t really want my house-sitters to have to deal with it! I could always put them off until we return I hope! ~~~~~~~~ Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We will go to Calagrana which will be making the traditional meal. The evolution of Thanksgiving at Calagrana is interesting. Ely being British and Alberto Italian didn’t know much about the feast. About 9 years ago our friends Susan and Gary wanted to have thanksgiving but they couldn’t cook the huge turkey at home. So Susan hired Ely to roast one for her, plus appetizers etc. Ely was up all night roasting the 35 pound bird and talking to her sister in Philadelphia who collaborated. We picked up the turkey and had the feast at Susan and Gary’s house. That was the same for the next year. Then we decided it was easier for us to go to Calagrana than to bring the bird from there to us. Ely and Albi invited us into their home since the restaurant was closed for the winter. That went for a few years. Then, Ely having become an enthusiastic Thanksgiving fan, decided to open the restaurant for the feast to anyone who reserved. So now that’s what we do. Tomorrow we are guests of Susan and Gary and we will be a table of ten I think.
I am thinking that next year, once I’ve got a kitchen, I’ll have a meal at our house maybe for our single friends who would enjoy coming together for the feast. And some of our other new friends. Since Susan and Gary now live in Florence and have sold here I’m not sure how often we will see them.
HAPPY THANKS GIVING. EVERYONE! There will be a post about our meal soon.
Mundane things we got done this week. Some good, some not-so-good. ~~~~~~~~ I forgot to mention that we had a call from our Polizia Municipale on Saturday. They had a citation for us and had to deliver it. We said we were home so he came by to our house with it. (So weird that they do this.) Turns out we were on vacation on our cruise when this infraction occurred so that meant it was our house sitters. They did tell me they went to the Adriatic coast and that is where they got this speeding ticket. Luckily it wasn’t too much over the limit so no need to ask for their drivers license info so we can say who was driving. No points involved. We paid the fine and will wait to see if we get any more to decide whether we will bother with asking them to repay us. Sometimes it’s not worth it. ~~~~~~~~ Monday we spent 3 hours at the ginormous Perugia hospital waiting — and 15 minutes of that time was for procedures. Ugh. I’m getting an orthoscopia of my sinuses and had to do pre-op tests and an interview with the anesthetist because I will be asleep for the procedure. So that’s done. Now I wait to find out the date for the procedure. I just hope it’s not on Thanksgiving or just before since we are going to Thanksgiving lunch at Calagrana with friends. Here is the waiting room…tick…tick..tick. ⏰
~~~~~~~~ Tuesday I drove to Sansepolcro in nearby Tuscany for my, much needed, haircut. I love that little city. It’s in the upper Tiber Valley just like we are. They are right up at the end of the valley where the big mountains start. The town has just over 15,000 people so just slightly smaller than Umbertide. It was a gray day and I had a little time so walked a little into town from the gate and took a few pictures. None are very good. The town has all their Christmas lights up already.
I may be wrong but it seems like the people in Sansepolcro dress more stylishly than in Umbertide. I think I’m right though. Umbertide is a working class town for the most part and Umbrian to boot. Tuscany is, well, you know, Tuscany, so it is a little more posh. 😁 ~~~~~~~ Wednesday brought a meeting with my architect, Irma. I think all the details are nailed down now. She and I will go to the Falegname (cabinet maker) Nicoletti here in town who will custom build our cabinets. I will pick the color then. I’ve already chosen the countertop color and the color for the floor. Still must chose appliances, sink, faucet but that should be it. Today we decided to replace one narrow cabinet with a wine rack. The work won’t start until January which is pretty perfect actually. We will be here. We won’t have any guests. Hopefully it will be done before we go home to the US for the first time in four years in March. Here’s the plan before. Today we decided on cabinets that lift up rather than open normally. And the narrow cabinet on the left will become a wine rack.
~~~~~~~~~ Thursday, I worked in the gardens in the morning. I cleaned out and cut back the lavender and a big pink flowering plant that got huge, also the hostas and the ornamental grass I planted. There is still more to do but it’s better now. I also planted all the bulbs that my friend Jill gifted to me. Lots of flowers this spring! Won’t that be something to look forward to?
At a little after eleven I left to meet my bestie, Jen, in Passignano sul Trasimeno for lunch. It’s a pretty lakefront town. I think there are about 8,000 people and it is on the main train line. My friend lives in Foligno and doesn’t like to drive so this worked for us both and I love the lake. Here are some pictures from around town.
We ate at Trattoria Pescatore. This place, like most restaurants around the lake, specializes in lake fish. Some of it is regional and specialized like they catch and eat eels, usually made into stew. I’ve had it and it’s actually pretty good. The food is very good. I had risotto with zucca and scamorza. That’s risotto with puréed winter squash and the smoked cheese they make here. Very good and perfect for a one course meal – rich. Jen had the Tuscan soup. It was a bit chilly so the food was quite warming. Here is the restaurant interior, very snug and cozy, and my risotto.
In summer they have a pretty shady garden area. It’s right in the Centro Storico. This photo is the walkway outside covered in vines.
Lago Trasimeno is the fourth largest lake in Italy and the largest on the peninsula. In summer it’s very busy and all along the shores are camp grounds and discos which close in winter. Pretty tacky. In winter the area is quiet and tranquil.
Tomorrow, Friday concludes the week with my Italiano class. It was a productive week!
If your take your time and go slowly, there are many things to see here. This is a secret garden right on my city street!
This is right in front of our house. It is nice to have green space and these trees are very tall up above the level or our terrace so it is also nice to look at from up there. This is Piazza Carlo Marx.
Across from our apartment is this well tended palm tree. They are pretty when you trim the old dead leaves from them. People are surprised when they see so many palm trees here.
This is a neglected palm on the way to Cento.
Tis the end of the season but this garden is lovely and still has some produce for its family.
Many trees have lost their leaves now but this street still has trees with a lot of leaves. They are turning yellow.
Our closest wine shop.
Our train station. I heard today that they will be upgrading this line and extending it, which will be most welcome.
I had an envelop to mail to the US. A Tabacchi sells foreign stamps. But not stamps for within Italy for some strange reason. A Tabacchi also does a lot of other things. They sell the €16 tax stamp called Marca da Bollo which you need for most official documents. They sell bus and train tickets and they sell the very important lottery tickets to those who play. And they also have their own merchandise. This one sells nice cards for occasions like birthdays, Christmas, christening, wedding etc. This street is one of the two main shopping streets going into the Centro. Via Garibaldi.
This is the elementary school. And just beyond it is the Collegiata di Santa Maria della Reggia, a church begun in 1540 and finished in 1640.
The old highway that was replaced by the four lane E45 still parallels it and runs through the towns. This is how you get through Umbertide on this smaller road. It is confusing right here where it splits into two one way lanes and then splits again and goes two ways. It seems it had to get around that house you see in the picture. To get through you’d go to the right first, then left and around this building and out the other end of town.
la Rocca, our fortress. And next the entrance to the Centro Piazza Matteotti.
The market and some of the produce. The big zucca is the winter squash I roast to make soups. They lop off however much you want.
This is the town clock. The time as I take this picture is 11:45 am. As you can see it is not working correctly. Sadly, it has been this way since our friends Joseph and Paul sold their apartment and moved away. The new owners are not permanent residents so no one is available to maintain the clock, nor to let someone in from the city to maintain it. It’s sad because all of the citizens rely on this clock. It is a real part of Umbertide. 🙁
Returning home with my bounty, and after a short stop in the Carrefour grocery, I took these last pictures of the Rocca and some of the pretty yards along the way.
I know some of the folks who read this enjoy seeing the everyday stuff in our town and our lives so every so often I like to do this. It also makes ME look around at my surroundings more closely. We all tend to take what is nearby for granted and don’t appreciate the little beauties all around. Buona domenica a tutti!
I made a new soup which I adapted somewhat from a Washington Post recipe called Caccio e Pepe soup with chickpeas and kale. It was delicious. It was modeled after the pasta dish Caccio e Pepe which is one of the easiest pastas to make, just pasta, parmesan or pecorino cheese and black pepper. Comfort food. This soup was quite rich and very warming.
We also had a really fun, and filling(!) pizza night with Jane and Christie at Degusto. They have two types of crust. One is integrale or whole grain. Pictures of two.
Yesterday was a big day. Since we had managed to open our recalcitrant second garage we could order pellets and wood. In this new house I guess these are the benefits. No way we could store this much in the old apartment and we have this basement garage storage area which has easy access to the elevator. Much easier for us to shift these things here.
So, that’s done and dusted! Of course there is the sinus issue still looming. The dentist had to remove an old crown (with difficulty) and tested the tooth which is viable so they say it can’t be the problem. So next is a pre-op testing regime and I guess I’ll find out about a date for the procedure. I don’t look forward to that but I will look forward to feeling better, for sure!
This weekend is the festival of San Martino. One of my favorites!
So sorry I’ve been MIA. I’m here to fix that. 🙂 it isn’t like nothing’s has been happening. They are bits and bobs as the British would say. I have been doing a lot of the stuff for my sinus infection. I have gotten the second radiograph and gone back to the doctor. He wants to rule out teeth as the cause so I have a dentist appointment for next Monday for that. But the doc has already put me into the system for the scope of my nose. I was pleased about that so if the teeth are ruled out the scope will go forward asap. Enough of this medical stuff!
We had Pino, our electrician come to fix a few things. He is really a piece of work and I like him a lot. Speaks not a word of English, nor Italian. As far as we can tell he speaks mainly Umbertidese, our town dialect. He talks to himself in dialect all the time as he works, but as Luther says, he is extremely resourceful. He fixed our electric garage door, figured out why our doorbell wasn’t working, and fixed the lights on the terrace. Happy days!
Speaking of our doorbell. This is super annoying. Our bell stopped working a while ago and we contacted the condominium. They sent someone who said it was the button and got it working for a short time. When it quit again we contacted them, and the condominium, but got no response. Finally the condominium said it was our own problem because ours was the only bell affected. They said they could fix it for €900 (!). When we saw what Pino did, we realized it was a plastic plate with all four doorbells on it. Our piece of it was broken off. This is not a problem for just us. So now we will go head-to-head with the condo. It is easy to think they are trying to take advantage of us foreigners but that is not a given. We DO need to push back now so they know we are not easy marks.
We had lunch with some friends who are here part time and a couple we know from Foligno who have been here as long as we have. Lively and lovely lunch at C’Era una Volta next door to us. Dessert! It was a torta with cachi, also known as persimmons. Here persimmons grow abundantly everywhere and are big and delicious. They are ripe everywhere now.
I am reading a new book called Still Life. It begins in Tuscany during the Second World War, segues to England afterwards with our main character Alyssis. And now I’m back in Florence where Alyssis has inherited a property in Santo Spirito, a neighborhood of Florence from a man who was saved by him during the war. He was helped by his Notaio, Massimo, and Alyssis came with a small entourage of his former wife’s daughter, age five, by an American soldier during the war, an older man friend, Cressy, and an African blue parrot. Yes, an interesting group. The house they got was big and in a small piazza and of course everyone all around knew he had inherited and was coming. All the talk in the neighborhood. To cut this short, the house had a refrigerator. No one had their own refrigerator! They all used the local bar’s refrigerator. So when Alyssis asked Massimo if they could get a telephone his reply was, “Oh no no. Too soon. Too soon? Trust me. Too soon. Not after the refrigerator.” Too funny! Anyway, I kinda let this get away from me, but I recommend the book to people who like Italy.
Tonight is pizza night with our friends Christie and Jane. The weather is pretty vile. It’s been very windy and pretty wet. Gray skies make it dreary, and we went to standard time last weekend so now the night falls very early. Heading into the season I loath the most here. We lit the stufa for the first time this week.
I will publish this now but hope to post again soon. Ciao for now!
I don’t think I posted about my recurrent sinus infection? I think not. I had an infection back in June. I started at the dentist because I thought the pain was from a tooth. She said I needed to see an Otorinolaringoiatra, or in plain terms a ENT doc. In June he gave me an antibiotic and it made it go away. It came back just before our cruise. It made that a bit difficult and when I came back I started to try to find treatment. I got more antibiotics and a prescription for a CT scan. The antibiotics didn’t work this time. I made an appointment at a diagnostic center in Città di Castello north of us. I got the CT scan (€120). Back to the doc yesterday. He wants yet ANOTHER scan. So tomorrow I go back for a different scan. Then he thinks I need an endoscopy of my nose. Ugh. But I feel really crummy. I want this fixed, if possible.
For those interested in how this works here, all this has been private pay until yesterday. The ENT doc charges €100 for a consult. Fine. That’s not bad. The scans are not expensive. But yesterday, the appointment when I returned with the scan was free. And the endoscopy will also be free under the Italian health system. The way Luther and I do it is pay for the first appointment then normally we get into the system so the treatment is free. This isn’t true for tests like an MRI, radiograph or CT scan. Those you do at a private diagnostic center. But they are cheap compared to US costs. ~~~~~~~~ One pet peeve I have is the ridiculous waste they have here for medicines. These, in the picture below, are for one month of blood pressure meds for me. I take 2 pills a day. Unlike in the US, where they come in a plastic bottle, here they come in bubble packs and boxes. This seems like an inordinate amount of waste. I don’t know why it is this way.
We had a nice lunch on the weekend. Here are a couple of pictures. First one is on the way. I tried to lighten it but if I did I lost that dramatic sky. So, it is what it is!
We have a few loose ends to tie up. We had a nice lunch with new friends who own a house in Centro. I gave them a little help by accepting their Amazon deliveries before they came. We went to Vineria Carmine for lunch. It was a windy day and a little cool but we did sit outside. We also asked if we could see the kitchen since my architect was also the architect here. (There will be a posting soon about my kitchen) Here are a few pictures.
~~~~~~~ Yesterday I “harvested” my olives from my little tree 😂 hahaha. I may cure them. There aren’t many, but it would be an exercise!
Speaking of the raccolta – harvest, we are awaiting news from friends who may allow us to help them harvest again this year. It has been very spotty here in Umbria. I know some who had none, but most had some. Our friend Fabio is in the middle of his harvest and says he has less olives but the quality is good. I will buy some oil from him. ~~~~~~~~ We had friends join us for Pranzo last week. This is how we manage to entertain on the terrace without a kitchen upstairs. We use my little cart and it goes up on the elevator. The next one is the table all set.
It is the weekend. I went to the Saturday market and then Luther and I went to Bosco, a town south of us, to buy beef and pork from our favorite butcher. Their meat is amazing. And they have cuts not seen in normal butchers here. I bought two tomahawk pork chops, one tomahawk steak, their primo hamburger patties, and filet steaks. All this was not all that unusual. We also got skirt steak and flank steak. Neither is found here and I do miss them. They also gave us a regalo, gift, of some interesting looking popsicles…just kidding…they are like pork (or maybe beef) cylinders on sticks to grill. THIS should be FUN!
Our weather is still fairly nice. We had storms come through yesterday and now it is cooler but not bad. Tomorrow should be fine, so let me wish you all a buona domenica!
Umbria is a heavily agricultural region. I have written about the four main crops, winter wheat, corn, sunflowers and tobacco. Today I got to see a farm with animals. It was the first time I got a real idea of how this all works here. Many of our guests have commented on the fact they never see pastured livestock. Yes, sheep are often seen but cattle are not. They are mainly kept in the barns and fed or they have small outside pens. No pastures. It is due to the lack of manpower, fencing, space.
Today, I was part of a group of women, our former apartment buyers and two of their friends who are friends with Angela Pauselli, the daughter of the farmer who makes this pasta. I was happy to give us all a ride over there. I bought a lot! More than this picture!
This is an artisanal pasta maker here in Umbertide — Pauselli. They use old wheat varieties milled special for the pasta. We have purchased from them before but the shop is simply never open so I haven’t been able to get more. Sadly they are farmers and not marketers. They don’t promote the product or try to sell it. It makes me sad because it is very special and a very excellent product. It will disappear soon with no one to help. I am betting the slow food people would want to promote this. I will try to see what I can do.
We got a tour of the farm facilities from Angela’s dad. It is an extensive farm with a lot of livestock. They have a large solar farm so are somewhat sophisticated. Plus, as always they grow grapes (make wine for the family to drink), grow olives for oil, I saw a peach orchard, there were maybe 30 chickens. And pigs. The cattle were segregated into barns. The first was all the castrated males, destined to be butchered at about age two for meat. These cattle live in a barn. They are not pastured. Not the best life 🙁.
Animals are not generally pastured here. They are in the barns or in small enclosures. They feed them from the enormous, round hay bales they harvest during summer. The “girls” who were all together, along with the bull, and away from the young castrated males were mostly Limosine, Chianina or Charolais cattle. Almost all pure white. In the past the Chianina were used for all facets of a farm. They pulled the plow, pulled the cart, provided milk and provided meat. To me they are beautiful, large and known for their gentleness and docility.
When I got home I made pasta for dinner, 🙂, what else! I used my butter roma tomato sauce and some guanciale and pecorino romano. Mmmm.