Monthly Archives: July 2014

Sofa and Spello

We woke to a rainy Tuesday. Reminded me of our January trip but warmer. We decided to go visit Divani & Divani which is the Natuzzi store down between Assisi and Perugia. I was not expecting to buy anything, but when we arrived we realized it was their July sale, one of two sanctioned by the Italian state. No one is allowed to have a sale other than in January or July in Italy. Many of their sofas were on sale for 50% off. I really loved some of the sofas and even though we really can’t use it until our house is done it was such a savings we decided to go ahead and buy one. I toyed with the idea of leather as we had in Alexandria but remembered the damage the cats claws caused to it. In the end we went for a nice big beige fiber (cotton and linen) one. The covers all can be removed so I assume they can be cleaned. Here is a picture:


It will be delivered next week.

I am pretty excited about it. It is my first nesting thing and I feel very good that I have done at least one thing towards the furnishing of the house!

After that we had planned to go visit Spello which is a pretty hill town we have never been to and to a winery Luther wanted to try called Sportoletti between Assisi and Spello. We had a nice tasting and purchased a mixed case of 3 of their wines.


Next we drove the short distance to Spello. The densely inhabited town, built of stone, is medieval, and is enclosed by medieval walls on Roman foundations, including three Roman gates (Porta Consolare, Porta di Venere and the “Arch of Augustus”) and traces of three more, remains of an amphitheater, as well several medieval gates. Spello boasts about two dozen small churches, most of them medieval. The town is famous for the Infiorate which includes a whole night of work to create over sixty flower carpets that adorn the streets for the Corpus Domini feast. Here is a website with some pictures from the Infiorate in 2014. It is important to note that these are all made from wild flower petals that are gathered in the hills. It is incredible. I plan to go next year!

Here are some pictures I took today:






We went to Enoteca Properzio in the center of town. It is a wine store and restaurant. It was a hoot. It was a lot of show but fun. We didn’t know what to expect so just went with the flow. The father, Roberto, son, Luca, and daughter Irene were all present. They had the show down pat. They poured wine by the glass and we had bruschetta to start with a Grechetto white Umbrian varietal. Excellent. The bruschette were, two with olive oil from two local producers to compare and contrast, and one with lovely fresh tomatoes from their garden. Next we had a Sangeovese also an Umbrian varietal red. We had it with the two pasta courses, one with the black summer truffles shaved liberally over and the other with tomato sauce. Last we had a very expensive, jammy red, also Sangeovese but 2011 vintage. Excellent wine and paired with two cheeses and balsamic vinegar. Everything was good but I could have made any of it. It was notable for it’s fresh local ingredients that blended very well with the wines and were appropriate for the summertime. Pictures!






A really weird “small world” thing happened in the restaurant. The person we met a number of weeks ago at the wine bar across the river from us in Umbertide, Geoff was at the table next to us! How strange is that? Like we know a lot of people here (not) and one of the few should be in the same restaurant that is about 30 miles from where we both live.

Saturday outing

It was a slow day so we decided to go to Todi about 45 minutes south of us to visit a winery. Sadly it was not open even though we were there during designated open hours. That’s Italy for you!

So we decided to go to Todi for lunch at Ristorante Umbria. Todi is a beautiful example of an Umbrian hill town. You can see it for miles around. There is traffic in it but we always park in a lot outside the walls and walk UP. And it is always up. Here are a couple of pictures.


Arches near the Piazza Popolo up at the tippy top of the town.


Cherry picker working on medieval tower – interesting contrast don’t you think?


House with pretty terrace below restaurant – note the Etruscan satellite dishes.


Pretty table outside of our restaurant.


Picture from our table on the restaurant patio.


Us using my remote shutter for a pic at lunch.


My yummy raviolini with arugula and fresh tomatoes.


Luther’s faro, broad bean and chick pea soup. YUM!


Proscuitto e melone appetizer.


The wine.

A fun trip back to a place we had been to with our friends Vicky and Tommy a number of years ago. Still very good and soooo pretty!

Visit to the Questura

Today was our appointment to go visit the Questura or State (of Italy) Police in Citta di Castello. We had gone for a ride out yesterday with Gary and Susan who knew where it was – kind of out in the industrial area outside of town. (then we had lunch :-))

So today we had a 9AM appointment and made it fine. We were the first called and we each went with a different person. We were fingerprinted and we had all the necessary forms. The two guys we dealt with were very nice. Luther had fun practicing his Italian and got lots of compliments on how well he spoke. They told is in 2 or 3 months we should have our Permesso. OK. At least that’s another hoop jumped through.

Yesterday we met with Emanuele and had Susan along as an interpreter as it was kind of technical stuff about the estimates, lights, kitchen, schedule etc. We got the number for the kitchen from Pedini which was about on track with our guess as to cost. The big surprise was that the rest of the work and lighting, tiles etc was much higher than we had anticipated. We are not sure why. Perhaps it is the logistics of the whole job. Emanuele told us they would have to take everything up and down the stairs. He had hoped for a hoist up to a window but that would be too disruptive to the stores below. Anyway. We took the lighting estimate home. It alone was 10,000 Euros but it was also everything and then some. We whittled it down and I think it will be more like 4,000 Euros now.

We took the lighting choices and the kitchen choice to Emanuele today and he called the Pedini people who will come to measure everything hopefully next week. He is also going to give us a line item estimate and we will eliminate anything we can to get the price down some. Right now I am thinking the attic area will not be tiled as we had discussed. We can use the space without it being tiled. We will still want the vent windows up there and probably have them clean it out. It will all depend on how much it will cost.

We also went to Formica, a big electronics chain who have a store here in Umbertide. Oddly the word formica means ant in Italian! We took Luther’s finally unlocked IPhone and got it activated with a plan for calling, text, and internet access. Pretty easy and pretty reasonable. He now has an Italian phone number. We will keep the little non-smart phone that I have which has a US number in case we need someone to call us from the US. I will use that for my phone.

I forgot to tell you that Susan told us about a free app for the IPad or IPhone called DuoLingua. It is a language app that I am finding extremely useful. I have learned a LOT of stuff from it in the last 4 days that I have been using it. I recommend it to anyone learning a language. It is really a lot like a game and that’s fun!

Car shopping

Sunday we had a delightful lunch at La Collina in Citta di Castello with Susan and Gary. Here’s a picture.


We sat outside. The weather has been delightfully cool after a short hot spell. We had two plates of assorted Bruschetta. One with meats, the other veggys. Susan said they were known for their brace or grilled meats. Luther and I had the mixed grill. It was only OK in my opinion. The chicken was nice and moist. The lamb not so much. It was fun.

Yesterday we decided to go down to Perugia to “car alley”. Just about every single type of car has a dealer in the same general area. We are shopping for our “practical” car. It has to have seats for four and decent luggage space so we can pick up people who visit. Since it is “my” car I want to like it as well. Not that we can actually buy a car yet. We still have to get our Permesso and residency before we can buy a car. Stupid rule. We have no idea why it is so, but it is.

So we started with Alfa Romeos. I love the little Mito. It may be a tad too small though but I still love it. I want to keep the price around 25,000 Euro or less. When the actual time comes to buy there seem to be a decent amount of used cars at the dealers too so that would be an option. Luther likes the larger Alfa Guilietta. It is a really nice car too. I have pictures of the Mito.



Cute huh?

Next we saw the BMWs right next door. The One series is what I was looking at. I can’t afford a new one but there was a nice little used one there for about the right price. Here are pictures.





Next we saw the Mini Coopers because they were housed in the same building as the BMWs. It is too expensive and I don’t really like the Countryman which is the big Mini. Here’s a pic anyway.


Next we visited the Opel dealer where the Opel Corsa is about the right size and the price is about right. It doesn’t call out to me though.




Next we went to the Skoda dealer. This car is way cheaper than the others with nice features. It also gets very good reviews. BUT, and it’s an interesting BUT, there is some stigma attached to a former eastern Europe brand. Now it is owned and built by VW. Here are pics.





We stopped into the Porsche dealer but they had nothing. Only Cayennes and Panamaras. Next door was the VW dealer so we stopped in to look at the VW Golf. We rented one of these and liked it a lot. It is a nice little car with plenty of room.



After we looked at cars we went to a recommended place for lunch (natch!) and it was nice. I had the pasta with seafood. Luther the “little ears” pasta with fresh tomatoes. Nice bottle of wine from just south of where we ate.

When we got back home Luther went on the internet where you can “build” your car. It is very funny that the base price is for the car with the smallest Gasoline engine. We want a diesel because they are way more economical and are just as fun to drive. When you get the diesel add about 4,000 Euro to the price right off the bat! Also there is no dealing on the cars. All dealers will charge the same price. This makes shopping kind of nice as there is no pressure. Everyone was fine with us just checking out the showroom cars.

So now we just have to wait until we can actually BUY a car!

Dinner with Italians and Americans – al fresco

I got a call from Susan yesterday about an obscure invitation to come to we were not sure what. We just knew the nice lady with the scarf shop (Luciana) who is friends with the lady we bought our apartment from (Elisabette) as well as Joseph and Paul who live in the same Piazza as us were all invited.

Evidently this is kind of normal. There is no set time to come, we weren’t sure if dinner was involved etc. It was at Elisabette’s husband’s house. It was out in the country south of us.

We walked over to Susan and Gary’s house where we waited for a call from Joseph and Paul and then Susan, Gary drove us all to the train station to caravan down with them. The house was way up high in the mountains. Wonderful views. A beautiful house with pool and the most amazing outside kitchen with a big wood fireplace where all the meat was cooked. There were countertops and about 6 tables under a pretty flower arbor. Just incredible.

We had some nice antipasti beside the pool with a rose wine. There were a cast of characters. Most spoke only Italian. Some spoke a little English. I still had fun. I understood a lot and it was just fun watching everyone.

After a while we all wandered down to the outside kitchen and there were several dishes. French fries! And a big salad. Green beans and some other beans that I couldn’t identify. There was Prosecco and red wine etc. Then all the grilled meats came out. They had been basted with rosemary branches. So good. There was chicken and not just any chicken but gallo or rooster. Then sausages and ribs. All good.

Next we had cookies that Paul and Joseph brought, Biscotti with vin santo, an apricot tart. All really good.

It was just like I’ve read about in books. Everyone eating and talking, sitting around the tables. The cool night air wafting around us. The smoke from the fireplace and the smells of roasting meats. It was the quintessential Italian experience. I would love to have been able to talk to the Italians but there were enough English speakers that I didn’t feel left out. I am so happy to have been invited.

I am sorry I didn’t bring my camera!

Wine wanderings

Yesterday we drove to the Montefalco wine area. So sorry I forgot my camera! But I borrowed a few from the internet. It is about 25 or 30 miles south of us. It is a really pretty area all planted in grapes and olive trees.

We stopped in Torgiano, home of Lungarotti the huge wine conglomerate and they have a hotel, spa and restaurant. It is really lovely.

We drove through Bettona, an ancient hill town. Very cool looking. Borrowed picture below.


We stopped at a couple of wineries. They do tastings and they are totally free (unlike in the US!). And they pour quite a bit in your glass. You can’t do too many of them or you’d be drunk.

We visited a little town called Bevagna. It is completely surrounded by it’s old walls. And it is FLAT! Down on the plain beside a small river. Very cute place. Here is a borrowed picture.


Then we had lunch in a place called Trattoria di Oscar. We sat outside. I borrowed this picture from the facebook page for the restaurant. Nice outside terrace. They even brought out a copy of Saveur magazine who chose the restaurant for it’s “Best of” article.


I had ravioli stuffed with ricotta and in a really good tomato sauce with drizzled olive oil. The oil was incredibly flavorful. It really sang out in the dish. Luther had the tagliatelle with ragu. Yum!

Observations about sex

OK, I know the title is titillating! Ha! But it is odd here. Earlier this week, when I was walking with Susan, we touched on an interesting difference between the United States and here in Umbertide. Men and women do not do things together. The men have their pals and pretty much associate with them exclusively. The women stay home and have their women friends. Marriage is more of a business relationship. Sort of “Sex, children, division of labor, man earns money, women do the house”. Kind of like it used to be in the 50s in the US. I am sure it is different in a more sophisticated city like Rome, Milan or Florence but here in the more old fashioned part of Italy it is still done the old way.

Susan said Emanuele asked her when he found out they were moving over to Italy “but what about Gary’s pals?!” That would be the attitude of an Italian man in Umbertide. When asked whether a man is a friend with his wife the answer is no. When you think of it, it is just the old way. In the middle east and in Eastern Europe it is still done the old way. And so it is here too!

Tonight we sat in the Piazza and Luther smoked his cigar. The tables were all full…. with MEN. There were 2 other women other than me out there. Just another example of the Sex thing.

Morning walk

I am determined to start walking more regularly so today I got up and headed out before it got too hot. I walked up-river. There were a lot of fishermen out. I walked along the river then cut up into the farm fields and along a small road and back to the river where I took the “high” road. It is a small, shady path above the river path. I took some pictures.






After I got back I went over to the apartment to get some more coat hangers, clothes and to clean out one of the planters that had dead plants in it. It was much harder than I thought it would be. The plants had been there a long time and the roots were throughout the entire planter. I finally managed to get the dead lavender and the live rosebush out. I would like to plant some herbs in it. Maybe at the Saturday market I can find some. I also need to find some soil. The other planters are full of succulents and the soil is rock hard. Here’s a picture of the planter I cleaned out.


Garlic and short tents

Yesterday was market day. We ventured out and found a few things were different. The biggest truck was missing leaving a large hole in the center. The beer guy was in that spot. Just outside our door was a new stand with piles and piles of garlic and onions. That’s all he was selling. As we strolled around looking at the wares we noticed a tent was set up with only half of it’s leg height extended. It had nothing under it.

We finally figured out that the big missing truck and this person were on their summer vacation. I guess the short tent guy must have had someone set it up to keep his spot from being stolen. Ha! So the summer vacations run from mid-July to the end of August. Nothing gets done in Italy during this time. Even the government offices close and the libraries.

The produce is really hitting it’s high summer stride now. The tomatoes are fabulous. They just have four kinds. Romas for sauce, normal red ones, cherry and striped ones for salads. No heirlooms. They sell them ripe and nearly green so they keep for a week and ripen. We bought some from the local producer stand – tomatoes, basil, arugula, zucchini, eggplant. A lot of the produce is from far away like Puglia and Sicily. With the makings of a salad we bought two balls of mozzarella di buffala. We bought a quarter watermelon. We bought pecorino cheese. We also decided to try the porchetta. There are about 4 stands that sell it. It is a whole pig that is boned and rolled and slow roasted. It melts in your mouth. We got some from each end and a little of the crackling crisp skin. We had it along with the tomato mozzarella salad for dinner last night and it was great.

Here is a shot from our window at the aftermath of the market. The screen in the window messes it up but you can see all the trash they leave behind. The town cleans it up.


We also met up with Emanuele and the lighting lady. We walked over to the apartment and she and Emanuele discussed his ideas. He had been in the apartment yesterday and tore up some of the floor in the kitchen to see what was underneath. It was good news, tiles.


That means the floor doesn’t have to be reinforced to lay new tile over the old tiles. He also had brought samples of 6 different tiles. We chose the one we liked best. He will use a slightly different one for the patio which is more textured so it won’t be slippery.

Here is a picture of the big floor tile, the quartz counter top sample and the sample of the cabinet finish.


Aqua and house reno choices

The last two days have been very, very busy! Monday we had an appointment with Cecilia at 11AM to transfer the water contract. The office is only open from 9:30AM to 12:30PM on Mondays. Closed the month of August. We had to read the water meter before we went. At least we didn’t get called banditos this time! We had to borrow a screw driver to pry up the metal plate in the street and then we wrote down all three numbers. We had been told it was best to go to the office in late morning as the line was shorter. We got number 49. They were serving number 27. It took half an hour to get to 29. Not very encouraging. The good news is that they will serve you even if it’s after 12:30. We finally got it at 12:45 and got it all taken care of. Still, it was a very long wait.

Next we went home to grab something for lunch and we had an appointment at 2:30 to meet Emanuele to go look at kitchens at Pedini Cucine. Click to see the beautiful kitchens! Pedini is in Fano which is over by the Adriatic sea. It is in the Marche region. We didn’t see the sea or the town, just the industrial area. We got there around 4PM after getting lost in the little suburban neighborhood. Emanuele is a good, fast Italian driver. Only made us nervous when he was texting (!)

They have an English speaking person named Sabrina at Pedini. She was super nice and very helpful. There was also a man named Roberto who had lots of opinions 🙂 Well I had already been on the website and had an idea what I wanted. I quickly picked out the finish, the counter top material and color. Then I had to pick out all the different sorts of cabinets and their inner workings. They are really quite amazing. I also had to pick out appliances. I am springing for a very good stove. The other appliances will be Siemens which is German. The bad news is that the kitchen won’t be ready until late October 🙁 Now I wait with bated breath for the estimates.

Here is the double drawer I picked. I couldn’t find a picture of the corner cabinet but it is amazing!


Today, Tuesday, we went with Emanuele to the lighting place up in Citta di Castello. It was a nice place with lots of very ugly lights. The Italians have some very strange taste. Lucky for me they also had some more clean lined, simple fixtures. Emanuele has some pretty strong opinions and it is just lucky that I happen to agree with him most of the time. Our taste is similar. If we didn’t I’d have to do a lot more push back. We are going to do cable track lighting in all rooms except the living room where I want to do floor lamps. I think Emanuele wants to do lights in there too so there may be a struggle over that. Cable track lighting is cool because Emanuele can come through the steel support of the vaulted stone ceilings and just make one hole then attach the cable which gives electricity to the individual little spot LED lights that hang from it and runs the length of the room so you can aim the spots for optimal coverage where you want it. It’s very sleek and modern. You can have up to 6 spots on each cable. They will also all have dimer switches. We left with an appointment at 10AM tomorrow for them to come see the house.

This afternoon we meet and Emanuele will have the tiles to look at and he will bring them to the apartment so we can look at them on the floor. He also wants to bring his plumber so they can look under the kitchen floor to see what is there.

So after tomorrow morning everything will be in motion to get final estimates for the Kitchen, lighting, tiles and the construction work. Not that there’s any hurry now since everyone goes on holiday in August and so we might as well relax. In September work will start and hopefully it really will be done by late October. I have a little doubt though. I hope it will be done by American Thanksgiving!